A Sydenham District resident took to social media after the district’s current councillor, Peter Stroud, got up and left a debate before it had formally closed.
The incident occurred on Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018, at a Sydenham District all candidates debate hosted by the Coalition of Kingston Communities and sponsored by the Sydenham District Association. The debate took place in the auditorium at Kingston Collegiate Vocational Institute (KCVI).
Lindsey Foster, a resident of Sydenham district for the past six years, was actually in the middle of asking a question, which she prefaced by touching on a few instances where she felt Stroud hadn’t properly represented the constituents of the district, as well as the current councillor’s behaviour towards his constituents who don’t necessarily agree with him, she said. She mentioned Stroud’s “conflictive tones” and the incident where Stroud, along with Councillor Mary Rita Holland, left City Hall during presentations regarding the third crossing to go to a pub.
Foster said she felt she had to make a public Facebook post following the incident because she feels it’s important other residents are aware of what transpired.
“I published the post because it can’t not be out there that he did this,” Foster said, noting that after Stroud collected his belongings and stepped down from the stage before walking directly up to her and the moderator, Justin Connidis, getting to less than a foot away from her.
“That’s how he treats people. He’s cruel. He’s a bully.”
While standing there, Foster raised her hands and asked “Why are you doing that?” before Stroud said “That seemed like a personal attack so I’m leaving.”
Foster, who ran for council in the 2014 election to represent King’s Town District, said she was in the middle of posing a question about “inclusivity” when Stroud decided to leave. Moderator Connidis did not stop her line of questioning and allowed her to finish, at which point the three other candidates began to discuss how to create a more inclusive district.
Foster admitted she was the last person lined up to ask a question of the candidates at a debate that was already running long. However, she takes issue with the way Stroud reacted.
When asked for comment on the matter, Stroud initially told this reporter that Foster’s accounts of what had occurred were not true.
“Umm that’s not what happened. The debate was over, so I left. Ask a witness who isn’t supporting an opponent if you want to know what happened at the end. I walked home with Matt Gaiser so unless Steve (France) and Dylan (Chenier) continued to debate after we left no one can claim we ‘walked out of the debate,’” Stroud said in a Twitter message, referring to the three other candidates running to represent Sydenham district – Dylan Chenier, Steve France, and Matt Gaiser.
Gaiser confirmed that he and Stroud did walk home together following the debate, but said it’s definitely fair to say that Stroud left before the debate was over.
“It was nearly at the end, but it certainly hadn’t been formally closed by the moderator and we still had closing statements to make,” said Gaiser.
“We didn’t end up making closing statements, but we did have a period of debate on the actual incident itself… on Peter walking up and getting in that citizen’s face.”
Gaiser said that when Stroud approached Foster and Connidis, he was “close enough that she was clearly intimidated and stopped speaking.”
“After that point it was mostly about discussing how to appropriately interact with the constituency and members of the constituency,” he said, adding that he doesn’t know the history of what prompted Foster to say what she did, or if Stroud has endured a history of personal attacks.
Chenier said he didn’t want to speak about the actions of any particular candidate.
“What I will say is that I attended the meeting to share my vision for Sydenham district and listen to the concerns of all in attendance,” he said.
Connidis, who is currently travelling, was unable to do an interview over the phone, but he did provide the following statement, which supports Stroud’s allegations that Foster’s comments were a personal attack.
“The final person who was in line to ask a question chose not to ask a question but to start a personal attack of Mr. Stroud. Mr. Stroud came down from the podium to where I was standing beside the person who was supposed to be asking a question and advised that he would not stay for the last question since it was a personal attack contrary to the rules of the debate. He was not incorrect in doing so,” Connidis said.
“The questioner did finally ask a somewhat vague question one candidate chose to answer with a very short answer. The meeting then ended. So I would not call it walking out on the debate but an understandable response to inappropriate conduct I unfortunately was not in a position to stop quickly enough and get the audience member to succinctly pose a question.”
When asked, Stroud responded by further insisting Foster’s comments were a personal attack.
“Publish what you like, it will not deter me from fulfilling my promise to the good people of Sydenham, who luckily know the difference between a partisan attack and a legitimate question. I have suffered many attacks just like this one and there likely will be many more to come. Sometimes I will endure the attacks, sometimes I will walk away. In this case I was not the first to leave: the room was emptying very quickly as Ms. Foster went on her rant. She attacked the person, not the idea, something the people of Sydenham do not like one bit,” Stroud wrote.
“I was a victim of a personal attack on my character. This can be confirmed by dozens of witnesses. I did the honourable thing: I disengaged. I could have demanded an apology. The moderator ought to have intervened. The majority of the people there will agree with these statements. There is nothing more to say. Please consider this my final response. Good bye Tori, do not contact me again.”
Still, for Foster, she feels Stroud’s behaviour was questionable.
“What was bizarre was he came right up to me, as the moderator is standing there, with the microphone in my face,” Foster said.
“Stroud came face to face with me, he was like a foot away… the fact that he came right up to me… that’s just exemplifies how Stroud has been acting to everyone. He’s very combative, he’s very divisive, and during the meeting itself! I mean, talk about personal attacks!”