The Race for Mayor in Miramichi
On Wednesday April 28th at the Beaverbrook Kin Centre, the Greater Miramichi Chamber of Commerce hosted a “Meet the Candidates Evening” for the business community.
The Squire rang in the event facilitated by Jo Ann Colepaugh.
The evening began with the four mayoral candidates briefly addressing the audience in random drawn order.
|Arch Pafford Speaks|
“Two of the most important words I will say to you tonight are, ‘Growing together,’” Arch Pafford said. “It’s time to think city, a united city, a city where we share ideas. But not only share these ideas but listen to these ideas and act on them.”
He stressed that if elected he would be an up-front, out-front, full-time mayor with an open, courteous and friendly administration.
|Gerry Cormier Takes the Podium|
Gerry Cormier said council must think city, respect one another, answer to the taxpayer, stop fighting and start building.
“The creation of more jobs, that’s what’s important,” Cormier said. “The secret to economic development is to get the local business community involved. They are the experts and can help the city with a master plan. We must take this plan, embrace it, and run with it. We cannot afford to walk any more.”
|Frank Trevors addresses auditorium|
Frank Trevors introduced himself as someone who listens and takes great pride in the Miramichi. He said the city should be run like any other business and the new council needs to develop wiser spending habits as well as find new and creative ways to attract business.
“I’m a lifelong resident of Miramichi and I have children who live in the States,” Trevors said, stressing that he personally understands how important job creation is to ensure our children’s future.
|John MacKay Introduces Himself|
“In front of you tonight you see many many candidates who have done a very unique thing,” John MacKay said.
“They’ve come forth and they’ve offered themselves to serve our community. And asked that question as to why they do it, they do it because they feel they have something to offer. And I think that we’re very easy to criticise, perhaps very easy to make suggestions, but in the end only these people came forward to do something to make our community better at the council meetings.”
Following the speeches, the floor was opened to questions. To ensure questions weren’t repeated and the discussion pertained to the community as a whole rather than personal topics, anyone who wanted to ask a question was required to write it down and have it approved before being added to the official list.
“What are your plans to bring industry to our area and keep our children at home?” one person asked.
|Miramichi’s Business Community turned out to Meet the Candidates|
“I think it’s very important that we first of all entice developers and investors into our city,” Pafford said. “I think one of the best ways we can do this is having an ‘open door’ policy to send a strong message not only to the rest of the province but to the rest of the country that we are open for business.”
“If you’re going to Montreal, you need a map,” Cormier said. “If you’re going to do economic development you’ve got to get fellows like Brian Donovan and the Chamber of Commerce onboard and they’ve got some good ideas and it’s going to move forward. There’s no other way, do what the experts are telling us, and that’s the business community.”
John MacKay said, “We can attract business to our city by first of all setting a good example, by acting with common sense in our decisions, by treating the money that you give the city as we would treat our own personal money, and by dealing with essential services. People want to invest in municipalities where there is efficiency as a watchman.”
“I believe the first thing you have to do is believe in the city and once we believe in the city and what we stand for, we have to identify the needs,” said Frank Trevors. “I think it’s a matter of knowing what’s out there, and showing what we have to offer. But we have to believe in ourselves, and if we believe in ourselves we can sell ourselves.”
|Mingling Before the Speeches|
Gerry Cormier said he ran at-large before because he believed in the at-large system. “I was elected by all the people of the city,” he said.
But when Cormier attended ward meetings in the former Nelson and Loggieville, he heard people say to leave it alone.
“My feeling is at-large,” he said. “But the people will decide on May 10th, and as mayor I’ll abide by their decision one way or another.”
John MacKay said he ran for councillor at-large last time because he felt it was important for council to make themselves available to all parts of the city.
He said he brought the issue to council that they consider putting it to a vote on the ballot.
“I think it’s important that people have an opportunity to express an opinion on how our city council is structured,” he said.
Arch Pafford believed this question was asked partly because of the question of unity within the city.
“Many people think if we have an all-ward system, maybe we’d have better unity. If we have an all at-large, we may have better unity,” he said. “I think myself after talking to many of our citizens that really what it’s going to take is the individuals you elect on council. It depends on their mindset.”
He said he believed if everyone came together thinking about the development of the city and working together as a team, neither the ward nor at-large system would make much difference.
“I personally support the at-large system,” Frank Trevors said.
He added that he didn’t think there was anything wrong with the ward system but sometimes council can become too focused on a single area and let the rest go.
“I firmly believe the at-large system will probably bring out more candidates,” he said.
Another question asked, “What are your thoughts on buy local policy at city hall?”
“We have many many people here on the Miramichi who are able to supply first class services and products,” John MacKay said. “I think that perhaps in the past we have failed to recognise the advantages of doing business more regularly at the local level.”
He said that sometimes the city is obligated by law to open up tendering to all parts of the province or even to all the Maritime Provinces.
“I think we need a deliberate conscious effort on the part of the council to remind ourselves that we should look around locally first,” he said.
Arch Pafford agreed that the city hasn’t been purchasing locally.
“Very simply the city needs to adopt a policy to buy locally and support local business,” he said.
He said a lot of construction has been done over the past couple of years and unfortunately, according to what he has been hearing from people during his campaign, the city hasn’t been purchasing locally.
“I believe personally that we should have a five percent ratio for buying local,” Frank Trevors said.
He said while there are certain federal regulations and things they can’t change, it is possible to increase the amount of goods and services purchased locally.
“I support buying locally,” Gerry Cormier said.
He said he recently spoke to a local businessman who sells paper products and office supplies and complained that his business never seemed to get a crack at the city hall contracts.
“I said well, if I’m elected mayor I’ll take a look at it,” he said. “Maybe we can save some money by buying locally, in that particular case. So, like the other candidates, I support buying locally.”
The next question asked was: “With the decline of the population over the past 10 years, what is the number one thing you plan to do to turn around this city?”
“I think first of all, to stabilise our foundation we simply have to bring in investment and development to the city,” Arch Pafford said. “And before we can do that, we have to have a plan of action.”
“The big thing is we need jobs, good paying jobs in this city,” Gerry Cormier said. “If you have a job, you build pride, and then the city grows. And that’s what we have to do, get some investment here and institute some good paying jobs.”
“Well, the most important thing first of all, is to have people feel good about their community. To have people want to live here. To have people want to invest here,” John MacKay said. “So, we want to make sure we have the best services that we can provide. That we have the best facilities that we can provide.”
“First of all I think we have to listen to the area,” Frank Trevors said. “We have to listen to the people who live here. We have to identify the needs of the area.”
A local businessman then asked the candidates if they could be more specific about how they would support local business.
“I support local business,” Gerry Cormier said. “I’m going to do whatever I can, working with you as a business community.”
“One of the problems in making contracts available to local companies is the size of the contract,” John MacKay said, adding that often they seek large quantities that can be difficult for the local business to provide. He suggested the new council should consciously look at the obstacles and maybe make contracts smaller and more manageable for local business.
“I have no problem whatsoever supporting shopping local or buying local services provided the people are qualified,” Frank Trevors said, adding that he believed in the Miramichi but sometimes local businesses don’t have the experience for the contract.
“If I’m elected mayor I will sit down with the new council and we will come up with a policy that will make it a lot easier for local businesses to participate in purchasing,” said Arch Pafford.
Another question asked, “How do you propose to make city hall more efficient and allow staff to do their jobs as effectively as possible?”
Frank Trevors said he personally believed if the council and mayor were doing their jobs the way they should, they wouldn’t have time to get mixed up in the staff’s business.
Gerry Cormier said he truly believed the city staff wants to do a good job and they do. He said the role of council is to set the policies and they need to let the directors run their departments, let the staff do their work.
Arch Pafford said he assumes city staff has been hired because of their expertise, skill and education and they know their jobs and do them well. He said he wasn’t in a position at this time to say it wasn’t being run efficiently, but he would be after the election and he would look at that.
John MacKay said council needs to let the staff do their jobs, but city staff at the same time has an obligation to carry out those jobs and perform efficiently.
The final question for the mayoral candidates asked about the very publicised controversy, “How do you propose to change the way the mayor and council do business?”
“You have to respect one another,” Gerry Cormier said. “You also have to respect people coming as a delegation or any business that approaches the council table. Without respect, it doesn’t work. As mayor, I will demand respect from council, as I’ll show them respect, and we’ll show the public respect.”
“Discussion is good,” John MacKay said. “That’s how the public becomes familiar with the issues that are before council. And that’s much better than having issues decided behind closed doors, where your business is being conducted without your knowledge, your dollars are being spent without your understanding.” He added that the mayor shouldn’t immerse himself in council squabbling. The role of the mayor is to help build common ground.
“I think in any political forum, debate is a healthy thing,” Arch Pafford said. “However, decorum is also very important and I think that’s a major role that the mayor would play.” He said if the mayor wants to participate in the discussion, he should turn the chair over to the Deputy Mayor or someone else. He added that he believes following the rules would make for better meetings.
“There are two words that come to mind when we talk about the role of the mayor, and that’s leadership and respect,” Frank Trevors said. He said if they are going to move forward and respect one another they need to worry about the future and stop getting bogged down by things that happened ten years ago.
Municipal elections in New Brunswick happen May 10th. Remember, voting is your right. If you don’t use it, you give away your power and allow others to decide for you.
To find out more about the candidates visit this website
You can also vote for your favourite candidate in the Bread ‘n Molasses Miramichi Fun Poll and join in our municipal election discussion. If you need help joining the Mighty Community Message Board visit our fun poll page for detailed instructions.