County council candidates debate in Angus
By Kate Harries AWARE Simcoe October 18 2010
The question of nepotism and conflict of interest was the very first one asked at the debate for mayor and deputy mayor candidates, held yesterday at the Angus arena.
Sandie MacDonald, Ward 1 councillor for seven years and whose husband is Fire Chief Paul MacDonald, addressed it head on.
“I will continue to make decisions for the fire department, for the volunteers, to make sure they are safe,” she said, “and to make sure that your life is safe and your property is safe.” She said she removes herself from council for any decision regarding the fire chief’s position, “but I am very proud to be married to someone that would like to give back to the community and has for the past 32 years.
“I don’t have any conflict,” said Sean Bubel, running for council for the first time as deputy mayor.
The mayoral candidates were not asked the nepotism question but the whispering has plagued Deputy Mayor Terry Dowdall, running for mayor, who is married to township planner Colleen Healey.
Dowdall also removes himself from any monetary issue that involve his wife. He has pointed out that he voted against any raises for township staff because, as the owner of the Baxter corner store, he knows the economic reality of struggling with rising costs.
Incumbent Mayor David Guergis didn’t get to answer either. His wife, Leesa Turnbull-Guergis, has represented Essa on the Nottawasaga Police Services Board since 2006, and there has been talk of appointing her to be the Essa rep on the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority board.
And there have been questions raised regarding the mayor’s role in – initially – pushing for dissolution of the NVCA, and – more recently – pushing for transfer of the NVCA’s role in planning approvals to Simcoe County, in light of Turnbull-Guergis’s development property on Mill St.
David Guergis and his brother Tony (running for re-election as Springwater mayor) are quite the pair of politicians. You never know which way they’re going to turn.
Tony now insists that he voted to stop Site 41, which he did – but only after he lost control of Simcoe County Council following pressure from hundreds of citizens mobilized to stop a dump being built atop water that has tested as pure as thousand-years-old Arctic ice.
David, who has consistently attacked the NVCA for costing too much, yesterday said, “I don’t think we give them enough money.” He said he wants the conservation authority to do more to protect the environment.
Guergis conceded that the NVCA levy to Essa this year is down, because of provincial changes in the levy share which resulted in Barrie (and Innisfil) paying more. It should also be noted that the NVCA budget is development-driven and its planning staff complement and overall budget has been reduced this year because of the downturn in the economy.
An 11-year-old who stepped up to the microphone had a simple question.
“When are you guys going to get rid of landfills because the water bottles that you guys are using right now are going into landfills?” Simon Sudo asked, pointing out that even recyclables aren’t always a solution because they can end up being dumped in countries like India.
On the podium, deputy mayoral hopefuls MacDonald and Bubel each had three plastic bottles of water lined up in front of them. Bottled water (which doesn’t have to meet the high standards of constantly tested municipal tap water) is perhaps one of the more potent symbols of our throwaway consumer society.
Simcoe County Council (made up of mayors and deputy mayors from 16 municipalities including Essa) is responsible for waste management and at one of their waste strategy consultation sessions earlier this year, officials were derided for offering refreshments in plastic bottles and Styrofoam cups. It’s a simple test of basic environmental credentials and they were urged to “model” the behaviour that’s needed from all citizens
“Thanks for the water, Archie,” Bubel joked in the direction of Ward 1 candidate Archie Duckworth, who organized the meeting. “We can do a better job in Canada. it has to come from all three levels of government,” he said. Some municipalities ban water bottles in public buildings, he noted, and that’s something he might be prepared to support.
Bubel, who works for the federal government as an assistant to Tory MP Patrick Brown, raised some eyebrows for dismissing MacDonald’s long history of community involvement.
“We all know my opponent is involved in so many boards, committees and causes but these pursuits are not in the job description of a council member. Council is not a social club.”
“I have not been on a social walk,” replied an indignant MacDonald, the owner of the Naturally For You health store in Angus.
All candidates expressed support for better policing, especially to stop speeding, new sidewalks, a heavy garbage pickup and continued vigilance to keep taxes low.
And all agreed that a key achievement of the current council team is the new Angus high school that will open next year. It’s a significant community milestone that seems to have sparked a spirit of optimism and confidence among all involved. Essa voters now have to decide who will lead the township into a new era.