Candidates For NG Mayor’s Chair,
If you planned to attend the all mayoral candidates’ debate at the Municipal Centre recently, you may not have found a seat, or even been able to enter the theatre well before opening time. The candidates certainly were treated to an interested audience and they appeared prepared.
No doubt, it takes courage to step forward and make oneself available to hold public office in this rural Ontario community. Four candidates showed up at the stage to take the microphone beside the laid back Moderator, David Shanahan, Editor of the North Grenville Times – the local paper sponsoring this community event. It was fascinating to see and hear four diverse people share their ideas, observations and plans if elected to occupy the North Grenville mayor’s chair for the next four years.
Elwood Armour dug into the accomplishments of the past councils, exposing the negligence, mistakes and potential tax burdens which may yet follow decisions made in relation to the transfer of the Kemptville College and the infrastructure in the NW Quadrant. He would offer a firmer, business-like approach to such issues from the mayor’s chair, making sure that the taxpayer, local home owners especially, would never be on the hook for those potential costs. In his bent-forward position to reach the mike, and with the top unbuttoned on his blue dress shirt, and in a watch-me-work attitude, he poked and challenged the two incumbents at every opportunity. Why did this council allow the College research facility, the dairy training, and cattle with equipment and more to disappear? Why has the expansion of 43 still not started? Why should decisions be made in closed-to-the-public meetings? North Grenville deserves better, and Armour offers to do better. But he failed to get any admittance or confession of wrong doing.
Incumbent Mayor, David Gordon, presented himself as a relaxed, clean shaven, suntanned candidate, ready to answer any questions about his previous terms from this, to him, familiar council podium. He restated the phrase that North Grenville is “the fastest growing community in Eastern Ontario”, implying that we should feel privileged about that and expect the sometimes unexpected in development. North Grenville never owned the Kemptville College asset until this year, after transfer was arranged with the Province of Ontario from the University of Guelph. The local taxpayer will not contribute a cent through the municipality, since the income from the business activity on the grounds is, and certainly soon will be, sufficient and likely profitable. Because of a gag order, council cannot divulge the details yet (confirmed by incumbent councilor Jim Bertram) The development of the college grounds has been arranged as an independent entity from the municipality, so the money stream can be tracked more easily.
The county of Leeds and Grenville owns County Road 43. The municipal council has been right there all along, to prod and support the county to get the job done. However, to no avail, and with the new provincial government, infrastructure funds appear tighter. The municipality has tried to attract the YMCA to open a pool locally, but they need a population base of at least 25,000 to support it. That is a few years away, basing the math on current growth.
Candidate Nancy Peckford started her initial 3-minute presentation with a confident smile and assured command to be listened to. Loving her family’s settlement from small-town Newfoundland into rural Eastern Ontario, and with her extensive large business experience, she feels well qualified to tackle the responsibilities of the mayor’s chair in North Grenville.
With audible support from some members of the audience, she proposed to bring a pool to North Grenville, and highlighted the importance of other forms of exercise and recreation for all ages of the North Grenville population. (Elwood Armour raised the possibility of converting the current Riverside Park pool to a year round wave pool facility as a more affordable alternative, as a pool requires a huge amount of clean water bi-weekly. Can our wells support that?)
Incumbent council member, Jim Bertram, ‘suitably’ dressed and intently focussed, aspires to occupy the mayor’s chair this term. He shared his experience during the past term in council as an example of what leadership he would provide as mayor in this term. In response to the question how candidates will walk the talk in municipal government, he showed his vision for the rural communities in North Grenville by organizing a Rural Summit, twice.
Communication is a very necessary ingredient in politics as well, and he pointed to his articles in the local paper during last term, which could be expanded to a regular mayor’s column. Jim stressed a number of times throughout this debate how important he finds the string of values-integrity-action in establishing service. His various endorsements of other candidates’ points of view demonstrated his ability to work as a team leader.
North Grenville residents have the privilege of choosing a mayor for the next term from four well qualified candidates, who each are an inspiration to all of us. If not in government after October 22, there are many other functions each can occupy and contribute from to this community.
by Harmen Boersma