Seven candidates, one job.
It can be hard for candidates to distinguish themselves from their opponents on the campaign trail, especially when the roster is so full, but the District 5 debate last Friday provided members of the community a chance to see them all face-to-face, and ask questions important to them.
The Alderney Landing Theatre, where the debate was held was almost full.
Hosted by Our HRM Alliance and moderated by CBC Nova Scotia’s Pam Berman, the debate got off to a slow start, with candidates reading their scripted opening statements.
Most of the candidates had fairly similar views on things like enhancing the ferry service, green belting and changing the tax code to entice business and residents downtown.
It started to get more interesting once the questions and rebuttals started coming into play.
McClusky, the incumbent who has been a part of local politics for decades said the other candidates don’t participate in municipal politics, which got some heated reaction from the others.
“When I look around at this table at the candidates, I have never seen some of these candidates at a regional plan meeting, at a centre meeting at regional council or community council, I rest my case,” McClusky said, which caused some of the other candidates to shake their heads.
“Well Gloria, that’s actually incorrect," said Bryn Jones Vaillancourt. "I’ve attended centre plan meetings, I’ve been at community council.”
“I said some,” McClusky responded.
Another heated moment resulted from the issue of cuts to the ferry service.
“For somebody who’s been to council once, I don’t know how you can speak about in-fighting of councillors,” McCluskey said.
“I don’t think we need the dis-respect there Gloria,” said Sonya Dudka. “I think we can read the records and see that there’s in-fighting going on at council.”
Kate Watson then said “I’m sorry, are you accusing me of not attending council?”
McCluskey: “A couple of times.”
Watson: “I’ve been to council, I watch council on Haligonia.ca.”
Sam Austin: “I’m just curious how we missed the ferry cuts in the first place, it was right there in the budget presentation.”
McCluskey: “I can tell you how I missed it, I just lost my husband and when I was at council that night, I wasn’t really there, but I really zeroed in on it later.”
Despite the few heated moments, the debate was mostly civil and the audience reaction seemed mostly positive.
Fred Connors was the only mayoral candidate to attend and got a lot of applause when he asked the candidates to tell the people in the audience something interesting about themselves without reading a pre-written statement.
You can currently vote online in the HRM municipal election at vote.halifax.ca or you can call 1-877-775-4649. In-person polls open on Oct. 20.