Candidates square off in first mayoral debate


Four Windsor mayoral candidates took part in the first debate of the municipal election season, put on by the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce this morning.

Drew Dilkens, Chris Holt, Matthew Giancola, and Benjamin Danyluk spent an hour discussing the issues most important to voters this election cycle.

From homelessness and addiction, the new hospital, diversifying the economy, plans for safety downtown, transit, and the future of the auto industry and electric vehicles.

Dilkens says the City of Windsor has a plan on the homelessness file and will continue to improve on it, citing investments made by the previous term of council.

Holt says he would begin by adding more outreach and mental health workers to the streets to help police and mental health agencies to improve access to services. 

In response, Dilkens said you could hire one outreach worker for every person experiencing homelessness in the city and it wouldn't get to the root of the problem.

"What we need is a 24/7 drop off point for police and EMS to bring people who are suffering from mental health and addiction issues. So they can get the treatment they need and release the police within 30 minutes to get back on the street to do the job that they're well paid to do," he added.

Holt says Dilkens believes in silver bullets, but he does not.

"Eight outreach workers will not solve this problem, it's an intricate ingredient in a recipe that we need to bake up. We need to move forward, we need to have a vision looking forward and address the true root causes of this and that is mental health and addiction issues. We can build more housing, we can build more aspects to our system, but unless we address the root causes this will not get solved," Holt stated.

Moving to the most talked about issues in the mayor's race to this point, the new acute care hospital, Dilkens again came after Holt.

He said he didn't just 'not get in the way' but went to Queen's Park to secure the funding to get the hospital project moved to the next stage.

"My opponent was the only candidate, the only city councillor in the county and city, to vote against even collecting the 10 per cent share for a new hospital somewhere. He voted against that, the only one. I will get this project done."

Holt, as he as said since announcing his position during the campaign, said Dilkens is using the hospital as a wedge issue.

"My opponent believes that we care more about the infighting and the division that is being created is this community than we do about the actual topics and the vision that each one of us brings to the community," he continued. "We need to get past the rhetoric, we need to stop using the location and the support of this hospital to divide us."

Another contentious issue has been transit, with Dilkens stating they've made many strides during the previous term including creating the Transit Master Plan.

He said when the pandemic began months later, they had to pivot and re-evaluate the situation. 

Holt said that Windsor was the only city to shut down transit during the pandemic, which showed a lack of leadership.

Dilkens then went after a comment Holt made about implementing the master plan on the next term of council if elected, specifically the construction of a brand new garage that would cost $300-million.

"$3,000 per household to build a garage that will not improve service for one single resident in the City of Windsor. We are the automobility capital of Canada, I am proud of that, and I thought that a fourth generation auto worker would be proud of our roots as well. As long as we make great cars I will continue to make sure you can drive on these roads," he said.

Holt cited Dilkens voting against the 418X bus route during budget deliberations, but in favour of water slides at Adventure Bay, as an example of his lack of commitment to transit.

"He cares more about water slide riders that saw zero usage, but used that justification to kill transit at the most important time that we had in our history. He doesn't care about transit, thank you to the federal government for giving us all that cash to do all the investments that we did because it wouldn't have happened without your partnership"

On top of the four men who took part in today's debate, Aaron Day, Ernie Lamont, and Louis Vaupotic are also in the running for mayor.

The municipal election is on Monday, October 24.


- with files from AM800's Rob Hindi