Candidate – Councillor Ward 1
The Echo sent the following questions to all candidates running for a seat at the council table in Dysart et al.
1. Provide an introduction to yourself. (This could be about how you came to the area, your hobbies and interests, family life, education, accomplishments.)
2. What is the most important issue facing Dysart et al today? As a council member, how would you address that issue?
3. Are there services or facilities you would like to see in Dysart et al that don’t already exist? If elected, how would you go about making them a reality?
4. Explain how climate change is impacting Dysart et al, and what council can do to help mitigate its effects.
5. The chamber of commerce and local businesses have raised concerns that there are not enough young adults and young families choosing to live in the Highlands. This has led to shortages in some fields (skilled trades, for example) and fewer children and youth in the community. What can council do to attract and retain young people?
The ballots will be going out in the mail this week. Election day is Oct. 22. For more information on voting, contact the municipal office.
Next week, we will feature the Q&A from Highlands East candidates.
1. I’ve been in Dysart for ten years full time, 20 in total. Like many people here, I’m a small business owner working in Haliburton Village, where I own The Highlander and a part-time law practice. I’m running for council because the skills and experience I’ve built over the years can help our town solve some of its problems and move forward. My focus has always been on getting things done, setting plans for the long term and making them happen.
What’s amazing about Dysart is that, here, everyone can be themselves. It’s a place where your individuality is respected, but we work together towards community goals. While many places in the world have been overrun with development, Dysart is relatively unspoiled. This is truly a place of opportunity, where each of us can work on what’s important to us and where we can show the rest of Canada, and the world, what a healthy, sustainable rural community looks like.
Our town is run competently and efficiently. But we have no long-term plan. Without one, development is random and we have no idea what kind of town we’ll have twenty years from now. Planning is essential. After all, how can you get somewhere if you don’t know where you’re going? If elected, residents can be sure I’ll represent them in making sure we get those plans, so that our future is one we decide for ourselves.
When I’m not working, I love to fish, work on the house and explore our county. I’ve been on the board of the Chamber of Commerce for the last four years, served five on the board of HHHS and four on the Dysart Economic Development Committee. I’ve also been a volunteer host on Canoe FM on and off since 2008. You can find more about me and why I’m running on my website, at bramlebo.ca.
2. It would have to be housing. I’ve looked at the census data and done the numbers: 55% of us are 55 or over. While nearly every one of us would prefer to stay in their house forever, the reality is that few of us get to make that choice. We get older, and a detached house becomes more and more difficult to manage.
At some point, nearly all of us will need safe, maintenance-free housing, without wood to carry or driveways to shovel. Otherwise, we will have to leave. And every one of us who leaves takes with them their volunteering, their spending power, their friendships and everything they’ve put into building our community throughout their lives. It’s already happening.
At the same time, younger families are finding it difficult to find and afford housing. That’s a big reason they leave, or don’t come here in the first place. So yes, housing for all ages needs to be our top priority.
It’s good that we’ve had three condo buildings built in the Village in the last decade, but we need over 1,000 new housing units to accommodate our aging population – where’s the plan for that? How will this housing be affordable? I would like to see a Community Development Organization that takes the lead on housing and gets it done. There are examples in Ontario and throughout the world we can follow for how to do that. We can build housing geared to our specific needs: affordable and in a variety of types to suit all ages and family structures.
3. Everywhere I go, seniors are telling me we need a recreation centre with a pool. Everywhere I go, parents of young children tell me the same thing. The fundamental question is: what is in the best interests of our community? If a recreation centre would enhance the quality of life for our residents sufficiently to justify its costs, if it would attract young people and keep seniors here, then it’s something we need to look at.
One serious objection to a rec centre is that we can’t afford it. Is that true? If you add up what’s been spent on arenas in Dysart and Highlands East, and what’s planned for Minden, it seems we might have already built a rec centre if our towns had worked together and planned ahead. It’s also true that Dysart subsidizes our arena by almost $600,000 every year; the other municipalities subsidize theirs too. If we put that money together, we may be able to do a lot more than we could as separate towns. As for getting a facility built in the first place, we can look to provincial and federal sources of funds first.
4. Climate change is making our summers wetter and our winters more unpredictable. That has several implications for council. First, if we continue to put all of our eggs in the tourism basket, our economy will be forever dependent on the weather. That’s a bad bet, as we can see with businesses that depend on sledding when it doesn’t snow enough.
Second, we need to protect our watershed, because it’s the reason everyone is here. If climate change and over-development bring invasive species and algae blooms that ruin our lakes, we will have no economy. So we have to enforce the laws we have on the books to stop shoreline destruction and pollution of our waterways. We really don’t have a choice if we want to have a healthy, prosperous community, so it’s a matter of how that enforcement will be done.
5. Council can help create the conditions that make younger people and families want to live here, starting with housing; as seniors move into the apartments we build in the Village, their older homes can be renovated for new families. We can also look at allowing more rental units attached to existing housing to increase the supply.
Other conditions that council can affect are availability of healthcare and daycare, recreational opportunities, cultural events and programming. We already do much of this, but it needs to be coordinated at the county level with the gaps filled in.
Next, council must demand more accountability from our high school in training our youth for a life here, expanding the coop program and ensuring our students are engaged with their community earlier and more completely. What keeps kids here, or brings them back, is pride in where they come from; that can be nurtured through youth-oriented community projects and by introducing young people to the entrepreneurship and industry happening all around them. It’s worth trying to attract a trade school, so trades students stop leaving on a one-way ticket out.
Finally, one by one, let’s work to attract small, high-wage businesses to Dysart. We focus a lot on tourism, the one-night-stand of economic development, when other kinds of small business generate better wages, higher job security and year-round economic activity. We have many already – television production companies, design firms, web developers, small manufacturers, educational institutions, value-added food production, arts and artisans ... and of course trades. Together, these types of businesses can add up to an economy with the higher wages families need to do well and prosper.