'Change is needed': a mayoral race of 3 candidates in Chatham-Kent
Incumbent Randy Hope has held his seat for 12 years
Less than two weeks away, voters in Chatham-Kent will pick one of six names to become mayor of the southwestern Ontario municipality that consists of 23 communities.
Randy Hope has been mayor since 2006 and is running for re-election.
According to outgoing Ward 4 Coun. Leon Leclair, a couple of "qualified people" are after his seat.
Darrin Canniff is current councillor with 20 years of experience at Union Gas, and Alysson Storey has worked in the municipality in the past and is a well-known advocate for concrete barriers along Highway 401.
"We're very fortunate to have this situation. There's three qualified people, that's good for Chatham-Kent," said Leclair, who is including Hope in the count.
Aside from Canniff and Storey, Harold Atkinson, Robert Salvatore Powers and Allan Robert Traylor are also running.
Despite Leclair saying people want change, Hope would argue it's experience that gets the job done.
"Everybody can make you promises. I've seen a lot of their campaign platforms. A lot of that stuff we're already doing," he said.
Over the past few months, Hope has been talking about the jobs and economic opportunities coming to Chatham-Kent.
"We have a lot of empty factories around here and now those factories are full," he said.
Trying to attract people to move to the municipality has also been a focus for him. One way Hope has been doing that is through bringing refugees into the community.
However, Storey thinks there hasn't been any changes in the population.
"I don't want to be a doomsday person. We have to be realistic, because we can't tackle these challenges without knowing what the problems are," she said.
Her focus would be to support local businesses in order to bring in regional investment.
Canniff would agree that the municipality needs to put in more work attracting people.
But even if more people came, they might not all have a place to stay, he said.
"We have a shortage of housing stock. So if people want to come here, there's an issue we don't have the housing for them," said Canniff.
The people who have moved here, he said, are retirees, who won't help meet the "shortage of skilled labour" in the municipality.
Other campaign points
When people move here, they may also see lacking infrastructure, said Powers.
"We don't have city bus service immediately planned," he said. Everywhere he's gone he said people have also complained about municipality services like water quality and garbage pickup.
For Traylor, he thinks more needs to be done to mitigate flooding in the municipality. To do so, he proposes dredging the Thames River "to get the river to flow properly."
Atkinson said the way to bring people back to Chatham-Kent is massive tax cuts -- the industrial rate in half, commercial rates by 24 per cent and 10 per cent from agricultural and residential rates.
He said those cuts would pull money from the budget, which "signals to other companies from outside of Chatham-Kent that we want business here."
'What have you done?'
For another outgoing councillor, Derek Robertson, he sees leadership as a major factor for electorates.
While Hope had the community's best interests at heart, according to Robertson, Hope isn't able to "build consensus amongst the members of council."
He also thinks Storey's lack of experience compared to Hope and Canniff make this a "two-horse race."
This election, Robertson is running as school board trustee and is a supporter of Canniff.
When it comes to the make or break factor in the race, Leclair said it's the candidate's record in contributing to the community that will make a difference.
"What have you done for the community?" he said. Experience at city hall isn't that important to some people, according to him. Some will even vote for whoever comes to their door.
"I was raising goats before I became a councillor. You don't know sometimes," said Leclair.
"The mood out there now is the current mayor has been there for 12 years, change is needed."
With files from Chris Ensing