Housing talk dominates Charlottetown mayor's debate

Charlottetown's housing crisis was the hot topic the Charlottetown mayor's debate Wednesday night.

The five candidates vying for mayor squared off Wednesday night

The five people running for mayor squared off Wednesday night. (Natalia Goodwin/CBC )

Charlottetown's housing crisis was the hot topic at the Charlottetown mayor's debate Wednesday night. The event held at U.P.E.I. was sponsored the Guardian and broadcast on Eastlink.

The five candidates answered multiple questions, everything from how to keep young people from leaving the city to if ditch in-filling should be stopped. Although there was one direct question on the subject of housing, the topic kept creeping its way into the conversation.

"My plan is called buy and build," said candidate Jamie Larkin.

Jamie Larkin thinks a housing trust would work. (Natalia Goodwin/CBC )

"Buy current affordable housing and put it in a protected housing trust, partner with the province to make sure these affordable housing units are protected for future generations."

Larkin also mentioned better bylaws around short-term rentals. 

Philip Brown thinks the city should look at a mixed housing models and learn from how other jurisdictions are doing it.

"I believe in inclusionary​ ​zoning, which is something that's working with other provinces like Ontario and B.C.," Brown said. 

William MacFadden first spoke of his own experience with housing, and argued a shift in mindset is needed first to solve the problem. 

William MacFadden says a mindset shift is needed first to solve the housing problem. (Natalia Goodwin/CBC )

"I think the only way we really change things is change each individual and we start realizing we're all here together."

For both Cecil Villard and Kim Devine gathering all involved, from developer to non-profit, to talk out a solution is the priority. 

"There's no sense calling it a priority if our reaction to it isn't that of a priority. So I think we need to get everyone in the room and agree work needs to take place," Villard said.

For Devine, finding the hidden land was another idea.

Kim Devine has committed to sit down with developers and to find extra land. (Natalia Goodwin/CBC )

"I have also committed to creating a land inventory to assess how much under utilized land we have and I think if we put things on a map and have a look at the city, we would be able to find some pieces of land that we could assemble for housing," Devine said. 

Brown vs. Villard 

The gloves were off several times between Brown and Villard during the candidates debate. 

It started during the first question, which asked if the Charlottetown Area Development Corporation should be replaced. All of the candidates, besides Bill MacFadden who did not answer, agreed it should be replaced. 

"I will make sure that I will be the first… going down to the premier's office and ask that we recreate or reinstate CADC." said Brown, after which Villard rebutted, "I probably won't walk down to the premier's office to ask permission to create an economic entity for the City of Charlottetown, as mayor of the city, I feel I already have the authority to do that."

Brown then pointed out many of the assets are still owned by the province. 

Cecil Villard, left and Philip Brown, right faced off a few times during the debate. (Natalia Goodwin/CBC )

Taxes were another hot spot. Villard started by saying he would reduce them by five per cent over four years. Brown stated he needed to look at the books, but threw in also a comment about Villard. 

"I know my opponent is looking at building a 100 million dollar Eastlink Centre," Brown said. 

Villard responded by saying that  the federal and provincial government would have to be on board for that, something the other candidates agreed with.

Brown then accused him of going back on a promise, to which Villard claimed Brown wasn't listening. 

Both Devine and Larkin said they wouldn't reduce taxes, and again MacFadden chose not to answer when the question was opened up to the panel. 

As for the proposed multi-use sports facility for the city, all the candidates agreed the province and the federal government would have to pitch in money for it to work. 

Charlottetown residents will have their say at the polls on Nov. 5. 

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About the Author

Natalia Goodwin

Video Journalist

Natalia is a video journalist in P.E.I. She has also worked for CBC N.L.