Tense moments at Angus candidates debate
Nepotism, Internet access and future development discussed
By Richard Blanchard Innisfil Scope October 20 2010
There were a few sparks flying between Essa Township’s candidates for mayor and deputy mayor at Sunday’s all-candidates meeting in Angus.
The meeting, which was organized by Angus councillor candidate Archie Duckworth and moderated by Laurentian University professor Michael Johns, saw about 150 people in attendance. The two hour session saw candidates for mayor and deputy mayor given eight minutes to speak, which was followed by a 40 minute question period and a two minute wrap-up.
Residents were allowed to either submit their questions in writing or publicly ask at the microphone.
Some of the most pointed debate came when a question about nepotism and conflict of interest was directed to Shawn Bubel and Sandie Macdonald.
Bubel, who has made the problem of nepotism and conflict of interest as one of the key issues of the campaign, said none of his family worked for the township, province or federal government.
Macdonald, whose husband has been the township’s CW Coops fire chief for a number of years, said that she would continue to abstain from any debate about her husband’s contribution.
“I will continue to participate in discussion about the fire department in general. And I am proud to have been married to someone who has given much to the municipality over 32 years,” she said to applause.
Macdonald also received applause from the audience when she took offence at Bubel’s description of her long record of volunteer service to the township as ‘social clubs’.
“You have lived here 12 years. What have you done since you lived here?,” she said in her closing remarks.
There was a economic focus to many of the questions asked to both mayoral and deputy mayoral candidates, with particular emphasis given to the large number of empty commercial spaces in Angus.
All candidates agreed that much of the problem was related to the lingering effects of the global recession.
“Part of it is due to the global recession and some must lie with the decision of landlords and their rental policies,” said Bubel.
He suggested that the township might consider some sort of tax rebate to encourage commercial development.
Sandie Macdonald said that she felt the construction of a new high school would improve the Angus commercial sector.
“People will be more encouraged to stay in the area. I have been told by franchisers that a local high school is a big determining factor on whether to locate in a community,” she said.
Mayoral candidate Terry Dowdall agreed that the high school would help the local commercial sector and added he felt, as a retailer himself, the impact of the harmonized sales tax should not be underestimated.
Fellow mayoral candidate Dave Guergis said that the township should look at some sort of long-term plan for enhancing the commercial sector.
“There are incentives out there,” said Guergis.
Both Guergis and Dowdall said that the upgrading of County Road 10, from Alliston to Angus, to a full, four seasons route for truck traffic, should aid in attracting more industry to the Angus area.
Dowdall argued that the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority’s regulations over planning had not been a major factor in chasing away new commercial projects.
“The regulations from the conservation authority come from the province and are generic in scope,” he said.
He said the township had been successful in getting the NVCA to avoid charging permit fees for decks and small sheds.
“Council has been trying to streamline the process with the NVCA,” he said.
Guergis toned down his opposition to the NVCA during the debate, but said he was still unhappy with what he saw as a ‘lack of fairness’ when the authority dealt with development in Essa, compared to other municipalities.
“They seem to be able to dump fill where ever they want off Tiffin Street in Barrie or in Wasaga Beach for commercial projects,” he said.
Guergis and the other three candidates said that they would support the hosting of a public meeting on the conservation authority early in the next term.
“The problems with the conservation authority and this township could be fixed fairly simply,” said Guergis, who suggested a new council will have to look at erosion and flooding problems in Angus.
All three sitting members of council said that they were proud of the increase in policing in the township, with the decision to hire more OPP officers for the Nottawasaga detachment.
“It will make a difference,” said Dowdall.
Guergis said that the hiring of 15 more officers over the next few years is already making an improvement to traffic issues.
“Excessive speeding and other traffic matters are the number one concern that hear about as a member of council,” said Guergis.
Ivy area resident Robin Hatfield said that she, and other rural residents, felt that there seemed to be a lot of emphasis given to Thornton and Angus, where development is now concentrated.
“We feel marginalized. When are we going to see high-speed Internet or cable?” She said.
Guergis said that changes in provincial and county policy has meant that there will no longer be rural estate or subdivisions.
“With the province’s Smart Growth policy, development will be coming to existing defined communities,” he said. “It is definitely harder to serve residents in rural areas.”
Dowdall said that the county’s plans for high speed Internet appears to have worked poorly.
He agreed with Guergis that the day of rural subdivisions had come to an end, with present provincial policy.
“Thornton will remain about the same for the foreseeable future and, with one more subdivision planned, so will Baxter,” he said.
Thornton resident Lynda Murtha asked Guergis about his ability to work with the rest of council.
“Your literature and speech is filled with ‘I’ and ‘me’. The township’s achievements should have been council efforts. How are you going to work with the rest of council?” She said.
Guergis said that he generally didn’t ‘blow his own horn’.
“It is an election and I can show you my past campaign literature and show you what I wanted to do in 1994 and subsequent elections and what has been done,” he said.
“I have always had my vision and brought it to council.”
Dowdall said that he always believed in a cooperative approach to council, and life in general.
“If we all do a little, a lot can be done,” he said.
Essa residents go to the polls on Monday. Full results will be published in next week’s edition of The Scope