Sudbury

'Uncomfortable at times' as incumbent put on defensive at final Greater Sudbury mayoral debate

Seniors issues were expected to be the major focus of the final all-candidates mayoral debate in Greater Sudbury, but incumbent mayor Brian Bigger once again found himself with a target squarely on his back.

Ten of 11 hopefuls took part in mayoral candidates debate hosted by CARP Sudbury

Ten of the 11 candidates running to be mayor in Greater Sudbury took part in the city's final all-candidates debate, sponsored by the seniors advocacy organization, Sudbury CARP. Pictured, from left, are Brian Bigger, Cody Cacciotti, Troy Crowder, Bill Crumplin, Jeff Huska, Dan Melanson, Patricia Mills, Rodney Newton, David Popescu and Bill Sanders. (Benjamin Aubé/CBC)

Mayoral candidates squared off one final time Thursday night in an all-candidates debate sponsored by the seniors advocacy organization, CARP Sudbury.

Many were expecting issues affecting seniors to be the a major focus, but incumbent mayor Brian Bigger once again found himself on the defensive.

Ten of the 11 candidates running for mayor were present, namely Bigger, Cody Cacciotti, Troy Crowder, Bill Crumplin, Jeff Huska, Dan Melanson, Patricia Mills, Rodney Newton, David Popescu and Bill Sanders.

Only candidate Ron Leclair was not on hand.

Many used their allotted time to reiterate their displeasure with the Kingsway Entertainment District project and the incumbent mayor's leadership and communication qualities.

Bigger even received cat-calls from the crowd after an audience member asked him why he didn't return her phone inquiry about an idea for improving senior's health care.

"Why didn't you call her back?" shouted one audience member in the crowd of more than 110 people at the Parkside Centre in downtown Sudbury.

At one point, Crowder claimed he'd "never seen such political corruption as goes on in this city," though he did not provide any specific examples or evidence.

Bigger took objection and retorted to "people making blanket statements and saying there's corruption."

"There's no factual information here of anything worthy of listening to. I think it's inappropriate," said Bigger, as a few audience members applauded.

Many candidates, including Huska, Mills, Crowder, Sanders, Melanson and Crumplin, promised no new money would be spent by the city under their watch until existing infrastructure and roads are fixed.

Melanson criticized Bigger for "flip-flopping" on prior promises and embracing debt financing for numerous large-scale projects over the past four years.

Mills stated: "We need to understand how and where our money is being spent before we make changes."

Back to the basics

Candidates continued to reiterate their vision for economic development and roads laid out in prior debates.

"When it comes to [reducing the levels of] salt, we should always be looking to new, alternative methods when we're treating our roads," noted Cacciotti.

Crumplin addressed seniors in his opening statements, saying he was concerned about their children and grandchildren.

Greater Sudbury mayoral candidate Bill Sanders started a trend among fellow hopefuls at Thursday night’s debate by standing up to deliver his opening remarks. (Benjamin Aubé/CBC)

"We are in the 21st century and we have to get our city into the 21st century," said Crumplin, who ran for the Green Party in this past summer's provincial election.

"I want to get our economy back on track so we can attract millennials and keep the ones that are here. As a university professor, every graduation day I'm seeing my brightest students graduate and leave this town. It hurts me, it breaks my heart."

Candidate Rodney Newton said his biggest focus would be tackling the city's "serious problem with drugs and homelessness."

"The drug problem we have is in all our families. Before we introduce new things to the city, maybe we should fix the problems we have. If we can concentrate on that, I promise the city will grow," said Newton.

Sticking to the issue

Bigger did spend more time than any other candidate speaking about seniors and pointed out various efforts supported by council under his watch.

He highlighted the community paramedic program, which provides in-home support after people are released from hospital, a new pickle ball league popular with senior citizens, and ongoing support for the Greater Sudbury Seniors Community Network which unites over 50 not-for-profit organizations under one umbrella.

Incumbent Greater Sudbury mayor Brian Bigger speaks to voters ahead of the all-candidates debate hosted by Sudbury CARP on Thursday night. (Benjamin Aubé/CBC)

"We established an age-friendly community [...] that has received provincial recognition," Bigger added.

"We have reports coming to us for affordable access to transit and leisure services, and obviously that includes seniors. And we've kept tax increases at a minimum."

'Uncomfortable at times'

Sudbury resident Daphne Greene said she wasn't necessarily a supporter of the incumbent mayor, but was disturbed by "a current of disrespect" some candidates displayed in their accusations toward Bigger.

"They were making blanket statements about corruption, and you don't do that without having some basis for it. That tone I didn't like," said Greene. "It was uncomfortable at times."

Another undecided voter, Stuart Mulligan, noted the incumbent mayor appeared flustered on occasion.

"He was really defensive," said Mulligan. "He had a tough time, a real target on his back. I sympathize with him, but I don't think he did a good job."

Greene added the candidates should have spent more time on other issues rather than personal attacks.

"I definitely would have liked to hear more about public transit," noted Greene. "Have you tried to take bus on Sunday? I don't drive, so for me that's an important issue."

About the Author

Benjamin Aubé is a journalist based out of Sudbury. If you have a story you'd like to share, email him at benjamin.aube@cbc.ca

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