Two vie for top Ramara job
By SARA ROSS, THE ORILLIA PACKET & TIMES October 20 2010
Ramara Township mayoral candidate Mary Bax thinks she can lead the township better than incumbent Bill Duffy, who has been mayor for the past two terms.
“I don’t necessar ily say that he’s doing a bad job. I’m not running my campaign by putting him down. I’m just building myself up,” the Washago resident said on Tuesday. “I feel that with my experience of running my own business and my fresh ideas… I can make a diffDuffy says having a “good handle” on the township’s matters gives him the edge.
“The comment at every candidates meeting was the incumbents know what they are talking about and the people who are new and running don’t,” he said.
Though she has no past political experience, Bax, who owns Bax Financial Services, a bookkeeping company for small businesses in the area, believes that experience puts her ahead.
“I do bookkeeping and as such I can address the fiscal responsibility and the transparency aspect of (the township),” she said, adding those are some of her top election issues.
“They’ve got a lot of long-term debt and I would like to see them start being proactive about their spending,” Bax said of the township.
Development and growth within the township needs to be addressed, Bax said.
“We need to work on the Rama (Road) corridor, get some businesses in there to take advantage of the traffic going into the casino,” she said. “We need to work on the development within Brechin, revitalize Brechin because the main street needs some work.”
Duffy agrees growth and development is key, but adds nothing can be done until the province approves Simcoe County’s official plan.
The county has been awaiting approval for several years, he said
“They’ve been sitting on their (butt) for a long time on that one. We’re one of 16 municipalities waiting for the same thing to happen,” Duffy said. “If the province approves the county plan, we can work on the Rama Road corridor and get development there and that equals jobs.”
Duffy’s plan, if elected, is to continue putting pressure on the province.
“We’ve been told by (Simcoe North MPP) Garfield Dunlop, that he doesn’t expect anything to be done (until) next spring, maybe,” Duffy said.
Bax says Ramara needs to build “better relationships” with neighbouring communities, the province and federal government to encourage growth.
“There are certain things that have to be done and it would be beneficial if we had better relationships with our neighbouring communities,” she said. “With Rama First Nation, we could (be) working with them on the corridor.”
Bax also mentioned the need to work with the City of Kawartha Lakes on a dedicated haul route for aggregate traffic.
“Right now, they don’t really have a specific haul route for driving through our township,” she said. “There are haul routes that should be developed and made available to them, so that there’s specific routes that they drive through our township.”
Duffy is running his campaign while facing animal cruelty charges laid in March 2007, regarding 18 dead elk discovered on his farm. The case is still before the courts.
The charges haven’t been an issue for him during the campaign, Duffy said.
“I haven’t had anybody directly say to me anything about it.”
Ramara Township is conducting its municipal election by mail.
The Packet & Times also asked all other Ramara Township candidates what their most important election issues were and how they planned on tackling them if elected.
Basil Clarke (incumbent)
Having the province approve Simcoe County’s official plan is Clarke’s main focus. It’s necessary for development, he said.
“We need to carry on with the province and I would like to be involved directly with any committees at that level because it really does affect the growth right now in our township.”
Development in Ramara has been stunted without the plan, Clarke said.
“We have lost $11 million in new growth (since 2006) because developers don’t feel comfortable when you don’t have an official plan,” he said. “It has affected us a lot through growth and we need to turn that around. We need strong voices at Simcoe County to make sure that our issues are heard.”
Copeland could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
Lowering the township’s large debt is a focus for Brooks.
“I think if we don’t work towards lowering it, we’re going to have a double-digit tax increase for next year,” Brooks added. “The important thing is to keep the taxes at a reasonable (level.)”
The debt has accumulated from the Brechin sewer project and new municipal office, she said.
“Working with staff and council, I think we should be able to hopefully accomplish that,” Brooks said.
“I’m sure staff has the knowledge of how we can do this without cutting services, of course.”
Bill White (incumbent)
White is also concerned about the “growing debt,” which he estimates is between $11 to $12 million.
“It’s a huge debt,” he said.
Service debt is alleviated through development charges, but with “no development,” that money isn’t coming in, White said.
“That’s part of the problem,” he said.
White voted against the Brechin sewer and municipal office that have added to the debt.
“I basically would probably hire an industrial manager to handle future development for our serviced land. That’s what I would be promoting,” he said.
Cleaveley could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
The cost of building in Ramara Township is what’s slowing development down, Gough says.
“It’s just too difficult to get things done in the township, so they would sooner build outside of the township,” said Gough, who has spoken to developers in his role as an insurance agent/financial advisor.
“Everywhere else you go outside of the township, you see stuff going on. It’s just not happening in our township.”
Gough’s plan to increase growth in Ramara is to “make it easier” for developers to do business with the township.
“I don’t know 100% how we can do that because I’m not on council (presently), but I think that’s something we need to address,” he said. “We need to look around and see how everybody else is getting development, but Ramara Township isn’t.”
John O’Donnell (incumbent)
Continuing to lobby the Ontario government for a share of Casino Rama’s profits is O’Donnell’s focus.
The funding would offset infrastructure costs and an increase in demand for services due to casino traffic.
“I’m hoping there is a change in government in the province next fall, because the current (Liberal) government doesn’t seem to give a damn about us,” O’Donnell said, adding he would like to see a Conservative government in power provincially.
Public outcry is needed to get the funding, he said.
“We need the public to get angry about this. This has been going on far too long,” O’Donnell said. “The new council that gets in (needs to be) united in this front and push for it.”
Ramara council needs to be more accountable and responsible with taxpayers’ money, Pilger says.
“They sold some of the parkland off in the past and they are talking of closing some of our community centres,” he said.” I don’t agree with that at all.”
Pilger says the developments the current council have underway are “wasting money.”
“The councillors have to be able to work together and come up with a plan so they don’t have to raise the taxes, and keep the expenses low and not waste the money,” he said. “That’s what I see them doing is just wasting money.”
As a businessman, Benoit has dealt with the township’s muncipal office quite often. He would like to make it a more welcoming place.
“I want a city hall that’s friendlier to the constituents, basically,” he said. “I want to be open for business and be nice to people.”
Working with city staff could be the solution to that, Benoit said.
“My background is business and treating the customer right,” he said. “People should enter city hall with a smile on their face and get a smile back.”
Erika Neher (incumbent) Establishing high-speed Internet throughout the township and encouraging growth is Neher’s goal.
“We need to have more development happening,” she said. “The best way to push that one is maybe promote the township a little better and also keep pushing for the province to finalize their official plan, so they can finalize the county official plan.”
Promoting the Brechin industrial park will be important to encourage growth, Neher said.
“I think promotion is going to be an important factor,” she said.
Neher says 62% of the township doesn’t have high-speed Internet.
“The rural areas — the outer lying areas — are really hit hard,” she said.
John Appleby (incumbent)
The township is set on a path for “growth and development,” but the economy needs to “pick up,” Appleby says.
“I think we’re ready for that,” he said. “We have the (new) sewers in Brechin, we revamped our building department and have hired a new building inspector. When the economy picks up, I think we’re ready to go.”
Appleby’s main goal is to see development projects go forward.
“We’re getting our new municipal office, which will be a big asset to us as far as accessibility is concerned,” he said. “I think we’re ready for it to happen when things pick up a little bit.”
Linda Kavanagh van Dyk Increasing the tax base is an important factor for Kavanagh van Dyk, who says it can be done by promoting Brechin’s industrial park.
“This would not only increase our tax base, but would give us the jobs so the young people can stay here rather than having to move to other areas to find work,” she said. “Most people don’t even know we have an industrial park, so we need a new strategy to promote it.”
Expanding the tax base will give the township more money for projects, Kavanagh van Dyk said.
“At the candidates meetings, many people were expressing concerns that there wasn’t enough for seniors in Ramara and we really don’t have much for the young people,” she said.
Roy David King
King could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
Growth and development are “paramount” in Ramara Township, Hopson says.
“The township desperately, desperately needs the Ontario government to approve our (official) plan in order for us to go forward and build houses,” he said. “We can’t live on 100 new homes a year. It’s simply not enough to contribute to the tax base.”
If the official plan isn’t approved to create development which would add to the tax base, residents will see a 3-4% tax increase every year “for the rest of our lives,” Hopson said.
“I think we need to get a lobby group going,” he said. “We’re going to have to more strongly lobby (the Simcoe North MP and MPP.) We then need to market Ramara Township as a neat place to live.”
Bill Kahler (incumbent) Kahler declined comment on Tuesday.