New year’s wishes for the Highlands


A lot can happen in a year. As I sit down to write my first column of 2023, I think about what I would like our County to accomplish over the next year.

I have been unwavering in my support of a shoreline preservation bylaw. Contrary to what opponents would have us believe, the bylaw isn’t as complicated as it seems. I encourage everyone to look at the final draft and read the pages upon pages that we have written about it. The Highlander prepared a Coles Notes from the last council meeting on the topic that appeared in the Dec. 22 issue.

It appears Dysart et al isn’t going to play ball with the rest of the County on the bylaw. If you live there and disagree, drop a line to mayor Murray Fearrey ( or deputy mayor Walt McKechnie (, who believe many Dysart residents don’t support it.

Our lakes are our most precious asset. We cannot continue to put them at risk.

In the same vein, we do need to finally regulate short-term rentals. Those who believe the industry is not impacting our environment – including our social environment – have their heads in the sand.

At the County level, I am also looking forward to the economic development strategy that a consultant is expected to hand over to director of economic development, Scott Ovell, soon. I am excited to see how the County plans to expand our economy beyond our traditional reliance on tourism.

I also look forward to the continuation of the service delivery review. I am anxious to see who will bid to do a waste management services review to see how landfills can be better managed.

I would like all of our local councillors to make working better together a priority for 2023. As Minden Hills County coun. Bob Carter commented at the first real working meeting of council Dec. 14, united they stand, divided they fall. I agree.

Maybe 2023 will also be the year when we decide as a community whether or not we need to seriously consider amalgamation. At every single County council meeting, we see examples of how the current system is not working.

Aside from local government, I hope the staffing situation at Haliburton Highlands Health Services can stabilize so we aren’t constantly threatened with the prospect of emergency department closures. Some tough decisions have to be made about health care moving forward in this County.

I would like to see inroads in tackling our housing crisis. County CAO Mike Rutter alluded to a housing summit in the new year and I look forward to more information on that.

After years of trading off with Manitoulin Island as the poorest counties in Ontario, I would love to see real solutions start to emerge on the poverty front. We can no longer expect Haliburton County residents to prop up our social services’ sector with donations. The Canadian and Ontario governments need to help.

And, finally, I would like to see Highlanders be kinder to each other in 2023. When I scroll through comments on our Facebook feed, I would like to see people stop attacking each other. I hope to see more comments such as, “I respect your opinion, but we have to agree to disagree.” When I look back upon 2023, I’d like to be able to see civility returned to our County.