Photo: On Monday, October 22, 2018, voters in the City of Windsor will elect a Mayor, Ward Councillors and School Board Trustees to represent them for the term of office beginning December 1, 2018 and ending November 14, 2022. So who will claim victory and sit in the Mayor’s chair in the new council chambers at 350 City Hall Square West? City Hall photos by Della Jones-Goulet.
The Race To Be Mayor Of Windsor – Four Candidates Give Their Views On Election Issues
In late October, Windsorites will go to the polls once more to decide who will become the Mayor of Windsor and sit in the Mayor’s chair at City Hall and lead City Council for the next four years.
Seeking to become Mayor are: Drew Dilkens, Frank Dyck, Tom Hensel, Ernie Lamont, and Matt Marchand.
In attempt to help voters make an informed choice, Biz X magazine has put together a question-and-answer session to assist voters in advance of the October 22 vote.
We submitted a list of 15 questions to each candidate and invited them to respond. Each candidate was allocated a total of 800 words for their answers, which appear in their entirety unless they went over their allotted space. These answers are listed after each question in alphabetical order by candidate.
Frank Dyck, one of the five candidates, declined to participate.
MEET THE CANDIDATES
Dilkens is a lifelong resident of Windsor and has served as Mayor since 2014 and as a member of City Council since 2006.
The taxpayers are his top priority by focusing on infrastructure, creating jobs and a fiscally responsible approach to City Hall.
He brings a wealth of economic development, international trade, human resource and labour relations experience to the office.
Dilkens has an extensive history of community involvement and volunteering with several organizations such as Windsor Police Auxiliary, Goodfellows and Crime Stoppers.
He has earned a Bachelor of Commerce and law degree from University of Windsor, MBA from Wayne State and Doctorate of Business Administration from the International School of Management.
He is married to Jane and they have two children.
Dyck, 49, is a retired farmer who is originally from Leamington. He has lived in Windsor for 10 years.
Hensel, 52, is an experienced entrepreneur who was educated at York University and earned a law degree as a mature student after a career in publishing and insurance. He has volunteered with such organizations as Habitat for Humanity, Windsor’s Sewer Master Plan Advisory Committee, community alleyway cleanup projects and Assisted Living Southwestern Ontario among others.
Lamont, 71, has run for Mayor four times and for a seat on City Council twice. He worked at Ford Motor Company’s Windsor Engine Plant for 30 years. He has also run his own advertising company for more than 30 years and has operated his Bacon Man business for almost 40 years.
Marchand, 50, stepped down after six years as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce to run for Mayor. Before that, he served eight years as Director of Government Affairs for the Continental Rail Gateway and also spent 12 years as a staff member and advisor to former Mayor Mike Hurst.
He has degrees in business administration and commerce from the University of Windsor and a graduate degree from the London School of Economics and Political Science.
He has served on various boards including committees of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, WorkForce WindsorEssex and the Canadian-U.S. Business Association.
OUR QUESTIONS FOR THE MAYORAL CANDIDATES . . .
1.Windsor homeowners faced a 1.7 percent tax increase in 2018. What increase, if any, would you support in the 2019 budget and for the remainder of the four-year term?
–Dilkens: Homeowners experienced 0% tax increases in 2015/16 and only 2.4% in 2017/18. These are among the lowest of all cities in Ontario. I will continue to hold the line on taxes, as I always have since 2006.
–Hensel: We need to hold the line on taxes and where possible, even reduce them, focus on initiatives that increase property values across the board (and expand the city’s tax base), and we need to get a grip on spending. Our tax base grows when our city does, and the best way to do that is to maintain a competitive environment that attracts growth, investment, jobs and home buyers. Taxpayers have a right to expect that their tax dollars are being spent responsibly and that any rate increases should be justified before you’re asked to increase your share of the burden.
–Lamont: If council will commit to spending more money to fix roads and sewers and other infrastructure projects, then I don’t mind voting to raise taxes. We have to pay for those projects, there’s no way around it.
–Marchand: We recognize that there is a need for key community investments. We want to maximize the benefit to the community at a fair cost.
2. A council majority agreed to spend $3 million on Christmas lights in Jackson Park, then Mayor Dilkens cut the expenditure in half when flooded basements devastated many neighbourhoods. A budget placeholder of $1.5 million remains in the 2018 budget for additional holiday lights. Do you support that expenditure or would you move to have it repealed?
–Dilkens: “Bright Lights” is a celebration project to commemorate the City’s 125th anniversary. The event was an overwhelming success attracting over 60,000 people. Family-based events like this improve our quality of life. Half of the funding budget came from outside the property tax base and I will continue to support this and other similar initiatives.
–Hensel: I would repeal it. I believe the event, if it is to be continued, should be sponsored locally by the community, local business, or corporate partnerships, and I would encourage this approach.
–Lamont: I would vote to cancel the expenditure because I believe infrastructure projects are a higher priority. Infrastructure, to me, is number one so I say, scrap it.
–Marchand: There are other community engagement opportunities such as corporate and labour sponsorships that have not been considered. We’d like to see more community engagement and consultation on this.
3. A majority of City Council agreed to spend $750,000 to restore an historical street car and now wants to know how and where to utilize it. First of all, do you agree with that expenditure, and how and where would you utilize the restored streetcar?
–Dilkens: I am proud of our history and want to showcase it for all to experience. Windsor was first in Canada to operate electric streetcars in 1886. City Council had an opportunity to acquire the last of three known streetcars. It is being fully restored and will be used as a beacon on the riverfront. Funding came from re-allocated capital projects while continuing to hold the line on taxes.
–Hensel: Preserving our heritage is important, however, I disagree with Council’s decision to spend $750,000 to restore the trolley. We need to improve Windsor’s transit system first, and start looking ahead at developing modern regional transportation initiatives. The restoration could have been privately funded by partnerships in the community. A fitting place for the restored trolley would be at the Transit Terminal where it would serve as a reminder that urban public transit shouldn’t be a museum piece, but a key aspect of a vibrant community on the move.
–Lamont: No, I don’t agree with the expenditure at all. I would like to see that money spent elsewhere. If we have extra money like that, I would vote to put it all into roads and sewers.
–Marchand: We don’t see this as a community priority.4. City Council recently agreed to donate $120,000 to sponsor a professional golf tournament. A split council decided to continue contributing $50,000 to sponsor the “Detroit Grand Prix” as part of a council policy to spend taxpayer money on sports tourism. The city also employs a full-time sports tourism officer to recruit sporting events to the city. What is your position on Sports Tourism?
–Dilkens: Events that fill hotel rooms, restaurants and shopping venues are good for businesses and jobs. We only pursue sports tourism opportunities with greatest economic impact. I’m proud of how our
community welcomed FINA swimmers. I also saw Windsorites rally behind our Spitfires as they won the Memorial Cup. Sport is a powerful driver of economic development and community pride.
–Hensel: Subsidizing sports tourism with taxpayer dollars is problematic. I’d like to see any investment in this area translate into sustainable jobs and sustainable economic impact before allocating additional funding.
–Lamont: These might be important events and if they are, let’s find some corporate sponsorship to pay for them. And if City Council can raise $2 million through room taxes for visitors, then let’s use that money for tourism projects instead of going after the taxpayer every time.
–Marchand: Sports Tourism has not been identified as a priority for the community. We need a cost-benefit analysis from the Independent Municipal Auditor General that we’ll get in place in the first 100 days.
5. City Council has set aside $5.25 million to pay for a streetscaping initiative for several core area business improvement areas, including a Walkerville Distillery District, which is first in line for the funding. At the same time, Council squashed a $1.4 million streetscaping plan from the Wyandotte Town Centre BIA. What is your view on districting commercial areas?
–Dilkens: This is an initiative I support and see great potential for some of our key neighbourhoods. My vision is to create more activity, character and excitement as well as build more themed districts throughout Windsor. I commit to working with all stakeholders and BIAs to create community pride and beautification for all to enjoy.
–Hensel: I’m in favour of streetscaping initiatives in partnership with BIAs and the business community. Windsor has several unique neighbourhoods with their own distinctive character, and I would encourage greater participation by residents and business owners in having an equal say into how these areas should be developed.
–Lamont: It’s tough on the taxpayers to be charged for all these improvements. Businesses in these areas all make money, so I say they should take out loans to pay for improvements in their own business area instead of billing the taxpayer.
–Marchand: It’s imperative that the BIAs are consulted to better understand their needs and ideas so we can make an informed decision.
6. Previous Councils have bought into the practice of handing out cash at the end of every annual budget session through what has been dubbed the enhanced capital budget. This election year the amount in the plan grew to $22.8 million from last year’s $10 million, to finance, over six future years, favoured projects of the Mayor and ward councillors. This pull-ahead practice flies in the face of good corporate risk management principles. What is your view on continuing or discontinuing this practice in the coming term?
–Dilkens: City Council sets all budgets. The capital budget is more than $100m and is allocated at the discretion of City Council — and always has been. The funds that have been allocated for this year’s enhanced capital budget are available as a result of sound fiscal management and consultation with ward councillors.
–Hensel: This practice should be discontinued because it creates the impression of political patronage and isn’t tied in directly to the needs of communities that should benefit equally. Second, it lends itself to disproportionate allocation of funding across the city.
–Lamont: I don’t feel it makes any sense unless they are spending this money on infrastructure and basic services, which is the city’s job to fund. Any other pet projects besides that, cancel them.
–Marchand: The Independent Municipal Auditor General that will be in place in the first 100 days will need to rule on this kind of practice and determine if this is the best way to go. I remain to be convinced that the enhanced capital budget is good corporate policy.
7. City Councillors annually attend urban livable city conventions as far afield as Europe, Ottawa, Toronto, Seattle and Sante Fe, New Mexico. A motion requiring councillors to present reports on what they learned at those conferences was defeated by the incumbent council. What is your view on this matter?
–Dilkens: City Council approves councillors to attend two conferences annually and their attendance is disclosed to the public. Councillors submit either a written or verbal report directly to City Council.
–Hensel: I don’t see how we can justify these types of junkets and expect the taxpayer to foot the bill when there are more responsible alternatives available to us, such as video-conferencing. The Mayor, and council, should provide a cost benefit analysis of proposed travel budget requests, and provide a detailed report upon their return.
–Lamont: I think they should be required to report back to council from these trips at the very least. But I also think if they want to take these trips, they should pay for them out of their own pocket. If they report back later and the trip seems to have been worthwhile for the taxpayer, then they would be reimbursed.
–Marchand: There definitely needs to be reports on what councillors learned at conferences. It’s called transparency and accountability. The Independent Municipal Auditor General will review as to value-for-money for these conferences.
8. The incumbent council decided not to hire an Auditor General mid-way through its term. What is your view on hiring an Independent Internal Auditor General?