CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - Charlottetown’s chief administrative officer Peter Kelly was the subject of some heated debate Wednesday, Oct. 24 at The Guardian’s Charlottetown Mayoral Debate.
All five candidates vying for mayor — Philip Brown, Kim Devine, Cecil Villard, Jamie Larkin and William McFadden — participated.
Kelly assumed his duties as the top unelected official in the capital city on May 1, 2016 after serving in the same role in Alberta’s Westlock County. His permanent hiring as Charlottetown's CAO came after a report from Alberta concluded Kelly acted outside his authority while working for a municipality there — charges Kelly denied.
And, on Wednesday night, debate moderator Wayne Thibodeau, managing editor of The Guardian, asked the candidates if Kelly would stay on as CAO if they were elected mayor.
Devine immediately shot the question down.
“I think it’s really inappropriate to talk about personnel, especially someone in a top managerial position,’’ Devine said sternly to applause from a packed auditorium at the W.A. Murphy Student Centre at UPEI.
Devine then refused to answer the question.
Many people in the audience The Guardian spoke with after the debate said Devine’s answer was the best line of the night.
“She just got my vote,’’ one woman said.
Brown followed by talking about conducting a review of operations at City Hall before he and Villard got into a heated exchange.
As part of his door-to-door campaigning, Villard said he was told by City Hall employees that Brown was going around saying he would fire Kelly if he became mayor.
“I never said that,’’ Brown fired back immediately. “I did not say that.’’
“You were telling people you would fire Peter Kelly,’’ Villard said again. “You can’t fire him without just cause. His performance will govern his term.’’
“I never told anyone I would fire Peter Kelly,’’ Brown said, adding that he was not impressed that Villard was playing dirty.
“I’m not playing dirty,’’ Villard responded. “I am telling you what I was hearing at the door.’’
The candidates also faced questions about economic development with some candidates saying there is a desperate need for an agency such as the Charlottetown Area Development Corporation to exist. In November 2016, the province announced it was taking control of CADC.
Candidates also touched on taxes in the city and whether there should be a tax break for residents and businesses and ditch-infilling.
The need for affordable housing came up often during the debate. Regardless of what the topic in the debate was, Larkin was constantly drilling home how great the need was.
Thibodeau also asked the candidates whether they supported plans to build a new multi-use sports and events centre but the message from most of the candidates seemed to be it would take a lot of help from the provincial and federal governments to make it happen.
Youth retention was also discussed. McFadden suggested city council hold the occasion meeting in high schools to show youth how municipal government works.
The debate wrapped up with the candidates giving their vision on the future of Charlottetown.
The debate was broadcast live on Eastlink TV and will be rebroadcast on Sunday, Oct. 28 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 4 at 7 p.m.
The Guardian will have much more on the mayor’s debate online Thursday and in Friday’s print edition.
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