"Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time.
We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek."
As Deputy Mayor, I will serve all people of the Town of The Blue Mountains with integrity, and I will work to
establish and maintain a culture of respect, transparency and accountability. I will focus on issues that
will sustain and enhance our beautiful community for decades to come.
Achieving a fair deal with Grey County:
The Town of The Blue Mountains is one of nine municipalities in Grey County with approximately 6.5 percent of Grey County's total population. We currently pay 26% ($13.8 million) of Grey County's total tax revenues as the result of our high property values based on MPAC assessments. Grey County also collects a percentage of Development Charges levied on all new construction. Unfortunately, with only two of nineteen votes at County Council, we have little control over how our 26% is spent across the County. So what has been done about this over the past few years?
- May 2016: Council approved $20,000 to investigate becoming a single tier;
- June 29th, 2017: Consultants shared their analysis at a community workshop reporting that it is unlikely that the majority of municipalities on County Council would agree to the Town of The Blue Mountains becoming independent, and that since the two-tier structure is controlled at the provincial level, change is also unlikely;
- April 13th, 2018: Grey County Council rejected our Council's request to bring in a provincial facilitator, but did agree to create a Special Task Force to study the issue, but we are still paying an unfair amount of the total County taxes in relation to the services and infrastructure investments we receive.
So what is my position...
Our growth over the past decade is unprecedented in Grey County. Our successful four-season tourism industry provides huge economic benefits to the region, and together with our strong base of ratepayers we can have greater influence over County services, with appropriate advocacy. As Deputy Mayor, I will investigate and evaluate the following possible approaches:
(a) negotiating increased services and infrastructure investments;
(b) focusing County staff on addressing the needs of our area in terms of our growing population (tourism, economic development, roads, healthcare services, seniors and long-term care, child care and youth facilities, etc.);
(c) engaging County support for our local economy through investments such as attainable and affordable housing, transportation and child care, as well as marketing and economic development support and practical investments such as paving and cycle shoulders on all County roads, support for youth infrastructure, a local swimming pool, harbour improvements, etc.;
(d) reducing duplication of services, sharing specialized staff, etc.;
(e) investigating collaborative efforts with Simcoe and Grey Counties, Stayner, Collingwood and Meaford to engage the province (MTO) regarding a through route in lieu of Hwy 26 expansion and expropriation at Craigleith;
(f) building relationships and partnerships with Council members of other municipalities in Grey County for shared benefits;
(g) thorough investigation into the possibilities, as well as an assessment of the pros and cons of independence from Grey County; and
(f) investigating opportunities to amalgamate Blue with Collingwood, Wasaga and possibly Meaford, or all of the South Georgian Bay municipalities, and assessment of pros and cons.
Sustainability means ensuring that decisions made today do not negatively impact upon the future. Growth is necessary and good if well managed.
Municipalities that do not have growth begin to decline in many ways: Schools close, essential services are cut and businesses leave. Brown paper covers the windows in store fronts. Property values drop, investors cease to invest and businesses struggle to fill the labour shortage. Younger people and families move on to greener pastures to find work and attainable housing. Sadly, the people left behind must share an increased tax burden, usually for reduced services. Growth is vitality! But, growth must be well-managed against a collective vision, such as outlined in The Blue Mountains Sustainable Path and The Blue Mountains Red Hot & Blue to achieve a sustainable future.
Sustainability is also about protecting our natural environment through SMART and coordinated development, and by ensuring that ecotourism is facilitated in a controlled and knowledgeable fashion. Sustainability is about big zoning protections and by introducing small local practices such as having all stores promote the use of recyclable shopping bags, eliminating plastic bags, plastic straws and non-refillable water bottles that litter our countryside, our streams and our waterfront. Sustainability is ensuring that development respects and protects natural assets, and that rehabilitation is time-bound when needed.
Sustainability is also about diversity: Diversity means supporting a full-range of socio-economic inclusion across our population through attainable housing for young people, seniors and people living with disabilities, and about supporting families and people entering the workforce through child care and transportation options. Diversification of our local economy that fosters growth in agriculture, tourism and hospitality, innovation and entrepreneurship, construction, manufacturing and education means sustainability for the future too.
Sustainability is about ensuring that all of the places that make up the Town of The Blue Mountains have a voice, and that all people who live, work and play here feel welcomed and included. That's what makes us special. That's what makes us strong. That's what leads to a bright sustainable future!
So what is my position...
"Our future is about more than jobs, dollars and growth. It is about making a home for present generations and preparing a place for those of the future. It is about young families finding new opportunities and retirees finding a wonderful lifestyle. It is about understanding the immense economic value of protecting our natural environment and preserving the rural and agricultural sectors." (From Red Hot & Blue, 2010 Created by The People of the Town of The Blue Mountains and Their Friends)
As Deputy Mayor, I will support SMART development that will ensure the protection of our natural environment and agricultural lands, while providing healthy growth that is essential to the long-term sustainability of everything we love about our Town of The Blue Mountains. SMART development is the foundation for maintaining and reducing taxes, while maintaining and expanding services.
Being clear about our vision of the future requires a review and revision of the Official Plan according to the vision expressed by the People of the Town of The Blue Mountains in The Blue Mountains Sustainable Path (2010) and The Blue Mountains Red Hot & Blue (2010). All Land Use policies need to support this vision. Developers must be held accountable to our Official Plan through increased protection and restoration requirements. The Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (formerly OMB) will adjudicate all development decisions against our Official Plan. Hence it is crucial that our OP reflect our vision for the future of the Town of The Blue Mountains.
My priorities include attainable housing for young working people and families, as well as addressing the needs of an ageing population, building housing for various stages of senior life within the community where people have lived and where their family and friends still live. Affordable housing and housing for persons with disabilities must also be included if the Town of The Blue Mountains is to support the diversity necessary for a healthy, sustainable community.
Sustainability means environmental stewardship that nurtures and protects our resources for generations not yet born. This is true of the fossil-laden shale on the shore which is part of the Areas of Natural and Scientific Interests (ANSI), as well as our forests and the streams. It may prove difficult, if not impossible, to reverse decisions once made, and the scars will last forever. One such pending decision is related to rural zoning to protect lands bordering the Pretty River Valley from development by aggregate companies. Currently, The Friends of Pretty River Valley are actively working to keep aggregate development already in the area from taking over more land abutting the gorgeous Pretty River Valley Conservation Area, one of the most important ecological areas in the Blue Mountains. This is exactly why we must think decades ahead when making decisions.
The Town of The Blue Mountains and Grey County must ensure that infrastructure development and maintenance keep pace with current and future growth too. I will work to ensure that STA (Short Term Accommodation) by-laws, other regulations and zoning, find the right balance between 'permissive' and 'restrictive' to promote harmony in our community, to protect our natural resources and to support local business, agriculture and tourism. I will also work to support local business and services through the achievement of attainable accommodation options, transportation and childcare for potential workers. To dismiss this will lead to our young adults leaving for places where they can afford to flourish. Let's ensure that our children can make a good life here as adults in the future. Read more about the importance of attainable housing here.
As development continues, it is essential that our road networks be thoughtfully addressed in order to promote safety for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers, to maintain functional traffic flow across the Hwy 26 corridor, and to ensure that existing properties and natural environmental features are protected. This will take coordination of thinking and effort with the Ministry of Transport (Hwy. 26), Grey County (County Roads) and municipal roads. A solution to the Hwy 26 congestion through a bypass option will take collaboration with Simcoe and Grey Counties, as well as with Stayner, Collingwood and Meaford. An integrated plan, based on our vision of the future, is essential.
Last, but certainly not least, we need to ensure that Town Staff can provide service excellence for all residents, from young families to the elderly, so that everyone can thrive locally in the healthy, active lifestyle that continues to draw people to the Town of The Blue Mountains. This means recruiting and retaining the best-qualified people, with proven experience where possible, ensuring that professional development for staff enables them to meet the needs of the public, and through a rigorous and ongoing cycle of performance appraisal - all while maintaining compensation levels that are fair to both our staff and taxpayers. Frequent turnover is not productive and has many causes, including competitive compensation, better working conditions and reduced costs of living elsewhere. Some factors can be influenced by Council and others can not. Retaining staff requires that members of Council and the public treat them with respect, and use appropriate avenues to express dissatisfaction in constructive ways when necessary. We need to build a strong staff to ensure the sustainability of the Town of The Blue Mountains.
Council must hold our CAO accountable and the CAO is responsible for ensuring that all staff are accountable to the achievement of the goals set by Council. The goal of service excellence for all is not negotiable!
So what is my position...
As Deputy Mayor, I will work on your behalf to ensure that our Town recruits and retains the best-qualified staff and professionals to serve our community. (This includes much-needed doctors, dentists, other professionals and service providers who can meet the increasing needs of all citizens within our community at all ages and stages of life, although these are not Town staff. Goderich, Ontario, is an example of the kind of success the Council can achieve.)
I will promote a culture of respect and responsibility, and an expectation for WOW service. I will support regular performance reviews based on objective criteria, for the CAO, and require that the CAO ensure that a cycle of performance reviews for all staff is implemented. I will uphold the Code of Conduct for Council Members, and all current legislation regarding workplace harassment.
"Leadership is not about the next election, it's about the next generations."