Artistically inclined Peterborough voters gathered on Thursday September 18 at Artspace to hear mayoral and ward candidates speak about arts and culture.

Excited to hear about what the future of Peterborough could be, I settled into my wooden chair, took out my pen and paper and leaned forward to listen.

First to speak was Dean Pappas. Having been elected to council in 2006, Papas has always had a passion for the city and the arts claiming, “culture, arts and history are vital to a city.”

Following Pappas was Diane Therrien. “Downtown is the backbone but arts and culture are the heart,” exclaimed Therrien when discussing her plans for Peterborough’s downtown.

Donald Fraser spoke next, putting forward the idea that there should be more drama festivals and art in the park.  Fraser says we have to “embrace the notion of an arts incubator.”

After Fraser, Jason Stabler discussed how downtown is an essential part of the identity of Peterborough. One of Stabler’s plans is to streetscape.

The last to speak from the Town Ward candidates was Bill Juby. Now while all the other candidates at least used pretty phrases to talk about the importance of arts and culture—without really saying what they will do—Juby had this to say, “you come to us, you have the idea’s. We’ll make it work.”

Juby talked about the dollar value that the arts have, listing several different ways the arts have brought money to Peterborough, such as through The Art Gallery, Market Hall, Artspace and so on.

However, he failed to mention any way in which he will continue to support the development of the arts, saying “we’ll do what we can.”

After hearing from the Town Ward candidates, the Mayoral candidates spoke.

Beginning the discussion was Alan Wilson. Wilson has big plans for George St. After describing a beautiful image of what street markets are like across Europe with painters in one corner of the street and poets and performers in another, with flowers and trees all around.

Wilson went on to say that George St. is “a big disappointment.” I think this point is hard to argue. Wilson wants to cut off traffic in sections of George St. to make a pedestrian precinct.

Maryan Monsef spoke next. One of the first things Monsef mentioned was that she wanted to showcase the beauty of Peterborough. She recognizes that taking away the arts would break the people and states, “investing in the arts is good economic development.”

George Leblanc spoke after Monsef recognizing that Peterborough has a lot going for it and that the arts are a big part of that.

Leblanc suggested that Peterborough should be selling itself to other people to get them to come here and that all the rest will follow.

Patti Peeters spoke next on the importance of arts and culture in Peterborough saying, “I am for the arts. I am excited and ready to go!” Peeters’ big push is to have the city of Peterborough purchase the Shoppers Drug Mart on the corner of George and Simcoe St. to be used as arts space and housing.

After Peeters, spoke Tom Young. Young began by saying “we should stop running government like a business and start running it like a family.”

Young would also like to see more support for up and coming musicians.

Last to speak would have been current Mayor Daryl Bennett, but he wasn’t there.

Each candidate had five minutes to talk and share their ideas for Peterborough arts and culture, and though some mentioned briefly what they plan to do—or at least mentioned that they supported the arts—I couldn’t help but wonder what I would be hearing if I were sitting in a hockey arena.

With the election nearing, I can’t even begin to imagine the stress and pressure that each candidate is feeling, but I expected something more.

When I walked into Artspace on Thursday night and saw the room filled with people who where there to form opinions, I was honoured and excited to be a part of it; but by the time the meeting was over I felt as though I had no new information, ergo no new opinions.

I wanted to hear, plain and simple, what these people were going to do for the arts; that’s what the meeting was for. Instead, I heard a lot about the life troubles and life accomplishes that got each candidate to where they are now.

While a person’s past is important, elections are not about the past they are about the future.

Without knowing clearly what each candidate intends to do for arts and culture, it’s hard for me to determine what their future will be and what that means for Peterborough.