THUNDER BAY – The city’s ward hopefuls took centre stage to present their vision to the public with election day looming less than two weeks away.
Most of the candidates in Thunder Bay’s seven ward contests participated in a public forum hosted by the Thunder Bay and District Labour Council at The Moose Hall on Wednesday night, fielding questions with an audience of about 50 members of the public in attendance.
Each candidate was allowed a two-minute opening statement and two-minute window for closing statements. Eight candidates were chosen at random to answer one of two pre-determined questions, while the rest of the session featured members of the audience posing questions to a select number of candidates.
Among the queries made by members of the public, the two McIntyre contestants on stage – Albert Aiello and Wesley Ramage – were asked about whether they support a city bylaw that would create designated truck routes, potentially taking heavy traffic off Dawson Road.
Aiello isn’t optimistic the city’s plan will be enforceable.
“There is no differentiation between a truck that can be there legally because they either live or work or are making deliveries in the area, as opposed to those that are just going through on their way across Canada,” Aiello said.
Ramage said he is in favour of restricting the heavy trucks, though he wants to be mindful of any consequences on commercial entities operating in the ward.
“The use of County Fair Mall as a truck stop is something that I think needs to stop in the sense that having the bylaw will stop the traffic from going down that road,” Ramage said.
Northwood candidates Shelby Ch’ng and Mo El Kahil were asked about initiatives council could implement to support residents living in the Limbrick housing complex.
Ch’ng, who pointed out that she’s a member of the Thunder Bay District Social Services Administration Board that operates the housing complex, said it’s important to engage the people in the community and the area has community gardens and is starting a tenant association.
“While crime is never going to completely dissipate, especially with really hard to service people, it’s really important we keep this top of mind and continue to do these small, measurable things so that people do feel connected and feel welcome in their community,” Ch’ng said.
El Kahil said a more visible police presence could make people feel safer.
“One of the action items I would like to propose we do implement is bring back neighbourhood police officers,” El Kahil said.
Candidates also fielded questions about how to address social issues facing the city.
“The key to resolving the city’s social issues is going to be addressing the blue-collar jobs deficit in this city,” Neebing candidate Robin Rickards said. “The roots of the social problems we’re facing really started spiralling out of control with the loss of blue-collar jobs in the early part of this millennium.”
McKellar candidate Ashley Nurmela, a member of the Lake Helen First Nation who moved to Thunder Bay nearly 20 years ago, responded to a question about addressing racism.
“The city of Thunder Bay and city council have already declared that there is a problem in regards to racism so I would like to build upon that,” Nurmela said, adding she and her children have been targeted. “There is no reason why we can’t show unity in our community.”
As for spending, a question was asked about whether a plebiscite should be held on major infrastructure projects.
“I believe in plebiscites. I believe in asking the people, especially on large projects,” Westfort candidate Frank Scarcello said.
Absent from the forum was McIntyre candidate Adam Gulbinowicz, Neebing’s Richard Gunn and Red River hopeful Donna Brown.
A mayoral forum will be held on Thursday.