Candidate Q&A - Mayors and Deputy Mayors
The Minden Times sent five questions to candidates running to be mayor or deputy mayor in Minden Hills. In Algonquin Highlands, Carol Moffatt has been acclaimed as mayor and the deputy mayor is selected from among elected councillors, therefore there are no responses from that municipality. Although Lisa Schell has been acclaimed as deputy mayor of Minden Hills, she still chose to respond to the questions.
Not only do mayors and deputy mayors have a larger role on municipal council, they are also members of Haliburton County council and make important decisions about roads, tourism, emergency services, shoreline preservation and many more topics.
Next month we will feature Q&A responses from candidates for lower-tier municipal positions.
Election day is Oct. 22. Find more information about how to vote by contacting your municipality.
1. Do you favour the concept of an amalgamated, single-tier government for Haliburton County? What would the advantages of such a system be, or, conversely, what are the advantages of maintaining the existing two-tier system?
2. Is the county’s tourism strategy working? What are its strong points and weaknesses? Is there anything that could be done differently to attract more people to the Haliburton Highlands?
3. The county is currently in the process of strengthening its shoreline protection bylaw. What provisions and restrictions should be included to adequately protect the health of the county’s lakes?
4. The issue of short-term rentals of private cottages continues to be a topic of discussion in the community. Should municipalities be implementing control measures on short-term rentals; why or why not? What does a responsible framework for the control of short-term rentals look like?
5. The county has been working toward a public transportation plan, which has not yet been produced. Do you think the county should offer a public transportation service; why or why not? What would a sustainable transportation system look like?
Jarrett Campbell - Candidate, Mayor of Minden Hills
1. I believe the advantages of maintaining the existing two-tier system are that it is already in place so therefore the taxes would be maintained as opposed to rising from amalgamation. In my opinion with amalgamation the smaller areas in our county would not receive an equal share of funds as a large portion of funds would be directed to the core of the county.
2. I believe parts of our county are thriving in the tourism industry while others need some improvements. I would like to see more year-round attractions and events in all of our smaller communities to help promote them.
3. I feel that a consistent plan should be implemented where the property owners and the municipality work closely with the lake associations and lake stewards to achieve the ultimate goal of preserving our waterways for generations to come.
4. I believe the cost of owning property is on the rise so if a property owner chooses to rent their property out to offset cost this should be their choice providing the property is safe and well-maintained. Renting brings more individuals to our county that may not otherwise have an opportunity to enjoy all we have to offer therefore opening windows for our future tourism growth.
5. For me to judge a plan that has not been produced would be unfair but being in the transport business myself I am aware of the operation costs such as repairs and maintenance (especially with the conditions of some of our roads), the high cost of insurance and not to mention the ever rising cost of fuel. Taking these few things into consideration along with the fact of such a large area to cover I am not sure a public transportation service would be feasible at this time.
Brent Devolin – Candidate, Mayor of Minden Hills
1. It’s a false choice to think we only have two options: the status quo two-tier model; or a single-tier model. I think we should explore a middle way, which is modifying our current two-tier system to meet the needs of the 21st century. To do this, we need to figure out which services are best delivered by the lower tier (such as Minden Hills), and which are better delivered by the upper tier (Haliburton County). That’s because, whether we like it or not, local governments are being required by the province to do more and more each year – and there’s no reason to believe this trend will end soon. That’s why it’s critical we work together to figure out the most effective and efficient model for delivering public services in our area, then implement the changes necessary to make that happen. I believe the status quo is not a realistic option going forward, and that’s why I think we should be pro-active, and create our own “made-in-Haliburton County” solution, before the province imposes something that we don’t like and doesn’t meet our needs.
2. The priority of our Haliburton County tourism strategy has been to drive demand, and that will lead to increased interest and then travel to the county. I believe our current strategy is working, but there’s still lots more to do. First, we need to acknowledge that tourism is the dominant industry in Haliburton County. As such, our tourism strategy also needs to be the keystone of a county-wide economic development plan. And, in terms of focus, we need to start thinking in terms of “visitors” rather than “tourists.” The days when our economy was mostly people staying at a resort for a week are long gone. Today, visitors to Haliburton County could be busloads of foreign tourists here for a day, resort guests for a weekend, Airbnb clients for a week, cottage owners for the summer, retirees living here for six months, or students at Fleming College for a year or more. The bottom line is that every one of these groups is important. That’s why we need to focus on persuading more people to spend more time in Haliburton County, while devising a comprehensive economic development and tourism strategy that is focused on that goal.
3. Haliburton County is all about clean water. Without healthy lakes, we lose both our quality of life and our standard of living. The good news is that we are already making major strides in the right direction. Science tell us that one of the best ways to ensure healthy lakes is to maintain 75 per cent of shoreline in a natural state. Introducing native plants within 30 metres of shore is another effective way to improve water quality. As the question suggests, one way to promote these goals is reviewing and updating our shoreline protection bylaws. Another good idea is to work with groups like the Coalition of Haliburton Property Owners Association (CHA) to make sure the right information gets into the hands of shoreline property owners. Local government cannot do this alone, but we do have an important leadership role to play in this critical endeavour.
4. In recent years, one of the biggest changes in cottaging has been the explosion in short-term rentals through both local and international companies (like Airbnb). Forty years ago, most cottages were summer-only and would have been used less than 100 nights a year by the owners. Today, cottages are used year-round, and an increasing number are rented out. This often means 200+ nights a year, and more people per night. The upside is that these cottage renters’ shop in our stores and eat in our restaurants. We don’t want to chase them away! However, we also know we need to develop a responsible policy framework that will mitigate negative consequences, one that is both cost effective and enforceable for municipalities. The good news is we’ve already begun this process, and I am confident we will find a way to balance the challenges posed by more visitors, with the need to protect the rights of other people in the area.
5. Some people might be surprised to learn that there’s already lots of publicly supported transportation in Haliburton County. However, it has developed over time in different silos, and has never been coordinated. Fortunately, in the past couple of years the Haliburton County Transportation Task Force has been working hard, together with other groups like the Poverty Reduction Roundtable, to improve transportation options and make them accessible to more people. Recently, the task force presented four options to county council for consideration. My county council colleagues and I selected the best of these, and hired a consultant to develop an implementation plan, so that we might better understand how it would function in Haliburton County. That report will arrive soon, and I expect that county council will review these proposals before the end of the 2018.
Wayne Hancock – Candidate, Mayor of Minden Hills
1. At this point, I would not favour the concept of a single tier system. Most residents believe service levels are too low now and tax dollars are being wasted. I would start by making our township council more accountable for the service levels and dollars spent. I would recommend to council that the present council be reduced by one or more members. This would initially reduce our taxpayer costs for local government. I would also recommend that councillors be elected at large so they represent the people of the community and look after the interests of all, not just their ward.
A single tier system is intended to eliminate duplication of services between the upper and lower tier governments. I believe we should review which functions are at which level. For example, the waste management function and the landfills should be transferred to the upper tier level.
I would start at the local level by reviewing the way we do business to streamline the process and eliminate costly delays and unnecessary costs.
In addition, each area municipality and the county must fully understand their infrastructure, the state of this and their needs. This must be completed first at each level for everyone to understand the true benefits and costs of a single tier system over a two tier system.
2. In these economic times, it is difficult to measure success. Issues which are happening federally and provincially have an impact to what happens locally and certainly, with the tourism business of our area. The tourism strategy is working but the state of the economy affects it tremendously.
The township is hiring an economic development, destination marketing officer. This position should help locally and should work co-operatively at the county level.
I believe we need to attract more residents that would retire in the area. This may start with tourism but becomes the point of destination.
A review of the tourism strategy should occur on an annual basis and determine that we are reaching the international, national, provincial and local markets. Strategies must change to keep in tune with the changing communication systems.
3. I believe that we need to strengthen this bylaw. Focus should change to the point of offering reforestration/replanting along lakeshores, public or private and a continued greater effort afforded to septic retrofits, particularly those within the 30-metre zone.
While we introduce tighter controls, we must also be mindful that if someone is purchasing a new property they have some rights of ownership. Let us not make the bylaw or restrictions so difficult that a new property owner cannot enjoy the lake also.
To do this, we must remain open to consultation and if the bylaw needs amendments, let us understand this and implement without long delays.
4. I would suggest that we may want to investigate how big is the problem. This can be completed by online surveys, discussions with cottagers’ associations, etc. We should try to obtain the full public input on the subject.
If we find that this is increasing, then we may need to act on it by putting in place zoning provisions and licensing to control it. This would mean introducing possible zoning provisions for this use and a permitting process to ensure compliance. For example, if cottages are being rented over 10 per cent of the summer period, I would propose to put forward a separate zoning category possibly a type of seasonal. The zoning would set out the terms of the license and the requirements of the municipality.
5. On this point, I am not sure if there has been any study completed of need versus costs. This would be a starting point. The county is a large geographic area and the costs to deliver such a service would be high.
In our changing world, systems can be offered which might include services, through Uber, dial-a ride, a neighbour to neighbour ride service.
For the seniors of the community, and particularly those who cannot drive, I believe we need to offer a service to them whether it be getting them to appointments, or otherwise. This should be a service funded at multiple levels of government which would include locally, at the county level and provincially.
Lisa Schell – Deputy Mayor, Acclaimed
1. I believe it is time to have a full review of the possibility of an amalgamated, single-tier government; however, I think it’s vital that each positive and negative impact be investigated in depth. I believe there could be some advantages regarding types of bylaws, official plans, landfills and roads. Currently, roads and emergency services overlap within several municipalities within Haliburton County. Without actually knowing the cost savings and efficiencies, I think it would be irresponsible to have a firm stand either way. I also believe it’s important to look at other counties who have amalgamated and try to learn from best practices before moving forward.
2. I have lived here my whole life and it seems each summer is becoming busier. Canada Day, the farmers’ and artisans’ market, the bluegrass festival, etc., continually grow year after year. I think we can always do better to attract people to our area, but it seems we are already doing a pretty good job. I think it’s important if we want to continue to be seen as different and “quaint,” we need to attract people to the downtown core. We have many old and new businesses that can’t be found in the larger cities and it’s important that we pull people off Hwy 35 and bring them through our downtown. Also, I would very much like to see events geared to younger people. I think it’s important that we don’t forget our younger demographic and provide events to attract them as well.
3. I believe the current issue of mandatory septic inspections is an important first step. Also, attempting to keep natural shorelines intact, planting native plants and trees, and refraining from using pesticides should all be included.
4. I can actually see both sides of this topic. Many people want to be able to afford to own a cottage in our beautiful county so they supplement the cost by renting it out a few weeks of the year. The problem arises when cottages are rented out to over capacity for what the size of the building/septic was intended. The other issue is that not all renters respect property and neighbours the same way owners do. I am very much against over regulating anything, but if this continues to be an issue, perhaps as a county we could come up with some time of framework or plan that protects the neighbours of rental cottages. It’s a sensitive topic that perhaps could also be investigated as to best practices of other areas for drawing up some type of guidelines.
5.The issue of public transportation has been around for years in the county. A few attempts have been made with little success, so I’m not sure what the answer to this question truly is. I think it would be wonderful if there was a way for people to travel between the towns in the county for work as well as for young people with no licenses/cars, but as for the times of day/days of the week, perhaps the transportation plan will answer those questions.