September 27, 2018 10:22 pm

Peterborough mayoral candidates square off in debate

Diane Therrien and Daryl Bennett answered questions about housing, the sale of PDI, homelessness and the opioid crisis at a debate in Peterborough.

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Current councillor and mayoral hopeful Diane Therrien and current Mayor Daryl Bennett went toe-to-toe at a debate on the issues facing the City of Peterborough heading into this election.

The debate was hosted by Peterborough and the Kawarthas Association of Realtors at the Lions Community Centre on Thursday night.

All of the questions from the association were about housing. When the audience had its turn to ask questions, most of them were about anything but housing.

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One resident asked both candidates what their stance was on the sale of Peterborough’s public assets. The question stemmed from the sale of Peterborough Distribution Inc. to Hydro One, which is still pending approval from the Ontario Energy Board.

READ MORE: The pending sale of PDI to Ontario Hydro is becoming an election issue in Peterborough

“I believe that public utilities should remain in public hands,” said Therrien.

“We will look at all of our assets and make sure we’re getting the best value for them long-term,” said Bennett. “I’m a proponent of [the sale of PDI] for the right reasons. There’s a good reason for that sale to be transacted. It’s going to pay us dividends of immense quality and quantity going forward. I’m content with that.”

On the subject of homelessness in the city, one resident asked how can the city move forward with it as a major issue.

READ MORE: New stats on homelessness in Peterborough city, county reveal a few surprises

“It’s cheaper to keep people housed than put them through the shelter system, because it costs a lot more for them to go through the shelter system plus the economics and things that go on when kids get disrupted from schools,” said Therrien.  “We need to keep people housed and prioritize it.”

“We need a national housing strategy,” added Bennett. “We need it as quickly as we can get it to start to break down those barriers to prevent housing of affordability to those who are homeless and those who are in danger of becoming homeless.”

According to Peterborough police, 20 people died from opioid overdoses in the city in 2017. A resident asked how the city would work with police and other organizations when it comes to the opioid crisis.

READ MORE: ‘Understanding the Opioid Crisis’ event held in Lakefield

“We are going to take an open-minded approach to bring all the right people together to resolve the issue of the difficulties we have downtown. Some of it is drug-related, it’s not all drug-related. We have mental-health issues affecting people as well,” said Bennett.

“You can’t arrest your way out of these problems. We know that we need better supports for people. Methadone clinics are a flawed model. The province and Feds need to step up and help fund a comprehensive detox centre in our town,” said Therrien.

Online voting begins on Oct. 9. Election Day is Oct. 22.

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