Kingston mayoral candidates square off at Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting
Before a crowd of several dozen business people, Kingston mayoral candidate Rob Matheson caused a stir at the Greater Kingston Chamber of Commerce meeting with his address.
“Ladies and gentlemen we have a problem,” Matheson said. “You are the problem.”
Matheson was referring to the rise of populism in politics, the growing gap between rich and poor and the chamber of commerce’s lack of support for the previous Liberal government’s minimum wage legislation.
“I see people struggling every day, financially, and we’ve got corporate welfare for the rich in this society,” said Matheson in an interview with Global Kingston after the event. “And we’ve got payday loans and Money Mart and CashMoney for everybody else to try to subsist on. It’s not fair and a living wage is what’s required.”
Incumbent Bryan Paterson took a more subdued tone addressing the business community, saying he plans to continue building on the successes of his past term.
Attracting the baby formula company Feihe and expanding the municipal airport are just some of the successes the city has experienced over the last political term, according to Paterson, “whether it’s supporting our innovation and entrepreneurship, strengthening our air and rail transportation, investing in our technology infrastructure the fact that we have the fastest wireless of any city in North America.”
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Former city councillor Vicki Schmolka says business is the lifeblood of the community, and taking care of fundamentals like roads and sidewalks are necessary for business to thrive.
“Making sure that people can get to work on the bus, because not everyone can afford a car when they’re working on minimum wage,” Schmolka said, adding climate change is an issue for business now. “Having your business flooded and roads flooded is not going to create a good environment.”
Candidate Eric Lee wants to eliminate the city’s vacancy tax rebate program for commercial and industrial properties.
He says eliminating the tax break will force property owners to negotiate rents.
“I don’t want to pay for somebody else’s properties,” Lee said. “You own a store or office space to rent it out, you take the responsibility. Rent it out. I don’t want to have them sit there for one, two, three, four, five years.”
Candidates faced questions from the floor on electoral reform and their stance on the third bridge crossing.
All candidates said they would move forward with the crossing.
Matheson and Lee did say tolls for the bridge might be necessary to help pay for it.
Schmolka says she would like to see further validation of the municipality’s financial plan on costs and paying for the bridge.
Paterson says the city treasurer has signed off on the project and the financial plan is sound.
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