A month or so ago I had a grand vision of producing an election special that consisted of an interview with all six of the Mayoral candidates. I put the offer out there, on a several occasions, but only one candidate, Rob Matheson, jumped at the opportunity. It was actually kind of surprising how fast he responded to my initial tweet, while his promptness continued in subsequent emails. I must admit that I wavered as to whether or not conducting an interview with only one of the six Mayoral hopefuls was a good idea, because I was initially far too concerned with objectivity. In the end, the fact is that Rob Matheson was the only candidate to actively engage, and after sifting through reams of campaign literature, I’m proud to be biased and announce that he’s got my vote.
I am going to forgo the typical six questions’ preamble, regurgitating his biography, as you can read all about Rob on his website. Without further ado, I humbly introduce six questions, some of which suggested by Kingstonist’s readers, for my Mayoral selection, Rob Matheson.
1. From rush hour pains to poor road conditions, and buses that aren’t always on time, the Limestone City has its fair share of transportation problems. In the coming years, the single largest transportation project may well be a third crossing over the Cataraqui River. Why have you supported this development thus far, and how do you foresee it transforming Kingston as we know it?
The 3rd Crossing has been needed for far too long. I see it as an essential link for our city and when accomplished in conjunction with the Counter St extension a vital artery to ease traffic congestion and our greenhouse gases. I see it as a model promoting active transportation as well, having a separate bike path and pedestrian link, as well as an express transit service from the east to the west of our city and in between. It must be done in partnership with both the province and federal government contributing their respective 1/3 each, to make it happen.
2. Kingston’s waterfront is arguably the city’s most precious resource. With Richardson Beach, Lake Ontario Park and waterfront trail enhancement on the minds of many residents, what is your vision for future waterfront development? How will your plan balance and improve key components including accessibly, recreation and environmental preservation?
I see most future waterfront development taking place for the benefit of increasing it’s accessibility for our residents. IE The waterfront trail concept plan that I put forward thanks to the work of two Citizens Mary and Ed Farrar, to provide a bike and pedestrian pathway all along our waterfront, linking with the K&P Trail. Respect for the environment will be a priority as well as reconsidering the Lake Ontario Park Concept plan to allow for Seasonal Camping and the popular dog park that was there on a trial basis, that citizens overwhelming wanted saved there. I see a beach area being created for our residents enjoyments as well. Bringing back this model of sustainable tourism for visitors and citizens alike is a priority and will only enhance our collective quality of life and economy, while also providing addition revenue to our city.
3. Over the past few years, an attempt has been made to sell Kingston as Canada’s most sustainable city, however the ongoing Poker Run, inadequate bike lanes, and even the persistence of bottled water have hindered our standing. Do you honestly believe that we can achieve a first place standing? If so, what sort of new initiatives would you propose to help put Kingston in the lead?
Education and taking personal responsibility is key in achieving these goals. Kingston must lead by example ourselves and work with our citizens and municipal partners in helping make this happen. An overarching policy regarding events in general and carbon offsets is a prerequisite to help mitigate the impacts of events such as the Poker Run. No one event should ever be singled out unfairly. Bike lanes and separate bike paths such as the waterfront concept plan that I put forward and was approved by council are a must. I seconded the motion to remove the sale of bottled water from our municipal facilities and install more water fountains for out citizens. Leading by example is a priority. We must also encourage this for our private partners as well. New initiatives must include expansion of our hazardous waste facility to year round access, recycling and composting availability being expanded to multi residential and hopefully businesses as well. We must also increase the availability of recycling containers in our parks and at all events, and facilities.
4. The latest quarterly financial report for the K-Rock Centre was not positive, while expenses exceeded what was budgeted, the operating income (62%) was far less than expected. You’ve proposed establishing a community advisory board to get the KRC on the right track. What specific areas do you want the advisory board to address, and are you prepared to implement their recommendations even if they may be unpopular?
That is an excellent question. Ticket pricing of Frontenacs games and the availability or lack thereof of tickets (for popular concerts like Elton John) has been an issue for citizens. The price of event parking is another item, as well as partnering better with local businesses, schools, and the surrounding communities to better promote the facility. I would like to see all the stakeholders, residents and Council included working together to make this facility a success. The first step is to start talking about the issues, and then working together on finding the solutions. The Community Advisory Board is a prerequisite to beginning these discussions.
5. With regards to the closure of Kingston’s prison farms, you’ve stated that “the federal government is clearly out of step with a majority of Canadians”, and you’ve even gone so far as to call it a “political crime”. Do you think that the closure is a done deal? If so, what should be done with the vacant land?
It is a done deal with this particular federal government in place. There have been commitments made by the other parties to reconsider this very bad decision, and I look forward to promoting the restoration of these working historic, rehabilitative and sustainable farms for our community. I commit to working to maintain these lands as agricultural until such time as they can be restored with a cooperative federal government.
6. Your campaign is based upon four pillars of sustainability: economic development, social justice and equity, environmental stewardship, as well as vibrant arts and culture. Within these areas you’ve proposed various projects including extending funding for doctor recruitment, establishing a drug rehabilitation centre and pursuing a 50m and 25m Aquatic Facility. Can these objectives be achieved without raising taxes?
I believe if we start doing things more efficiently and spending our tax dollars more wisely that yes we can accomplish these items with little or no tax increases. My goal and commitment, is to keep any tax increases to the rate of inflation as closely as possible. We must also look at partnering with other organizations and levels of government to accomplish our goals and objectives. It will mean prioritizing and ensuring we are not biting off more than we can chew, while taking the time we need.
In relation to the Drug Rehabilitation Centre, I see this as a key need that the province should and could be helping us with. The Doctor Recruitment program has already been included in the KEDCO budget and I see continuing that until such time as all our citizens have access to a family doctor.
The Aquatic Facility may be the one item that may need a small tax increase to accomplish. We must do a full and transparent cost benefit analysis before proceeding, and ensure we have full funding and all our community partners in place. We can incrementally over a period of a few years time, work any operational increase into our annual budget if that is needed. I see us over this same time however continuing to build efficiencies, in order to avoid and offset any increases.
If we build the Aquatic Facility right the first time, it will be a one time infrastructure expense. I and the majority of citizens I speak with would rather build to meet our current 75 Meter shortfall, rather than have to revisit this need, due to us yet again not doing it right the first time.
When we are ready to proceed with the Aquatic Facility we must do it efficiently and proactively with forward thinking, and full transparency. The cost benefit analysis must take into account the positive influence on our collective health, the sports tourism related economic spin offs that will be accomplished, the enhancement to our collective quality of life, and the boost to our sports and recreational culture.
A full 80% or more of the Public input received in regards to the Aquatic Facility recommended we build a 50m Pool as well as a 25 M recreational one. Citizens want it done right the first time. Residents indicated clearly that to enhance the health of our citizens and attract the economic benefits of sports tourism to our community, that a 50m & 25 Mm pool is the way to go. It is time that elected officials began listening to the collective wisdom and wishes of the majority of our citizens on any given issue, this one included.
We can accomplish much in our great City of Kingston if we start thinking ahead, and doing things right the first time. Citizens want us to spend tax dollars efficiently and wisely, while planning for our future needs, not our past ones.
I thank you for the opportunity to respond to these excellent questions, and am just sorry that I am the only Mayoral Candidate to have taken the time to respond. This is why I feel it is essential that our Citizens have in place a Full Time Mayor working on their collective behalf to accomplish and work on all the issues and opportunities that we face as a community. An election campaign is an indication of how hard or not any candidate will work once in office. I have demonstrated through my cost effective and responsive campaign that I put action to my words, and work hard for all citizens of Kingston to make this the best place in all of Canada to live.