Though their plans of action might differ, the four candidates vying for Ward 7 in the Oct. 24 municipal election appeared united on several key fronts in relation to Capreol.
Reopening the long-closed Capreol Ski Hill was one of a handful of topics candidates agreed on during Monday night’s debate at the Capreol Arena, though their approaches differed.
“The city would probably be willing to put the engineer forward, and we’d use volunteers then to run it through the LIons Club, perhaps, or through students needing volunteer hours,” Randy Hazlett said.
“Charge a price that would cover the cost of operating the facility, but again, if it’s not viable when we look at the numbers the property should be sold and a private person could start a business opportunity, then, and run it, so that Capreol could have a ski hill.”
When an audience member expressed concern about a private enterprise taking over and jacking up prices to an unaffordable level, Hazlett countered that the market would correct itself.
Natalie Labbée said that while the nominal cost for the city to keep the hill open is a “drop in the bucket,” she contended, “If nobody’s using it, then why should we be paying for it?”
Her solution is to broaden the ski hill’s use to include tubing and other activities so more people use it and it becomes more viable for the city to reopen.
“I don’t know what to do with the ski hill,” Mark McKillop admitted. “I think the city is sometimes penny wise and pound foolish that they’re willing to rip a ski hill out of a community.”
This, he said, needs to be addressed by city council.
Similar to Labbée’s approach, Daniel Wiebes said adding greater diversity to what takes place at the ski hill might make it more financially viable for the city to reopen it.
Candidates also appeared united when it comes to attracting a long-term care facility to Capreol – a long-discussed topic they agreed needs to be fast tracked.
Of particular concern is new legislation that could force seniors out of their communities toward a long-term care home not of their choosing, Labbée said.
“In my perfect world, we’re going to have a nice long-term care facility so all our seniors who live here don’t need to be displaced and don’t have to worry about making decisions about moving far away.”
“What a tragedy it takes 30 years and we’re still not there,” McKillop said of a long-term care facility. “We have to get that done. It’s absolutely insane that we’ve spent since amalgamation ripping things out from our communities and we now have to rip people out, too, when they get to the point where they can no longer stay in their homes.”
Wiebes suggested the city should attract a private long-term care home, which the municipality can incentivize with things such as breaks in development charges and taxes.
All four candidates also expressed support for the Northern Ontario Railroad Museum and Heritage Centre and the need to attract doctors to the region, which Wiebes recommended could include providing incentives for physicians to relocate such as providing them with housing.
The balance of Monday’s debate ran the gamut of city issues, though a few community members also drew attention to the fact Labbée is the only candidate to reside in Ward 7, which she has done since 2014.
Hazlett noted that he’s four kilometres away in Hanmer, Wiebes said he has strong ties in Ward 7 through various community efforts and McKillop said he chose Ward 7 because his wife, Pauline Fortin, is running in Ward 4.
Another person from Monday’s crowd inquired as to whether candidates had attended any recent events in Ward 7, and if they volunteered at them.
Wiebes listed some events, Labbée listed numerous events and both Hazlett and McKillop admitted they’d attended none.
“Civic engagement, I think, is more than just volunteering,” McKillop said, adding there’s “no greater civic engagement” than seeking public office, which requires time and energy toward developing policies that might better the community.
Ward 7 is a unique race in the Oct. 24 civic election, as it’s the only of Greater Sudbury’s 12 wards without an incumbent seeking re-election. In December, Ward 7 Coun. Mike Jakubo announced he would not be seeking re-election, citing an incohesive city council and family priorities as fueling his decision.
Monday’s debate was hosted by the Capreol Community Action Network (CAN), the Capreol Lions Club and the Capreol Royal Canadian Legion Branch 179. A similar such event featuring mayoral candidates will take place at the Capreol Arena on Oct. 5, beginning at 7 p.m.
While Monday’s event highlighted various political platform points, misinformation clouded some of the dialogue.
- Labbée cited inaccurate numbers from an online WSIB data tool the city said spat out wrong information on the city’s safety statistics.
- Wiebes lamented the city giving away the old hospital on Paris Street to a developer, when it was The Sisters of St. Joseph of Sault Ste. Marie who sold it to Panoramic Properties, which at the latest update was still planning a condominium development.
- Wiebes complained about the city lining water main pipes rather than replacing them, which he said is “probably going to last 10 years.” Lining pipes with a fibreglass and epoxy resin, such as is currently taking place downtown, is estimated to add approximately 50 years to their life expectancy.
- Hazlett cited the city’s “exorbitant” development charges, though the 2021 BMA report comparing municipalities cites Greater Sudbury’s development charges as well below provincial averages. Sudbury.com reported on the issue more in-depth earlier this year.
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.