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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Ward 1 and 2 candidates weigh in at EC BIA Meet the Candidates Night

by Kyle Reid

While the informational question-and-answer period for Mayoral and Deputy Mayoral candidates may have been the main event at the Essex Centre BIA’s Meet the Candidates night last Thursday, Ward 1 and 2 council candidates were also invited to introduce themselves, outline platforms, and answer questions.

  From inside the Shaheen Community Room at the Essex Centre Sports Complex, Ward 1 candidates Joe Garon, Tom Holland, incumbent Randy Voakes, Morley Bowman, and Fred Groves joined Ward 2 candidates Kim Verbeek and Terry Brockman to outline how they would handle the potential repealing of the Green Energy Act, if they would support funding for the Essex Youth Centre, modify animal tethering bylaws, and how they would attract new business to Essex if elected.

  When asked what his stance would be if the Green Energy Act was repealed, and a new green energy project was subsequently proposed for Essex, Voakes decried the lack of impact the Act has had on his hydro bill.

  “There’s no impact in terms of what’s coming back to me as it relates to green energy,” Voakes said. “It’s imperative that municipal governments of the day…unite collectively and we approach and challenge our government to put a little bit of money back into my pocket.”

  Garon agreed with Voakes that the Act has had little effect on his hydro bill, but said he needed to further educate himself on the issue.

  Bowman said that while he hopes the Act isn’t repealed, if the responsibility for planning green energy projects would be passed along to local municipalities, he would consider the projects on a case-by-case basis.

  “I don’t think there’s a blanket idea that you can say this is the way we’re going to go, it has to be on an individual basis,” Bowman said.

  Holland agreed with Bowman, commenting that he hopes the responsibility for planning green energy projects stays in the hands of the provincial government.

  Groves, however, disagreed, saying he would like to see the responsibility in the hands of local municipal councils.

  “Hands up everybody who likes the turbines,” Groves said, surveying the room during his time on the podium. “15 percent, maybe, right there. I believe that solar power and wind power should be something that should be controlled by each and every municipality-if you don’t want it, you should be able to say, ‘no.’”

  Weighing in from Ward 2, Verbeek commented she would defer to expert opinion on any energy projects proposed, but would first like to look at the local regional landfill.

“If we, in this municipality, are going to talk about any green energy projects, I think we need to look at the regional landfill that we host,” Verbeek said, noting she considers the methane emitted from the rotting garbage as an effective source of clean energy, if properly harnessed.

Following Verbeek on the podium, Brockman addressed the question by agreeing with Groves’s assessment, questioning the value of wind turbines.

  “Absolutely, the Town of Essex should look after their own [projects],” Brockman said.

  When questioned as to whether they would support funding for the Essex Youth Centre, candidates found themselves all on common ground, one-by-one taking to the podium, declaring that they would work to find funding for a town youth centre if elected.

  All candidates also supported continued funding of the Community Improvement Plan for Harrow and Essex Centres.

  Similarly, candidates agreed that they would opt-in to allowing retail cannabis outlets in Essex. Groves, Verbeek, and Voakes all noted they would like to see more public input before a new Council makes any decisions on the matter, however.

  Ward 3 and 4 candidates were also on hand to provide their background and outline their platforms. Candidates from Ward 3 included Chris Vander Doelen and Steve Bjorkman, who currently serves as a Ward 1 rep on Essex Council. Incumbent Sherry Bondy is again running for Ward 4.

  Vander Doelen highlighted his credentials as a former reporter and columnist for the Windsor Star, where he spent a large part of his career covering politics. Vander Doelen said one of his prerogatives, if elected, would be to bring reliable, high-speed internet to Essex.

  Joining Vander Doelen in the Ward 3 race, Bjorkman said he would continue advocating for a hotel and industrial development on Highway 3, if elected.

  Bondy said she would like to continue working as a team with other Councillors and members of the public-something she said she has taken pride in during her time on Council.

Rodney Hammond from Ward 3 and Mark Williams from Ward 2 were unable to make the event, and Paul Innes from Ward 4 sent his regrets.

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