What do you believe are the major election issues?
The issue I hear about more than any other is Growth – and how it is impacting our neighbourhoods, our streets, our natural heritage and environment, our lifestyle – the reasons why we have chosen to live here. This concern has really come to the fore recently, with the commencement of infill development projects that have caused major disruption to the formerly quiet neighbourhoods that surrounded them. It will continue to be an issue as we grow, because most of our greenfield space has been developed, and new residential and commercial projects will have to occur in the remaining open spaces between neighbourhoods. I feel that we are at a critical juncture and that how we develop, how we grow needs to be addressed and could be enshrined better in our planning policies. We are running the risk of “killing the goose that laid the golden egg”.
To be clear, I support growth in our community – it pays for improved services for residents and businesses. But we must grow with a view to protecting what we value as a community – small town culture, quiet neighbourhoods, a walkable and cycleable community, green space, trees and wildlife. From the beginning of this term, I have strongly advocated for higher standards of maintenance on development sites – meaning tree preservation wherever possible, better and neater storage of materials and refuse, control of noxious weeds, and phasing as much as possible so that entire tracts are land are not clear cut and decimated for years at a stretch – which has happened with a couple of our developments. I supported a robust new Noise Bylaw that limits the operating hours of heavy equipment. I could clearly “hear” the benefit of this new bylaw while door-knocking this past weekend in one of the neighbourhoods that has been significantly impacted by a new development – the peace and quiet almost made up for a rear yard terrain that resembled Passchendaele.
These are the actions we can take that are consistent with our Official Plan and Urban Design Guidelines, but I propose that this is not enough, and we need to look at changes that would better address the impacts of infill development. For example, developers are required to plant boulevard trees in all new developments. I propose that buffering between existing neighbourhoods and infill developments be prioritized, but where this is not possible or sufficient, that developers also be required to plant trees in the rear yards, to make up for a lack of buffering, to accommodate/mitigate variations in grading and/or density between new and existing neighbourhoods, and to enhance drainage. Cash in lieu of parkland dedication should not be permitted under any circumstances – trails and greenspace are critical to retaining a “small town” feel in a community that is not quite small anymore.
I am very excited about the recent grant of $96,000 that we received from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities from their Municipalities for Climate Innovation Program. This will be applied to an Urban Forest Management Plan to increase green infrastructure and reduce the impact of stormwater caused by climate change and urban development. The plan will develop a vision for the urban forest, conduct an inventory and assessment of the status of the urban forest and develop a strategic plan defining objectives and actions and an implementation plan with dates and responsibilities.
Our waterfront must be protected – for public access, both physical and visual, and for environmental integrity. Other development factors may be addressed, for example building heights and massing. Should there be “stale dates” on Official Plan Amendments and Site Development Agreements? How many amendments to a site development agreement should be permitted?
The density targets that the province has established for Collingwood are very high, almost triple the average density that we enjoy today. It is not easy to challenge a provincial policy, but nothing changes if nothing changes.
As we grow, it is more important than ever to keep the vision statement of the Community Based Strategic Plan in mind: “Collingwood is a responsible, sustainable, and accessible community that leverages its core strengths: a vibrant downtown, a setting within the natural environment, and an extensive waterfront. This offers a healthy, affordable, and four-season lifestyle to all residents, businesses, and visitors.”
A second major issue that I feel we must address is jobs, housing, and the economy. Collingwood is now ranked as one of the top 10 Canadian cities for entrepreneurship and small business expansion. Our 2018 business survey indicated that local businesses are optimistic about the future, but they need employees. New workers need affordable accommodation and reliable transportation. I supported the investment in expanded public transportation and I will continue to encourage the development of mixed use neighbourhoods with housing options for a range of family budgets. There have been many inter-sector brainstorming sessions that have identified a number of strategies to increase the availability of affordable housing, now we have to take steps to put these into action. For example, a realtor friend of mine is a great proponent of purpose-built housing – new homes with apartments or “granny suites” built in. Let’s find incentives to encourage the construction of these kinds of options.
Taxes seem to be less of a concern this term than last, and not surprisingly, as the Town’s financial affairs are in much better shape than they were four years ago. As Councillor this term, I supported the elimination of half the Town’s debt while at the same time increasing revenues and strengthening Reserves. This was accomplished while reducing the tax rate each year. Collingwood now has a long-range financial roadmap, and with the right Council we can see our way clear to investing in the community, providing more and better services, without burdening taxpayers. We have allocated 0.75% levy specifically to fund the Capital Asset Management Plan, and this will be an important focus going forward, as we are looking at significant investment required in water and wastewater treatment facilities and ultimate replacement of the Sprung structures, all in the foreseeable future.
Collingwood exudes healthy lifestyle today. We are seeing more people than ever before cycling or walking for work and play, and I have strenuously supported the expansion of trails and bikes lanes throughout the community. I supported the extension of the Healthy Kids Community Challenge which promotes physical activity and healthy eating among our children – and when kids take this message home, the whole family benefits. I will continue to be a strong advocate for healthy lifestyle and active transportation.
What would you do to ensure that transparency, honesty and integrity are returned and maintained to municipal politics. To build confidence and ensure that the interests of the people come first and foremost?
I believe Council has made great strides in improving transparency, honesty and integrity this term. One of the first orders of business for this Council was the execution of the Community Based Strategic Plan, which surveyed thousands of residents about their priorities for the community, among which was Open and Accountable Government. All council business since then has been governed by those 5 pillars. I supported a new, more robust Code of Conduct for Council, the introduction of a Purchasing Officer and new standards for fair and transparent tendering and acquisition or disposition of municipal goods and services. This Council held among the fewest number of in-camera meetings in the past four years (92 in-camera meeting 2014-2018 versus 104 in-camera meetings 2010-2014, for example). I supported the introduction of live streaming of both Council and Standing Committee meetings. And I supported the initiation of the Judicial Inquiry, investigating the sale of the first half of Collus. This transaction was fraught with exceptional irregularities in municipal practice, and significant information gaps having to do with the decision to sell, the decision to sell 50%, the delegation of authority to negotiate on behalf of Council, the apparent lack of legal oversight on behalf the town, certain terms of the shareholders’ agreement, in particular the “shotgun” clause, and the disposition of the proceeds. We can see that the disposition of proceeds has already formed the basis of an OPP inquiry. It is my view that only a Judicial Inquiry can compel answers, shed light on the process, and provide formal direction on municipal best practices going forward. Paraphrasing George Santayano, if we do not learn from the mistakes of the past, we are destined to repeat them.
Any comments in regards to Collingwood’s basic infrastructure needs such as road renewal, sewer replacement, and eventual expansion of the water treatment facility as it inches closer and closer towards “full” capacity? These issues are ones that are NOT talked about by candidates.
I guess the reason why I have not talked a lot about capital projects is because 1) we are in reasonably good shape, based on ongoing maintenance and growth of assessment and 2) our pay-as-you-go finance policy – meaning our objective is not to take on new debt. Every year, departments submit a detailed renewal plan for roads and water/wastewater infrastructure, prioritizing the most urgent needs, like for example, the repair or re-installation of water infrastructure that has frozen over the past couple of years. You can see the 2018 plan on the Town website at http://www.collingwood.ca/Budget. We will be reviewing and prioritizing all of these needs again during budget deliberations, which will begin shortly after the election.
Regarding water and wastewater expansion, you are right, both of these are “on the books” for the 2018-2022 Five Year Capital Plan. $36.0 million is budgeted for the water treatment plant expansion to meet future demands for both Collingwood and the Town of New Tecumseth, for which we also supply drinking water via the rail line pipeline. The costs for this expansion will be funded by Development Charges (ie. growth pays for growth) and the Town of New Tecumseth will pay its proportionate share. The expansion to the wastewater treatment plant is estimated at $51.6 million in total expenditures with $34.7 million falling in the 2018‐2022 time-frame, and again, funded from Development Charges, and not by taxpayers. The sanitary sewer renewal program is estimated at $4.5 million during 2018‐2022.
Notwithstanding the pay-as-you-go policy, by December 31, 2022 the overall Development Charges Reserve Funds will be in a negative balance. Water will be overdrawn $2.6 million and Wastewater will be overdrawn $10.6 million. It is likely some form of debenture funding will be required with the resulting debt servicing cost paid for by future DC collections. However, it should be noted that the projected collection of development charges is based on the 2014 Development Charge Background Study. The Town will be undertaking an updated DC Background Study as well as an updated Water and Wastewater Rate Study in 2019. The 2019 DC Background Study will take the projected negative balances into consideration when recommend the new DC charges. You can reference the entire 5-Year Capital Plan at http://www.collingwood.ca/files/photos/DEPARTMENTS/Treasury/Budget/Town%20of%20Collingwood%202018-22%20Capital%20Plan%20final%20.pdf
Both the Waterfront Master Plan and the Town’s Official Plan state that the protection of Collingwood’s sensitive wetlands and shoreline areas are a top priority. How would you rate Collingwood’s performance in protecting these areas to date? Do you think Collingwood currently has appropriate processes and controls in place to protect these areas (especially from development), or do you think improvements are required, and if so, what improvements?
I believe that over the past 10 years, the Town has placed high priority over protection of the shoreline and particularly the wetlands. For example, the town took the owner of the Silvercreek Wetlands to the OMB and was successful at protecting all of the most sensitive areas from future development, at significant expense. Most recently however, as we have seen with the proposed amendments to the Living Waters development, in particular the Bear Estate lands, it is apparent that we need sharper tools. As I noted in the first question, perhaps it is time to look at the length of time that site control agreements that be in effect. I believe we need to look for higher standards of protection for sensitive shoreline areas. And we need to protect visual, as well as physical access to the shoreline. We have made sightlines a priority for the development of the Shipyards, we should do the same at Living Waters/Cranberry.
Everyone’s voice needs to be heard and respected not just the BIA’s, developer’s and big money interests. Do you agree and how would you ensure this?
This Council has been extremely proactive in efforts to better engage the public in the development of projects and policies for the Town, The Community Based Strategic Plan, the Waterfront Masterplan, The Economic Development Plan and the Recreation Masterplan, all completed over the past 4 years and all undertaken in consultation with thousands of community members. It is my intention to maintain regular contact with the public with special consultations like these. Likewise, the current Standing Committee model provides opportunity for public input on all agenda matters, plus an open forum at the end of every meeting provides ample opportunity for anyone to engage with Council and staff, anytime. This is an excellent way for the public to engage with Council on a regular basis, to ensure that problems, issues and questions are addressed quickly and before they escalate.
What’s your position on privatization? Are you in favour of selling off additional municipal assets and/or services? If so which ones?
I believe that Town assets must serve the residents without being a burden or a liability on our taxes. I also believe that if the private sector can provide a service that is better or most cost-efficient than what the municipality can provide, then conversion to cash is preferable to deficit funding, with the added benefit of providing capital for the priorities that are important to the community, like the waterfront masterplan. As such, I supported the sale of the other half of Collus Powerstream, I supported the sale of the Airport in principal. (In fact I did not support the terms of the final sale, because I was not satisfied with terms of the deal struck with the successful bidder, relative to the provision of assurance that the Airport would be operated as an airport in perpetuity.)
These are the only two assets that I would support privatizing. I have been asked whether I would support privatizing water or wastewater treatment, and the answer is no. I view these as essential public services not to be provided to the public at a profit.
Describe your personal view of the importance of Collingwood’s cultural and architectural heritage.
Collingwood is fortunate to have had residents and community leaders over the years who sought (and still seek) to preserve heritage buildings and features – so many other North American communities have given no thought at all to heritage preservation. As a result, we have a heritage district that is the envy of many communities and is so significant as to have been the first to be added to the National Register of Heritage Districts. The value placed on heritage pervades our entire community, and I believe our very unique community culture, and I would hazard a guess that we have more Part 5 buildings per capita than virtually any community in Ontario. Heritage restoration has literally saved some areas of our downtown – like Simcoe Street. More importantly I believe that our Downtown Heritage District has created positive economic benefits in that people come to see the architecture, and end by enjoying the ambiance, and the products and services of our merchants. Blue Mountain Village is Disney, Collingwood is the “real McCoy”. Accordingly I will continue to prioritize heritage preservation in my policy making.