When the candidates for mayor of Woolwich Township gathered for the first debate of the election campaign on Wednesday evening, not a single challenger dared to acknowledge the elephant in the room.

Despite having ample opportunity to raise questions to one another, neither newcomer Doug Hergott, Ward 3 councillor Bonnie Bryant or former councillor Sandy Shantz raised the double reimbursement scandal that has plagued incumbent Todd Cowan’s re-election campaign.

In fact, the foursome appeared lost for words at times, particularly during the open segment of the event, which was hosted by the Woolwich Senior’s Association at the WMC.

Instead, the focus lay on issues tied more directly to the 60 or so seniors who filled the room, like handicap parking at the WMC and affordable rental units for seniors.

But each candidate did get the chance to outline their platforms during the introductory session.

“When I looked four years ago at running for mayor, I had a vision,” Cowan said. “I’ve been given a hard time about that vision, but how many people here have visions? I still have visions.”

He continued, “I thought we had a lot more potential than we were achieving at that point, so I put my ideas down, I put my vision down, and we have delivered on those.”

Shantz described her priorities.

“I’ve talked to many people in the last few months and what I have heard and I’ve come to pull together is that we need the township to be a strong voice at the region. We need to be respected at the region. Decisions at the regional level affect our transportation, our health care, our waste management, our social services and our taxes.”

Bonnie Bryant emphasized the township’s cultural heritage and tourism economy in her opening remarks and during the question period.

“Visitors enjoy Woolwich’s historic charms. Trips to our villages, markets, farms and attractions are like stepping back in time. Our rich heritage is integral to the key facets of our economy and our identity. It is essential to protect our cultural heritage so that we can flourish together now and in the future.”

Hergott outlined his qualifications for the position.

“Throughout my term at the city (of Kitchener), I was responsible for a staff of 122 employees, responsible for all of the city of Kitchener’s facilities, responsible for all of the infrastructure and asset management, dealing with the police and fire.”

Voters head to the polls across the province for municipal elections October 27.