By Mike Fleming 
BELLEVILLE – The incoming mayor and city council attended their first public event as a group early Wednesday morning.
Mayor-elect Mitch Panciuk and seven of the eight city councillors were on hand at a breakfast hosted by the Belleville Chamber of Commerce. They were able to mingle with members of the chamber and community before delivering short speeches after breakfast.
Panciuk lead off the speeches by asking the chamber to continue its advocacy on behalf of Belleville at the provincial and federal levels.
“We’ll need you to help convince our members of Parliament to deliver the resources Belleville needs for all the areas we set as our priorities,” he said.
Panciuk added that housing is a particular area where the organization’s advocacy will be appreciated.
“Housing is a really important issue, for us and our residents, and so we need the chamber to help advocate that we get our fair share of the national housing initiative funding.”
Housing was a key issue brought up by many of the elected city councillors, but it wasn’t the only one. Infrastructure, a shortage of trades people in the area and a need for more doctors were just some of the issues the council members said they hope to address in the coming months and years of their term. Returning councillor Kelly McCaw even mentioned the GM plant closing in Oshawa.
“With uncertainty in manufacturing with GM closing, I’m quite grateful that the [building developers] bring jobs to Belleville,” McCaw said, talking about things like trades and contractor jobs. She also said in her speech that it was the job of council, not developers, to find solutions to the housing crisis.
Pat Culhane, who is returning to council after an unsuccessful run for mayor in 2014, said an event like the breakfast is a good chance for council to connect with local businesses.
“Chamber of Commerce has over 500 members and the majority of that is small businesses. Small business is the engine that drives the community,” she said.
It wasn’t all serious business in the speeches. Some of the councillors poked fun at their peers.
“We have Chris Malette who can tell you everything that happened in 1982. We have Garnet Thompson who can tell you everything that happened in 1882,” Ryan Williams joked after both Malette and Thompson quipped that Williams had a reputation for long speeches.
The new mayor and council will be sworn in at a ceremony on December 3, in the city council chambers at City Hall.