Partnership or hardship? Mayoral challengers pose different tactics to buy Cornwall’s waterfront

Three of the candidates for mayor of Cornwall take part in a Facebook Live debate on Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018. Pictured are incumbent Leslie O'Shaughnessy, David Murphy, Bernadette Clement and moderator Sue Stewart. (Facebook Live/Seaway News via Newswatch Group)

CORNWALL – Two of the mayoral challengers in the Cornwall election have very different ideas on how to buy and develop the waterfront.

David Murphy, Bernadette Clement and incumbent Leslie O’Shaughnessy were part of a one-hour Facebook Live debate Thursday night, hosted by Cornwall Seaway News.

The topics included the idea of a ward system, making EMS an essential service, retaining a young workforce, and the future of Cornwall’s waterfront.

The city faces a situation soon where the federal government will be selling most of the waterfront land in Cornwall. But coming up with a large amount of cash, considering the feds are going to want fair market value, will be a challenge for the city.

Murphy said it’s his top priority and Cornwall should look at being a partner with Akwesasne – much like it did with the port lands – and “convince the federal government to maybe do a lease to own investment.”

But Bernadette Clement says the situation “demands political leadership” and meetings with the feds. She appeared to play on historical hardship.

“This area has paid dearly for the seaway construction and the federal government needs to be reminded of that…forcefully,” she said. “We cannot afford to pay for top dollar for our waterfront.”

Cornwall was not as affected as areas west of the city during the 1958 flooding of the seaway. While it did affect the city’s canal system, there was a more human cost to areas outside the city as 6,500 people were displaced and nine communities were flooded in an area known today as South Stormont and South Dundas.

Clement says the opportunity right now is with the port lands.

Incumbent Leslie O’Shaughnessy seemed to challenge Murphy’s plan to buy all of the lands, cautioning that there are “major issues” with land west of the customs facility. “To make a statement that we’re going to buy all of the lands…I think that we need much more information from the federal government before we…start indicating that we’re interested in all of it.”

“We’re sitting here deciding here what three mayoral candidates want to do and what is comes down to is what the people want to do,” O’Shaughnessy said. He said residents have told him the area that needs to be protected is from the customs building to Pointe Maligne.

The mayor said development of Pointe Maligne has been on the back burner as they await Ottawa’s next move as well as an updated waterfront plan, expected in the spring.

Candidate Nicole Spahich was invited but didn’t attend the debate.

Cornwallites will go to the polls Oct. 22.

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