Highlands East mayor: Dave Burton

Dave Burton Highlands East

Listen to the full interview on The Highlander’s new podcast: click here.


Served four terms on Highlands East council and six years on Oro-Medonte. Has been a County warden, chair of the Eastern Ontario Wardens Caucus, Eastern Ontario Regional Network and Good Roads. He was self-employed (water well drilling) most of his working life. He also sold bottled water. He’s a former volunteer firefighter. 


 “I’ve said all along, let’s get the service delivery review in place and let’s see how we make out with that. I’m fully willing to look at (amalgamation). It’s going to take experience and some special people on council to look into it and see what may benefit the municipality and taxpayers. With the service delivery review, we might be able to share staff as that’s one of my main concerns right now is getting qualified people that can commit to the municipal sector.” 


“Are we doing enough? I guess my question back to you is how much is enough? I think we’ve come a long way with what we’re doing. We expect full partnership with HHHS to do what we have to do as far as recruitment. But it’s probably never enough. So, there is a line we are going to have to draw.” Burton added, “one hospital probably would have been good for Haliburton County. I believe one would have been better if it could have been located in the right spot. I suppose that was the politics of the day.” As for lobbying the province for a CAT scan and fundraising for it, he said he is 100 per cent supportive.


 “The province has looked into the Provincial Policy Statement to make housing, especially affordable housing, a little easier to get. For me to try to do some housing with the way the rules and laws are now, I’d be looking at probably a six-plex or a four-plex. That’s fine. The septic and well can manage it. I’m willing to look into that if we can find a good place close to the hamlets. So, if people don’t have a vehicle, they can walk to get what they need. “I would partner with any of the groups, builders and province to try to get that in place. One of our committees in Highlands East was tasked with reducing the size of our accommodations. We did that and talked about building granny flats etc.” 


“What can be done about food insecurity? Our food hub. We provide in-kind support. We want to make sure people are getting the food they need. I’m very proud of our community gardens and letting people grow their own food.” 

Shoreline preservation bylaw 

Burton voted in favour of the shoreline preservation bylaw at County council last month. “We’ve spent five years trying to wrestle this thing. A lot of dollars have been spent, mostly consulting people and looking to see what the community really wanted. I’m a bit sad that in some places it has become an election issue. I have not heard a lot of negative things. It’s the protection of the lakes.”

 Short-term rentals 

“I am adamant that people be safe and accountable. In Highlands East, we encourage STRs for the right reasons. I have a list of pros and cons. It has put stress on our waste disposal, and on our emergency services, police, ambulance and fire. “As for budgeting for enforcement, he added, “we have to do that … Part of the concern is we have to get the owner or somebody at the place to be able to meet with bylaw or police so we can do something. Numbers [of people staying] has been a big concern but the County is working on a formula of two per bedroom and maybe two floaters, so a three-bedroom cottage would be allowed eight people, which the septics were probably designed for.” 


“I take a lot of pride in what we’ve done in Highlands East with the Bancroft Community Transit. We have Hyland Taxi and TOK Coachlines. At the County, we’ve tried a couple of different things over the years. I actually think if someone can make it work, it will be a bus line such as Hammond.” 

Vision for the future 

“To help create a vibrant, inclusive municipality and County. We’re there to put systems in place and opportunities for everybody. I’m not going to tell you that in 10 years we’re going to have a Tim Hortons on every corner or whatever. Nobody can project that. I’m hoping we have in 10 years’ time a community that is safe and sound, healthy, environmentally friendly, and green. But we need experienced mayors to do this. Highlands East and the County grew during COVID. My concern is now that more people are here, we have to find something for them to do, and ensure they’re safe, so have [access to] hospitals, landfills, it’s been a juggling act.” He said he knows as mayor he has some say over planning the future, “but that will be up to the people that elect us.” Our committees, for example, provide valuable insight to council. 

Highlands East

 “The major challenge right now – and it’s going to take experience to do this – is to get us back on our feet after COVID.” As for HE’s vision, he said, “one thing I would like to do, right after the election, is sit down with council and take our strategic plan and have a look at it. The one we have in place now has been a moving document and I’d like to maybe pull it out. I don’t want to say dust it off, after COVID, but let’s get focused again to possibly look at a crystal ball and see what might be there in 10 years. Now, it’s hard for me to say.” 

Dave Burton the candidate 

“I’m going to campaign on experience. We need experience at County council. I’ve had people say they hope I can bring that experience and I certainly will. I’ve prided myself, I have put all my morals, principles, and standards to work doing what I’m doing … and I find it extremely difficult to step aside. I think it reflects well on me, and my council, that threequarters have been acclaimed.”