Approximately 400 people attended the Saugeen Shores All Candidates meeting on September 25th held at Rotary Hall in the Plex and organized by the Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW) and the Chamber of Commerce.
Although acclaimed, Mayor-elect Luke Charbonneau had the opportunity to address the audience laying out his vision for the future. He wants to see a Council that is more locally controlled, has a local focus and that ensures the town’s growth is according to the wishes of “.. the people who live in them.” “I want to see a Council that communicates proactively with residents, one that is strategic and active in its efforts to leverage the regional investments being made by Bruce Power. A Council that recognizes the importance of local businesses and works to support the local people. A Council that promotes volunteerism and accessibility. I intend to lead a local Council that is dedicated to local ideas, building local institutions and supporting local citizens.”
Charbonneau said that he looks forward to “… leading a new team of outstanding Councilors and working with them and Staff to make Saugeen Shores an even better place to live.”
Deputy Mayor candidate Diane Huber said that the community benefits “… greatly when everyone gets involved in an election and everything else that goes on.” Huber told the audience that, over her 11 years on Council, she has attended some 275 Council meetings and 125 Planning meetings in addition to having participated in three Official Plan reviews. “I believe that the value of that experience will be very important for the next term of Council.” She pointed out that serving on Council requires reading hundreds of pages put together by staff, visiting properties, listening to residents, doing research and that sometimes it requires “… asking tough questions and having to vote ‘no’ on occasion”. “I’ve worked to get important items on to the Council agenda and all of this will continue if I’m elected. Public Service is not easy – the next Official Plan will set the stage for the next 20 years and I have been through three of them in the past; there is a need to streamline some aspects of development but we don’t need to throw out all the rules and forget the past and investments that people have made over 150 years; we also need some public investments and long-term strategic investments for infrastructure and recreational items such as a pool. We need to spend some money and, perhaps, accumulate some debt for items that are going to make a difference for the next 100 years.”
Don Matheson, Southampton Ward Councilor, has also thrown his hat into the ring for Deputy Mayor. According to Matheson, the Council is open and transparent and has to follow the rules. “I asked for lower taxes and made two motions – one for a Master Recreation Plan and the other for staff to apply for a bike-friendly designation – both were successful.” He pointed out that there will be many needs vs wants, such as a new pool and new ball diamonds and new rec centre. “I will work with community groups and staff to find the most efficient and financially responsible way to make it happen.” Matheson also touched on the growth that Saugeen Shores is experiencing. “I believe it’s time to look outside the box and at some non-traditional methods of building. I think we can build them better and at lower costs. Council should also work with the County and developers to encourage more affordable housing, perhaps, through offering incentives.”
Candidate for Vice-Deputy Mayor, Taun Frosst, referred to infrastructure needs such as bridges and said that “We now have friends in Queen’s Park with Lisa Thompson and Bill Walker and a Premier who has said he is in favour of rural Ontario. We should turn the bridge in Southampton back to the Province. It’s their highway and their bridge and they should keep it. We now have a government we can work with.” He said that we will have to look at saving ‘dough’ without sacrificing services. He also suggested that perhaps lanes through downtown Port Elgin in the summer could be turned into one way during peak times and that town equipment could be repaired rather than purchasing new to save money.
Mike Myatt, candidate for Vice-Deputy Mayor, said that over the past four years as Saugeen Township Councilor, he has listened to many concerns from residents in all three wards. “The next Vice-Deputy Mayor needs to recognize that Saugeen Shores is made up of three very unique communities, Southampton, Port Elgin and Saugeen Township and informed decisions have to made on behalf of all three.” Myatt pointed out that he and his campaign team have “knocked on over 5,000 doors. I take this position of Vice-Deputy Mayor very seriously and wanted to hear via door-to-door what the residents are thinking.” With the population growing, it is a challenging time for Saugeen Shores said Myatt. “Rapid growth brings new demands for construction and infrastructure. The next Council needs to be aggressive for funding for infrastructure, long-term care beds, affordable housing, replacement of the aging pool and bridges in the Township.” Myatt was also Director of Community Services for 10 years and said that “quality of life” is the reason people choose to live in Saugeen Shores and the amenities such as the 40km of trails, the beaches, the parks, libraries – are all important. “Agriculture is also very important to our quality of life. Our 45-year-old pool facility’s life is running out. If elected, I will make informed decisions, will provide a strong voice for all three wards and will listen to you the residents.”
Jim Stark, also running for Vice-Deputy Mayor, said that prior to amalgamation 20 years ago he sat on Southampton Council, received a merit award from Blue Water District School Board for volunteerism and has been on St. Paul’s Anglican church council focusing on outreach programs. He said that as a business owner of 40 years, he knows when to save money, and when to spend it and what to invest in. “I will be committed to helping build a safe and inclusive community. I will help build a team on Council that is dedicated to serving all three communities always keeping in mind all the economic levels of our citizens. “It is important to practice strong fiscal responsibility. Council must remember that the taxpayer always pays the bills. Council also has to act on the wishes of the majority and not just small interest groups. We are experiencing unprecedented growth and it’s important to have a strong, skillful, people-focused and open-minded staff to help plan through the growth. We also need to stop the loss of parking on our main streets and let’s help Bruce Power find another location for its training centre in Southampton. It is important to keep our parks and beaches pristine and safe. We need clean accessible washrooms in all parks and we need to do better in recycling. Council needs to help developers provide low affordable housing.”
Dianne (Mini) Jacques running for Port Elgin Ward Councilor has always been involved in the community in a wide variety of roles – at Bruce County Museum, Chamber of Commerce, Pumpkinfest, MacGreogr Provincial Park and others. “A strong community only happens with collaboration and communication. I would like to see Council, Staff and residents get together to contribute to a plan for the future. We need to go back to Town Hall meetings where people are allowed to ask questions and get answers. I’ve always believed in open communication. Strategic planning means the public has a say, there is a plan and actions are done. That is how things move ahead and plans should not sit on the shelf collecting dust. It should also be an age-friendly community.”
Kristan Shrider, Port Elgin candidate, although running for Port Elgin lives in Southampton and works in Owen Sound, after being employed with the Town of Saugeen Shores. “I did not want to move but felt it was a career move. My experience, knowledge, confidence, determination, ownership and passion for this community will help me contribute. I have made improvements in the community and established powerful relationships as well as establishing credibility with community groups. My approach to community leadership is logical, adaptable and educated. If there is a topic I am unfamiliar with, I will educated myself and become informed and make decisions that are beneficial, meaningful and attainable.
Jami Smith, Port Elgin candidate, said that she believes in the democratic principle and encouraged people in the audience to reach out to their circle of family and friends to urge them to vote. Smith’s (nee Lamont) family is a long-time local presence with two grandfathers who served as County Wardens which inspired her to attend university studying Political Science and to become involved in her community. She believes that everyone has the responsibility to share in the community to make it a better place to live. She lives in Port Elgin with her husband, Ryan, and two young sons. Being raised in Saugeen Township, with in-laws in Southampton and living in Port Elgin, she believes in representing all three communities. “Over the next four years we will be embarking on critical decisions that will shape the future of our community and I bring a positive and enthusiastic approach to leadership, that will encourage team work that will achieve traction on things that matter to you.”
Paul Seaman, Port Elgin candidate was absent.
Matt Carr, Saugeen Ward candidate, was born and raised in the community and is a business owner. He has been a volunteer firefighter for 17 years and says that his priority will be the beach front and the small business community. He questioned whether or not the town is well placed for the growth that take place over the next 10 years. “This is a huge priority and we have to be fiscally responsible as we do this. I am also in favour of recreational facilities but we can’t put ourselves into debt for something we can’t afford to pay for.”
Mary Foley, Saugeen Ward candidate, said that what brings everyone together is community and what the future holds. “I have great leadership and have traveled globally for the past 25 years and travel is self-education. I think there is a real future here but we need to keep it in perspective. I know what I want but I am here to represent you.”
Patrick Jilesen, Saugeen Township Ward, lives in the rural community but understands governance having been President of the Bruce County Federation of Agriculture and is now a Director on the Board of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture. He is also an active volunteer in minor hockey and at his children’s school. Community growth, community well-being and fiscal responsibility are the three keys to Jilesen’s platform. “Community growth must be sustainable and opportunities have to be brought to Saugeen Shores that work for everyone youth, seniors and families. I believe that community engagement must be the cornerstone for a robust and sustainable future for all. The future includes a proper year-round facility for people to nurture and maintain their physical and mental health. This should be a priority for every growing community and I think our community has an obligation to provide this for well-being. Fiscal responsibility goes without saying. All three of these are important.”
Dave Myette, candidate for Saugeen Township Ward, said a priority that he holds is managing sustainable growth as Saugeen Shores goes through unprecedented growth while ensure that those who live in the rural areas have their interests looked after as well. Among the other items he is focusing on are recreation infrastructure and an aquatic centre but only “… if it can be done in a sustainable manner with fiscal responsibility. “Under the leadership of our out-going Mayor Smith, I learned a lot and look forward to continuing that under our new Mayor, Luke Charbonneau.
Cheryl Grace, candidate for Southampton, plans to be a strong voice for Southampton. “During the last term, some of my goals were realized for all of Saugeen Shores – integrating design guidelines into our planning laws, keeping our libraries and post offices in the downtown cores, a plan to improve the storm water outlet at Island Street beach to provide a blueprint for all of our beaches,introducing the Open Forum to our council meetings so that citizens can speak on matters of concern, establishing an Economic Development Committee and hiring a coordinator. There is still much much work to be done.” According to Grace, Saugeen Shores population has grown by almost 17 per cent from 2006 to 2016. Infrastructure, Recreational and educational services, housiing,Health care and other services will be a “top priority” to retain the features that make neighbourhoods special places and to protect the charm and character of the community that is vital for tourism and to attract those who wish to live in Southampton. ‘The waterfront is a natural treasure and we need to protect water quality and flow on to our beaches and improve accessibility and control of phragmites.” Public consultation is important to Grace who says she will keep citizens informed on important issues, respond promptly and listen to concerns.
Stanley Kollontay, running in Southampton, is a life-long resident of Saugeen Shores and is retired from Bruce Power as firefighter. He is now a volunteer firefighter with the Town and has served on Southampton Parks & Recreation Committee, Parent & Teachers Committee at G. C. Huston Public School and is past President of minor soccer. While Kollontay admits to having no previous council service and has no specific agenda, he recognizes the needs for facilities and programs for all age groups from youth to the elderly. “I am offering ‘approachability’, honesty, transparency, hard work and a commitment to do everything in my power to control spending and building in Saugeen Shores. Voting will be done on behalf of the citizens and not necessarily my own wishes.”
John Rich, also a candidate for Southampton, previously ran in Port Elgin but living in Southampton with his wife, Dr. Tara Somerville, is now running in that Ward. Rich says he is proud of the work done in the past term but that the work is only just beginnin. “We are uniquely positioned with our largest supporter, Bruce Power, making significant investments in their facilities while calling their suppliers to locate in our region. We are also a premiere waterfront community and an attractive destination for tourists and are the envy of many communities in Canada.” Rich also said that growth does not come without challenges. “We need to invest in infrastructure, like roads and sewers, while at the same time providing recreational facilities and protecting the unique identity of our community, all the while keeping taxes low.”