Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Communication among council members and between the council and residents is proving to be a key campaign issue among candidates who are running against the mayor of the Region of Queens Municipality (RQM), David Dagley, in the October 17 election.
Another point that was driven home by opposing candidates at a recent mayoral forum was whether council members are there for their district or the region as a whole.
The forum, which was held at the Astor Theatre on October 4, was hosted by the South Queens Chamber of Commerce and the Astor Theatre Society. Running for mayor is incumbent David Dagley and challengers Darlene Norman, a former councillor, and current councillors Brian Fralic and Susan MacLeod.
"It's about communication, communication and more communication," Fralic insisted as a way forward.
"We need to start working as a team and present a united front," he said. "We can do better."
Although the event was tagged as a debate, it was more of a means for the candidates to share their views with residents at a time when few electoral candidates are going door-to-door. The candiates were given a list of questions ahead of time to address.
The questions covered a spectrum of issues such as open pen fish farming; relationships with the business community; use of regional facilities; role in the protection of natural assets, such as trails and beaches; and how each candidate would build a strong, cohesive government.
The candidates were also asked what programs and initiatives they were a part of while on council. What plans do they have to combat poverty? And, how do they plan on creating a more open relationship with residents in Queens?
It was the question of how the candidates would work together to build a strong, cohesive government team that sparked the comments on existing communication and teammanship.
Dagley said the seven councillors are expected to represent their district and all of Queens and the 10,500 residents that live there.
Fralic had a different view of things emphasizing that communication was the key and unity was what was needed.
Norman recalled how while campaigning a woman told her the fact that three members from the current council are running for mayor is reflective of a disjointed government. And she herself has seen councillors snicker, raise their eyebrows and interrupt each other during meetings.
"We need good governance and respect," said Norman. "We shouldn't be talking about representing different districts, we are one."
Norman declared she would bring back the Committee of the Whole meetings, so more discussion can take place council members.
For her part, MacLeod talked about opening a line of communication and working together more. "We are here to serve you and we can only do that if we know what you need," she said.
One of the more controversial questions concerned the expansion of open pen fish farms in Liverpool Bay.
Dagley said he did not have an opinion as mayor but personally felt that science would determine whether a fish farm expansion works for the Bay. The other three candidates took a firm stand on the issue and indicated they were not in favour of expansion.
Following the questions, each candidate was given time to summarize his or her platform.
Dagley opined that things have gone well over his past four years in office and that he has plenty of experience to offer. He said he was willing to work hard and move forward to improve the lives of all residents while directing efforts toward attracting more families and businesses to the area.
"Hopefully, I have earned the confidence of the people that are attending this debate," he said. "Please ask yourself if the last four years have shown noticeable improvement in the growth of Queens," challenged the mayor.
Fralic touted himself as a proud ambassador of Queens County who has made sacrifices to work for the municipality.
"If you want a mayor who is happy with the status quo, and does not want to see change; a mayor who looks to the past and struggles to see the future; or a mayor who can be easily led astray, I am not your guy," he told the audience.
"If you want a mayor who, together with the council, will lean into the future and acknowledge the past, knowing in order to be successful that we must move forward together, I am your guy," said Fralic.
Norman advised she's ready to lead the council "down a path in which we will be prosperous and respectful...I want this to be a region where our children have a choice to stay," she said. "We need a mayor that can adapt, think on their feet and be willing to change...We need to work together and get to know each other better."
MacLeod has been a tireless supporter of community organizations and events and says that will not change if she is elected.
"As your mayor, I will be out there at every community event. I will be listening to you and serving the needs of the community and that's my pledge," she promised.
The forum was moderated by the radio journalist, Ed Halverson, who himself is running for a council seat in the Town of Lunenenburg. About 100 people attended the event, while others were able to watch it live-streamed on Facebook or to tune in to the audio on QCCR FM radio.
The October 17 municipal election will be by paper ballot only. Voters have the option to vote in person at the polling station in their district, vote in an advance poll on October 8 or 13, or to cast a vote by proxy on election day.
For more information on the election go to www.regionofqueens.com.