A Sydenham District candidates’ debate, hosted by the Queen’s Debating Union (QDU) at Ellis Hall on Tuesday night, saw largely civil discussion on the role of students in Kingston, municipal services and city development.
QDU reached out to the first three declared candidates — Bonnie Ferguson, Adam Koven and Peter Stroud — in the summer. Ferguson never responded, allowing TK Pritchard to take the third spot when he declared his candidacy in September for the Oct. 27 municipal election.
Prior to the debate, the club met with AMS Municipal Affairs Commissioner Ariel Aguilar to organize and co-moderate the event. While working with them, Aguilar said he asked the QDU to forgo questions about Homecoming and the West Campus noise bylaw exemption.
“Because it was and it has been such a charged issue the past years on Council, we wanted to make sure that any comments on Homecoming … would [not] be done until after Homecoming,” Aguilar said, adding that this was so that candidates could properly assess this year’s event.
“Given that we know [the noise bylaw is] going to be revisited by the incoming Council in July of 2015 … it just felt like it was the sort of issue that was going to be answered on its own merits and shouldn’t be politicized,” he added.
According to the minutes of a Sept. 17 executive meeting, QDU intended not to raise the issue. In the minutes, QDU President Julia Kirby said Aguilar had asked that they not focus on Homecoming or the West Campus fields issue, and added that they were “fine not raising this”. In an Oct. 1 executive meeting, she said the issues they planned to raise were “garbage bags; redistricting; casino; interesting stuff with taxes and funding; community schools”.
Kirby, ArtSci ’15, told the Journal that when Aguilar couldn’t moderate due to a conflict with AMS Assembly, QDU decided its debate questions internally, and she said Aguilar didn’t directly ask that QDU not bring up those issues.
“He mentioned that focusing on it might be counterproductive because there have been a lot of polarizing media about it beforehand,” she said. “He brought up that it wouldn’t be the most constructive thing to make the debate about because at that point there wasn’t a lot new that we could bring, but we didn’t consider not talking about it.”
The debate included a question on town-gown tensions over Homecoming and the noise bylaw exemptions, asking how the candidates would work with other councillors to bridge the gap between students and the City on these issues.
Koven said one way of dealing with the issues surrounding Homecoming and the noise bylaw exemption was to make students feel at home in Kingston.
“It’s important that students are introduced to the community and feel part of it from day one,” Koven said.
He reiterated a platform promise to frequently meet with student leaders and ask for their input on municipal issues.
Koven criticized Stroud’s proposal that the one-bag garbage limit be changed to give households 52 tags at one time in the year, saying it would be costly and he didn’t see the current program as a “hardship”.
“When we’re trying to create policy, we’re trying to create bylaws where we’re all equal,” he said.
Pritchard said the current bylaw disproportionately affects students and serves as taxation on students who are already paying high rent.
“We were talking earlier about wanting students to stay in Kingston, how to retain them — we have to treat them fairly while they’re here and make them feel like the city wants them and that they’re not being treated differently,” he said.
Pritchard, like his opponents, said he would personally vote “no” in the casino referendum and doesn’t support the development of a casino in Kingston.
He added that he hasn’t taken a public platform stance because “referendums are one of the purest forms of democracy” and it’s important that residents are provided with the information to make an informed decision.
He also added that if a casino comes to Kingston, he will work to increase addiction and mental health support for members of the community.
Stroud said he’s been campaigning against the casino since 2012, adding that it works for Gananoque, where the casino is currently located, because the town is small and a casino allows it to draw money from outside its borders — “mostly in Kingston”.
He said the reverse will be true in Kingston and a casino will take money out of the community.
In his closing statement, Stroud said he has a perspective of his place in the larger world, and Kingston’s.
“Sydenham is pretty small in the big scheme of things geographically, but it’s not small to the people who live there,” he said.
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