By: Tony Davis
Candidate for Charlottetown mayor William McFadden sat mostly silent, only choosing to speak a few times during last Wednesday’s debate at the W.A. Murphy Student Centre at UPEI with fellow candidates Philip Brown, Kim Devine, Cecil Villard, Jamie Larkin. McFadden got quite an education as the other candidates spoke about youth retention, he said.
The conversation returned to what many believe to be the root problem facing Charlottetown, affordable housing.
As McFadden listened to other candidates, it seemed things were in place to deal with the housing crisis, he said.
“Are we waiting to decide if we want to move the left foot or the right foot first? I don’t know if anyone is as confused as I am at this point?” McFadden asked the crowd.
“New mayor and council,” someone from the front row shouted.
How to keep youth from fleeing Charlottetown was a fitting question to be asked at UPEI’s Student Union Building. Wayne Thibodeau, managing editor of The Guardian, asked the candidates fighting for Charlottetown’s top seat what they would do to keep ‘the best and brightest’ in Charlottetown after graduation.
“What are you prepared to do to stem the tide of young people leaving our city?”
Larkin returned to the topic he couldn’t step away from all night.
“We need housing, affordable housing, along with a strong sustainable economy,” he said.
Larkin then mentioned P.E.I.’s controversial PNP program. The immigration program, scrapped this past September, drew criticism for allowing immigrants to gain residency if they set up a business and payed a deposit of $200,000. However, many who took part in the program did not stick around.
“We can fix PNP and do it right, so it creates economic opportunity for all,” Larkin said.
Brown also used the opportunity to discuss housing. He knew in 2016 after reading a youth retention report housing was an issue when it came to keeping youth in the city, he said.
“As we know today it is the crisis on the table… let’s stop taking about it. I know some construction companies are maxed out, but you know what, if we put some offers out there we will get the work done.”
Devine got the opportunity to meet a lot of young creative entrepreneurs this summer.
“They love living in Charlottetown and I think what we need to do is make sure they can continue to live in Charlottetown. The most important thing we can do is make it affordable.”
Charlottetown also needs to have a good transit system, she said.
“We have to make Charlottetown a creative city, a cool city, a vibrant city that is full of festivals and events.”
Devine would also create if elected an initiative to get young people involved with city committees, she said.
Villard also wants to engage youth more in the political process, he said.
“I think it the one area we forget. I think we assume we always have all the answers, but I think if you read the youth report it is an excellent report in terms of identifying the things different levels of government need to do to respond to the needs of youth,” he said.
Photo by: The Guardian
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