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Niagara-on-the-Lake
Tuesday, September 27, 2022
Election 2022: NOTL group plans series of candidate debates
NOTL municipal candidates will face off in a series of debates in September and October.
NOTL municipal candidates will face off in a series of debates in September and October. File Photo

A grassroots political group in Niagara-on-the-Lake has organized a series of all-candidates meetings in advance of the Oct. 24 municipal election.

FocusNOTL, started in 2017 by a group of residents of The Village, including Joe Accardo, will hold “meet and greet” gatherings and expects that all candidates for mayor, region and council will be attending.

The meeting format is modelled on “the highly successful, popular and well-attended meet and greet meetings” that FocusNOTL sponsored during the 2018 municipal campaign, Accardo said in a news release.

Candidates will have 10 minutes to introduce themselves and present their platform, followed by a question-and-answer session. If time permits, candidates can mingle and speak to audience members one-on-one.

FocusNOTL will solicit questions from the public and media organizations. Accardo said people can email questions to notlelection2022@cogeco.ca.

All sessions will be held at the Royal Canadian Legion hall, 410 King St., from 7 to 9 p.m.

The planned schedule is:

Mayoral candidates: Tuesday, Sept. 27.

Councillors: Wednesday, Oct. 5 – Session #1 with four candidates invited; Tuesday, Oct. 11 – Session #2 with four candidates invited; and Wednesday, Oct. 12 – Session #3 with five candidates invited.

Regional councillor: Tuesday, Oct 18.

Updates will be posted on FocusNOTL’s Facebook page, he said.

Citing “negative experiences” with members of the previous council over road safety issues in their neighbourhood, Accardo said the group was motivated to get involved in NOTL municipal politics.

“We realized that if ‘you can’t change people, you need to change the people.’ At its peak in 2018 there were up to 35 people involved” with FocusNOTL, he said.

The group’s Facebook page has just under 700 followers and “we typically reach over 800 people on important issues.”

The group’s mandate, posted on Facebook, is to “review and comment on community events in Niagara-on-the-Lake and be a forum for residents/ratepayers.”

Accardo said he got involved as “my way of contributing to and doing public service.”

He said the group wants to bring “fiscal restraint and ‘business case’ justification back to staff and council, and to be a balancing voice against the special interest groups (hoteliers, B&Bs, tourism enterprises and the Chamber of Commerce) that have for too long profited at the expense of resident taxpayers.”

“For too long these special interests have used, for their own personal financial gain, the heritage, cultural, historical, unique architecture, climate and location assets belonging to all residents of NOTL without regard for the residents that fund them through their taxes,” he said.