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lovell-trascriptBy Michael Den Tandt

Former Owen Sound mayor and current mayoral candidate Ruth Lovell Stanners, who is seeking to regain the city's top political job after having narrowly lost it in the last election to incumbent Deborah Haswell, is calling foul over a new directive from City Hall requiring that any candidates' questions to city staff be routed through the city manager, and shared with other candidates.

"I don't know whether this is all over the province [but] I've never heard of it before and I find it objectionable," Lovell Stanners said in an interview with The Hub. "If it is all over the province it needs to be dealt with on a provincial level."

In a wide-ranging interview at her home in Owen Sound, Lovell Stanners spoke at length about her reasons for jumping back into politics, her criticisms of the current direction of Owen Sound council, concerns about morale at City Hall, her prescriptions for development on the waterfront, and her priorities for the future, should she be re-elected.

The directive from the city clerk's office requiring that all candidates' questions for city staff in the campaign be sent to City Manager Ruth Coursey, to be subsequently answered in a response to all candidates, is unlike anything in any previous Owen Sound municipal election campaign that she knows of, the two-term former mayor said. Before becoming mayor, Lovell Stanners served as a councilor.

She said the notion that staff's answers be shared with any other candidates was "offensive" to her, in that it might allow some candidates to piggyback on the work of others. "You could find someone that is quite prepared to sit back and let everybody ask all the questions, get all the answers and present them in a, I don't know, flashy way, that appears as if they really know what they're doing. And at the end of the day, that may not be the case at all..."

In the interview Lovell Stanners came down unequivocally in favour of a controversial proposal to have gravel stored at a site on the harbour's east side, not far from the health unit building and the Inn on the Bay, as well as residential units. She said hopes the health unit development would prove a catalyst for additional growth have not borne fruit, and the city needs new business.

She added that she trusts the proponent of the gravel plan, Leo McArthur, will be a responsible steward of that part of the harbour, should the plan be approved by council. "I have worked with him in the past and I know he has a deep commitment to this community," Lovell Stanners said. "And he has a real sense of responsibility about what it is he does in the community."

The candidate, who said she is not accepting campaign donations, said that among her biggest concerns is what she described as "an issue with morale" at City Hall. Her first act as mayor, she said, would be to call a meeting of city staff. "... I want to emphasize that we are all in this together," she said.

Asked what she deems the most egregious missteps of the current council, Lovell Stanners cited controversies over the Marine Museum on the harbour's west side, an aborted plan to relocate the city's visitors' centre to City Hall, and uncertainty over the fate of the downtown bus terminal.

With respect to the city's burgeoning emergency services budget, Lovell Stanners praised efforts by the city's police service to expand its services beyond the city's borders, in an effort to raise revenue. And she said any effort to rein in firefighting costs must be done by negotiating with the city's firefighters. "It can't be comfortable in this community living as a firefighter. Maybe they have some ideas that would make it a better situation." She said she would not support the hiring of a deputy fire chief. "That's $100,000 that doesn't need to be spent, to my way of thinking."

Lovell Stanners said she had no qualms about re-entering the political fray at a time of her life when most people are choosing to slow down. "I've become concerned in the last couple of years about the direction the community was taking," she said. "And as time has gone by I've felt that, if I'm not happy with the way things are, then [I should] do what I can about it, and that's offering my name as a candidate for mayor."

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