From their discussion, it seems as though Eisenberger and McHattie are the leading contenders for achieving the economic development Hamilton needs in order to be a place where people want to live and work.
By Meghan Greaves
Published September 22, 2014
At an event where the three leading mayoral candidates are scheduled to talk about some of the most pressing issues surrounding an election, one would think that there would be some bickering and blunt jabs involved. However, this was not the case last week when Brad Clark, Fred Eisenberger, and Brian McHattie attended the Hamilton Business Leaders' Mayoral Candidates Breakfast Forum.
Some may even say that the discussion was uneventful since the candidates took a rather unanimous stance on the majority of the topics that broadcaster, Bill Kelly, presented.
Over 300 business leaders from the Hamilton community listened intently as each candidate answered questions on a variety of different topics. From taxes, to funding, to employee policies, to affordable housing, Kelly touched on many issues that would usually be able to start up a heated debate.
Each candidate shone and flubbed in certain areas. Clark was assertive with his factual responses and what seemed to be textbook answers from the binder he read from. Eisenberger was confident with his strong stances and ability to get in the odd dig at Clark. McHattie was definitive in what he wanted to accomplish even though he seemed to be slightly on the quieter side than his opponents.
The only time there was a significant variance in opinion was when it came to the highly popular topic of the proposed LRT system. This is likely where Eisenberger and McHattie started to win over the attendees.
Clark no longer supports the LRT system since he's no longer confident it would have a "significant ROI" (return on investment).
Up until the LRT topic was presented, all three candidates did a great job appealing to their business-oriented audience by emphasizing the importance of making Hamilton's economic development a priority: fixing and building infrastructure to support job creation, creating job opportunities, creating better paying jobs, attracting businesses outside of Hamilton to open shop, driving revenue, attracting residents, improving transportation, and eliminating the red tape.
All agreed that in order to improve Hamilton's tax imbalance that we need to attract residential, commercial, and industrial taxes to the city through supercharging economic development.
All agreed that there needs to be policies, processes, and people put in place so that workers with concerns or complaints have the ability to come forward and have their voices heard without retaliation.
All agreed that Hamilton's wards should be reviewed and possibly changed with the current population disproportions so that each area of Hamilton is successfully represented.
All agreed that implementing a municipal land transfer tax would be taking a huge step backwards in regards to keeping housing affordable in Hamilton.
All agreed that there is currently a structural problem between councillors and this needs to be addressed so that Hamilton can create a common vision and work together to achieve it.
All agreed that the arts and culture sector is an important area to focus on and include in economic development plans.
Although each candidate had relatively common responses to the questions, there were some answers that seemed deceptive. For instance, Clark's attempt to show his support for "supercharging" Hamilton's economic growth was filled with contradictions.
He brought up the challenges Hamilton would face as a city to move forward, highlighted the lengthy timelines for certain projects that were essential to Hamilton's growth, and suggested that Hamilton would not see the ROI or benefits of its economic investments until way down the road.
By bringing up the challenges Hamilton would have moving forward is where I believe Clark lost the attention of the audience and put the ball in Eisenberger's and McHattie's courts. If I'm being honest, Clark lost my attention after the fifth time he said "the challenge with that is..."
Eisenberger and McHattie upheld confident and surefire ways for Hamilton to start feeling and seeing changes on Oct 28, the new mayor's first day. This is what I believe Hamilton needs in order achieve the success, prosperity, and change citizens want: a mayor who doesn't sit idle and is ready to start making decisions.
Eisenberger is ready to get to work. He wants to get the right issues on the table and have the right decisions made. He knows where the opportunities are to make Hamilton a city we can be proud of. As he said, "he'll get to work the very first day".
McHattie believes that Hamilton has the right to demand greatness and have changes made in time so we can actually experience them. He wants to "move things faster, not slow things down".
All in all, the candidates were professional and courteous of each other, which was refreshing. That said, from their discussion it seems as though Eisenberger and McHattie are the leading contenders for achieving the economic development Hamilton needs in order to be a place where people want to live and work.
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