Thunder Bay's mayoral candidates square off at debate

Candidates vying to become the next mayor of Thunder Bay, Ont., outlined their platforms for about 200 voters at a debate on Thursday night.

Eight of ten candidates appeared before crowd of 200

The Thunder Bay and District Labour Council hosted its mayoral candidates debate. (l to r) Moderator Gerald Graham, candidates Shane Judge, Bill Mauro, Peter Panetta, Frank Pullia and Mariann Sawicki wait for the forum to start. Candidates Iain Angus, Ron Chookomolin and Jim Gamble are just out of frame. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

Candidates vying to become the next mayor of Thunder Bay, Ont., outlined their platforms for about 200 voters at a debate on Thursday night.

The Thunder Bay and District Labour Council invited those running for the city's top political seat to share their views, and answer questions from the public.

Many of the platform issues, as well as questions from the floor fell into a few generic categories, including taxation and spending, social issues, racism, security and since the event was funded by the labour council, labour issues.

There were a few surprises throughout the evening, including a pledge from Shane Judge, who finished third in the 2014 election, to start cutting costs at the city, as he said, "at the top."

"Reducing the size of council from 13 to 9, and getting rid of an expensive and outdated ward system."

Judge also said the city needed a plan to replace the Fort William Gardens. He campaigned in the last election the city did not need a new event centre, which council was considering at the time. The concept for a new arena has not seen any traction in the past couple of years.
About 200 people filled the Moose Hall in Thunder Bay, Ont to hear from eight of the ten candidates running for mayor in the 2018 municipal election. The debate was presented by the Thunder Bay and District Labour Council. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

One question from the audience made candidates think a little outside the box. They were asked to identify a weakness in themselves.

Rules of the forum dictated that only three could answer the question.

"People have said sometimes that I'm a bit confrontational," said Bill Mauro, who is running for mayor, but also served as a Northwood Ward councillor and MPP.

"They will tell me that maybe I need to listen better, and my kids tell me the same thing, so it must be true," he said. "When I find myself in those positions, I always believe I need to speak my truth."

"When somebody comes into my office...and they're saying something that I don't believe is truthful, or factual, I share my opinion with them."

Shane Judge, who was also given the opportunity to answer, said, "I've got a bit of a temper, when I am confronted with an obstacle."

Judge gave the example of how he wanted information from the city on why it chose a particular buyer for Municipal Golf Course, "I get my back up pretty quickly when I don't get information."

Frank Pullia, who was also given the opportunity to answer, said "I look at weaknesses as opportunities for improvement."

"Some people say that I either care too much, and it shows up as being forceful when trying to achieve certain goals. Some people call me a grinder, I don't give up. It's not bad, it's not good. Is that a weakness? I don't know."

Council co-operation

At the end of the event, Mauro said he believes co-operation is paramount on council, as it's impossible to do business if not all members can at the minimum, work together. However, he cautioned about councillors banding together, such as when Orville Santa, Betty Kennedy and Mary Roy worked together to achieve their own goals, which included the termination of then city manager Brian MacRae.

"One of the strengths [on council] has been that when requests from individuals were sound, were well thought out, well presented, it wasn't hard to convince six more, or even twelve more to vote in favour," said Iain Angus.

"What you don't want is someone on the fly, coming up with an idea, pitching it in public, without any clear thought as to the ramifications and expecting to get it passed," he said.

The reference was directed toward Pullia, who in recent months has asked for public opinion before presenting motions to council.

"That doesn't work."

Other candidates at the forum were Ron Chookomolin, Jim Gamble, Peter Panetta and Mariann Sawicki. 

Candidates Kevin Cernjul and Ed Hailio were not present.

The municipal election takes place October 22.

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