Mayoral, regional council hopefuls debate at Jacob Beam
By Mike Williscraft
About 200 Lincoln residents filled the gymnasium at Jacob Beam Elementary School for Lincoln Chamber of Commerce’s all-candidates event last Wednesday.
While ward candidates were given an opportunity to make two-minute speeches, candidates for mayor and regional councillor positions debated the key issues.
While the regional councillor candidates provided some common themes with their answers, the same cannot be said for the duo running for mayor.
Incumbent Sandra Easton outlined the several accomplishments and projects in motion for council and the Town, while challenger Rob Condotta said spending is out of control.
In fact, Easton said a lack of focus for major projects and a lack of a cultural and arts agenda within the Town were reasons she ran the first time in 2014.
Condotta said the municipality has accumulated too much bureaucratic waste and suffered from a lack of leadership at the regional table.
Easton said problems at the Region are deep, but representation for Lincoln is not among them.
“(Problems) were done deliberately by the group called the cabal to try to create full-time jobs,” said Easton.
Condotta did agree to some extent, saying, “There is a little boys’ club at the Region…A new council will bring integrity back to Regional Council,” said Condotta.
On planning, Easton cited the extensive process undertaken for the Prudhomme’s Landing site as one example of how the municipality will work through development pressures.
“There’s no turning back,” Easton said of the growth coming Lincoln’s way.
“It’s not always about winners and losers. It’s about coming together.”
For Condotta, he said the pressures should be known as provincial growth targets have been set.
“No development is a surprise,” he said.
On cannabis growth and sales, both agreed there is still a lot of information that needs to be finalized.
“There are nights when you come out of town hall and the town is completely engulfed by skunk smell,” said Easton, adding, “We don’t have our marching orders yet.”
Condotta noted the retail aspect will be set by the province, “we’ll find out April 1.”
Easton said council’s hiring of an economic development officer two years ago has generated five times the salary; a new communications hire has improved connectivity to the community extensively, and; internal administration issues have been solved.
Condotta said expenses are just too high and he would “cut the frivolous wish list”: economic development should span the whole municipality, and the Town should “engage the farmer”.
LINCOLN REG. COUN.
On some key issues, such as Lincoln getting its share of the Regional spend and the need to overhaul regional council representation as a whole, both Rob Foster and John Kralt agreed.
Both noted long-time frustration with the Region in dealing with truck traffic/congestion, too.
On economic development, while both recognized the wine industry as a key driver, ideas on how to steer to success differed.
“We need to get out the way,” said Kralt of creating an environment for organic business development.
Foster noted several initiatives undertaken by council over his 18 years as an alderman including the development of the Twenty Valley Tourism Association and the Agriculture Centre of Excellence program.
“Farming is not just growing crops anymore,” said Foster.
On the woes at Niagara Region, Foster said, “We need better governance there. We can’t stick our heads in the sand on this one. We all deserve open and transparent government.”