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Voting is now open in the city of Dryden and election night is around the corner on October 22. Last week citizens got the chance to hear from all of those looking to find their spot on city council at an all candidates forum at the Centre.
After introductions of 13 council candidates and two mayoral candidates the evening turned to questions.
Question one: With the apparent change in policy by the provincial government, it appears privately owned shops will be allowed to sell cannabis products. Should the city of Dryden be granting licenses to local shops to sell cannabis and associated products?
Corrie Trist stated that we have a lot of learning to do and that the city must engage local partners to come up with a solution to deal with the issue and the ramifications. He said that with or without a store the topic needs to be dealt with and the ramifications of the new law.
Jason Owen said yes to a cannabis store stating that cannabis will be in the community with or without a storefront so we may as well get the tax revenue from it. He added there will be unknown issues and social questions to be answered and that police need to be involved as well as education to youth is important.
Dave McKay said absolutely to the store question stating we may as well have one as long as they follow the rules the province is yet to set.
Shayne MacKinnon said there is a discussion to be held and that we have the luxury of a bit of time to figure it out. He added he has concerns about control.
Martin MacKinnon said he supports a store and the added revenue but there are ramifications to consider and he is reading up on the topic.
Bill Latham said provincial policy has been all over the map and there is still much to consider by an informed council. He added personally he would support a store.
Shawn Lappage said he is not against it but it needs further investigation adding “I like the thought of a cannabis store downtown better than the current methadone clinic, I see some sketchy people hanging out around there.” He added more jobs are never a bad thing.
Catherine Kiewning said she would prefer to wait to see what other communities do and work hard to avoid the challenges they have in the beginning. Further stating she is on the fence.
Richard Jonasson said that the city should pursue it adding his daughter is a legal purchaser who uses it for medical purposes.
John Carlucci said that he won’t stop anyone from wanting to open a store that follows the rules.
Norm Bush said he supported a community referendum and if yes was chosen he would allow the free market to dictate storefronts.
Roger Valley supported opting in based on the additional tax revenues for services like police.
Greg Wilson stated there isn’t enough information from senior levels of government to make an informed decision and that he would recommend to opt out to by time and he believes pubic consultation would be a good indicator which way to go.
Michelle Williams said at this point she would be in support of opting out to learn about the effects on the community.
Michelle Ann Price said there needs to be more information and that the community needs to be involved.
Question 2: “The first issue council will face will be a decision on the OPP servicing of the city versus remaining with the Dryden Police Services (DPS). Firstly, do you have a preference? And simply a yes or no to, would you hold a referendum on the possible change?”
Williams said she personally believes DPS does more than many citizens understand mentioning programs that could he lost under the OPP model. She hopes the decision is about more than money. She added, “I absolutely believe the community should be a part of this massive decision.”
Price said she wants to compare costs and services provided to make her best decision.
Trist said he believes in community policing and they do lots behind the scenes. He added OPP must prove they can provide a better foundation of police service than the DPS does.
Owen said there is no way to make a commitment without seeing the costing adding that he believes the DPS does an excellent job in the community. He added he supports a referendum and is concerned about hidden costs such as new vehicles.
McKay said he supports a referendum 100% after the costing is released.
Shayne MacKinnon said he supports a referendum and wants to talk to other communities who have already made this decision.
Martin MacKinnon said he voted to have a police costing because he has heard about it for eight years and it was worth studying. “It’s all about what we have and what they may offer. What do we lose, and how do we replace that? It’s about studying other places to see what has gone on there and a lot of that stuff has happened.” He added personally he loves the DPS and he would support a referendum with the information.
Latham said he supports all emergency services in the community and wasn’t sure why an OPP costing was necessary. He added the OPP can increase costs every year and is leaning towards keeping the status quo. He also said he would support a referendum.
Lappage said he supports the police and that recently the current council does not always have safety at the forefront, using the attempt to close the Barclay fire hall as an example. He also supported a referendum.
Kiewning said she would support a public forum.
Jonasson said the city should remain with the DPS.
Carlucci said he would not make a decision without the information and that he supports a referendum.
Bush said his top priority is safety and he would not make a decision before the information is presented. Adding the process will take months.
Valley stated the OPP costing will come in low as it always does and stated what DPS does that OPP doesn’t.
Wilson said public dialogue is very important but he could not make an informed decision without the costing report.
The third question of the night asked whether the issue with Dryden Fire should be reopened or whether it was settled.
Valley said he did not support the restructuring of the fire service but he added that they cannot move backwards. “I think there is a system in place that provides what I would call adequate protection right now, I’m not happy with adequate. I think we can do better.”
Wilson said the there are a number of advantages to the new model and that they are recording better response times for both rural and urban fire fighters this year.
The lively debate continued for a few more hours covering a wide range of topics.