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After working in healthcare for several years prior to the pandemic, Hayden Hughes shifted careers when he moved to the Highlands in 2020. He’s now a contractor, specializing in framing. While he’s never run for municipal office, Hughes served as the New Blue Ontario candidate in Barrie-Springwater-Oro Medonte in June’s provincial election.
Issues in Dysart et al
Hughes said his major concerns heading into this election are housing, transportation and health care. He’s concerned about Dysart’s senior population and wants to ensure they have the services they need to continue living independently. “The best outcome is to have people aging in their own homes, so that they’re not institutionalized, and keep them out of hospitals… the cost of living now is a problem. If the electricity price goes up, and you’re on a fixed income with most of your paycheck going to warming your house, how are you supposed to pay for those extra hours of home care, or groceries, that you need?” He believes council should be doing more to support the elder population.
“I have mixed emotions. I know government is necessary, but I don’t like when it tries to overreach, expand or gain power. The amalgamation of things like roads [departments] would be amazing, especially for plowing… But amalgamation of the actual municipalities? I would like to get a bit more information on the area, what the people [want to do]. I’m honestly not sure how I feel about it.”
Hughes hopes Haliburton County can continue to support two hospital sites. “Staffing is the main issue. Doctors are needed everywhere. Assuming we’re not creating our own doctors here, why would they choose to come to Haliburton if their spouse can’t find a job? If there’s nowhere to live? If a doctor or a nurse is single, there’s nothing for them to do here. What it comes down to is growth. We need to build our services and grow.”
Prior to purchasing his home, Hughes had major issues finding a place to live in Haliburton. “Trying to find a place to rent was next to impossible… I did some couch surfing, some short-term rentals… you can’t even get started with building a life as a young person because you don’t have a place to live.” Hughes said council needs to work with developers to create more homes in Dysart. He suggested the township should consider expanding its sewage treatment facility, or building a new one, to ensure multi-unit builds can be serviced.
Hughes believes council needs to work to bring more business, specifically manufacturing as those jobs tend to pay more than minimum wage. He thinks the township should be doing more to help vulnerable residents. “The amount of money people are going to be spending for heating this winter, it’s going to really pinch the pockets of a lot of our constituents… It would be nice if we were able to retrofit some houses away from propane or natural gas… to electrical baseboard heating. I think council needs to be proactive in coming up with solutions, because a lot of people are struggling.”
Shoreline preservation bylaw
Hughes called the County’s recentlyadopted shoreline preservation bylaw a “necessary evil”. While he sympathized with property owners against the bylaw, he said it was needed to protect lake health. “I don’t like a bylaw that restricts people’s independence with their own property, but we’re just trying to figure out a way that we can protect the water, protect the native species and kind of balance out the eco-system.” He believes the document still needs some work. “There are still a lot of unanswered questions… especially with septics.”
Hughes believes there are bigger issues. “Our job should be to try to get a better budget to work with so we can do these great things in the future. Where we are right now, it seems like this is going to add expense to our budgets by hiring compliance officers and people to do all the paperwork. I’m not sure if we’re ready for that right now.”
Hughes believes Dysart needs to introduce some mode of public transportation. “There’s a lot of people who, right now, can’t get to and from work because there are next to no [transportation] options. It doesn’t have to be too extravagant; it doesn’t have to be creating a high-speed rail, just more access.” He said it was especially important to establish more options for people with accessibility issues, expanding on the Dymo bus service Dysart already offers.
Focus for 2023 budget
“The first thing I would do is look at what we currently have in place financially. Then look at how we can grow our income, but also save some money as well.” He would lobby to expand Dysart’s transportation service for people with accessibility issues. Hughes would like to see the township invest money into hosting more community events during the winter.
Hayden Hughes the candidate
Hughes recently purchased a home in Dysart after relocating to the area from Barrie in 2020. “I want to make this place home for my future family, I want to see it grow in the right direction. I decided to get involved so I could help steer us in the right direction.” Hughes lives in ward 2, but said he decided to run in ward 4 because “it’s a beautiful place… it’s pretty diverse, has a lot of beautiful lakeshores we need [to protect].”