1) Why are you running?
I first ran for Council to give back to the community that I was raised in, raised my family in, and love living in. I want this to be the best place to live for generations to come with the best parks, facilities and the most services.
When I became mayor, the City was issuing few building permits, our population was shrinking, and our commercial and industrial taxes rates were too high to attract new jobs.
We've made investments toward economic growth. We've invested in infrastructure in order to have development ready land. We have enhanced the downtown riverfront and parks and updated facilities to be more energy efficient. We have worked with our neighbours and Grey County on housing, social services and climate change initiatives. We have built bridges and invested in road rehabilitation.
We are starting to see what we envisioned with new housing, industry and commerce. It has been several generations since Owen Sound has been in such a good position. I am seeking re-election to complete the work we have started.
2) Are there any steps municipalities can take to ease cost of living concerns? If so, what measures would you support?
The main cost of living component a municipality controls is property taxes. To control the tax burden, we can only try to control the cost of services or grow the tax base. No one wants to pay more taxes but we all like the services they pay for.
While successive councils have carefully and gradually reduced industrial and commercial tax rates to be competitive, our residential property taxes per capita are still high.
Over the past four years, Council has brought in some of the lowest percentage tax increases compared to past years. Each of the increases of 2.51%, 1.68%, 1.9% and 2.46% included 1% increase that is dedicated to infrastructure.
We have made some improvement towards where we want to be, but have further to go. Council has approved an external objective service review that is currently ongoing, to look for efficiencies in how services are provided. We will apply the assessment growth that we are experiencing as the new properties come onto the tax rolls to help keep tax increases low.
3) What are your ideas for economic development in your municipality?
The City of Owen Sound is poised to be a leader as part of the clean-energy frontier. Thanks to our geographical location, and incredible lifestyle opportunities, we are quickly getting a reputation for being able to attract and support new, innovative, and green businesses that are using the latest technology. We have opportunities to leverage those companies that are here and attract others.
These green-energy businesses fit into the City’s Climate Change Adaptation Plan, Grey County’s Climate Action Plan, and the investments the City has started to make to reduce our carbon footprint. It also aligns us with Provincial and Federal investment coming into the green energy sector.
We also need to seek new investment in other industries such as medical or food production, work with and the regional health facilities, and Georgian College and the Sydenham Campus training centre, to train and employ our youth right here.
4) Do you think the municipality has a role to play in the recruitment and retention of physicians and other healthcare workers?
Doctor recruitment will be a big issue during the next term of council. Council has approved city staff to start working on this. The need for local family physicians is widespread across Ontario and Canada. Rural areas, in particular, have more challenges attracting enough doctors to meet patient needs. Owen Sound doctors service a greater population than just Owen Sound. We therefore need to work collaboratively with neighbouring municipalities.
Owen Sound does not qualify as a “community in need” with Ontario Health. New and practicing family doctors do not qualify for incentive programs funded by the provincial government, however surrounding communities such as Georgian Bluffs and Chatsworth, are designated as communities in need.
We will need to work with the Ministry of Health to designate the City of Owen Sound as a community in need, thus allowing access to existing provincial recruitment incentives, and work with the Family Health Team to develop a Community “Ambassador” program to support the existing recruitment efforts of the Physician groups.
5) What steps could municipalities take to help get more housing built that you support?
In the last 3 years alone, more than 350 new residential units have been created, the highest the city has seen in decades. Approximately 300 of those are rental, and 94 of those are affordable or attainable.
There are 2,000 new residential units in the construction or approval phase, including purpose-built rental and entry-level homes.
A primary objective of the City’s new Official Plan pledges to increase housing supply by identifying and promoting opportunities for intensification and redevelopment where appropriate, and to plan for a full range and mix of housing options.
We will work with the Province, Grey County and housing partners to seek out opportunities to get more affordable and attainable housing built in Owen Sound.
6) Should the city do more to regulate short-term rentals, such as AirBNBs?
Yes, the City will do more to regulate short term rentals. Council has requested a report on how best to tackle the short-term rental issue. One of our objectives will have to be to support hotels and motels that are paying taxes at commercial rates, as well as protecting the character of established neighbourhoods.