Sudbury’s mayoral candidates met face-to-face in their first debate last night. The discussion was focused on the environment, but the 10 contenders did stray into other topics.

About half way through the Good Green Town Hall, the mayoral candidates were asked where the environment ranked on their priority list.

Most responded that it was a high-priority item.

City councillor Ron Dupuis said based on public budget consultations, the environment is a top priority for citizens, over roads, policing and playgrounds.

And, for the most part, they all gave similar answers to more detailed questions about improving the transit system, protecting Sudbury's lakes, building more bike trails and curbing urban sprawl.

But the discussion did veer from the environment at times, particularly when the 10 candidates were asked how they'd work together with city council.

Former Mayor John Rodriguez held up his four years as an example of what to do — in contrast to the tumultuous term of his successor Marianne Matichuk.

"We worked together harmoniously,” he said. “Nine of the same councillors on this council suddenly couldn't get along with the mayor. Leadership made the difference."

Aside from leadership, two of the leading Sudbury mayoral candidates had big questions about a project city council has repeatedly called its top priority.

Maley Drive Extension questions

Brian Bigger said no one can tell him why the $130 million Maley Drive Extension is at the top of the to-do list.

"I haven't actually got a straight answer or anybody who's been able to tell me when it was put on and why it was put on."

Bigger said he would like to see the Maley extension shortened and, instead, designed to run between Falconbridge Road and Municipal Road 80. The money saved by doing so could be invested into the transit system.

The city has already put away its one-third of building funds for the Maley Extension. The provincial government has only committed to funding the project, but so far the federal government has not.

For his part, Dan Melanson said he generally supports moving forward with the Maley extension, but he also thinks mining companies should be paying their share for road repairs.

He suggested "perhaps putting some type of levy on the tonnage they're hauling on the roads or some other type of negotiation to say 'Hey listen, if you're going to be using and abusing our roads then you should be paying something’."