H.E. candidates in firing line
|By Mark Arike - Staff Writer | September 27, 2018
Economic development, short-term rentals, ice water rescue, better cable and satellite, and the need for more housing were common themes at Highlands East’s allcandidates meeting Sept. 20 at the Lloyd Watson Centre.
Owen Trefry asked mayoral candidates Cheryl Ellis and Dave Burton what they would do to bring in an economic development officer. Burton said one of the recommendations from the economic development and business advisory committee was to hire an economic development officer but the municipality isn’t ready to, “not that it’s not in the works,” he said.
Ellis said she didn’t know how to respond because she “isn’t privy to what’s been going on.”
Barbara Kraus brought up short-term rentals. The municipality is considering a bylaw to regulate and recently hosted a public meeting, at which one of the recommendations was to simply enforce existing bylaws.
“It’s been a pretty controversial topic the last little while,” said Ward 1 incumbent Cam McKenzie.
He said Highlands East needs the money short-term rentals generate. Ward 4 candidate James Deterling said it’s a big industry and taxpayers shouldn’t have to bear the financial burden, including policing costs and impact on lake health. “It should be borne by the person who rents the place.”
If elected, Ellis said she would encourage enforcement of current bylaws, even if it requires more money. Burton said council has embraced short-term rentals but had concerns about the impact on the environment, mainly overused septic systems, and safety issues. He said there was a misconception the bylaw is just a money grab. Volunteer firefighter Jennifer Woolacott addressed the need for ice water rescue services.
“Almost every winter, there’s usually an unfortunate death of somebody going through the ice,” she said. “It’s not a good feeling standing on the shore and knowing you can’t go out there to help them due to political or money issues.”
Ellis said she never understood why the service isn’t provided, since there’s training in Gravenhurst.
“Maybe the insurance is going to be expensive, but to keep losing people through the ice, I think that’s [costlier].” Burton said the province is currently changing protocol “and right now we’re in the midstream of that.
“I would fully support doing ice and water rescue when the regulations get in place. But right now, I cannot, and will not, until those regulations are laid down to us.”
Resident Ted Morris raised the importance of access to cable and satellite service. McKenzie’s opponent Steven Kauffeldt agreed that improvements are necessary. “I don’t have to go into a lengthy explanation, but we need high-speed here, we need cable and we need better cell service to encourage small business.”
Suzanne Partridge, incumbent Ward 2 candidate, said the Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus is working hard to improve cell phone service and high-speed internet. Burton guaranteed that every home in Eastern Ontario will have high-speed in the next four years. Hilda Clark asked about housing. One of the positive recent developments, said Ward 4 candidate Peter Fredricks, is the reduction in the minimum mandatory size of a new build. He believes there needs to be a financial assistance program in place to help young people get in the housing market.
Deterling said there’s a need for housing for people of all ages. He recommends going “after the Ministry of Education to put trades back into local schools. You can build a house, you can finance your family,” he said.
Ward 2 candidate Jane Russell said she is all for low-income housing. “I needed [it] at one time. I went on a waiting list for five years and it created great chaos in my life,” said Russell.
There will be a Minden Hills debate at 7 p.m. at the community centre.
MARK ARIKE is a reporter for The Highlander.