Jim Neill and Ed Smith, City Council candidates for Williamsville District, debated infrastructure development, affordable housing and the future of the Memorial Centre in a debate held Monday night.
The debate, which was sponsored by the Williamsville Community Association, took place in St. Luke’s Church Hall and was mediated by former councillor John Clements.
Neill is the incumbent, having served since 2010. Smith preceded him as Williamsville councillor, having served from 2003-10.
The main issues of the night were infrastructure development, the Memorial Centre, the Williamsville Main Street Study and affordable housing. Following the debate, candidates then took questions from the public.
Neill said he doesn’t want to see “oversized development” in Williamsville, including the development of a new high school in the parkland that surrounds the Memorial Centre following the closure of Kingston Collegiate Vocational Institute (KCVI) and Queen Elizabeth Collegiate Vocational Institute (QECVI).
“It’s not the City’s job to offer parkland to the school board,” Neill said.
He added that the Limestone District School Board (LDSB) needs to find other sites to build on, so that the small resource of parks within Williamsville wouldn’t be affected.
Neill said he was concerned with the availability of affordable housing. He said there’s a discrepancy in the definition of affordable housing.
“Some define it as 80 per cent of market value or less than market value,” he said, adding that under this definition, affordable housing would come out to around $800 a month. He said these prices are still too high for most people in need.
With regards to living wages, Neill said Council “should lead by example.” He added that while most City Council workers may already make higher than minimum wage, contract workers might not necessarily make a living wage.
When asked about wood structures and whether they’re safe — a reference to the fire at 663 Princess St. in December 2013 — Neill said he had voted against the project.
When it came to development, Smith and Neill didn’t agree.
Smith described his stance as “a blend of commercial and residential”. He added that the development of Main St. would help establish stronger neighbourhoods within the district and emphasized the importance of City Council to “protect residential streets with responsible development”.
When asked about the Memorial Centre, Smith said it’s “a very important part of the Williamsville community”.
Unlike Neill, Smith said he would consider under “certain conditions” using some of the open parkland surrounding the Centre as a development site for a new high school, depending on LDSB’s future actions.
Smith went on to criticize Council for implementing bike lanes on Princess St., claiming local businesses weren’t consulted on the issue. He said wider sidewalks would have been more beneficial for local businesses that depend on foot traffic to draw customers.
Smith said he was opposed to Council’s proposed “living wage” policy, which would ensure municipal employees and contract workers a wage of $16.29 an hour for each working parent in a family of four.
“Raising the minimum wage [for city employees] would not go to help those in need,” he said.
Smith’s final message was that a vote for him is a vote for “tax money spent wisely”.
“If Jim had his way, you’d be paying more taxes,” he said.
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