Candidates vying to become Greater Napanee’s next deputy mayor took the stage at the Strathcona Paper Centre on Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022, to try to convince voters to choose them in the October 24 municipal election.
Questions for the candidates were taken from public submissions and addressed homelessness, tourism, climate change, jobs, agriculture, and taxes. The three candidates, John McCormack, Eric DePoe, and Brian Calver, each of whom is profiled on the Chamber’s website, all displayed unique styles of communication and levels of knowledge on the subjects, as can be seen in a video of the event on Facebook.
The first question was “Homelessness is a growing concern in our area. What ideas do you have to manage or lessen this concern?”
DePoe answered that he is concerned that Napanee does not have a homeless shelter “and is one of the only municipalities in Eastern Ontario to not have one.” He said he has discussed the issue at length with the Director of Morningstar Mission, Kevin Alkenbrack, who “is quite willing and able to open a homeless shelter, and the only barrier that stands in its way is funding.”
DePoe stressed that the “County is standing up and is supplying about 40 per cent of what [Alkenbrack] needs for a shelter. So I think the town’s got to step up and find the money… It’s not good enough to send people to Belleville or Kingston; their shelters are designed to house [their people]. We should be looking after our own.”
McCormack explained that homelessness was a “County level responsibility.”
“There’s a lot of wants and needs,” he said. “It is safe to say that there is a change in the provincial government at this time promoting [lower] development fees for affordable housing. So this is something that our municipality is working on, but it’s new, and we’re governed by the provincial government and the County. So we need to work with the developers, and the town follows the lead from the province and works with the County to reduce the fees, to be able to entice developers to come up with far less expensive housing. So [in terms of] homelessness, we have experts, and we’ll work with them as we have in the past.”
Calvert spoke last: “We do have a homeless issue in this community; the problem… is, how do you solve it? We’ve got lots of ideas out there, and it all takes money. I think [we need to] go after our provincial and maybe our federal governments to find some funding, because we do not have a homeless shelter per se in this County of Lennox and Addington. This is not a Napanee problem. This is a worldwide crisis. And the only way we can address it is [with] the support of our provincial and federal governments as well.”
The discussion for the most part was rather calm, but things became tense during the candidates’ closing remarks.
McCormack stressed his previous Council experience in his answers to many of the questions and in his final remarks, stating, “The position of deputy mayor should not be a trial run for someone that has never been on Council. [Experience is] so important to the position. And in these last four years there’s been so much happening. I can hit the ground running after the election.”
Calver seemed to take offence at this, saying, “Some people believe that [the deputy mayor should have] four years on Council.” Then he continued in a sarcastic tone, “Oh my god, four years on Council. That’s what we need,” drawing laughter from a few in the audience.
He continued, “I truly believe we need accountability, transparency, and common sense… I’ve got 24 years of business experience serving every industry in this community… from agricultural to the construction industry, the building industry … I have served the public in this area for well over 30 years, not four years. I want to continue doing that as your next deputy mayor.“
DePoe took a different tack in his closing remarks, focusing instead on what he called “the critical issue of the asphalt plant and the work that’s been done by community activists on the campaign to stop the plant.”
He pointed out, “Despite overwhelming public opinion and the Council’s position that the town is an unwilling host, the company has launched both an appeal to the Ontario Land Tribunal and a proposal for environmental compliance. So our new Council must be vigilant to make sure that our position is clear and ongoing… I think it is important that we fight this.”
DePoe finished by saying, “I intend to continue to knock on doors to listen to people and to act on their concerns. People want to know that their elected officials listen to them and will do whatever they can to find solutions to the problems that face us. Change will happen if we build community and engage new voices in our political process. I will work diligently to make sure that our Council thinks creatively, builds consensus, and has the political will to act.”
Profiles of the deputy mayor candidates, as well as candidates for Council positions, can be viewed on the Napanee and District Chamber of Commerce’s website. The role of incoming mayor has already been filled by Terry Richardson, who won the position by acclamation.