Algonquin Highlands, mayor: Liz Danielsen

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Listen to the full interview, click here.

Qualifications 

Liz Danielsen said she was a councillor in Norman Wells in the Northwest Territories for 12 years. She then spent several years as a reporter with the old County Voice newspaper. She was elected to Algonquin Highlands in 2010 and has done three terms as deputy mayor. Danielsen has also served four straight terms as warden of Haliburton County. 

Amalgamation 

“It’s easy to say, ‘you all need to amalgamate, and we need to get rid of all these high paid personalities that you’ve got working for us’, but it’s much more complicated than that. I’m concerned about communities being able to keep their identities. That sense of local identity and history is so steeped in so many small communities here and I want us to be able to protect that to move forward, streamline things and make services better. I’m wondering if there isn’t a midway point where we can see all those things happen with services, without necessarily taking that last step of amalgamation.” Danielsen said she feels many of those service efficiencies will be identified during the service delivery review process the County is currently leading. 

Health 

Danielsen would not commit one way or the other when asked if Haliburton County should consider amalgamating its two hospital sites. She said the upper-tier was doing what it could to attract more health care professionals to the community, including hiring a physician recruiter and renting accommodation for workers to live in. 

Poverty 

“We are taking steps to try and reduce it. There have been housing studies, poverty reduction groups established, so I have some hope for some results coming out of that work. But really, at the local level, it’s difficult. If you ask me what the base root cause of poverty in Haliburton County is, I really couldn’t say. I could just say that we’re much more aware of it now and are taking steps to look at every aspect of poverty here and trying to seek solutions.” 

Housing

“It breaks my heart to hear that people are being forced to leave our community. Our housing difficulties are also making it impossible for people to join us here, to move into our community and fill muchneeded jobs. It’s going to be a challenge for municipalities [alone to address this], we are reliant on upper levels of government assisting us.” She added the Eastern Ontario Wardens Caucus is developing a housing strategy for eastern Ontario that could bear potential solutions. She expressed an interest, too, in Algonquin Highlands investigating tiny homes and secondary units. And, while the County currently works with the Kawartha Lakes Haliburton Housing Corporation, she believes it might be time for the upper-tier government to establish its own housing corporation in the Highlands. 

Transportation 

“It’s a problem … Haliburton County is such a huge geographic area, and, because of that, we haven’t landed on anything so far that has been financially viable or workable.” She referenced recent pilot projects launched by Point in Time, Fleming Crew and SIRCH Community Services, partially funded by the County, as success stories. “We are continuing to work on this file.” Shoreline preservation bylaw “Am I 100 per cent happy with the final draft we came up with? No. I think there is still some work to be done. Bylaws are living documents and sometimes you have to put something in place to see how they’re going to work. We’ve heard from hundreds of people… I truly believe the bulk of them wanted us to do something.” 

Short-term rentals 

“They definitely have a place in our community. The short-term rental business does support our economy. They do bring people here, and I want that to continue… But I do believe they need to be regulated. We’ve heard some horror stories over the past few years how some short-term rentals have impacted their neighbours… so we have to do something viable and reasonable, while also protecting the lifestyles of our current residents.” 

Vision for the future 

Danielsen said she’s committed to keeping taxes low in Algonquin Highlands, while continuing to maintain municipal assets and meeting the growing needs of the community. “Algonquin Highlands is a beautiful place to live. We are exceeding other municipalities. I want to continue that. I’d like to have a stronger committee structure, which would allow more people to be involved in our decision-making process.”

 Algonquin Highlands 

“There are a number of really serious and huge issues. Housing has been identified at all levels of government as being a number one priority. We have a labour shortage. Everybody is having difficulties hiring people, so we have to try and address that. The service delivery work that the County has been doing is also really key.” 

Liz Danielsen the candidate 

“I love municipal politics. I like to be able to help solve problems, to help people when I can. This seems like the perfect transition for me, a perfect next step after 12 years as deputy mayor. I’ve got the experience and yet I can bring a new voice to the mayor’s chair, a little bit of a different perspective. I have a lot of knowledge about this community, what the people want, what they’re concerned about. And that goes for the County too. I think I have a lot to offer.”