Pam Wright/The Independent
The lack of high-speed Internet in St. Clair Township took centre stage as candidates for St. Clair Township met with voters.
But fraying roads, an aging arena and the possible threat of a forced amalgamation to become a ward of Sarnia were also discussed Sept 13.
The Moore Optimist Club hosted the packed debate at the Courtright Community Hall.
Incumbent Steve Arnold, long-time councillor Jeff Agar and newcomers Ed Linton and Brian Everaert are all seeking the top spot.
Agar, who has served as a township councillor for the past 12 years, says he is ready to achieve his “vision” of becoming mayor, adding his experience in municipal government has “paved the way” for his long-term goal of becoming mayor.
High-speed affordable Internet for all citizens is a goal Agar pledges to work for, along with the development and maintenance of a strong infrastructure.
Citing a long string of his accomplishments, incumbent Arnold, who is a former Lambton County Warden and current chair of the St. Clair Region Conservation Authority, urged voters to make a “wise” choice for experience.
The Wilkesport resident vows to continue to build on the successes of his 12-year political career.
Ed Linton is a life-long construction boilermaker. The Courtright resident has a health and safety leadership role at a Sarnia refinery. His experience in the workplace of bringing a diverse group of 3,000 workers to a common goal is good preparation for municipal service, and he strongly believes many problems can be solved “face to face.”
Brian Everaert said his role as mayor will be to “advocate and protect the purse of the people.” The Wilkesport-area resident, who recently ran unsuccessfully in the provincial election, said the township’s current Internet system is “unacceptable.”
Everaert says he values “accountability” and would like to see more transparency on St. Clair Township job bids.
Two veteran politicians are seeking the Deputy Mayor’s chair. Incumbent Peter Gilliland is seeking another term, facing off against longtime Ward 2 councillor Steve Miller.
Gilliland, a former manager at Bayer, says voters need to consider his 15 years of experience when they go to the polls. Calling St. Clair’s financial state “relatively healthy,” Gilliland said the “neighbours to the north would love to have this,” adding he will fight against the township becoming part of the “Greater Sarnia Area.”
Miller, who has 18 years on council, says he wants to improve infrastructure — including the Internet — while considering the needs of all taxpayers.
The Imperial Oil retiree says he sees the next fours years as a “rebuild” rather than a new build. Living on a fixed income, he says, makes him aware of the needs of all residents and repairs need to be made before new projects get underway.
The mayoral candidates took the majority of the questions in the forum’s second half. The bulk of the queries were directed at Arnold who says township officials have been working diligently on upgrading the Internet, adding it’s been a “frustrating” experience.
Some sparring took place when candidates asked each other questions. Arnold chided his opponent when Everaert asked what he and Agar did to try and stop the closure of the Lambton Generating Station.
Arnold said the township had rallied hard against the move and travelled to Queen’s Park to put pressure on government.
“It’s not like we’ve been sitting back doing nothing,” he told Everaert.
Following a question to Agar from the audience regarding the Internet, Arnold requested an opportunity to speak to it, but the crowd shut him down, calling out “no.”
Gilliland also took some heat from Agar about creating fear of one-tier county government where St. Clair would be a ward.
In Ward 1 — in the township’s north section — five candidates are running for three seats. Incumbents Tracy Kingston and Jim DeGurse are seeking re-election, on the ballot with three other candidates.
Kingston says she wants to reach out to focus groups from throughout the township to find out what the residents want.
Greater accessibility is another of her goals, along with completing projects such as the oversize road corridor and revamping the Mooretown Arena.
DeGurse says he wants to continue the tradition of an open door policy, listening to the needs of all constituents.
Pat Brown, who held a council seat from 2006 to 2010 and newcomers Neil Fulkerson and Michelle Kelly-Maitland round out the group seeking a councillor’s chair.
Brown, a retired pipefitter who has served by appointment on the OPP Services Board for 6 years, says he wants to create opportunity for small business and build on his “We Care in St. Clair” motto.
Fulkerson told the crowd long-term care and improved infrastructure are among his priorities, and he too wants to improve the township’s Internet service.
In her address, former personal support worker Kelly-Maitland says she welcomes the opportunity to hear and work for the needs of all constituents.
The south’s Ward 2 sees three new political faces vying for two seats, as Rose Atkins, Robin Donahue-Parsons and Bill Myers have all thrown their hats in the ring.
Atkins, who has spent 20 years working on the development of the St. Clair River Trail, equips her with skill set to serve as a councillor. The Port Lambton resident says her work as a health promoter with Lambton County when Ontario’s Smoke Free Act has prepared her for being on the “unpopular” side of public opinion.
Donahue-Parsons, of the Port Lambton area, says her 16 years as an administrative executive with the Lambton County, has prepared her for the councillor’s role, saying she has the “enthusiasm and the energy” to address change.
Myers, who lives in the rural Sombra area, has served as a director of the Moore Agricultural Society for 13 years and is the current president.
The machinist/farmer says he’s “prepared for the next chapter” and wants to take his public service to the next level.
Two women are running to become the St. Clair District School Board trustee, representing the area’s English Catholic students. Patricia Pook is running against incumbent Carol Ann Bryden.