The spirit of collaboration was on full display during Thursday night’s all-candidates meeting hosted by the Collingwood Chamber of Commerce.
The second All-Candidates Meeting, this time for councillor candidates, took place at the Collingwood Legion on Sept. 29, again to a packed house.
Of the 12 candidates running for one of seven councillor seats, 10 took to the legion’s stage to plead their case on Thursday night. Cam Ecclestone, Rob Ring, Steve Johns, Steve Perry, Deb Doherty, Kathy Jeffery, Chris Potts, Brandon Houston, Ian Chadwick and Christopher Baines were in attendance for the meeting.
George Dickenson declined the chamber’s invitation to participate, while Steve Berman posted to social media on Thursday night that he had rapid-tested positive for COVID-19 and wouldn’t be able to attend.
After introductions, the first question posed to candidates asked if they would be in favour of a Code of Conduct for elected officials.
“I would, because it’s already in place,” said Ring.
Steve Johns noted much work had already been done around the code of conduct and integrity.
“Obviously, it’s important,” said Johns.
“I do understand there is a code of conduct, but I don’t think you can underestimate the importance of the word respect,” said Perry. “I’ve watched many council meetings... watching some of the behaviour, to be honest with you, as a voter in Collingwood, I was quite shocked. The code of conduct needs to be enforced.”
Deb Doherty pointed to the strong code of conduct and procedural bylaw that is currently in place.
“All of those were hard-won. It’s important for all of council to continue to abide by them,” Doherty said, also pointing to her recent appointment to the board of directors for the Ontario Small Urban Caucus, pledging to bring her learnings to that board.
Kathy Jeffery said the current code of conduct had evolved over many years, and it would continue to evolve.
“There is always the expectation that everyone will be respectful and will be following it,” said Jeffery.
Chris Potts said he was in full support of the code of conduct.
“As elected officials, we represent the community and if this community is going to move forward in a positive way, following it is very important,” Potts said.
Brandon Houston said he felt it was important as councillors sit around the table that they are building a relationship to work together.
“Regardless of the code of conduct, we need to treat each other with respect,” said Houston.
Ian Chadwick noted he was part of the first council to bring a code of conduct to Collingwood in 2010.
“The code of conduct evolves to meet the changing needs of the community and legislation,” said Chadwick. “I support the whole process.”
Christopher Baines noted he has worked as a mediator for 20 years and would bring those skills to the council table.
“I would go further and say that each candidate ought to read our judicial inquiry and support the implementation of those recommendations,” said Baines.
Cam Ecclestone said a clear understanding of right and wrong is imperative for any councillor.
“It’s critical to the success of a council,” he said.
During a question concerning the state of Collingwood’s beaches, some candidates worked together to provide answers.
Doherty noted a recent staff report that outlined the 29 access points to water in Collingwood.
“All of our residents can park for free in our community, and we have agreements with the Town of the Blue Mountains, Clearview...” said Doherty, although she was cut off from finishing her remarks by the bell.
“...for 100 bucks!” she exclaimed, to audience laughs.
Brandon Houston pointed to an issue with communication.
“Until Deb came up, I didn’t realize there were any other types of agreements with other regions. I was going to come up here and say we need to work with our neighbours. I wish you could have finished your statement because I really want to know more about them,” said Houston, to laughs from the audience.
When Steve Perry stood up to provide his remarks, he said he had consulted with Doherty during the other remarks.
“Deb told me what she was going to finish with, and it’s interesting info,” said Perry, adding that some kind of reciprocal agreement between waterfront municipalities could be the answer.
“I have an issue with the HotSpot parking thing. I very seldom can get it to work. I would love to see something we could put on our dashes,” he said.
Jeffery noted that more water access points would be added to the harbour through the Terminals redevelopment.
“There are some spectacular options being considered through that development,” she said.
Ecclestone said he didn’t see water access as a major issue.
Questions were also posed to candidates regarding affordable housing and the importance of Collingwood having an arts and culture centre. The last question of the evening asked if candidates would support the formation of a council advisory committee for climate action.
Jeffery said she would be in support.
“I’m not an expert on climate action,” said Potts. “We have some challenges coming up so I would support it.”
Chadwick said a climate action committee is one of many advisory committees he would like to see formed.
“None of the people you elect are going to have all the information. Public advisory committees offer an opportunity to get that information,” said Chadwick.
Baines and Ring both noted the town already has a sort of climate action committee through the Collingwood Climate Action Team.
“Rather than forming another one through council, could we ask them to report to us? They do a good job. Why re-invent the wheel?” asked Baines.
Doherty built on comments by others by noting that the Collingwood Climate Action Team is an independent organization, although they are funded through a town grant.
“They are a passionate, knowledgeable group of citizens,” said Doherty. “The town has one staff member devoted to climate change activities. I think there might be some great synergies there to pull the team in closer to work more collaboratively with the town.”
Full profiles on each councillor candidate will be posted on CollingwoodToday.ca in the coming days, and will be available here.
Thursday’s full meeting is planned to be broadcast on RogersTV multiple times leading into the voting period.