Thunder Bay candidates for mayor debate on Superior Morning
Three of the mayoral candidates in Thunder Bay debate economic and social issues
Listeners of Superior Morning, the CBC morning show in Thunder Bay, got a chance on Tuesday to hear from three of the six candidates for mayor.
The incumbent, Keith Hobbs, current councillor-at-large Ken Boshcoff, and first time candidate Shane Judge, fielded questions from morning show host Lisa Laco.
Boshcoff said the city must align itself with the economic priorities of the province.
"Certainly I do believe that if we actually go to where the puck's going to be then we can actually help our investors," he said.
Boshcoff added the city must also make sure that local investors know that the city is a good place to keep investing and to grow their business.
Judge also thinks the future of the city lies with local entrepreneurs.
"I'm afraid getting outside investment is like capturing light in a bottle," he said.
Judge wants the city to put a greater emphasis on its mining readiness strategy.
Hobbs agreed that the mining sector is a key to the economy of Thunder Bay.
Apart from the Ring of Fire, Hobbs said there are ten mines that are set to open in northwestern Ontario, creating jobs.
"It is going to be a huge boom... and it's coming very soon." he said.
Hobbs added the city needs to promote itself worldwide.
We need to welcome Aboriginal youth into our community in a big way- Keith Hobbs
It was a suggestion that runs contrary to Judge's viewpoint. He thinks investment in the city will have to be done by local people, not outsiders.
Judge pointed to the development at the waterfront where a hotel and two condos are being built. "We went all across the country for bids from various companies of every sort. We got exactly one bid. I'm afraid that Thunder Bay is not on the map as an investment location."
Boshcoff said the future of Thunder Bay is in light manufacturing with an eye to western Canada. "We're on the footstep of the western Canada explosion [...] let's face it that's where the money is and that's where we should be focusing our marketing and salesmanship."
Biggest Social Issue Facing Thunder Bay
In the second half of the discussion, the candidates were asked about social issues in the city.
Hobbs listed off homelessness, drug and alcohol use, and the crime that comes as a result of the first two issues.
He said those were the same issues identified in 1997 when he was the president of the police association and it wasn't until this last term in council that those issues were addressed.
Boshcoff had a similar list of issues as Hobbs, but said the key to all the social problems is homelessness.
He said it is a national epidemic facing cities and towns across the country, "the consensus must be for municipalities such as ours to raise the hew and cry [...] and let the federal government know that this once was a major federal initiative."
I'm not saying there is a miracle cure out there- Ken Boshcoff
Judge said problems such as poverty and addiction are not necessarily inherent to Thunder Bay, but are a result of the migration of people from the far north.
He said these families struggle when they arrive in Thunder Bay, "the kids struggle, they get into trouble, they get into drugs and the problems that we have compound themselves."
But, he said, there is a racial divide in Thunder Bay and Aboriginal people are not as safe.
One of Judge's suggestions is giving the Crime Prevention Council $1 million to start building networks within neighbourhoods where people can get to know each other better.
The kids struggle, they get into trouble, they get into drugs - Shane Judge
"I think that for far too long council has dealt with the big projects at the top and not looked at neighbourhoods," Judge said. "And my proposal is to reverse that to start looking at neighbourhoods and start building it up street by street by street."
Hobbs pointed out that the city has done much in the last four years to build relationships with Aboriginal people in the city, citing the number of Aboriginal partners on the Crime Prevention Council, the Aboriginal Liaison Unit within the city, and the city's work collaborating with the Fort William First Nation as well as partnerships with Matawa First Nations Council and Nishnawbe Aski Nation.
When it comes to the racial divide Boshcoff said the the answer might lie elsewhere in other communities who have dealt with this issue already.
Boshcoff said, "I'm not saying there is a miracle cure out there or otherwise everyone would be applying it right now but the fact is, for us. we know that it's at a situation where it's dividing the community intensely."
He said he is optimistic the city can come together again and solve the problem.
The other candidates for mayor in Thunder Bay are Colin Burridge, Douglas McKay and Henry Wojack.