By Ally Harris
Oct. 31, 2014
Community engagement is a big part of the work of the Charlottetown municipal council, agreed all three mayoral candidates at the first debate.
Candidates Philip Brown, Keith Kennedy and mayor Clifford Lee were at St Paul’s Church’s Parish Hall on Oct. 19 to discuss how they would get the community more involved if elected mayor Nov. 3.
But the community is a lot more engaged than the session suggested, Lee said.
“Citizens of this community are engaged in what’s happening in our city. They know what’s happening in city hall. Some may have different interests than others, but that’s not to suggest they’re not engaged with what’s happening in our city.
“The reality is, council doesn’t have all the answers. Council needs to reach out to the community.”
There’s nothing more democratic than allowing members of the public to run for mayor, he said.
“Every member of this city has a contribution to make to our city. That’s why we go all summer long throughout the city of Charlottetown hosting summer socials. It gives council, it gives myself, the opportunity to meet with residents one-on-one in a relaxed atmosphere to take about what’s happening in the community.”
Brown said more people would get involved in the politics of the city with some simple changes to council.
“My first priority is to make the mayor’s office two terms and move on. What does that do? It opens it up to new people, new ideas, new energy, new blood.”
His system would allow mayors to return to office, but they would have to step out for at least one term.
“Would there be a trickle-down effect? Yes, because other councillors may say ‘hey, I can run. This is an opportunity to put my name forward.’
“I think that’s a way to get people involved at the mayor’s level and at the council level.”
Kennedy said the transit system was the key to getting the public more engaged. He proposed giving free transit passes to those on low wages so they can move about the city without having to worry about transport.
He urged Lee to make the buses free on election day to allow everyone to get to a polling station.
“Then, people who can’t get out to vote could get out to vote. We should make it easy to vote in Charlottetown.”