Friday, October 12, 2018

Voting Starts Today

Thanks so much to all of you who have met me at your door, at the candidates' events or who have sent emails and notes and otherwise expressed interest in your local democracy!

Voting is underway as of today and continues for the next ten days. We'll know shortly after 8pm on Monday, October 22nd, who you've chosen to represent you at the council table for the next four years.

I'm happy to serve and if I'm on the team you pick, I'll work hard to represent you. We will not always agree on the decisions I help make, but I can promise I'll listen and vote based on facts to help make our town even better.

I'm especially happy to have had the support of my tiny terrific team. I did not ask for donations and I did not ask for volunteers, but I gratefully accepted all that was offered in the way of help. I am proud to say that every sign on a supporters' lawn was put there by request. So, I'm confident my support is spontaneous and authentic, just like me!

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

My Comments at the Chamber of Commerce Candidates' Event

Thank you for being here and taking an active interest in local democracy and thanks to the chamber for organizing it.

I’m a first-time candidate, but no stranger to the political process. In my 20 year career in journalism, I’ve put the questions to candidates and councillors, MPs and MPPs, wardens and mayors, even a general or two. I’ve been getting answers to the questions you would ask.

Collingwood needs a town council that is curious, keen,
and eager to embrace the future while honouring our past and taking care of the natural beauty that makes this place such a treasure.

I will vote to implement all the recommendations that come from the judicial inquiry, I’ll work to find a way to use and keep the terminals, and I’ll vote to be reasonable and responsible with your tax dollars.

But remember, you’re not just choosing a council based on the issues that we are discussing during this campaign season, you’re picking people you trust to make decisions on issues that haven’t been identified yet.

It’s important to have at the table the perspective of people like me, who walked the halls of CCI, who saw a side launch with their very own eyes, and who paid their tuition by working at places like Harding Carpets.

It’s also important to have the perspective of people who, like me, made a deliberate choice to live here, just like thousands of your fellow citizens and the thousands who are on their way.

You have heard my voice on CKCB, "dominant news voice of Simcoe County". For nearly a decade you heard my voice on 680 News and CHFI in Toronto. The last 11 years, you heard my voice questioning local leaders and decision makers at the radio station down the street.

Now, no matter where you’re from, I can be your voice at the council table, continuing to ask the hard questions and getting answers so our decisions are based on facts.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Questions from a Citizens' Group

More questions and more answers!

The group, Save our Shorelines Collingwood is interested in where I stand on some of their concerns:

1.) In order of priority how would you rank the top five (5) priorities for the Town of Collingwood over the next 4 years?

I think we will need to deal with the recommendations of the Judicial Inquiry, which will be getting underway immediately after the election. We have ongoing questions about growth, affordable accommodation, the terminals, and how to pay for our infrastructure and other needs in a responsible way. Some good work has been done regarding planning, but plans need to be followed by action.

2.) Much has been said recently about the need for greater “Transparency” in how the Town conducts its affairs. What changes do you think are necessary to improve transparency in how Council, and Town staff, make decisions?

Some work has been done on this file already with the updated code of conduct and the Integrity Commissioner position. There will no doubt be more to come, depending on the outcome of the Judicial Inquiry. I will support the new IT services that are being brought in, which are designed to improve communication between the town hall and citizens.

3.) What is your position on inter-governmental cooperation between the Town and its neighbouring municipalities (e.g. the Town of Blue Mountains, Clearview and Wasaga Beach) and where and how do you think such cooperation would most benefit Collingwood?I support ongoing improvements and increased conversation between Collingwood and our neighbouring municipalities.

I don't know that those relationships are in trouble, particularly, although I understand there may have been some personality conflicts in the recent past. Building communication channels, even informal ones, is a key to keeping those relationships good.

4.) Collingwood is under intense development pressure like it has never seen before in
its history. What increased complexities and pressures do you think this presents, and how will you ensure the Town’s planning and building departments are equipped to address them? Are there any additional skills and experience you feel are required to manage these pressures?

We have been designated a growth node, so our population is going to grow regardless, which means we need to be sure we have the staff in place to give good advice and place legal and reasonable restraints on future developments. As I understand it, there may be a need for additional expert planning staff to make sure those concerns are addressed

5.) The mounting development pressure in the Town is generating a heightened level of community interest in the Town’s planning and development process and decisions. Do you think the Town has adequate public consultation processes in place to deal with these decisions or do you think changes are required, and if so, what changes?

People I have been meeting at the doors as I campaign certainly seem to think we need more discussions with our neighbours and town hall regarding new developments, and this is something I'm definitely willing to look into. That said, we can't shut the door on newcomers since we've been designated a growth node.

6.) The Town has recently approved a Waterfront Master Plan. What is your perspective on that plan? Do you think it contains the right priorities or are there changes you feel are required? Should its implementation be a priority for the new Council?

I have read it, and agree with most of its recommendations. It's ambitious and if implemented, could make our shoreline even more of a jewel. I'm proud of the Gathering Circle and closely watched its progress through the summer. I also look forward to skating at the waterfront in the not-too-distant future, and I'm glad the terminals are included as an important piece of the waterfront's heritage.

7.) Both the Waterfront Master Plan and the Town’s Official Plan state that the protection of Collingwood’s sensitive wetlands and shoreline areas are a top priority. How would you rate Collingwood’s performance in protecting these areas to date? Do you think Collingwood currently has appropriate processes and controls in place to protect these areas (especially from development), or do you think improvements are required, and if so, what improvements?

I agree with the assertion that the shoreline must be a priority. I'm not sure I can give a rating to the town's performance, except to say there are complaints about the sheer volume of people coming to our waterfront parks, so we clearly are doing something right. The boardwalk near the arboretum is a tremendous asset, although I'm confused why it's taking so long to repair the part of it that was burned this spring.

8.) What role do you see Collingwood’s protected wetland and shoreline areas playing in your vision of the Town’s social, cultural and economic future?

I think as a place that increasingly relies on tourism and eco-tourism, it's essential we maintain our shoreline and our vistas.

9.) SOS Collingwood has raised specific concerns regarding the recent development proposal for the Living Waters/Bear Estate property. While the developer has asked the Town of defer consideration of the application until 2019, a decision on the matter will likely come before Council early in its next term. What are your views on that proposal and what level of public consultation and input do you feel needs to occur?

The next council definitely will have to look at this development application, and I think the deferral of the application is a show of good will on the part of the developer. Hats off to your group for making your concerns heard! I think plans and rules regarding waterfront development can always be improved with review, and with a council that's willing to listen and learn, we can find a way to work together to everyone's benefit.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Yet More Questions from Voters

More questions from voters! Here's an email I got last week with a bunch more questions and my answers:

The following list of questions is being asked of each candidate seeking elected office in Collingwood. I am looking for 1 word answers – FOR or AGAINST, or YES or NO. If you are a current member of council, please answer based on your voting record, if you are not currently on council, answer based on how you would have voted on these issues.

Hiya, thanks for your questions, but my answers can't really be 'yes-or-no' since there are so many variables that come with each of these issues, especially before we know all the facts on any of them. But, to the best of my ability and with as much brevity as possible, here you go:

Do you support culling the coyote heard in Collingwood? In general, I support finding ways to live in harmony with nature, so I don't like the idea of a cull, however, I do support people being able to enjoy their surroundings safely, so I would defer to the experts on when and whether a cull becomes necessary. My dad was a livestock evaluator in Clearview for many years, and I saw firsthand the damage done to farm animals by coyotes, wolves and in many cases offleash pet dogs.

Do you support the intent of the judicial inquiry?
Are you in favour of the costs associated with the judicial inquiry?
I will support the recommendations regarding governance from the judicial inquiry. We can't back out of it, so the cost are going to be the costs.

Do you support the building of the Indigenous gathering circle? I think the Gathering Circle is beautiful and that reconciliation with indigenous Canadians is necessary and will be helpful to everyone in this country. The idea for the Circle was part of the Waterfront Master Plan, and happened earlier than expected when a union having a convention in the area offered to pay for part of it.

Do you believe the Collingwood Elvis Festival is of economic importance to the town?
Do you support the continuation of the Collingwood Elvis Festival?
I think the Elvis festival does fill up the restaurants, hotels and B&Bs, but the recreation master plan calls for it to be retired in the next few years. We will need more facts about whether it's still viable before any decision is made.

Will you spend more money than the current council? I can't know whether there will be some circumstance or emergency that will necessitate the next council spending more than the current council, but I believe in responsible spending and reasonable debt. The debt has been lowered substantially in the last few years, and we should continue on that path. There is now money from the sale of the second half of COLLUS and the airport that will have to be allocated. It could go to pay off debt, reduce taxes or go toward spending on infrastructure and improvements. I would advocate for a mixture of all three.

Will you support increased taxes for any reason? I might support a small tax increase, depending on the circumstances, to pay for things like inflation and contracts with the OPP and unionized workers etc., but again, I support being reasonable with the spending. I am a taxpayer, too, so I don't want to see increases if at all avoidable.

Do you support the province’s plan for private businesses selling cannabis in the municipality? We still don't have a real understanding of the province's plan and haven't received clear direction about it yet, so we will have to wait to see what the rules are. A staff report on this issue is coming soon, possibly before the election, and I will be interested to read it. I would not vote in favour of rules that would make a retail business impossible to open.

I hope that helps, and thank you for your interest,

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

First day at your door

I just have to share this, and I know it's going to come as a surprise: I'm a bit chatty!

I spent my first broiling hot hour campaigning door to door yesterday and I didn't make it to nearly as many homes as I expected, because I got talking to some pretty interesting people! I heard stories about grandsons who have hockey scholarships, former politicians who cussed at their constituents and got re-elected anyway, and I got questions about whether I can hold my own at the council table against 'all those men'. Well, anyone who's heard me yell for sweeping at the curling club knows the answer to that one!

I sure hope I make it to your house to hear what you have to say about the future of our town and what you'd like to see happen next. I want to hear your stories, too!

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

More Questions from Voters

Bear with me, this is a long one!
I was sent a list of 19 questions last week from a voter and I've answered them. The questions and my responses are below:

Does the candidate have a strategic plan and vision for Collingwood? If so would they be able to share it?

The town has a Community Based Strategic Plan, which included consultation with hundreds of people who live here. It was passed just three years ago and includes goals regarding economic growth, accountable government, culture and the arts, a revitalized waterfront, and healthy lifestyles. I’ve read it and agree with much of what it says regarding the path forward. The Waterfront and Recreation plans were part of that process, along with the Active Transportation plan. I look forward to seeing the cycling plan, which is expected in the next while. It takes political will to be sure all these plans don’t just sit on a shelf somewhere. If elected, I will vote to implement the plans where possible, but we have to have honest conversations about what it will take to pay for it. I also will vote to follow up and report back to our citizens about how the implementation of these plans is going.

• What would they do to ensure that transparency, honesty and integrity are returned and maintained to municipal politics. To build confidence and ensure that the interests of the people come first and foremost.

For starters, I will vote to accept the recommendations from the judicial inquiry which will look into what happened with some decisions made previously. In addition, some good work has already been done on this issue, with a recent update of the rules surrounding conflicts of interest, and provisions within the town’s strategic plan. I support continuing to be vigilant and making sure we ask a lot of questions, including quesitons about consultants, before voting on any big-ticket items.

• Everyone's voice needs to be heard and respected not just the BIA's, developer's and big money interests. Does the candidate agree and how would he ensure this?

I certainly do agree! The town council’s responsibility is to represent citizens and work for the good of the whole town. I dislike it when politicians place all their emphasis on ‘taxpayers’ when there are wide swaths of our population, for example, children, who don’t yet vote or pay taxes. There is already a time during council meetings for celebrating community events, and the meeting format allows citizens to address issues of concern, along with all the public input for developments etc., I would encourage more public participation and input.

• What's the candidate's position on privatization? Are they in favour of selling off additional municipal assets and/or services? If so which ones?

I don’t think we should sell off assets unless it’s clear that it’s in the best interests of the town to do so.

• When it comes to the new hospital are they be in favour of a Public-Private-Partnership?

There have been PPPs when it comes to building hospitals in several other municipalities in recent years, but a decision on how that might go here, is not really up to the town. The current council has asked the province to take over zoning responsibility for any future hospital build, and ultimately, all decisions about the future hospital are up to the province. We definitely need an upgraded and updated hospital facility, no matter where the province decides to build it.

• Candidate's position on a casino for Collingwood?

This is somewhat similar to the hospital, actually, and by that, I mean not entirely up to us, as I understand it. I’m open to being corrected, of course, but from the interviews I’ve conducted with representatives of the OLG, the situation as it stands is that OLG has chosen a group named Gateway to run the slots facility at the race track in Innisfil, the casino at Rama, and a future site in the Central Gaming Bundle. Gateway gets to pick its preferred spot, whether that’s Wasaga Beach or Collingwood. Wasaga has offered up several sites and has been very clear it’s interested in hosting a slots facility. The town of Collingwood doesn’t currently have an area zoned to accommodate a casino, but has passed a resolution saying it would be interested in some sort of ‘destination’ site that could include gaming. So, without zoning but with a sort-of approval, the next council might be in for some interesting discussions should Gateway pick Collingwood. If that happens, I’d vote for a lot of public consultation on the issue and a whole lot of listening once we get to the point where a decision has to be made. There are social costs to gaming, but there are benefits, too, like jobs and possibly an increase in tourism.

• What types of businesses would they want to attract/target/retain for the town?

We’re already considered to be one of the most business-friendly municipalities in the country, so we should continue the practices that have gotten us here.

• What are their views on pedestrian only streets in the downtown?

We go pedestrian-only on Hurontario for several weekends each summer, and I hear from the businesses downtown that they don’t love it. That being said, I have spent time in Burlington, Vermont, where most of the downtown is pedestrian-only and that city appears to be thriving. However, there are at least two universities in Burlington, and the population is much higher than ours, so it would appear it takes a certain ‘critical mass’ of people to make it viable full time and I don’t think we’re there yet.

• How would the candidate go about making Collingwood a highly liveable, thriving community that exists with nature while ensuring it doesn't end up succumbing to a development nightmare?

We ARE a highly livable, thriving community, which is why so many people want to be here! But we need to continue the planning for the future that is already underway and then actually implement the plans. The Strategic Plan is passed, the Waterfront Master Plan is passed and the Recreation Master plan is in its final stages. But the plans must be living entities, not ignored once they’re created, like some plans in the past have been.

• Where do they stand on future development? What's their strategy on controlling, managing and rebalancing this?

Dozens of developments have approvals in place already, in keeping with the Official Plan. But I hear from a lot of residents that they’re unhappy with sheer volume of growth. At the same time, I hear from other people how unhappy they are with a lack of affordable housing being constructed. So, some people say too much development, some people say not enough, or not the right kind. It’s a hard balance to find, and I will have to learn more about the powers the council has when it comes to approvals. The way I understand it, developers who feel their plans are too tightly controlled by the municipality generally take their case to the Ontario Municipal Board. There, the developers generally win. I support getting good advice to be sure we can allow the kind of developments the citizens want, while avoiding costly legal fights which we are likely to lose.

• With all of the new development traffic in Collingwood has increased significantly. What are the candidates views on controlling vehicle traffic?

I support traffic calming zones around schools and more enforcement of our existing bylaws when it comes to parking and idling. I look forward to seeing the cycling plan that's being created, and I support more paved shoulders and bike lanes on our shared roadways where posiible. We have public transit in town and the county has been proactive about public transit as a way of getting people out of private cars between municipalities. A new route connecting Collingwood and Barrie is on the way, which could help somewhat. I would support plans to encourage more people to use public transit. I’m also looking forward to the recreation trail to Blue Mountain being completed, which could bring more people into Collingwood and also provide a healthier alternative for travel between our municipalities.

• From my perspective Collingwood council has been extremely weak on enforcing new builds to meet an architectural standard that's in keeping with our history and our surroundings. What would the candidate do to change that?

There are standards on new builds when it comes to things like sewers and rainwater etc., but I'm not going to make you promises that I can't keep: the town doesn’t have much say when it comes to design; that’s up to the market.

• Our waterfront and our water should be seen as paramount. To date most of the harbourfront is less than attractive. Currently there is very little to draw people there. Also, while our lake water levels are at this moment high, the issues that drove them to historical lows a few years ago remain. What is the candidate's position on the use and protection of Georgian Bay water and more broadly the Great Lakes? In years gone by there were plans to send a pipeline south to supply water demands elsewhere. What would their position be on something like that?

I spend at lot of time at or near the lake and derive a lot of pleasure from it. I run or walk along the waterfront nearly every day, either at Sunset Point, the terminals, or on the trails and boardwalk parallel to Balsam. I also swim and picnic and have been known to jump off the quay on a hot day; I’ve taken part in early-morning yoga at Sunset Point Park, and I frequently walk the labyrinth. The boardwalk and arboretum and trails are a delight and I see a lot of people also enjoying the area when I’m out there. A lot of great work has been done to improve the waterfront, so much so, that some people complain about the parks being too crowded, especially on sunny weekends! It’s unfortunate the plans for the shipyards development got delayed by international monetary problems, but work has re-started. The Waterfront Master Plan, if implemented, will only make it better. As for water levels, we have representatives on the Great Lakes Mayors initiative, who are working together to address issues around the lakes, and there has been progress made on that file. I support continuing that work. As for a water pipeline south to Alliston, it’s already in place and brings revenue to the town.

• In a similar vein a few years ago, there were plans to build a mega quarry in Melanchthon township at the headwaters of several rivers, some of which flowed north to Georgian Bay. While that was defeated, it may not be forever, especially with the change in provincial government. How would they respond if this were to be resurrected?

It was inspiring how people interested in fighting the quarry rallied to make themselves heard. I’m not sure how much impact a municipality as far away as we are from that site can have, other than to request standing at public hearings. I will do more reading on this issue.

• Where does the candidate stand on natural gas fracking? Tests have indicated there is potential for shale gas extraction primarily to the west of Collingwood. While it may not be directly within our municipality it could still result in increased (hazardous material) truck traffic through town and/or having gas pipelines traversing it. Furthermore, it could impact our water (reduce the supply and/or poison it).

I have heard about this possibility, and it concerns me, but I don’t know how much power our level of government has to control or prevent it.

• Do they have any creative ideas with respect to the town's budgeting and taxation?

I support responsible spending and reasonable taxation. Tax increases have been held at below two percent for several years now while the debt has been cut by about ten million dollars. I support continuing that trend.

• What are their thoughts in terms of expanding and promoting arts and culture in Collingwood?

Art is integral to a well-lived life. The town already promotes many cultural events and I support continuing that work. Part of the Recreation master plan includes a Multi-Use Facility which would include space arts and cultural events. It’s an exciting plan and I will support implementing its recommendations.

• Quality parkland is in very short supply within the town. Thoughts?

I spend a lot of time in the town’s parks and on the trail system. We have Sunset Point, Millenium Park, Harbourview Park, the trails that go to Stayner and to Thornbury and points beyond, Fisher Field, Central Park and all the small parks in the subdivisions. There are at least three off-leash dog parks and a revamped skate park, so I am not sure where there is a shortage of parkland. I’d like to know more about these concerns. There have been some developments that have been allowed to pay a fee to the town in lieu of creating a park, and I don’t think that should continue. I do support continuing to expand the trails and working with Blue Mountains to get the trail link to Blue Mountain resort completed. It’s in the planning stages, but it sure seems to be taking a long time.

• Where does the candidate stand on environmental protection and the stemming of climate change?

It is settled science that climate change is happening and that humans have played a role in it. As a municipality of about 20-thousand people, we play a small role in combating climate change, but there are things we can do. I support greater enforcement of the anti-idling bylaw, and continuing the plans for sourcing environment-friendly supplies for town use. I am glad we have the water-bottle filling stations in public buildings and at Sunset Point, along with the quench buggy at community events. I would also support plans to add more solar capacity on town buildings, if it’s possible to do so. I support continuing the expansion of public transit and finding ways to encourage more people to use it.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Learning, learning, learning

I am certainly learning things in the several weeks since I registered to be a candidate for Collingwood town council.

For starters, I've learned what great friends I have! The image on the side is not only my first look at some of my campaign materials, but the canvas bag was a gift from a lovely couple I know, who said I was to use it for - wait for it- canvassing!

My friends are not just sweet - they're funny, too! Other friends have sent money. I didn't ask, they just sent it, which is great since my little Scottish heart has trouble asking for anything.

I'm running my campaign within my means, the same way I will vote to run the town's finances if I get elected. So, you won't see masses of giant signs all over town. I am spending what I can afford, and I don't have big backers, just concerned and helpful people who also want the best for our town.

I look forward to meeting you at your door, on your street and anywhere else you want to talk.