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.
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.
“I believe that public utilities should remain in public hands,” said Therrien.
On the subject of homelessness in the city, one resident asked how can the city move forward with it as a major issue.
“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.
“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.