There will be five new councillors in Perth after the October 22 election; there might be six if Judy Brown is not re-elected. Voters in the town had a chance Wednesday to hear and see all candidates running for council, mayor and deputy mayor at a packed Farrell Hall early evening meeting.
Those running for council — Dave Bird, Judy Brown (incumbent), Leona Cameron, Nathan Ferguson, Brock McPherson and Barry Smith — spoke first, with a two-minute introduction, pre-written questions and a final minute round-down.
As Brown was the only one who had undergone this scrutiny before in previous all-candidates’ meetings, and the only one with council experience, answers tended to be short which allowed time for eight questions. Brian Perkins from Lake 88 emceed.
Among other tasks, councillors help with decisions, review policy, attend committee meetings, meet with staff, and some have full-time day jobs. Present Perth council includes Jim Boldt, Judy Brown, Jim Graff, Ed McPherson and Riq Turner; deputy mayor is John Gemmell and John Fenik is mayor.
Perkins read the first question — an easy one. “Would you support the hospital capital funding request for approximately $41 per household on an annual basis?“ All candidates said they would, some said they would “absolutely support” it.
The hospital, its funding and physician recruitment came up frequently throughout the next hour of questions and answers, and kept the attention of the mostly white-haired audience.
Smith stated funding the hospital’s shortfall was important to draw and keep young physicians in town. “Young physicians want to work in a state-of-the-art hospital.” Brown related the information that when young physicians come into town from Queen’s or Toronto, the mayor takes them out and “wines and dines them.” After a short pause, she added “…with emphasis on the dines,” drawing laughter from the crowd.
Brown also mentioned the Docs on Ice hockey tournament slated for Perth in March bringing with it close to 800 doctors and medical students for a look-see of Perth and its environs.
Cameron received the biggest laugh of the night when responding to how to draw new doctors to the area. “A free house and an arranged marriage,” she suggested.
How to address vandalism came up. Bird, a police officer for close to 36 years said he could glibly reply that a good way to do that for him was just to “go to work,” which drew another laugh. He also looks at vandalism as an education issue like many of the others.
What to do for youth drew reference to the Planet Youth program initially out of Iceland and now successful in Lanark County. It was designed to reduce and prevent drug and substance abuse and misuse among youth. There was some disagreement whether cameras in areas like Conlon Farm were good or bad; Ferguson felt cameras were not the way to go, McPherson felt that installing cameras was not bad as a deterrent.
And taking a cue from the recent tornadoes in Dunrobin and Arlington Woods neighbourhoods, candidates were asked how they would prepare area residents for future extreme weather occurrences. Brown suggested encouraging families to keep a 72-hour kit handy “because citizens can’t count on anybody from the government for the first 72 hours.” Bird agreed emphasizing the necessity to ”equip” your own families.
The evening halted for 10 minutes before moving on to the deputy mayor and mayoral candidates.