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Strong showing at local all candidates Q&A session as municipal election looms

October 11, 2018   ·   0 Comments

Written By PETER RICHARDSON

Tuesday saw the much awaited public forum on the upcoming municipal election, take place at the Royal Canadian Legion, with all but one candidate in attendance and a good turnout of citizens.

The evening started with an opening speech from the upcoming mayor, Wade Mills, followed by candidate introductions. Each one outlined their goals and platforms. After a brief recess, to allow everyone to escape the warmth of the hall and grab some fresh air, the floor was opened to questions from the public, moderated by Mike Fazackerley.

During the introductions, the candidates expressed the same views and positions as during the earlier Town Hall Meet and Greet night and do not bear repetition here, however Mayor elect Mills made an inspiring appeal to the assembly to come together and work towards a stronger and more cohesive approach to the town and to it’s issues.

He noted that, to succeed and grow, Shelburne needed all of it’s people and their Council to work together and forge strong solutions to many difficult issues that will face the Town in the next four years and beyond. There would be hard decisions to be made, that would not always be easy, nor lack contention, but he believed that working together they could be resolved.

He welcomed the assembled guests and candidates and emphasized that it was time to think outside the box to solve the issues facing the Town. He suggested that voters should ask two questions when choosing amongst the candidates, First, who aligns with their beliefs and secondly, who is most qualified for their position.

The Q&A was conducted openly and totally at random. Questions could be directed at individuals, or to the whole group and moderation would be minimal. First off the mark, was resident Jeff Laing who asked candidate Lynda Buffet how soon Council could actually raise her proposed Development Charge increase. It was Lynda’s belief, that development charges were far too low and should be increased to match those of neighbouring Alliston, who assesses each new SFD a levy of $37,000 where Shelburne currently charges in the ballpark of $17,000. Her was response was that it would need to be accomplished soon, before any new developments received their approvals.

This would seem unlikely, however, as the process must first go through an independent consultant who would evaluate Shelburne’s market niche and recommend an appropriate rate increase.

A question was posed regarding the much anticipated and overdue truck by-pass for the town. Walter Benotto answered that in meetings with MPP Sylvia Jones, it had been assured that she would support a by-pass and arrange a meeting with the Minister of Transportation, for Town politicians. The by -pass was a hot button issue with most of the candidates and the residents as many were tired of the truck traffic in the downtown area.

James Hodder stated that the noise and ground tremors caused by these trucks were a big concern in his campaigning conversations as well as the potential health risks from fumes.

One resident questioned candidates one what they would do about dogs being allowed to run loose in public parks, stating that one of her children had been run down by a free roaming dog this year. Deputy Mayor candidate Dan Sample told the audience that there is a by-law forbidding the practice, but that a report must be filed first, as Shelburne’s responses are complaint driven, so if no one complains, nothing can be done. He advised the woman to file a complaint with Town Hall and action would be initiated. He also advised that a dog park was in the works but that funding was not yet there.

A recurring question throughout the night, revolved around housing and in particular seniors and transitional housing in Shelburne. The dramatic lack of this was driving older resents and those wishing to downsize, to leave Shelburne for communities such as Mount Forest and Orangeville . Both Dan Sample and Steve Anderson explained that developers are asked for affordable housing and multiunit dwellings when they approach Council. However, Dan emphasized that the time to talk to the developers was during  their budget formulations  and not when they brought forward a project to Council.

Steve Anderson went a step further, in suggesting that local businesses should be encouraged to contribute to these kinds of projects. He suggested, as an example, his initiative with TD Bank to help fund projects.

The recently defeated Fiddle Park sale was raised and Lindsay Wegener took to the mike to emphatically support that defeat and to offer as an example, Chinquacousy Park, in Brampton, a major cultural and tourist asset to that town. At one time that land had been for sale, but was set aside as parkland instead. Had it been sold, Brampton would be a different city today she said.  Fiddle Park has a huge potential but need to be promoted and developed. Len Guchardi supported this approach and brought forward the point that the proposed sale was not handled transparently enough from the beginning. He urged more support and promotion to develop the parks potential.

Another resident allowed that the present wish list, if you will, was going to cost millions of dollars and he wanted to know where that money was going to come from. In response, Steve Anderson offered the prospect of Grant monies and the Towns existing reserves, while Linda Buffet again expressed her belief that development charges must cover these expenditures. The point remains, that at this time reserves are not full, grants are never guaranteed and the development charges will not cover the major capital expenses facing Shelburne. Should they be raised, to a level which would, development in Shelburne would be severely handicapped and would certainly slow significantly. At this time, the town can only justify so much cost to a developer and above that peak, the investment would become fiscally, unsupportable.

The issue of the OPP vs the local Police Force was brought up and all candidates were asked for their opinions and stances. Predictably, all of them agreed to supporting the local force with several putting forth unsubstantiated reasons to do so. Kyle Fegan stated that poor response time could be expected from the provincial force, when in fact this would be totally dependent upon the contract that Shelburne negotiated. It is, in fact, possible for Shelburne, like Minden, to have officers permanently stationed in town, should they so negotiate. Most others insisted that the Town would have to do their due diligence and hear and direct all available options before passing judgement on the issue, but that they favoured keeping the local force if possible. Another inaccurate assumption, was that all local officers would disappear, when actually the OPP have already stated that all qualified officers would be amalgamated into the OPP and kept in the detachment in Primrose, save for those senior officers who could perceivably be relocated. No qualified officers would lose their jobs.

One 30 year resident, named AJ presented the question to Steve Anderson that since he had served less that a year as a councillor, that perhaps he lacked the qualifications and the experience to be the Deputy Mayor. Steve’s response called on his resume of experience outside of council and in the law, while citing his achievements in Shelburne as a Councillor. He spoke of the recent association with Bell, to bring backpacks to deserving school children and his trip to Queen’s Park with a group of students from town as well as the Tom Eagan Awards programme and more . He feels that time on Council should not outweigh an obvious and ongoing commitment to the Town.

The potential Councillors ability to commit to the time required to serve the Council brought another round of all candidate answers.To a one all candidates expressed the support of their families and employers or businesses to see them through the commitment.

The prospect of conflict of interest was proffered to Shane Hall, who answered that his employer, KTH fully supports his efforts and that should an issue arise over a KTH proposal or practice, he would naturally recluse himself from that vote.

Two questions revolving around racism were put to the candidates, with both asking how they would resolve the potential old Guard vs New Residents issues. Several candidates including some of colour stated that not only did they not see racism in Shelburne but that they felt welcomed and safe in the community. Nevertheless, Both Deputy Mayor candidates assured the audience that forwarding inclusion in events and encouraging cultural practices and celebrations would help bring all residents together. Going to the community, through surveys and Town Hall meetings would draw consensus on any issues that arose, thus bringing all sides into the discussion and the final results.

The night was well run and well attended and many more questions were raised and answered by the assembled candidates. Only Mikal Archer was unable to attend and in discussions afterwards all agreed that the night had been encouraging and reassuring that Shelburne would be in good hands after the election, whoever was elected.

         

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