A Sputnik Series: Meet the Candidates, Part I

It’s still two months away, but the 2010 Brantford mayoral election is already off and running. This year’s race features eight candidates – twice as many as in 2006’s elections, which means it could be easy for a candidate without a popular reputation or name recognition to get lost along the way. To help our readers get to know each candidate before ballots are cast on October 25, the Sputnik presents its “Meet the Candidates” series.

In the first of three sets of interviews, candidates will all have a chance to talk on the issues currently affecting Brantford, encouraging voters to make an informed decision come election time.

Candidates include long-time Brantford residents such as: Chris Friel, a former three-term Brantford mayor from 1994 to 2003; current city councillors John Sless Mark Littell, as well as former councillor Mike Quattrociocchi; first-time candidate Richard Casey, and third-time runner Winston Ferguson. At the other end of the spectrum are Councillor James Calnan who came to Brantford in 1999, and Dianne Austin who arrived just over three years ago with her family.

Those candidates who have always called Brantford home can claim understanding deeper than most. But those candidates newer to the city have no lack of experience in dealing with municipal matters, as James Calnan has two terms as a Brantfird city councillor to his name, and Austin possesses 12 years experience in municipal politics as a school board trustee.
Eight highly qualified candidates with various degrees of experience and widely varying ideas on how to govern this growing city. Eight interviews designed to help you make your pick on October 25.

Who will make the strongest impression on you?

When Monday October 25 rolls around, ballots will be cast to elect the next mayor of Brantford. Below, three of the eight mayoral candidates discuss issues affecting students and residents of the city of Brantford.

Richard E. Casey
Richard Casey is born and raised in Brantford, and has a passion for the city’s history. As mayor, he plans to improve the quality of life for Brantford citizens and focus on the city’s future.

  1. Why do you feel you would be a good mayor for the city of Brantford?
    “A few reasons: my background is in sales and public relations, so I’m comfortable working with people. I have a background in Brantford; I was born and raised here and I’ve seen the whole history of Brantford. I’ve seen how the downtown has changed and some of the mistakes that were made [as well as] some of the successes, so I’ve got a good historical background. And I’ve got passion and I’ve got drive… I take a broad view – I take what’s going to work best, and work on making a plan that’s going to make that happen.”

  2. With that broad view, do you think some people may not like that because they want specific things done?
    “Specific things always have to be done, but what I have noticed is we have a lot of different things. For example, the city of Brantford has a lot of committees looking at very specific things and we end up overlapping a lot of stuff because they’re not looking at the bigger picture. I find a broad approach to see where everything is and where it all fits together.”

  3. A big concern in this city is employment. How do you plan to create more jobs for students?
    “We do have quite a lot of jobs that are geared toward students; we have a lot of temporary or transfer jobs. I think what we really have to focus on are permanent, solid jobs for citizens that will open up the spots that they’re filling right now, to let the students take back and use those. Our history shows, traditionally, that businesses like to be here, but they just don’t like to stay here. My thought on that is that it’s the way the city works. We have great land, great location, but the municipal government has given us the run-around. We clean that up, show people what we really have, and businesses will come.”

  4. How do you plan to improve the life of students coming to this city?
    “You look at the [student towns] with a lot of universities and they’ve got services. Places where, outside of study, they can be active. What we need to do here is bring more social activity. If you have a student here, your student needs money. If we have jobs that fit to the student life, that are geared for students and hire students…and that will happen if more bars open up downtown. They’re geared for students and will hire students.”

  5. If you were talking to the student body right now, what would you tell them?
    “You know, I don’t think I would tell them – I would ask them. I would literally say, ‘I haven’t been a student for thirty years and things have probably changed a bit, right? What do you need down here?’ My vision of what’s perfect for students is probably much different than the students’ vision, right? So, I’ll ask you: what you do need down here?”

Dianne Austin
Dianne Austin has been living in Brantford for just three years, and already she thinks things need to change. With a dozen years of experience in municipal government and the private sector, Austin thinks she would bring a fresh perspective to city council.

  1. Why do you feel you would be a good mayor for the city of Brantford?
    “I really have a belief that this community has lots of opportunities ahead of it. I think I can work to make it a better community to live in, and I can do that by providing leadership, integrity, and a vision and experience. I call myself a fixer; I like the challenge of fixing something and once it’s fixed and it’s going really well, then I look for the next challenge.”

  2. Do you feel Brantford needs fixing?
    “Yes, I do.”

  3. In what way?
    “In particular, the way that council is… I was going to say working together, but it’s the way they’re not working together, and it’s been a real detriment on moving the community forward.”

  4. You have only lived in Brantford for three years. Do you feel that puts you at a disadvantage to candidates who have lived here their whole lives?
    “No, actually, I think it’s an advantage. A distinct advantage. To be honest, I’ve not been part of some of the mistakes that have been made in the past. I’m looking forward, not backward. So instead of being stuck or adverse to change, that’s not me.”

  5. Students need to find work in this city, something that’s been a perennial challenge. How do you plan to create more jobs for students?
    “Well, first we need to recognize that there is a big issue. We do have an issue with people not being able to get jobs and that impacts itself even more on students, because students don’t have the experience yet. A municipality itself can only create jobs by adding to the people they have employed, so the municipality isn’t going to be the employer of students but certainly has a job of creating an atmosphere that encourages business to grow.”

  6. How do you plan to get students more involved with the city?
    “As mayor, I would really encourage that a group be created that I… would meet with, probably quarterly, with a student representative body. We need to figure out a way to allow them to have direct input, because that’s what engages people.”

Chris Friel
Being elected as mayor for three terms starting in 1994, Chris Friel is back and with a fresh perspective – a perspective that he thinks will help the city develop and prosper as urban center.

  1. Why do you feel you would be a good mayor for the city of Brantford?
    “I was mayor [of Brantford] for nine years. I was 27 when I was elected. So, we changed a lot of things during those nine years… So, I’ve got the experience, I’ve got a new fresh vision of where the city is going to go, and I think a lot of the stuff in the last two or three years have gone off track. That’s not the focus and the direction we need to move forward.”

  2. What do you plan to do differently, if you are elected now, than compared to your first time?
    “It’s night and day. I graduated university in 1991 and then I was mayor three years later. Things are different. When you’re young, you don’t have the experience, you don’t have the knowledge… So now I’m older, I’m wiser, my kids are older, which makes a big difference. I have a different perspective and I have an international understanding of what communities could, can and should be. One of the things I’ve been saying is we need to become a 21st-century city.”

  3. A big issue in the city is jobs, how do you plan to create more jobs for students?
    “We have to reinvent our economy. We just can’t tinker with it, we just can’t play around and manage the bits and pieces of what we want to do. I think we’ve done a really poor job of being able to integrate the university and the students into the community. We have to create that environment where they want to be more involved, where the university wants to be more involved, and that’s where you end up creating the job element.

  4. How do you plan to get students more involved with the city?
    “You have to cater to what the students are going to be like; it has to work for them. You can do things where you engage the students to say ‘what do you want? What do you need?’ Then having an implementation program to put those things in place.”

  5. If you are elected, what are you initial plans for the city?
    “I want to refocus people in the downtown with the student population. I think that’s very important for us. I see a lot of what the other candidates are pitching right now, and I’m just like, ‘all you’re doing is pointing out the problems.’ Everybody knows what the problems are – let’s figure out what the solutions are going to be and how can we engage the public to begin solving them.”

In the next edition, we will speak to three more candidates and see what they have in store for Brantford. Pick up the next issue of the Sputnik, on stands September 15th.

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