Algonquin Highlands, ward 2: Sabrina Richards


Listen to the full interview here.


Sabrina Richards has lived in Algonquin Highlands full-time since 2020. She owns and operates the Big Hawk Lake Marina. Prior to that, she worked as a consultant for big business, specializing in logistics. “I arranged international shipping, worked with various government bodies, from the federal government to customs to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, even down to the provincial level and the Ministry of Natural Resources.” 

Algonquin Highlands

 Richards said public parking is a huge problem. During the marina’s busiest days in the summer, she said it wasn’t unusual for families to have to park up to three kilometres away. “Our parking situation is extreme, and it has been for a very long time. It goes back decades and has not been addressed,” she said. “A lot of residents were upset too about the closure of the Hawk Lake [waste transfer station] … The reality is, a lot of people feel they have to take their garbage home with them, because [other dump locations] are too far away.” 


 Richards is not in favour of amalgamation. “I think the four lower-tier townships have a lot in common, which allows us to collaborate well together. We have a lot of the same needs, but we also have some differences, and some of them are significant. So, maintaining our sovereignty without losing sight of the bigger picture of togetherness is important.” 


Richards believes Haliburton County can maintain two hospital locations. “Even if you were to combine all HHHS operations into a single facility you’re still not going to have enough staff if we don’t start attracting more workers to come here. And part of the problem with attracting people is where are they going to live? We have nowhere. It’s a vicious cycle.” 


 “We need to review some of our bylaws that are prohibitive to things like tiny homes – that could make a huge impact on getting more affordable housing into the market. To put up rows of townhouses, apartment buildings, takes two, three years. We’re past waiting, we need immediate solutions.” She believes the township needs to bring more second stage housing online. “There’s no plan for people who are living in affordable housing units. There’s no way for them to progress, so they just stay there. But because our inventory isn’t growing, we run into issues like we’re seeing now where there’s just not enough [units] to go around.” 


 Richards said she lived in extreme poverty during her late teens, often struggling to make ends meet as a young, single parent. She doesn’t know how she’d cope today if she had to do it all again. “There are so many gaps that people are falling through. There’s not enough support given to help people who are headed towards a dire situation. Some of the things that helped me no longer exist for people … we can’t just sit here as a township and say, ‘it’s the province’s responsibility’. We need to take action.” She mentioned the possibility of hosting job skills courses, possibly partnering with organizations such as SIRCH. 

Shoreline preservation bylaw 

Richards was disappointed with where County council landed with its shoreline preservation bylaw. “For it to have taken that many years to come up with a document that doesn’t protect our shorelines is very disappointing. Septics and fertilizers are the biggest predators to our lakes, but there’s nothing about them in there. That would have been the first place I started. What we’re left with is, essentially, a building bylaw. Some will say that’s better than nothing, but I would have preferred they finish ironing out the problems before moving forward.” She wants to see the issue revisited by the next County council. 

Short-term rentals

 “Short-term rentals pose a great drain on our services. There are usually noise complaints, further bylaw issues… I would like to see a bylaw come in to address the concerns of neighbouring properties. There’s a difference between renting your cottage out to pay your property taxes each year versus having a place listed on Airbnb every night of the year. We need to distinguish that… This issue is taking away from our resort businesses, it’s taking away from our housing stock.” 

Transportation “There could be a main line, say from Dorset to Dysart, but even that I think would be underutilized. Smaller vans may work, but again, it boils down to workers. We don’t even have enough bus drivers to effectively run our school groups, so that’s a problem. I think it’s great that we have some volunteer supports, like the people who give their time to drive people to health appointments. I think we’re going to need more of that, because I don’t see [a transportation system] coming to fruition.” 

Vision for the future

 “Algonquin Highlands needs to build community together. We have a lot of seasonal populations that greatly affects our permanent population. We want them here, but we don’t have enough employees at our businesses to support increased population when it comes in. We don’t have housing to put people in… We need to address these things if we want to continue to grow.”

 Focus for 2023 budget 

“I’d like to see parking finally get addressed. People have waited an extremely long time and I think that needs to be a priority for the township this coming year.” Sabrina Richards the candidate “I definitely have a love for the area, that’s why I’m running. Since moving here, I’ve noticed there are gaps in services and issues that aren’t being addressed and I think I can step into a councillor role and help to move things forward,” Richards said.