A newly-formed group calling itself “Arms Around Collingwood” sent a questionnaire to candidates for this municipal election. And while I have never heard of them, they claim to have “a minimum 2,500 voting contacts in Collingwood.” Below you will read the questions they asked along with my answers. They requested that respondents “limit answers to 50 words or less.”
- Do you have any conflicts of interest that may influence your decision making at the Council table? Please answer either ‘Yes” or “No? No.
- Will you commit to implementing all the recommendations from the Judicial Inquiry report? Please answer either ‘Yes” or “No” Yes.
- What is your unique leadership strength and how will you inspire those around you at the Council table? Answer: I will use my experience and talents in communications, media, and technology to help council engage the public better and more effectively. I will use my previous experience on council to help a new council move through the processes more efficiently. I will use my knowledge of Collingwood and its history to help put context into our decision-making.
- What two things do you plan on championing in the next term that would be to the greater good of the citizens of Collingwood (apart from the givens of fiscal sustainability, transparency, climate action, completion of existing projects and attainable housing)? Answer: 1. Fast-tracking the hospital redevelopment on the Poplar Sideroad site 2. Better citizen engagement and communications, with a return to public advisory committees and an active communication program.
- How will you measure the effectiveness of all Town services and the municipality as a whole? Answer: In part that is already done through the budget process, but I would ask that every plan and policy include appropriate measurables, plus staff to provide regular, measurable updates on the progress of initiatives and projects. Plus an annual staff update in public about accomplishments for the previous year.
- Collingwood has two covered athletic facilities, the swimming pool, and Central Park Arena. They will be shortly coming to their reasonable lifespan. What is your plan to ensure that Collingwood gets the multi-use facility it has so deserved for the last 3 decades? Answer: The fabric shell is guaranteed for 25 years, and the frames for 50 (see https://www.sprung.com/sprung-advantage/frequently-asked-questions/) so the town has at least 14 years to plan for a publicly-owned facility that includes both recreational and cultural components. It could include a theatre and art gallery, as well as performing and practice spaces for the arts.
Levels of Service
- How will you ensure that residents and businesses can be part of setting levels of service in all public facing services such as roads, building services, parks, trails etc.? Answer: By restoring public advisory committees so the public has a fulsome venue to engage council and staff, and for providing input, as well as being able to offer their experience and knowledge to council.
- Would you commit to surveying residents (every other year) as to their satisfaction levels of all Town services? Answer: Yes. I would do so in an active form sent to all residents, rather than a passive invitation to visit a website to participate. And I would link the results to council’s strategic plan and publish it.
- How do you propose to improve communications between Council, the Public and all Town of Collingwood Departments? Answer: By using regular printed communication sent in utility bills or by mail to all residences; by restoring “coffee with council” meetings for informal discussions, and by requesting local media provide space or time for council-generated communications (such as interviews or column space) for all members.
- Council requires dedicated communications staff responsible to the Mayor/Deputy Mayor – will you support this necessity at the budget discussion? Answer: I helped hire the town’s first communications officer, and I support the town having an appropriate level of professional staff to manage official communications. I would make them responsible to the CAO or director of economic development rather than to any politician, however.
- In what service areas if any, do you see the need to increase regional collaboration to reduce duplication, share resources and create efficiencies? Answer: Water and wastewater management were previously examined by the county for such efficiencies and the discussion should be re-opened. Wider regional purchasing initiatives would also be useful.
- How do you think that the Town could be more efficient? Answer: Eliminate council’s redundant and expensive standing committee system and return to the committee-of-the-whole system. This will speed up the processes, reduce staff time, and better inform all council members of issues under discussion.
I returned my answers as above, but feel that the first question should have had a place for respondents to explain if they answer “yes.” Conflict of interest can come in many forms, but I can only assume the group means the legal definition under the province’s Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, because the Act supersedes any local policy or code Plus there is the question of “apparent” conflict as raised in the inquiry. Regardless of which definition is used, my answer is still no.
As for the second question, as I’ve written on this blog several times (e.g. here, here, and here), many of the inquiry’s recommendations refer to provincial legislation over which the municipality has no jurisdiction. Several are redundant, and the biggest one — to avoid any apparent or perceived conflicts of interest even when they are not actual legal conflicts — was frequently ignored by our former mayor who voted SIX TIMES for sole-sourced (i.e. untendered) contracts for his former employers during his terms on council. Millions of taxpayers’ dollars were given to his former employers and never once did he disclose his relationship with them or step away from the table during a discussion or vote about their contracts.