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Front-runners face off in Windsor mayoral debate

Windsor's current mayor Drew Dilkens and challenger Matt Marchand participated in a debate hosted by the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Incumbent Drew Dilkens and challenger Matt Marchand are regarded as main contenders for city hall's top spot

The front-runners in Windsor's mayoral race faced each other for a debate Wednesday afternoon. (Tom Addison/CBC)

Drew Dilkens and Matt Marchand faced off for yet another mayoral debate in Windsor, this time without the three other candidates.

Incumbent Dilkens and challenger Marchand are perceived as the front-runners in what has been considered a two-man battle for the top seat on council.

With only two candidates on stage, each one had some time to rip into their opponent as they answered questions on how they plan on fighting crime, solving homelessness and making sure the taxpayers' money is well spent.

Auditor general

Dilkens reminded people of Marchand's time at city hall, referring to the issues with the Canderel project and former investments into the parking garages downtown.

He brought out a stack of what he said are the 37 audits PricewaterhouseCoopers has taken, an external company that conducts audits on city hall in place of an in-house auditor general.

Dilkens brought the stack of paper during the debate, saying they are all the audits undertaken by PricewaterhouseCoopers since he took office. (Tom Addison/CBC)

He said there's a reason why only two municipalities out of 444 in Ontario have an auditor general, excluding City of Toronto.

"It doesn't improve your life. This is about you and doing what's right for you," said Dilkens.

When the mic was thrown back to Marchand, he did not defend the Canderel project or the parking garage money. He only emphasized that an external auditor is not appointed under the Auditor General Act.

"There's big resistance to getting an auditor general. People don't want to look at the books," said Marchand.

Fighting crime

Throughout the debate, Dilkens pointed to his record as he answered the questions — from the affordable housing plans to funding city's arts and culture activities.

On the other hand, Marchand repeatedly mentioned one of his platforms — Windsor 2022 — on fighting homelessness, opioid and crime with a focus on the city's downtown.

Marchand says Dilken's plan to bring in 24 additional police officers are 'behind the curve thinking.' He claims this year the force lost 30 because of retirements and people leaving. (Tom Addison/CBC)

He criticized Dilkens' plan to bring in additional police officers and adding surveillance cameras in the city to deter crime.

"What we need to do is prevent the crime in the first place," said Marchand.

However, he did not mention specifically what crime prevention strategies he would take with the exception of hiring additional staff for the Drugs and Guns Enforcement Unit.

Marchand further said Windsor police have the highest number of officers on some type of leave and the city needs to bring them back to the workforce.

Dilkens slammed that remark, saying it's untrue and it shows Marchand "will say anything he has to say to try and get elected."

Colin McMahon were among several young, undecided voters who watched the debate at CBC Windsor's newsroom. (Arms Bumanlag/CBC)

Heart vs. numbers

After watching the debate, a young, undecided voter said it'll be difficult to make a choice.

Colin McMahon said the two candidates are running on "two completely different campaigns," where Marchand comes off as more community-oriented while Dilkens is plan and budget-oriented.

"You've got the heart on one side and you've got the numbers and the math on the other side. It's a really big toss up between the two of them," he said.

There are three other candidates running for the seat of mayor in Windsor: Frank Dyck, Tom Hensel and Ernie Lamont.

The municipal election is on Oct. 22.

Tap the player to watch highlights from Wednesday's debate:

Drew Dilkens and Matt Marchand debate the big issues ahead of the election. 3:41