Have you received the robocall yet? Many Collingwood residents have, and every one I’ve spoken to thinks they are in appallingly bad taste. And they are right.
It starts out pretending to be a survey asking who you will vote for in the municipal campaign, but after three questions it turns into a nasty attack ad against mayoral candidate John Trude.
As nasty as the candidate for whose campaign it was created. How low, how cheap and immature a tactic this smear campaign is. Well, not inexpensive – these are a huge campaign expense for a small-town candidate. But money is like politics: it gets dirty when it gets into the mud. And this campaign is in the depths of the mud.
Personal attacks like this – ad hominem attacks – are made against people with principles and ethics by those who lack them. These attacks are crass, low-class, vicious and slimy. Do we really want the sort of person who condones them for our next mayor? Someone who can’t run on his own merits, or on the issues, but instead has to attack his opponents through anonymous phone calls?
If nothing more, this shows how unsuited for the position of mayor Trude’s opponent is. Your election choice is so much clearer now. Collingwood deserves the best and the best doesn’t descend to cheap attack ads or sniping at opponents from the shadows.
Candidates throughout Simcoe County were sent a series of questions by AWARE Simcoe, which describes itself as “…a citizens’ group with members in all Simcoe County municipalities as well as in Barrie and Orillia. We work to protect water, the environment and health through transparency and accountability in government.”
I have included the questions and my responses, below.
1. Water is a finite resource. Do you feel there is a need to protect water, wetlands and recharge areas from development, aggregate extraction and other intrusive activities in your municipality? If so, how will you achieve this?
I currently sit on the Lake Simcoe/South Georgian Bay source water protection committee. I also do communications work for the non-profit Ontario Municipal Water Association, which advocates with the province over drinking water, wastewater and stormwater issues, policies and legislation. Both associations have taught me a lot about the need to protect our water resources at all levels and in all systems, as well as the politics and the technologies involved.
I recently blogged about water as our most precious resource as a local campaign issue as well as the need for candidates to make themselves aware of the polices and legislation they will have to follow when elected (e.g. the Safe Drinking Water Act). See ianchadwick.com/blog/water-our-most-precious-resource/
As deputy mayor, I will do everything in my power to protect our water and its sources, including promoting low-impact development and natural stormwater management. As a community on the Great Lakes, I will encourage our mayor, council and staff to be actively involved in associations and agencies that work with protecting the Great Lakes. Where possible, I will volunteer my time in this area, too.
I also believe that Collingwood should be more active in initiatives to mitigate climate change – which will affect our water. We should be a leader in sustainable environmental practices, too.
I was invited, along with the other candidates for this municipal election, to address residents at Rupert’s Landing this week. Each candidate was provided a list of ten questions and given three minutes to respond to one of them. I will comment on the other nine in a future post, but for now, I wanted to talk about question two, which I chose to answer:
There is insufficient affordable housing in Collingwood. What are your plans for increasing affordable housing for low-income adults?
Three minutes is a very short time in which to address a complex, challenging issue. I had made a list of ten points but only managed to get into point three or four before my time ran out. Below are some of the notes I made on the issue and my thoughts about housing. This is by no means a comprehensive post on housing and raises more questions that it provides answers; most of these are simply the points I wanted to raise at the event, and some are simply bullets.
I chose this topic because I felt is was the most important one on the list and that it had so far received little attention this election. I served on Collingwood’s Affordable Housing Task Force a few terms back, where I learned a lot about the needs and the politics. Housing should not be just a campaign topic- it should be on council’s radar all the time.
“Affordable” housing isn’t just an issue about subsidized housing. It’s also about rental unit and rooming house availability, but it’s also an issue that affects development charges, property taxes and home prices. It’s really about housing in general. And it affects every municipality in Ontario.
The term affordable is imprecise – the word means different things to different people. As the CMHC website notes: In Canada, housing is considered “affordable” if it costs less than 30% of a household’s before-tax income. Many people think the term “affordable housing” refers only to rental housing that is subsidized by the government. In reality, it’s a very broad term that can include housing provided by the private, public and non-profit sectors. It also includes all forms of housing tenure: rental, ownership and co-operative ownership, as well as temporary and permanent housing.
For a couple earning minimum wage working 35 hours a week, their take-home pay will be about $19,500 a year each or $39,000 total. Thirty percent of that is $11,700 or $975 a month. A quick search on Kijiji and other sites showed most local apartments were $1,200-$1,700. That’s between 36% and 52% of their income. And a lot of people working in the regional hospitality and retail industries don’t get the full 35 hours a week.
A mortgage on a house will be much more. On $375,000 it is more than $2,000 a month. And that’s not considering the downpayment required – hard to save for when all your money is spent on just getting by.
Housing is a regional issue. Too many people who work in Collingwood can’t find a place here – or afford it if they find one – so they have to live in Stayner, Wasaga Beach or even further away. Their transportation costs to and from these communities makes affordability an even bigger challenge. We need to have a regional approach to housing because our neighbours are involved in it, too.
Simcoe County has jurisdiction over subsidize and social housing. They fund it, build it and manage it. The county has other housing initiatives like support for home ownership, housing retention and rent supplements. The role of the deputy mayor and mayor at county is to advocate for funds and projects in Collingwood and to bring opportunities back to council. Having good regional relationships for a stronger united voice makes it much easier to get support for local initiatives.
A small but very irate number of residents have broached with me the topic of installing red light cameras at Collingwood’s traffic intersections. I hadn’t really thought about it – except to acknowledge that traffic seems to be getting busier. I’ve seen traffic backed up for 500-1,000m at numerous intersections in town – even on weekday afternoons, and seen it enough times to recognize it is the future here.
More cars means an increase in the number of bad, inattentive or aggressive drivers will also go up. Although I don’t know if the percentage remains the same, the number of bad or aggressive drivers appears to be climbing.
In my own experience, it’s worse on Highway 26 than other streets, but that’s my own driving pattern – YMMV (your mileage may vary).
Are red light cameras the solution? After giving it some consideration, I tend to agree that at the very least they may help deter the worst drivers.
Being a mayor today, even in a small town like Collingwood, takes time. A lot of time. Time that working people are hard pressed to find in their busy days. I know from the experience of three terms that even councillors who work cannot attend every meeting, every event, every activity they are invited to.
Mayors have to be on call, doing town business and dealing with residents’ calls during every day, and many, many evenings. Even on weekends they have little to no free time outside their mayoral duties.
They have to attend meetings with staff, with residents, local associations, with developers and businesses, and be at the county and on county committees often several times a week. There are also the extras – meetings with school boards or provincial representatives and politicians, even ministers and their staff. Plus there are the additional boards and committees a committed mayor will join – such as the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative that our current mayor chairs.
And then there are the frequent social demands: visits to seniors’ homes, cutting ribbons at business openings, giving congratulations in person for fiftieth wedding anniversaries and 100th birthdays, the mayor’s levee, Legion events and so on. There are the regular media interviews, radio shows and TV broadcasts, too.
All in all, it adds up to more than a full-time job, even though it’s only paid as a part-time effort. It’s very demanding to be the mayor today. A part-time person cannot effectively fulfill that role nor fully represent the town or the council.
We need someone who can do the job without having to beg off from municipal duties to attend to work or to leave town hall to go skiing during budget meetings (yes, that did happen this term!). We need someone who can’t beg off their mayoral responsibilities because they’re “too busy” elsewhere. Someone who doesn’t have to choose between personal work (or play) and representing and attending to the community. Someone who can be called up at all hours and every day to perform those tasks.
We need someone who has the time to live up to the requirement in the Code of Conduct to educate himself by attending workshops and seminars. We need someone who can take off afternoons or sometimes several days to attend conferences like AMO (where municipal representative get to speak with ministers and their staff) without being pressured by employers not to attend, or to cut it short to get back to work.
One of the reasons retirees and seniors tend to get involved in municipal politics is because they have the time to dedicate to an increasingly-demanding job. But it’s also because we want to put a lifetime’s experience to use. We want to apply what we’ve learned in both careers and personal life. And we have the time to do so.
Even deputy mayors have demands on their time that are above and beyond any daily working role. When mayors cannot attend events or meetings, it is usually the deputy-mayor who gets called on to fill in.
Every politician – in fact, every human – has a personal moral compass that helps guide the way they act, debate and vote in office. While a politician’s may not be the same as the compass that they use as civilians, as family members, as employees, or as a friend, it operates similarly to direct their actions.
For some, their moral compass is a strong internal force that is the same regardless of circumstance or role. For them being a politician is not morally or ethically different from being a member of the community, from being in a service club, a community organization, a church group or just a circle of friends. Their moral compass is the same in all situations. They see right and wrong, good and bad in the same perspective whatever their circumstance. I like to think of myself in that group.
Others have a more flexible moral compass; one that changes according to role and circumstance. They may be relativists who see morals and ethics as variables, as situational guides; relative signposts not absolutes. As politicians, they may even choose to ignore their personal moral compass and instead base their decisions on party platforms, on a fixed ideology, or on what someone else tells them to do. I believe most of the local incumbents fit comfortably into this category.
Party politics are often like this: they create a rigid standard of ethics, morals and beliefs that every member of that party is expected to follow, regardless of how these interact or even clash with personal values. Party members submerge the personal views under the party’s line. That’s not always bad, but it can often sideline conscience.
Municipal politics are supposed to be about individual conscience, not about partisan politics or blind faith in any leader. The moral compasses of councillors should not all point towards one person’s north. One of the strengths of municipal politics has always been the variety of ideas and views it allowed.
Do obedient soldiers, those gray ranks of “komitetchiks” make the best decisions at the council table? I don’t believe so, at least not for the community’s well-being. I believe councillors should vote on issues according to their conscience, based on their research and their understanding, based on effort and thought, on discussions with residents and staff, not simply because someone told them how to vote.