On Wednesday, in front of a packed crowd at Venture North, Mayor Daryl Bennett announced that he would be seeking a third term as mayor of Peterborough. It comes more than two months after Councillor Diane Therrien announced her candidacy at Artspace on May 3, and only two days before the nomination period closes and the campaign season begins in full force, leading up to the October 22 municipal election.
The two speeches, coming from two politicians who have come to represent two heavily contrasting camps in local politics, serve as an informative—if frustrating—look at the issues that could come to define the conversation this election.
Perhaps unsurprisingly for an opposition candidate, Therrien’s speech struck a fierier tone, highlighting her disappointment with “some politicians” who push forward policies that “serve no one but themselves.” On the other hand, Bennett, as the incumbent, struck a more conciliatory tone, saying that the accomplishments under his governance were due to the input of “community groups, businesses, volunteers, and residents.”
But tone aside, what was most striking about these speeches were their similarities. Therrien stated that her three main emphases during this campaign would be “jobs, taxes, and infrastructure,” and Bennett emphasized “growth, investment, and job creation.” Both put the economy front and centre, and downplayed nearly everything else.
This stands in stark contrast to the political conversations we’ve been hearing around town, at our own All Citizens Meetings and beyond. Affordable housing and support for arts and culture received only passing mentions in both speeches. Environmental sustainability received a quick mention in Therrien’s speech, while the closest Bennett came was a mention of the city’s new Tree Bylaw. Other issues were completely absent, including mental health and addictions support, public transportation, local food systems, race and gender, Indigenous issues, and the need for better citizen-engagement practices.
Meanwhile, a third candidate, Cameron Green, has also entered the mayoral race, and while he has not received the same high-profile attention as the other two, he has placed affordable housing and addictions support among his central causes.
The candidates have now had a chance to tell the citizens of Peterborough what is important to them, and what they would like to speak about this election season. Over the next three months, the citizens of Peterborough will have a chance to respond. Through public meetings and door-knocking, we can speak directly to the candidates, and through conversations and social media, we can make our voices heard. The election will help to set the agenda for the next four years, and it is on us to ensure that agenda works towards the future we want to build.
Note: since the publication of this article, Cameron Green has withdrawn from the race, leaving Diane Therrien and Daryl Bennett as the only two candidates in the race.
Register for our August 11 All Citizens Meeting here.
Photo by Gabe Pollock.
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