Dryden residents came out in full-force last night at the All Candidates Forum, held at The Centre. Mayor and council candidates were able to answer questions from the community, and introduce themselves to their future constituents.
“This council has made great strides with financial goal setting, policy reforms and performance management. However, 2018 was our most difficult year financially, due to high debt repayments and senior management turnover. I would like to be part of the team that steers us to calmer waters and greater prosperity,” said incumbent Mayor, Greg Wilson.
“The last four years, we’ve accomplished a lot, but in the next four years, we can accomplish even more. I want to become your full-time Mayor so that we can do even more. More for the seniors. Council needs to support the Kenora District Services Board. More support for affordable childcare. We have to support all of our volunteers. I have the proven leadership to lead Dryden. I’ve done it before, and I can be your full-time Mayor,” said current councillor Roger Valley, who is running for the Mayor’s seat.
All 13 council candidates were able to make it to the forum, and were able to answer a variety of difficult questions from community members.
The first question revolved around whether or not the City of Dryden should allow private businesses to sell marijuana, as legalization is set for October 17. The city needs to make a decision on whether or not to allow businesses to sell the product by early next year.
“I’m not against it. I don’t smoke the reefer, but I won’t judge anyone if they do. We need to investigate it further before we start handing out licences. I like the thought of a cannabis store downtown more than the current methadone clinic, with sketchy people hanging out around there. In my opinion, retail stores will need employees and more jobs is never a bad thing. Weed is coming anyways,” said council candidate, Shawn Lappage.
Most councillors supported the idea of the city welcoming marijuana stores in the area, as legalization is coming regardless, and cannabis will be present in the community with or without a store. Many also noted that if Dryden does not have one, surrounding communities will, and the city would lose out on a potentially-significant revenue stream
Councillors were then asking about the upcoming OPP Costing proposal, which is set for November 28. This will be the first major issue that the next batch of councillors will have to tackle.
“I’m a great supporter of our Dryden Police Service. I believe in community policing, and the DPS does more for the community than most of us realize. They’re always doing more and more behind the scenes. They raise their own children here. They learn people’s names at a young age. We’re going to look at the costing regardless, but for me, they have to prove that they can provide a better foundation of policing and care for the community than the DPS currently does,” said council candidate, Corrie Trist.
Many councillors put their support behind a referendum to gather opinions from the community, on whether to replace the Dryden Police Service with the OPP or not. All councillors acknowledged the hard work and dedicated service of the DPS, but most noted that they need to see the OPP’s proposal before making any decisions.
The next question, possibly the hottest-topic of the night, was if the previous issue of the Dryden Fire Service’s model change is still an issue, or not.
“The new model has a number of advantages. I know that there is fear in the community, but I’m pleased to say that we have improved response times, improved health and safety meetings, improved public education events, many more inspections took place, and more. I’m really pleased with the way that the new model is going,” said Wilson.
Mayoral candidate Valley said that he wants to see the DFS return to their previous, volunteer-based model, as the current model only provides ‘adequate coverage’, however, he noted that the community does need to look forward, not backward – echoing sentiments from Mayor Wilson from earlier this week.
“The events that happened have deeply troubled me. When Roger Valley put forward a motion to have a conversation with the Dryden Fire Association, and your current council voted that down. Not being willing to have a conversation speaks to what you can expect from your council. If they’re not willing to have a conversation with the firefighters, are they going to have a conversation when it’s your issue?,” asked council candidate Jason Owen, a volunteer firefighter of over 19 years.
Many councillors agreed that a complete review of the new work model needs to take place.
The next question revolved around how city staff would plan to better incorporate Indigenous culture in the community, and how to welcome Indigenous residents to the Dryden area, as current demographics show that roughly 1-in-5 residents identify as Indigenous.
“Our Indigenous population is growing rapidly, and we need to be able to meet their needs. Building stronger, meaningful and respectful relationships is my priority. I am dedicated to aiding the decolonization efforts with our city, and to amplify their voices and to help lead. We need to ask Indigenous people what they need from us, and to address their needs. We cannot negate our differences. We don’t have the same problems. This is really an issue that is near and dear to my heart,” said council candidate Catherine Kiewning.
All councillors said that the city needs to have more partnerships and consultations with nearby Indigenous communities.
Finally, councillors were asked what their biggest issues are moving forward that they’d like to address, both in the short-term and long-term.
“We need to keep paying down our debts. We need to keep moving forward with the seniors homes. I’d like to see developments near the lake, and use Dryden’s natural resources,” said candidate Richard Jonasson.
“We need a community wellness plan. We need to look at our seniors in the community. We need housing, transportation, accessibility. We also have youth-in-crisis. Drug addiction problems. We have poverty and debt, health issues, cannabis is another issue, mental health issues in our community. Of course, we need financial wellness for all families in our community,” said candidate Shayne MacKinnon.
All councillors noted that the city needs to finally develop a Strategic Improvement plan. Many noted that debt recovery and infrastructure projects are priorities, as well as economic stability, better communication with the public, more community spirit, to attract new businesses, to get rid of or better use derelict buildings, addressing addiction issues, and increasing mental health supports.
In Dryden, two well-known names are running for mayor:
former mayor Roger Valley
incumbent Greg Wilson
A total of 13 are running for six seats on council, including incumbents:
There's also 10 nominees running to add a new voice on Dryden council:
Michelle Ann Price
Voting is now open in Dryden, and will close on election day on October 22.
For more information:
Community hears from candidates
Voting opens tomorrow in Dryden