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  • Writer's pictureHunter Cresswell

Ward 2 candidates face off

Mud slung at Chelsea debate, Bourassa comes out clean

Mikhael Bourassa largely avoided the mud slinging and bickering between fellow Chelsea Ward 2 candidates Geoffrey White and Dominic Labrie during an Oct. 26 debate.

(From left) Chelsea council Ward 2 candidates Geoffrey White, Dominic Labrie, and Mikhael Bourassa at the Oct. 26 debate in the Meredith Centre. Hunter Cresswell photo
(From left) Chelsea council Ward 2 candidates Geoffrey White, Dominic Labrie, and Mikhael Bourassa at the Oct. 26 debate in the Meredith Centre. Hunter Cresswell photo

About 40 people, including acclaimed Ward 6 councillor Kimberly Chan and mayor candidate Shelley Fraser, attended the debate at the Meredith Centre. The debate was organized by a group of about five Ward 2 residents, who volunteered their time and money to organize and run it. Ward 2 includes Old Chelsea, New Chelsea, and Meech Lake.

Labrie drew first blood during the second question asked by debate moderator Johanne Deschamps, attacking White’s Conservative Party past.

During his turn at the microphone, White said that he had, in fact, “flirted with running for the party two years ago,” but later challenged Labrie’s community service record.

White also argued that his years fighting fires with the Chelsea Volunteer Fire Department demonstrated his commitment to Chelsea and he asked his fellow candidates about their “community service experience.”

White didn’t seem satisfied with Labrie’s past experience as deputy director general at the municipality of Pontiac when he brought it up, while Labrie took issue with White’s residential address, which is outside of the Ward 2 boundary.

“You seem to be so obsessed with the fact that I live in Ward 3. I live 200 metres from Ward 2,” White said, staring directly at Labrie. “Stop bringing up my residence, it’s my democratic right to run.”

Throughout the debate, Bourassa mostly ignored or kept clear of the mudslinging and answered questions directly. When asked by a resident how many hours the candidates would work as councillors per week if elected, Bourassa – unlike White or Labrie – gave a number: “40.”

Late in the debate, things between White and Labrie got so heated that Bourassa quipped: “If this is an indication of what’s going to be going on at council, it’s not going to be nice — it will be gridlock.”

But it wasn't all mudslinging. Issues and ideas were discussed throughout the debate.

When asked about the future of development projects in the centre village, Bourassa brought up the balance of wanting to keep the “village feel” while increasing services and affordability for residents. Labrie said that he will focus on affordable housing by taxing building permits and putting that revenue in an affordable housing fund. White said that affordability shouldn't be a priority.

“Absolutely not,” he said. “We need to take care of the people who are here right now.”

Labrie said that he would put a “pause” on all residential development in the centre village before allowing any other projects.

White floated the idea of charging the National Capital Commission a “congestion charge” because Gatineau Park visitors clog up Chelsea roads during peak-tourist seasons.

Bourassa pitched posting council meeting agendas earlier, posting meeting minutes separate from the agendas so they’re easier to access, and making language in municipal documents clearer for citizens to understand.

During their platform statements, White leaned on his firefighting experience as an example of how he has and will continue serving the community; Bourassa, the youngest of the three candidates at 34, touted his youth as a reason to vote for him; and Labrie flexed his three years as deputy director general for Pontiac until 2018 and his published platform to the gathered voters.

Editor's note: This article has been updated to correct an error.

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