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Woodstock All Candidates Meeting

Woodstock Unifor All Candidates Meeting 2018 (Photo Credit: Marcie Culbert, Heart FM News)

The first All Candidates Meeting got a little heated at a couple points last night.

WOODSTOCK - Thirteen of Woodstock's aspiring politicians squared off at an All Candidates Meeting at Unifor Hall.

Unifor Local 636 hosted the event and it was moderated by President Brent Thompson.

Things got a little heated right from the get-go; when current councillor and mayoral candidate Shawn Shapton brought up a decision council made about electric busses in his opening remarks. He accused Incumbent Mayor Trevor Birtch of taking former Premier Kathleen Wynne's advice in wanting to introduce electric busses. 

Shapton says this would have cost local taxpayers millions of dollars.

"Fortunately for us our community recognized and our council recognized this isn't the solution. We need to understand where the dollars are coming from and is there the long term benefit that we're seeing; there isn't."

Birtch has a different opinion.

"It's unfortunate the city council wasn't able to see that it represents the future, but we will continue to advocate. This is about the economy, this is about the jobs, the jobs of the future and it's about working with all of the great people that we have in our community here that are doing things that are being recognized the world over as leadership."

In response to the Kathleen Wynne comment; Birtch says the Mayor has to meet with seniors levels of government, both the party in power and the opposition.

The mayoral candidates also faced a question from the public regarding affordable housing last night.

Shapton says we can do better.

"We've got to refocus our core spending needs. We're missing the mark in this community and we're spending money where we're leaving core issues behind such as affordable housing."

Meanwhile Birtch says they have been working to address this issue throughout the years.

"The County of Oxford has been doing a great job bringing more units to the community. Perhaps we don't make a big fanfare about it because a lot of these units are mixed into regular buildings so there is no stigma placed on any of the individuals."

The first question of the night centered around the proposed landfill.

City-County Councillor candidate Michael Harding says we need to put pressure on higher levels of government to put a stop to it.

"It is in the hands of the provincial government and we need to keep their feet to the fire."

Current City Councillor Connie Lauder is also against the dump.

"Toronto can look after their garbage and we will look after ours. I don't think they should be sending their garbage here."

City-County Council candidate Naseeb Singh says he will fight stop it from happening.

"As a councillor I will continue to work with the public and with my colleagues at council to make sure that the public's wish to stop the dump is upheld."

The candidates were later asked about their thoughts on economic development.

City Council candidate Ross Gerrie says we need more industrial land.

"We have to have shovel ready ground because our opponents do. We were able to secure Toyota Boshoku, Sysco and many more. If we have shovel ready ground we will be good to go as they come knocking on our door."

But on the other hand; City Council candidate Colin Matthews would like to see more in the downtown core.

"I'm tired of walking down there every day and seeing all of those shuttered buildings; it's not good. I would like to see some revitalization, maybe some beautification or something like that. Maybe bring some businesses back there."

Business talk eventually shifted over to tariffs and how they could impact the Friendly City.

Current City Councillor Jerry Acchione says we need to work together to keep local jobs.

"You can't sugar coat it; the tariffs are scary and if these do come into effect it's going to change a lot. We have to work with unions, companies, Toyota, GM and the big ones here to keep good paying jobs." 

City Council candidate Mark Schadenberg has similar thoughts on the matter.

"Concerning the tariffs and any chance of losing employment in the City of Woodstock, I think business retention is very important."

In an interesting turn of events; Thames Valley Trustee Candidate Kelly Bairos took to the podium during the public question period, to ask the candidates how they would work with school board trustees.

City Councillor candidate Ron Fraser says when he was a councillor four years ago; he found the relationship between the city and the trustees was very important.

"I learned it was hard to work with the senior staff with the different school boards. But what I did find was that the avenue to receive and input information came from meeting with school board trustees and explaining your situation with them.

But Current City-County Councillor Sandra Talbot says the trustees have to meet us halfway.

"I don't feel that our concerns are being met. It's not when we will work with the trustees with the schools board it's when they will work with us."

Another big topic of the night was the local doctor shortage. This issue hit close to home for a lot of people, including City Council candidate Kate Leatherbarrow. She says her family used to have to drive to Guelph to see a doctor, before they found a nurse practitioner in Ingersoll.

"I would continue to advocate that we do need more doctors in Woodstock. But I would also encourage nurse practitioners because sometimes they have more time, they don't rush you through appointments and we need to get more care for our community."

City-County Council Candidate Peter Croves agrees that we need to find a way to attract more medical professionals.

"We definitely need doctors of all different fields here. A lot of people have to travel to London or Kitchener Waterloo area for certain specialists."

Only one candidate was unable to make it to the meeting last night. Current City-County Councillor Deb Tait was not in attendance, due to a work commitment that was scheduled months in advance.

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