John Barclay

The Times is committed to fair and equal opportunities for all candidates, and in this issue we have published the first selection of articles by candidates for both Mayor and Councillor positions. To ensure fairness, we had Mary-Anne Leang, of the law firm of Jansen Law, to arrange the order in which the articles would appear and to vet the contents.

In the interests of fair play, we have not edited this in any way. 

Questions for Candidates for Councillor:

What are your top three priorities for the coming four years of Council? How do they differ from the last four years?

1) Amongst my top three priorities is to continue the progress this Council has made in the areas of civic engagement, affordable housing, environmental stewardship, improved recreational amenities, client-driven service delivery, smart growth through development design, built heritage preservation, diversity/inclusion, and support for the arts.

2) Broadening the commercial tax base to relieve the pressure on residential taxpayers and to increase local net employment (fewer commuters). Support for local small business through retention and expansion programs.

3) Developing greater community cohesion and quality of life by building both physical and social connections – trails, events, grassroots volunteer organizations, mixed  affordable housing, a vibrant downtown and walkable neighbourhoods.

What do you bring to Council that hasn’t been there previously?

I bring four years of experience as Council Liaison to the Public Works Department and the valuable knowledge gained with service on five advisory committees (Youth, Heritage, Environmental Action, Arts & Culture, Agriculture and Rural Affairs). A year’s experience on the Board of the Ferguson Forest Centre and three years serving on the North Grenville Police Services Board; the last 18 months as its Chair.

Social media has become toxic locally, especially over the past year. Do you think Council has a role in creating a more civil atmosphere generally? If so, how would you go about it?

As community leaders, Council has a responsibility to set the tone for civil discourse. This is the first Council North Grenville has had that is accessible and active on social media, primarily Facebook. I believe we have been respectful in our responses to questions and concerns from residents and business owners. We have consistently provided valuable information about the activities and workings of the Municipality and have promoted increased civic engagement. The Municipality has a Code of Conduct that applies to all employees, elected representatives, and even governs the activities of our committees.

Do you think more can be done to involve the community in the affairs of Council and being part of the decision-making process?

Covid put a pause to Council’s well attended in-person Community Discussion Forums. As the pandemic declines, I look forward to continuing with many more of them. Consultations continued online but it was difficult to have the kinds of informal dialogue that happens naturally when one is face to face in a group setting. Despite that, the Mayor and individual Councillors had opportunities to “check-in” with community groups via Zoom and those meetings proved very productive. Certainly, the Advisory Committees that Council formed in 2019 were a wonderful way for residents to get involved in Municipal Affairs and many recommendations concerning Policies and Practices came from them and were implemented. Finally, it’s essential that Council and staff communicate more effectively to residents and business owners so that the opportunities for increased engagement in decision-making are more evident.

How do you think the future development in North Grenville – infrastructure, economic, environmental – should be directed? What new initiatives need to be undertaken in those areas?

The 10-Year Community Strategic Plan passed this year after considerable consultation with residents, business owners and community stakeholders. It’s a reflection of how this community sees its future. The foundations of the document, and I encourage everyone to read a copy by the way, are five key strategic pillars: 1) Balanced and Environmentally Sustainable Growth; 2) A Strong, Connected, and Vibrant Community; 3) Diverse and Resilient Economic Development; 4) Efficient Governance and Service Delivery and 5) A Caring Community. I hope the next Council continues to use it as a roadmap when making decisions about future development.

One new initiative I would like to see is an effort to broaden the commercial tax base to relieve pressure on the residential taxpayer. Even during the height of the pandemic many residents left the Municipality every day to commute to work. To avoidt becoming strictly a bedroom community we need to create the conditions that will make North Grenville a great place to work, not just live. We need to continue to improve the quality of life for residents and to make North Grenville an attractive place to situate a business. As well as business attraction initiatives, we need to help existing local small businesses to survive and to thrive.

I don’t believe you can have economic development without community development and so we should re-double our efforts a developing greater community cohesion and our quality of life by building new physical and social connections and supporting existing ones  – trails, events, grassroots volunteer organizations, mixed affordable housing, a vibrant downtown and walkable neighbourhoods.

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