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?
I am proud that Dysart et al remains one of the lowest tax rates in rural Ontario. This in large part due to the ongoing commitment to giving taxpayers the best possible service at the lowest reasonable cost. So, yes, just as in the past, I would be quite willing to look at any options that would be in the best interest of our constituents including any amalgamations that might yield “scale of economy” savings. Having said that, I think we have all seen circumstances throughout our province and country where amalgamations that take political decision-making too far away from the taxpayer or end user can be counterproductive. In these cases we have seen the decision maker unaware of the intricacies or special circumstances that face a small community such as ours. Some examples might lie in the planning, bylaw and human resource, finance, management areas. I would therefore suggest that going forward we look at all tax saving opportunities but not at the expense of what is in the best interest of the taxpayer.
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?
About six years ago Haliburton County council took a different approach to tourism marketing. A decision was made to concentrate on a demand and fulfillment approach, to focus on bringing tourists to the county, mostly with social media. A decision was made at the time to include the stakeholders as part of a public committee of council, so the system would be more inclusive and transparent. Certainly there have been changes and some successes, however the tourism landscape is always changing, it is not just about marketing, it is weather related, quality of accommodation, food, experiences. I think there is little doubt that our county is better recognized as a destination, new and innovative approaches are always valuable, as is the updated website. There will always be a diversity of opinions on best marketing methods, but stakeholders have a major role to play on quality if they want to compete with cottage rentals in a changing marketplace.
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?
I have worked diligently with and in support of CHA and cottage associations to preserve natural shorelines and protect our lakes. The latest revision to the tree cutting bylaw is somewhat more restrictive, however education is the key and needs to be worked on vigorously by everyone involved. I would like to see a simple to follow guide on what natural vegetation should be left and what can be removed, and best species to plant in our soil conditions for success. In my opinion this approach should be given every effort to help reduce phosphorus from getting to the water. However whatever bylaw we end up with needs to be reasonable and enforceable, and not so restrictive as to take away the enjoyment of seeing the water, and that can be done. This needs to be a public process, with a common sense approach. I will pursue what steps we might take to eliminate fertilized lawns right to water’s edge, this would take education but could be an important tool to rehabilitate our shorelines.
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?
Having been born in Haliburton County and having lived here practically my whole life, I can look back at many times when we have battled to hold on to what is near and dear to us and what is the true fabric of what we call the Highlands. But at the same time we had to be willing to change with the times and how we responded. In the same way, yes, I’d certainly support all efforts to protect the serenity and health of our lakes. But as sites such as VRBO and Airbnb attract new visitors and their spending power to our community, we have to search out ways to respond in a positive fashion to this growing trend. It is my intention to work with local rental agencies to develop a framework that would ensure safety of the renters (fire code) noise, septic fields adequate for number of renters. In fact this process is underway and to design a registry that protects the lakes, and the peace and enjoyment of the neighbours is the ultimate goal. If elected I want to see that in place prior to May 2019.
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?
Haliburton County has a relatively small population of 18,000 permanent residents and yet encompasses almost 1,600 square miles. Some hamlets are very small and far removed from our larger towns. All this to say, I don’t see a government funded system in our near future that would either be affordable or sustainable. Should a private company arrive with a proposal I would be more than agreeable to how we might provide an environment for their profitable undertaking. Having said this I understand the need, and the tireless efforts put forth by the transportation task force. A solution will surface, Haliburton County is unique and we need to develop a unique approach.