This Article is By: Nancy Foster On Oct. - 18, 2006What can Kingston do to create an atmosphere conducive to the growth of knowledge based and biotechnology businesses?
Biobusiness Mayoralty All Candidates Meeting
October 18, 2006
By Nancy Foster
That was the topic of the mayoral all candidates' meeting this late afternoon, sponsored by the Eastern Ontario Regional Innovation Network. It is clearly this kind of meeting that will characterise this election campaign. Groups with important but narrow interests will use the campaign as a public relations tool to promote their interests. And it works. It might get out of hand, of course, but that is up to the candidates and their election teams to see that wider issues are discussed. By keeping questions technology based and limiting the time available for questions, the group succeeded in keeping the meeting from being focused on LVEC and associated issues.
Kevin George is caught between the easy knowledge bred of experience of Harvey Rosen and the almost evangelical message of Rick Downes. George is straight, but pedestrian.
So here you have it. Everyone loves knowledge-based industries. Everyone loves biotechnology. Thirty years ago everyone talked of tourism with the same enthusiasm. This is the silver bullet that will save our tax base, provide jobs for our children who won't have to move out of Kingston when they graduate. And they won't harm the environment - or so we hope. We will build an Innovation Park (Rosen), (Google Innovation Parks if you want to underline this as a trend). George will spend the first three months learning the issues, and Downes would work to create a City that is attractive to the workers in any knowledge based industry. If this meeting achieved anything it was to raise the expectations surrounding KEDCO. 'This is what we want, now you go out and get it and if you don't you're gone' No one said this about KEDCO but the expectation is there. Pity the KEDCO employees.
Under all the brave speeches and questions lay the feeling that Kingston still suffers from an anti-change mentality. All the candidates recognised that and sought to change it, although in different ways. Harvey Rosen thinks that success will breed success, Downes says that there is too much focus on looking outside the community. Leadership should build understanding and slowly change attitudes. Kevin George would have more involvement by Council and would not let the staff drive the agenda which he claims is often the case with the current Council.
All the candidates agree that the city can't (or hasn't) moved fast enough to respond to the needs of emerging companies, particularly those spawned by Queens. Downes would have surplus school properties available for incubation stage companies. Rosen is clear that Planning Committee should set policy but that staff should do implementation. By implication he is assumed to feel that Planning Committee has stepped beyond its mandate.
Downes is honing his message of the sustainable, responsive, inclusive community. Rosen believes we should 'shoot for goals thought to be beyond our reach'. Kevin George has yet to find his message. It is going to be interesting as we go along to see how these messages develop.
Reports on election events are provided by Kingston Electors to help further discussions and debate on municipal issues. The observations, comments or opinions expressed are those of the reporter and do not necessarily reflect those of Kingston Electors.
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