CORNER BROOK — For the second straight evening, a municipal election candidates forum in Corner Brook focused mostly on economic growth.
There was a lot less emphasis on attitude adjustments at city hall with the second group of candidates — although it did still get mentions by some of the 10 candidates who attended the second night of the forum held at Grenfell Campus, Memorial University of Newfoundland Wednesday.
This group was made up four of the five incumbents seeking re-election — Priscilla Boutcher, Leo Bruce, Linda Chaisson and Donna Luther — perhaps accounting for the move away from attacks on previous coucil and management and staff that were portrayed Tuesday evening. There were also two former councillors in Josh Carey and Mary Ann Murphy, whose responses to the six questions presented to them took less direct personal notations.
Council hopeful Trent Quinton was the most critical of the current council and management on Wednesday evening. While the remaining three — Chris Noseworthy, Tom Stewart, and John Evans — concentrated on a need for change, their answers trended more toward solutions than suggesting blame.
They were each again given periods of time to sell their candidacy with introductions and conclusions, but the focus of the forum was a question and answer period. The candidates were given a minute to answer four questions previously provided to them — how they will ensure the city can finance its share of the waste water effluent project and meet the project on time, what part of the municipal plan should be focused on first, how Corner Brook can increase and improve affordable housing, and whether they support an art procurement program and/or public art space in the city.
Two unknown questions
They were then subjected to two unknown questions. The first was what is your strategy for population growth in Corner Brook, and how are you planning to attract and maintain young professionals?
Population growth and economic development are closely related issues, and the candidates answered the question accordingly.
“If we are going to grow the population of Corner Brook, first we have to grow the economy,” Carey said.
The former councillor said young people are not going to come to a city that doesn’t attract them economically, as well as recreationally and socially. He said the well-publicized issues at the Pepsi Centre have to be addressed immediately.
Boutcher said a committee needs to be struck to research economic development. She said more manufacturing jobs are needed.
“We have a beautiful place here, everybody says,” she said. “Well, we need to get more things moving. We need people who are very knowledgeable to recruit and try to get more business here.”
Evans said the time of losing businesses to surrounding communities must stop, and the city must become open for business. He also said there must be a reprieve on taxpayers.
“People are leaving here because they don’t want to pay the taxes,” he said. “If we want economic development, we have to fix our own back door first.”
Quinton followed up Evans’ response with an even more direct outlook on changes needed within city hall. He said communities around Corner Brook are growing.
“We really need to take a good look inside the belly of city hall, and do an internal review of our departments,” he said. “We need to find out what we are doing wrong, and get people in here and make this place grow.”
Stewart also referenced the need to remove the alleged walls to business that exist at city hall. However, he took a different outlook when he said more emphasis needs to be placed on attracting more sport and recreation events.
“The athletics and recreation community is under-estimated and under-appreciated as an economic generator,” he said. “We have to open the Pepsi Centre and annex and fields and play areas to the users groups.”
Murphy said the city is in need of an influx of industry, but marketing is a starting point.
“It is a wonderful place to live, a wonderful place to raise children, and we should be flying our banner asking people to come here,” she said.
Chaisson said there is a need to expand the city’s business base, generating new sources of revenue and employment. Partnerships are the solution, she suggested.
“We all need to work together, if this is going to happen, to build the attractions people want when they move into a city,” she said.
Bruce also said more jobs are needed — a second industry to fuel the economy — and for the port to become more active.
“We need jobs where people can stay,” he said. “Where, when people graduate from their post-secondary institution in the city or western Newfoundland, they have choices. Do I have to go to Alberta or Labrador? No, I can stay in Corner Brook.”
Noseworthy said the economy and services in the city have to be situated so that the students attending post-secondary institutions stay.
“We need to have the amenities that are going to keep people,” he said. “We need things like day care. Population growth has to be a plank in everything we do.”
Luther was one candidate who strayed from the growing the economy focus. She regarded housing as a priority in growing the population.
“We have seen it with the new apartments and condos, people who have moved outside the city because they didn’t have a place to live ... are moving back into the city,” she said.
Luther said quality of life is an asset in attracting young professionals.
Candidate Shawn Street could not attend the forum Wednesday evening because of a family emergency.