Wind turbines and arenas dominated the discussion as those vying for West Lincoln’s six council seats met for a debate.
It was a packed house at the Smithville Legion last Wednesday night for the all-candidates night organized by the West Lincoln Chamber. Only one of the 15 candidates running for council was not present for the only all-candidates night taking place.
Both questions, answers and platforms centred around the two major issues, with jobs and growth also mentioned by several of the candidates.
The candidates each had four minutes to introduce their platforms before a series of questions from the crowd were asked by moderator Tony Kamphuis.
The first three questions centred around what most would argue is the biggest issue in the township: industrial wind turbines.
Ward 1: What is your position on wind turbines?
Newcomer Dana Plansky was the first candidate called to answer.
“I see them every day,” said the Caistor Centre resident who said she was lucky to retire early and wants to use her spare time to give back to the community. “Visually, they don’t bother me. What bothers me is the people living under them.
“It’s appalling that the province took our municipality’s right to oppose the building the turbines.”
Incumbent Sue-Ellen Merritt said her position on the issue is no secret.
“I’m not anti-wind turbine,” said Merritt. “I’m pro proper placement.”
Merritt also said she was against the increasing hydro costs coming down as a result.
Jason Trombetta, son of three-time West Lincoln mayor Katie Trombetta, said he needs to get more up to speed on the issue.
“I want to be informed, I need to be informed,”he said noting information needs to be more forthcoming from the province and proponents of wind.
Incumbent Eric Leith was quick to credit the current council for all of its hard work on the issue.
“All of the current council worked tirelessly on this,” said Leith. “The issue is the Green Energy Act.”
Leith commended council for establishing solid road use agreements with the proponents that protect the township.
Next up were Ward 3 candidates who were asked if they would reopen discussions on a community vibrancy fund proposed by the wind turbine developers.
Incumbent Lou DiLeonardo said he would not be interested in reopening the discussion and was pleased with council’s decision to turn down the fund.
“I will not support any blood money,” he said.
Newcomer Terry Bell agreed.
“I would never even consider accepting finances from this group,” said Bell. “All this has done is divide the community.”
Incumbent Alex Micallef called the fund a “bribe.”
“I am against what has been done to our community,” said Micallef.
“I would not entertain the idea of re-negotiatiing with a company that doesn’t want to negotiate.”
Newcomer Doug Newton said there is no good answer when it comes to wind turbines.
“Should we take their money?” he answered. “Absolutely not. They cannot buy us.”
The final ward three candidate to answer, Shauna Boyle, said much of the same.
“I am saddened by the divide it has created,” said Boyle, noting she does not know enough about the vibrancy fund to specifically comment on it.
Ward two candidates were asked what they would do should another proposal come before the township.
Dave Bylsma, a member of the West Lincoln Glanbrook Wind Action Group, said he would try to ensure developers adhere to policy.
“I would make sure they follow the rules,” he said.
Gus Grandmont said there isn’t much to be done about the five that are up but said if he was elected he would keep the fight at the forefront.
“I don’t like it anymore than you do. We can’t let this continue to go on,” he said. “I hope we keep on fighting.”
Norm Johnson, who served two terms previously in ward two, was the lone candidate to support wind turbines, however he said he was not in agreement with the process.
“I also think the Province did a real injustice,” he said.
Johnson also said he would not be in favour of spending a dime of township money to fight it.
Robert Bertrand said the turbines shouldn’t be here.
“The Province let us down,” he said.
Incumbent Joanne Chechalk said the next council needs to take its case to Queen’s Park.
“What we need to do is challenge back the province,” said Chechalk. “We need to continue to fight while living in the shadows of what we already have.”
Jobs and growth
Newton, who owns a business in downtown Smithville, said the township needs to recognize small and medium businesses and the role they can play in growing the community. He also suggested the township cut back some red tape to offset start up costs for businesses looking to establish in town.
Boyle the township should bring back a business committee that would focus on retention and attraction.
Bell said the township needs to look at what the business needs are of the community and set out a plan to meet them.
DiLeonardo said cutting red tape and offsetting costs would attract business. “We need to offer incentives,” he said.
Micallef said the township has some of the highest development charges in the region and suggested cutting those as well as focusing on economic development.
Ward one candidates Merritt and Plansky were asked if they support a new arena with declining enrolment at area schools and within the hockey community.
“I support putting money into the arena to make it the best possible facility for the people of West Lincoln,” said Merritt, pointing to new community centres with arenas in Lincoln and Port Colborne.
Plansky said if the town buys new, taxes go up.
“I think we should really stick with the old building and try and renovate and expand it in some way,” she said.
Leith said a new facility is needed for young families, such as the one in Lincoln.
All candidates talked about infrastructure needs as well as the need for the community to grow with guidance.