On Tuesday, the Greater Kingston Chamber of Commerce hosted a virtual “Coffee and Conversation” event with local candidates running in the upcoming municipal election.

The Chamber’s Policy Coordinator Bill Stewart acted as moderator for the event, speaking to mayor and council candidates on their platforms and some of the key issues identified by the Chamber primarily centered around housing affordability and helping small businesses in the city rebound and grow.

On the issue of housing affordability, candidate Ivan Stoiljkovic’s criticisms of incumbent Mayor Bryan Paterson and the mayor’s task force on housing and homelessness drew ire from some in the community.

Stoiljkovic, who has been a loud and constant critic of wealthy developers in the City of Kingston and of Paterson’s relationship with them, went too far with his comments on Tuesday for some viewers when he brought forward a comparison between the developers who have a say in the mayor’s task force and Nazis.

“I told him not to do it, I told him not to leave those who created the housing crisis in charge of fixing it,” Stoiljkovic said.

“I told him that it would be similar to letting Nazis solve the Jewish problem.”

Stoiljkovic followed the comparison by explaining that the Mayor chose to listen to “his donors, the Patrys, the Springers, the Bloombergs and others,” who are less concerned with resolving the housing crisis than they are with expanding their own capital.

The mayoral candidate and General Secretary of the Katarokwi Union of Tenants specifically disputed the idea that building more market rate, or for profit, housing will have a trickle down effect on housing becoming more affordable in general – something Mayor Bryan Paterson stood by and said “evidence is very clear” about.

While there was no rebuttal or visible reaction from the moderator or other mayoral candidates following Stoiljkovic’s comments, city council candidate for Loyalist-Cataraqui Jacqui Collier kicked off her address by condemning the comment.

“I think it’s important that we call it out anytime that kind of offensive and irresponsible comparison is made,” Collier said.

“As a Jewish woman in Kingston I think it’s important to call that out.”

In the initial upload of the Coffee and Conversations event, the Greater Chamber of Commerce edited out Stoiljkovic’s comments saying they did not want the event to be “hijacked or overshadowed by Ivan’s comment and campaign tactics, nor did we want to spread his comment using our platforms”.

The Chamber later reversed its decision, separately uploading the mayoral portion of the event to Youtube with a content warning, saying some members of the community took issue with censoring the comments from the upload.

In a statement from Stoiljkovic and the other five members of the “People’s Platform for Kingston”, they say the comparison has been misrepresented since being made at the meet-and-greet event.

They say they stand behind that statement, denying that it made light of the Holocaust and that it was instead meant to send the message that policies and actions supported by the landlord and developer community play a significant role in increasing the suffering of vulnerable members of the community.

“These actions directly result in suffering and death for the homeless, and profit for the landlords, the developers, the politicians, and the police,” the statement reads.

“And among the homeless who suffer and die are queer and LGBTQ+ people, Indigenous people, racialized people, people with disabilities, and all of them deemed socially invalid and unworthy. We challenge anyone to explain to us how this does not amount to state sanctioned violence. Ivan never compared to the Holocaust; it is Jackie and others who are misusing and abusing its legacy.”

The People’s Platform has council candidates running in Portsmouth, Kingscourt-Rideau, Meadowbrook-Strathcona, Williamsville, and King’s Town.

All in all, the Chamber’s event heard from three mayoral candidates and 30 council candidates across 11 districts, with Gary Oosterhoff being acclaimed in Sunnyside.

Six districts will assuredly be seeing a new face in the council seat as several incumbents have chosen not to run in the upcoming election.

Full comments by mayoral and council candidates can be heard within the Chamber’s videos, online voting is currently open and the municipal election will be held on October 24.