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Business attraction and retention focus of candidates forum

The event was the first in which all mayoral candidates were present
2022-09-29CAUSECandidatesForumBS
A crowd gathered on Sept. 28 as city council candidates participated in a forum put on by C.A.U.S.E.

At a Wednesday night gathering at Grace Christian Centre, Citizens Advocating for a United and Sustainable Elliot Lake (C.A.U.S.E.), the meeting organizers, posed questions to candidates vying for city council seats.

The event featured a rapid fire question blitz followed by two scripted queries from the 16 municipal candidates who appeared at Elliot Lake's second all candidates session. It was also the first session in which all four mayoral candidates appeared in person.

In total, there are 21 people in the running in the Oct. 24 election for one of six councillor seats or the mayor's chair.

Among the questions, candidates were asked what they would tell people about the city, if asked at a trade council.

In the question blitz and seeking a councillor's seat, Rick Bull said his response would be similar to what he said to a camper he met from southern Ontario who wanted to know more about Elliot Lake. 

"We mentioned about being so close to many lakes, hunting, and at the time lots of downtown activity (the mall was still here) and the great people here," Bull said.

The theme of the candidate's gathering was Elliot Lake business attraction and retention.

It wasn't a packed house but both candidates and audience numbers were up a little from the first C.A.U.S.E. Elliot Lake session, held two weeks earlier.

Incumbent Mayor Dan Marchisella spoke early and covered some familiar ground on the theme.  

He also wanted to see some changes if re-elected.

"Over the next 10 years, I believe much can happen with changes in attitude and mindsets of a future council, where it needs to occur first," Marchisella said.

"Working towards growth of the community and being respectful to each other and each other's opinions must happen," Marchisella added.

"I believe we can affordably build a community centre that houses the arena, pool, walking track, museum, art gallery (and) 400-seat theatre, but affordability does not mean free," he said.

Marchisella went on to speak about housing diversification, servicing 40 acres of land near Beaver Mointain, installing Spine Road infrastructure to precede high-end housing facing Elliot Lake, and working with investors and non-profits towards tiny homes for those who are downsizing and to create affordable housing.

"You must invest in order to grow. Being cheap did not work in the past. It will not work in the future," Marchisella concluded.

Mayoral candidate Mike Thomas stressed the importance of being ready to capitalize on investment opportunities. He said a corporation he leads wanted to bring an initiativec here during the pandemic, but it didn't happen.

"The money was available federally, provincially. We have the facilities. We didn't have the infrastructure to cover the common ingredient that we need to move forward and make sure it exists," Thomas said.

Thomas also said the key to success is in providing shovel-ready industrial and commercial property with the agreement of the mayor and council to get it done. 

"You need leadership that works for you, for business and that's what I'm advocating for. That's why I'm running for mayor," Thomas said.

Mayoral candidate Chris Patrie said, if elected, he would start lobbying for the city with the Ford government on Oct. 25, the day after the election.

"I continue to operate the successful local business (Elliot Lake Trading Post). I also work part time, for the last 30 years, doing business and legal management (in) running fairs, festivals and exhibitions within Canada's traveling theme park where I work with many government officials, municipal and provincial partners.

"If you give me the honour of being your mayor, I want to bring Elliot Lake back to the forefront of the province," he said.

Patrie said ratepayers have been overtaxed over the last two council terms, having their taxes put into reserves which have increased from $6 million to $28 million, without council increasing the budget for reserves.

"We are taxing for the past eight years for work that we haven't done," said Patrie.

"We have to rebuild our proper theatre, museum and welcome centre. These assets are an attraction to newcomers as well as tourists. I believe that the province will come to our assistance like they promised when the (Algo Centre Mall) collapse happened," Patrie explained.

He called for transparency in city dealings.

Patrie, in response to queries at his campaign office, also said, while not endorsing the idea, he's seeking a cost analysis for the installation of residential water meters city wide.

Mayoral candidate Geraldine Robinson included three main issues in her platform; openness and transparency, support for business and building up tourism infrastructure.

"I believe in an open and transparent operational council. The public should be aware of all aspects of the council's decisions," Robinson said. "The council's opinions, the arguments for and against the issues, making decisions behind closed doors should cease.

"I've watched budget (meetings) when it came to the mayor and councillor's money, they closed it. That should be an issue that we should all be aware because we are paying them," Robinson also said.

Robinson added she supports an aggressive policy for attracting business to Elliott Lake. 

"There's people who have come to me with a fairly innovative idea for tourism such as a zipline, such as our restaurant and the tower, which is one of our main tourist attractions. There are all sorts of ways and we should investigate all of them," said Robinson.

She said the city's infrastructure  problems need urgent action.

Next up in the municipal election campaign, there's a candidate's event Friday afternoon and evening at the Moose Centre.

On Oct. 4, Elliot Lake Rotary presents it's candidates night at the Collins Hall at 5 p.m.

C.A.U.S.E. Elliot Lake will hold the group's third and final candidates meeting on Wednesday Oct. 12 at Grace Christian Centre where the doors will be open at 6:30 p.m.



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About the Author: Brent Sleightholm

As a reporter, Brent has covered everything from amateur and professional sports, to politics, entertainment, police and courts, to human interest stories and government issues
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