Rounding the corner into their final week of campaigning, Prince Albert’s three mayoral candidates touted their platforms during a mayoral forum on Wednesday.
Identifying himself as the “third man,” or “the other guy,” Dean Link was first to introduce himself, projecting himself as a voice of change.
Running on accountability, transparency and safety, Link questioned the city’s handling of various things, from this year’s boil water order to their underlying philosophy on spending taxpayer dollars.
A recent keystone to his criticisms around spending is the fence leading up Second Avenue West, which is coming in at approximately $170,000.
“I’m ashamed that city hall would even entertain spending money on this ridiculous and unnecessary project,” he said, adding that city council has in effect turned their backs on more important items, such as a fire department substation.
“I pledge to safeguard the public purse … There will be no hidden budgets.”
Some of Link’s key ideas include cameras in the city’s downtown core and high crime areas, an opening of city books, a hiring freeze until an independent review is completed, a tax review, consolidation of city yards and no funding provided to external agencies until up to date financials are provided.
As incumbent, Jim Scarrow took the most criticism during the forum, but was quick to point out that one of Link’s key points against himself and the current incarnation of council is untrue.
Describing it as “The famous mistake,” Link cited a city expenditure of $370,000 on a whitetopping (cement-based road work) project at 28th Street and Second Avenue West during his opening remarks.
“Nobody at city hall bothered to check with Ottawa to see if road work was covered under the existing federal programs,” Link said.
Scarrow was blunt in labeling this accusation as false.
“If you were to be following council and going online for the reports, you would have noticed that the whitetopping report did not get the gas tax fund, so we simply moved that amount of money into an application that did receive the tax benefit, so there was no over expenditure or loss of $371,700,” he said.
Dropping a city administration report on Link’s desk, Scarrow encouraged him to read it.
“Then, you can figure out for yourself how you’ve misled people on that issue over a number of months, and frankly, I would embarrassed if I were you.”
Though mayoral candidate Greg Dionne also lodged criticism against Scarrow’s efforts as mayor, he found himself in agreement with Scarrow more than with Link — not that he implied his time as mayor will mirror that of Scarrow’s.
As Ward 2’s representative in council chambers for nine years, including two terms alongside Scarrow as mayor, Dionne shared insight as to how a term with him as mayor will be different.
“You’re going to hear one of my opponents say ‘I did this,” Dionne said, alluding to Scarrow. “That’s not me. I believe we accomplish things, not one person.
“My style is to challenge people. For four years, I’m going to aggravate you,” he said, addressing the audience. “I believe we can do better.
“North of the river, we still have wells. Can you imagine that? The RMs have city water, and I have residents north of the river who have wells. How is that fair?”
City council is a team, so they should act as such, Dionne said.
“Every event you see me at, I hope my council joins me,” Dionne said. “If we’re a team, let’s act as a team.”
Scarrow closed his remarks by placing emphasis on his record.
“When I became mayor in 2006, Prince Albert was pretty much in shambles. The council of the day had fired or paid out all of its directors … and almost all committees were abolished.
With statistics backing him up regarding record real estate sales, home values, construction records and positive national rankings, Scarrow said that things are improving.
“Prince Albert is back. Our confidence is strong and our attitude is beyond positive. By every measure, we’re on a roll.”
The public will have another chance to hear the mayoral candidates share their platforms, with a second mayoral forum, similar in scope to the one that took place on Wednesday, being held by radio station 900 CKBO on Oct. 18, for an hour beginning at 2 p.m.
Candidates vying for city councillor seats will be provided a forum on Oct. 18, with an event held at the Indian Metis Friendship Centre of Prince Albert, beginning at 7 p.m.
The evening event will be moderated by Daily Herald editor Perry Bergson, and will be open to the public.