Algonquin Highlands, ward 2: Napier Simpson

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Listen to the full interview here.

Qualifications 

Napier Simpson is a retiree who spent the bulk of his working life running business development in the corporate world. He also spent some time working for the provincial government in the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport. “I’ve got very advanced critical thinking skills; I can cut to the chase on complex matters very quickly. I also consider myself a consensus builder, which is less about talking and all about listening. We need to find out what [our community] wants us to achieve.” 

Algonquin Highlands

 “The biggest and most important issues relate to our biggest budget items. So, safety – running of the fire department, EMS, those sorts of things are very challenging these days. Volunteerism is falling. The environment is always a concern for me. As our population grows, we put extra pressures on our lakes and our lands, our roads and our services.” Simpson wants to focus on maintaining roads across the township, and spoke of possibly revisiting the closure of the Hawk Lake waste transfer station. 

Amalgamation

 “As long as people continue to expect services that are similar to what’s available in the city, then amalgamation, things are headed in that direction. I don’t know whether that will be full amalgamation, or more municipal partnerships, but working together with neighbours is one way to solve some of the issues around fire, community safety and policing.” Health “Haliburton County is a big, big territory. While the hospitals may not seem far apart, the Haliburton site covers east heading to Bancroft, while Minden covers to the west and north. Can we afford not to have two hospitals? … that wouldn’t be a municipal decision. It would be a massive transition to try and go to one hospital.”

 Housing

 “A municipal council can support initiatives brought forward at the County level, but there is no real budget [for housing] in Algonquin Highlands. There is no authority to do anything about social housing at the municipal level,” Simpson said. He noted a lack of municipal services, such as sewer and water, limits the township’s options for development. 

Poverty

 Simpson believes attracting new businesses to Algonquin Highlands will help to bring jobs to the community. “Dimensions Health Centres, there’s been some resistance against it, but it’s created 23 new jobs, they’ve spent over $20 million. That’s good for lots of things in our community.” Shoreline preservation bylaw After watching County council discuss its new shoreline preservation bylaw for several years, Simpson said he sees the benefit in having an overarching policy that promotes lake health. “It’s a good start. Could it be made stronger? Undoubtedly. This is the first step of many iterations of this thing. It’s been years in the making so let’s work with it and modify it so it best suits the community and the environment.” 

Short-term rentals

 “They’re a double-edged sword. The short-term rental market allows people to come into the region, so that’s the good side. The bad side is there are some bad apples that cause issues for everyone else.” He said he’s in favour of licensing short-term rentals in the County, with punishments doled out to owners who circumvent municipal rules. “Short-term rentals are here to stay, now it’s about finding a way [to live with them].” 

Transportation

 “Public transit is a real challenge. A municipality has nowhere near the [financial] muscle to solve a problem like this. The County has a real challenge too.” Simpson said it might take some outside-the-box thinking to come up with feasible solutions for the Highlands, such as one recently undertaken in Innisfil. “Rather than developing a new transit system, they entered into a public-private partnership with Uber that has worked well.”

 Vision for the future

 “We want critical services supplied, and we want a happy, safe, comfortable community where we know the environment is protected and it’s safe for our residents,” Simpson said. “As we go forward, there’s been discussion about a community safety and wellbeing plan, which wraps in policing and vulnerable people. So, taking more of an interventionist approach to help the community before things become a problem. I think that’s important.” He also sees potential in the township developing a watershed council, “to protect the environment more holistically”, referencing a similar program operating in Muskoka. “That would help protect the thing that many people come up to see and play on, and that’s our lakes.” 

Focus for 2023 budget

 “The first budget will always be a learning curve… I’d like to go back to the basic needs and say ‘what are the core things we’re delivering?’ and go back to each of those department heads and find out what the priorities are. Council has a tight budget. If we can make a few things a little more efficient, then maybe that opens up doors for us elsewhere,” he said. “We want to make sure we’ve got a well-run township.” 

Napier Simpson the candidate

 “We own an old farm around Stanhope that has been in the family since 1954, so I’ve got a fairly deep connection to the Highlands,” said Simpson, noting he splits his time between Algonquin Highlands and Goderich. Asked how he would provide effective leadership as a part-time resident, Simpson said, “In terms of being at the council table, I’ll be there. I looked at the meetings for 2022 and I was [in Algonquin Highlands] for all but one of those. Then, between telephone and email, people will find a way to communicate with me when they want to.”