Small turnout at all-candidates forum

Louis Power
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Need for a downtown library, snowclearing and development among public concerns

The only all-candidates public forum leading up to the St. John's municipal election drew a small crowd - so small, in fact, that the candidates comprised almost a third of the number.

However, the audience had plenty of questions for the 20 candidates who showed at the forum, which was put together by the St. John's and District Labour Council, and the candidates had plenty to say.

Councillor-at-large candidate Stephen Nolan discusses the issue of downtown housing Wednesday at an all-candidates forum at St. Theresa's Parish Hall on Mundy Pond Road. Nolan, a librarian, also discussed the loss of the former Gosling Library which close

The only all-candidates public forum leading up to the St. John's municipal election drew a small crowd - so small, in fact, that the candidates comprised almost a third of the number.

However, the audience had plenty of questions for the 20 candidates who showed at the forum, which was put together by the St. John's and District Labour Council, and the candidates had plenty to say.

None of the three mayoral candidates were present, but both deputy mayoral candidates showed, along with at least one candidate from each ward and several at-large candidates.

The first person to approach the microphone began, to a round of applause, by commending Ward 2 candidate Andrew Harvey for being the only candidate to use recyclable materials for his campaign, despite all the talk from other candidates about the importance of recycling.

Among the more predictable topics discussed, such as snowclearing and development, was the concept of re-establishing a downtown library - something several audience members were very passionate about. Ward 2 candidate Bill Maddigan was one of the only candidates to include having a downtown library in his campaign literature, which was printed on bookmarks.

"All my commitments and priorities are on that bookmark. So if I get in you can hold me to each and every one of those, and one of my priorities is a downtown library," Maddigan said.

At-large candidate Stephen Nolan also expressed strong support for a downtown library.

"Every year, every time they have a study, we run the highest in illiteracy, and it's an absolute crime," he said. "This city has the duty to create an opportunity for our children to live, to create and to be something that they will be proud of for the rest of their lives."

Ward 4 candidate Debbie Hanlon and Ward 2 candidate Frank Galgay also threw their support behind the idea.

Pedestrian dilemma

Ideas for snowclearing and removal solutions were less unanimous.

"I'm not sure what the solution is, but I know there's got to be one," said at-large candidate Simon Lono.

"Or the city can take its $200-million budget and send us all south," interjected the audience member, a snow plow operator, who asked the candidates to state their plans for snow removal.

At-large candidate Tom Badcock said to him, "You're doing it. Tell me what needs to be done."

Nolan suggested clearing the sidewalks on one side of streets for pedestrians, while at-large candidate Sandy Hickman expressed satisfaction with the work city employees put into the current system.

"The plan that's there now, it's a good one, and the staff works hard," he said. "We live in a very strange city when it comes to weather."

Barry Buckle, another at-large candidate, wasn't as happy with the current system.

"It needs to be revamped, because obviously it's not working now," he said.

"I beg to differ that the system is not working," said at-large candidate Tom Hann, who added it is unrealistic to compare snowclearing in St. John's to that of Mount Pearl. "We have some unique challenges in this city."

Water issues

Deputy mayoral candidates Shannie Duff and Keith Coombs spoke their minds about the city's water issues, and for the most part they were on the same page. They disagreed, however, on the idea of installing water meters in order to help with preservation.

"I think that's a knee-jerk reaction," said Coombs. "I do believe we have enough water sources around the Avalon."

"It's not only a question of supply. It's a question of cost," Duff said in response. "Regardless of how many ponds are around us, we're going to have to think about conservation."

Duff said she believes the city would need to study water metering before deciding whether to proceed.

Along with the deputy mayoral candidates, 18 others participated, including at-large candidates Tom Hann, Simon Lono, Sandy Hickman, Tom Badcock, Stephen Nolan, Bernard Davis, Barry Buckle and Sheilagh O'Leary, Ward 1 candidate Danny Breen, Ward 2 candidates Bill Maddigan, Frank Galgay and Andrew Harvey, Ward 3 candidates Terry Bennett and Lionel West, Ward 4 candidates Sheilagh Guy-Murphy and Debbie Hanlon and Ward 5 candidates Perry Howlett and David Ryan.

lpower@thetelegram.com

Organizations: District Labour Council

Geographic location: St. John's, Mount Pearl

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