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Ron Evans runs an art studio, Indigo Dragonfly, on Kennisis Lake Road, with his wife, Kim. He’s lived in the community since 2009. His professional background is in journalism, live theatre and theatre management. For several years, he’s hosted a weekly show on CanoeFM, 25 O’Clock, under the pseudonym ‘Brother Bill’. He has had a lifelong interest in politics. “I caught the bug when I was 17. I was brought into a municipal campaign for the mayor of Georgina… Nearly 40 years later, this will be my eighth election cycle, either volunteering or working with different government agencies or parties. But this is the first time I’ve been a candidate.”
Issues in Dysart et al
Evans said his number one issue is preserving Dysart’s natural beauty, something he feels props up the local economy. “The preservation of the lakes and surrounding land is everything up here. We’ve already seen what’s happened in Muskoka, their lakes are pretty much toast, and you can’t afford to buy anything there. Kawartha Lakes is the same. If we don’t start doing something, we’re next.”
“Folks who are actually on [council] might not like it, but I think if the duplication of services is too much then it would make sense to streamline it. I wouldn’t have a problem with amalgamation as long as it’s done properly and all of our needs governmentally are still taken care of.”
Evans would be in favour of maintaining two hospital sites in Haliburton County, though said more needed to be done to attract healthcare workers to relocate to the community. “HHHS [was asking people] to call ahead to see if the emergency department was open over the summer, and that was an astounding thing to see. I would never think you’d see something like that here.”
Evans believes Dysart’s next council needs to work closely with local MPP Laurie Scott to lobby for provincial money to help fund new housing developments. “We need more help in this County.” He believes working with Fleming College, or another post-secondary institution, to bring a trades school to the Highlands would also help. “We’re definitely hurting [for people] in a lot of construction areas. Something like a college brings you a built-in workforce to the community.”
“It’s really hard to do anything that’s beyond short-term. There are some government programs you can go through to get help, but the results aren’t usually as great as you would hope them to be.” He believes it’s unrealistic to expect businesses in the service industry to offer a living wage to workers, pegged at $19.42 in Haliburton County prepandemic. “To me, it all comes back to human infrastructure. Invest in people and invest in the community… We need to do more brainstorming with places like the chamber of commerce to see if there’s anything we can possibly do that we haven’t thought of.”
Shoreline preservation bylaw
Evans believes the new shoreline preservation bylaw adopted by County council in August is a good starting point. “Is it perfect? No. Did they have to give up a lot of stuff? Yes, they did. But like any bylaw, it can be changed if it needs to be.” He’s concerned about how the bylaw will be enforced in the future. “If you look at how much work [the bylaw officers] would have to do, how many applications they’re expected to have, it simply doesn’t add up. They’re going to need more people to handle this, to manage this.”
“There are, potentially, so many legal issues with this… There are so many questions. If you’re renting to somebody that obviously doesn’t live there full-time, who’s responsible for their conduct? And if you are renting regularly, then aren’t you technically a business? Council is going to have to look at this.” He said STRs were starting to become a problem in some areas, notably around Kennisis and Redstone lakes.
Evans said he would be open to exploring public transit if there was enough demand from the community. “You can run a transit system at a deficit, because, really, it’s an investment. But there has to be a certain point where you say ‘no, that’s too much’.” He thinks offering a seasonal service, operational during the busy periods in spring, summer and fall, could work.
Vision for the future
“To be a successful municipal government, we have to look at our infrastructure. I’m not talking just roads and internet; I’m talking about the human portion. Our housing system is in rough shape. There’s no place for people to rent. There’s no low-income housing… I’m really hoping the next council is going to take these issues and run with them.” Evans said he would also focus on bringing new business to Dysart, and improving senior services.
Focus for 2023 budget
Investing in roads and other municipal infrastructure would be Evans’ focus if elected, though he wants to make sure Dysart spends within its means. “We need to be cognizant of where we’re spending the big bucks. That would be, I imagine, police and something else like snow removal. Those are things we would have to look at.”
Ron Evans the candidate
Evans has lived in the Highlands permanently since 2009, though has been visiting the County since the 1980s. “I really want to take the politics out of the government and give it back to the community and be as transparent as possible.” If elected, he would host regular town hall meetings, or a monthly or bi-monthly basis, to hear the public’s concerns and take them back to council