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?
My top three priorities:
One, put in place a strong economic development agenda to broaden our tax base (94% of North Grenville’s tax revenues comes from homeowners) and create jobs in our community that allow people to work and live here.
Two, better balance needs and opportunities in rural and urban North Grenville, with a particular focus on the needs of seniors, children and housing affordability.
Three, ensure efficient and effective municipal government operating within its means, developing its staff and where no taxpayer dollar is wasted. Transparency and seeking the views of residents is key.
What do you bring to Council that hasn’t been there previously?
I’m an entrepreneur and small business owner of a horse farm in Oxford Mills, allowing me to bring both a business and rural perspective to Council. Prior, I was a longtime senior executive in the federal public service where I was responsible for managing large budgets and large organizations – working in a government setting is something I am very familiar with.
I’m a policy expert in socio-economics, community economic development, financial management, the environment, and strategic direction setting. It is a broad skill set built on decades of work experience.
I am also deeply committed to our community and my involvement has given me a broad perspective on its needs. I was part of the Affordable Housing Task Force and the Community and Economic Development Advisory Committee. As a Board member of the Grenville Community Futures and Development Corporation, my understanding of local business has deepened. I spent years working on seniors issues and sit on the Board of Seniors Support Services for Leeds Grenville. I have been lending my expertise to the Kemptville Campus Board and the North Grenville Historical Society. I believe these skills and experiences will help me serve our community.
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?
While I do not think Council should directly weigh in on social media exchanges that get a life of their own, more can be done to ensure our community comes together and is not pulled apart. Debate among residents is a good thing, the key is for that discussion to have a shared base of facts and the municipality can help here. North Grenville’s online presence is not good enough. A better website and social media pages are needed to proactively share information. Local print media is also important in getting the word out on important subjects. It should be easier for residents to feed their concerns directly into the municipality. Be it better online tools, Council holding open forums for community discussion, or even the classic “suggestion box”, can help make it easy for residents to reach into the municipality, fostering an ongoing and positive community dialogue.
Do you think more can be done to involve the community in the affairs of Council and being part of the decision-making process?
Definitely more can be done to engage the community in municipal decision making. Proactively gathering views is the foundation, be it online or in person. Consider the power of a regular council meeting where the only agenda item is open discussion time with the community based on topics submitted by the community.
Having worked on the Affordable Housing Task Force, I really like that format. Turn a problem over the community and, voila, smart solutions can be delivered.
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?
As a strategic planner, I know a community’s long term success is based on a clear sense of what people want it to be, and what steps are needed to get there. While there are plans and some strategies for North Grenville, what’s lacking is the roadmap – what do we need to do first, second and so on. Proper sequencing and aligning efforts gets things done faster, avoids mistakes, and wasting money and effort.
Our community needs a strong economy to broaden its tax base – 94% of our revenue comes from home property taxes. An economic development strategy for all North Grenville is needed. We need to support the rural parts of our municipality. Growth there will mean strong hamlets which also means less pressure on Kemptville’s infrastructure. A strategy is needed on how to protect and promote our local environment; perhaps an initiative the community can lead.
We can better connect our rural and urban spaces in all seasons, and ensure our municipality does not stand in the way of using renewable energy at home like geothermal.