THUNDER BAY – The candidates looking to be Thunder Bay’s next mayor all have their own vision for the future of the city, as well as different ways they would make it a reality.
Eight of the 11 contenders to be the city’s top elected municipal official squared off at a Thursday evening public forum organized by the Thunder Bay and District Labour Council at the Moose Hall.
The forum began with two pre-determined questions, with four candidates randomly selected to respond to each. That was followed up by a nearly two-hour series of questions from some of the more than 200 members of the public in attendance.
Each questioner was directed to pick three candidates to answer, with the vast majority choosing Iain Angus, Shane Judge, Bill Mauro and Frank Pullia.
One question asked Judge, Mauro and Angus how they would go about receiving support from the rest of council to implement their platforms.
Judge, the third-place finisher four years ago, said he would make it clear to the new council at the first meeting that he was voted into office for specific reasons.
“If I’m elected mayor, the argument I would make is that I’ve defeated long-term incumbents, the former minister of municipal affairs. The people have spoken very clearly and they want to see change,” Judge said.
“It would be up to them whether they would want to reject the mandate given to me by the people. If they did so, well, that’s their problem.”
Judge said he would also demand a recorded vote on issues where he would fail and use them on the next campaign trail to remind voters of where he wasn’t supported.
Mauro, the former Thunder Bay-Atikokan MPP who has city hall experience dating back to his days as the Northwood ward councillor from 1997 to 2003, said he would reject the quid pro quo games that have previously been played.
“Ultimately as the mayor, you’re one vote. Make your case. Do your homework. Show up for work. If you’re case is sound and you can justify what it is you believe is the right decision, perhaps you will bring it forward,” Mauro said.
“I won’t make deals with people that, if you vote with me on this, I’m going to give you a hockey rink in your ward.”
Iain Angus, an at-large councillor for the past 15 years, stressed the importance of collaboration and working with council members.
“It’s all based on the issue. It’s based on the knowledge you have. It’s based on what you understand it is the community needs,” Angus said. “As mayor, part of my job will be to build a team to find out what the individual member wants to achieve during their term and assist them in bringing it forward, not to bring in roadblocks but to help them.”
During another portion of the evening, Pullia emphasized that his philosophy is more than where he falls on the political spectrum.
“People ask me if I lean left or right. I say ‘No, I’m leaning forward to represent the best interests of Thunder Bay,’” Pullia said. “I think more than anything else that’s what we’re missing right now, a clear sense of direction of what Thunder Bay is, where it’s going and how it’s going to get there.”
Another question asked how racism should be addressed.
Ron Chookomolin, the only Indigenous mayoral candidate, said there needs to be broader representation.
“It’s too one-sided at the municipal level,” Chookomolin said. “We don’t have minorities on board to have a say in drafting policy making. We need to start that first. We need to have minorities on board to start doing these policies.”
Jim Gamble questioned whether there is systemic racism, particularly with crime, insisting a significant amount of violent crime is committed by Indigenous people to other Indigenous people.
“Until you want to admit the truth and accept the truth, nothing is going to change,” Gamble said.
To a question about job creation, Peter Panetta called on the city to provide employment for youth because he doesn’t think Thunder Bay is attractive for new business.
“With the crime rate as it is, I don’t think you’re going to get many people that are going to want to invest in the city of Thunder Bay. Not with the image we have right now,” Panetta said.
Mariann Sawicki, the only woman running for mayor, has a vision includes shuttle transportation running between the city’s north and south, built by the local Bombardier plant, lakefront boardwalk and seasonal waterpark and skating rink.
“I’m a firm believer in cleaning up our city,” Sawicki said. “If we all come together as a community and everybody does their part – each person in their house cleans up their yard, makes it presentable – our city in no time will be spotless.”
Kevin Cernjul, Ed Hailio and Wolfgang Schoor were not present for the forum.