Candidate – Mayor of Dysart et al
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?
The subject of amalgamation has come up the last few elections and yet there has been no move to make any changes. Now that I have been at the county table for the last four years I see how closely both levels of government work together and I’m impressed with the good relationships that they have. Almost all departments get together to share information, and even collaborate on purchasing. I would say things are working well the way they are. However, would there be financial savings and could there be efficiency in services if we were a one tier system? Yes, there are some well paid jobs at the top and there are a lot of politicians in the county so there may be some savings there. What about the social cost though? Will small communities and hamlets get forgotten? Will there be animosity and rivalry amongst communities? The public need to remember we did have amalgamation almost 20 years ago and some of the recommendations from that time have not been completed. If we had a study done perhaps we could have a better discussion instead of guessing. Any change would have to benefit both Dysart and the county.
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?
I currently sit on the tourism committee at the county and I think the strategy is working well. The role of the tourism department is to promote and advertise the county to the world and that is happening. The director keeps statistics on impressions and they are through the roof the last few years due to increased social media. The #myhaliburtonhighlands is our brand and branding takes time, but I’d say it’s been effective. The tourism department’s job is not to create the product but to promote it. All one needs to do is check out the new website, Google “Haliburton Highlands” and it’s the first site to come up. The director also sits on our Ontario regional tourism committee called OHTO to get advice and support for our area. Could we be doing more? Always there is room for improvement. It doesn’t come from criticizing but from collaboration. We have so much going on in Haliburton County and anyone who wants support or help from the tourism department getting their product or message out just needs to call or email. The number of events in Head Lake Park this summer, not to mention the traffic jams on Tuesdays are proof that people are coming. The one event that the county is responsible for is Hike Haliburton and that is hugely popular.
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?
The county is wanting to protect the water quality of our lakes and one way to do this is to strengthen our bylaws. In July we updated the current shoreline tree preservation bylaw by reducing the size of diameter of tree that can be cut from 10 cm at chest height to 5 cm. We are also looking at increasing the fines if there is an infraction. It was agreed at the county to investigate a potential new bylaw that would include more than just trees, it would take in all vegetation and protect the whole shoreline, but that won’t come until after the election and there will be opportunity for public input. Through the fabulous work of CHA the health of our lakes has become a top priority. Healthy septic systems and protecting and rehabilitating the shoreline are their two key messages and they have been heard loud and clear at both levels of government. People buy on the lakes to view the water and to be able to access the lake, but both can be done in an environmental way. Arborists in the area are listening as well as local nurseries who are selling plants and shrubs which are better suited to the area. We don’t want a new bylaw to be so restrictive that it isn’t practical for people to build on and enjoy their waterfront, but protecting our lakes and keeping them healthy for generations to come should be the priority.
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?
At the economic development committee we have had many discussions regarding short-term rentals. We had a delegation from a local cottage rental agency and there is a very positive economic impact to our area but there are also pressures that come with that. There is potential overuse on septic systems, increased use of the landfills, and excessive noise. We should be looking at this issue when we review our zoning bylaw which will be in the next year or so. My concern would be to have a bylaw and create regulations that are too restrictive, too expensive and we can’t enforce. One idea is to create more of a guideline stating these are the best practices. The owner could get the list of things to do and if they meet all the requirements they could advertise that they meet the standard. An example could be they include the landfill card and recycling information, they never rent out to more people than the septic is rated for, and they let renters know of our noise bylaw. One thing is for certain, short term rentals are here so we need to deal with them.
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?
The transportation issue is one that has been around for many years and not an easy one to find an answer for, our county is large with a low-density population. Any plan or service needs to acknowledge that and what works in another community might not work here. We do have a number of transportation options now that service people with disabilities or seniors. I was a volunteer driver for HHHS and was always happy to take someone to Peterborough, Bracebridge or even Toronto. Dysart offers its DYMO bus and that is fairly well used. Having some type of transportation service for anyone to use is what is being proposed. I do feel strongly that if it is not a door-to-door service that it won’t be viable. If someone lives in Wilberforce and wants to get to Haliburton to work somewhere on Industrial Park Rd., getting dropped off at the town docks isn’t practical, especially in mid-January. The Ride Share program is in place and perhaps could be promoted even more. All public transportation systems are co-funded by the government and the user. My other concern is what a user would pay travelling 40 km from one end of the county to another. If the fee is too great the service won’t be used. If the fee is very low how much can the county afford? It will be interesting to see what the plan will propose and if it will be viable for our county.