Collingwood and cannabis stores

Buffer zones

Credit where credit is due: Collingwood council this week voted unanimously to allow a cannabis store to open here. That came as somewhat of a surprise given earlier negative comments from come councillors, but in the end they all agreed to it. It made sense to say yes, given that pot is now legal in Canada. Saying no would have made the community seem both out-of-touch and fusty, and would have reinforced the resolutely-closed-for-business reputation that last council gave our town.

But the staff report also shows that there is still a deep prohibition-era thinking in town hall. Take a look at the map, above, showing in blue the 200-metre buffer staff thinks need to created to prevent stores from opening nearby. Like parks, for example. Although there is no logical reason to ban sales near parks, the proposed 200 meter buffer basically rules out all of the commercial space and strip malls along First Street.

And who decided 200 metres is appropriate for anything? Would anything change if it was reduced to 100? or 50? How about 1.5m, the width of most sidewalks? Is there some scientific research that says a community is safer, more morally upright if cannabis stores are 200 metres from, say, an arboretum, bench or labyrinth? I half-expected staff to show council a clip from the 1936 film Reefer Madness as the reference to back up their recommendations.*

Within those very buffer zones, the town already has retaillers selling alcohol, tobacco, and prescription drugs. You can get drunk in a dozen restaurants and bars along First Street, but staff think someone selling pot nearby is a threat? Do staff really believe that selling legal pot will corrupt park visitors in ways that, say, legal opioids or cheap whisky don’t? Or that strollers walking their dog along a trail will suddenly be overcome and engage in crimes of moral turpitude when they inadvertently come within 200 metres of a cannabis store? I say we got trouble my friends, right here in River City… **

And as for tobacco – it’s the most insidious, nasty product you can buy legally: addictive, cancer-causing, and dirty. Our parks, streets and beaches are already heavily littered with toxic cigarette butts. Butts are the ocean’s “single largest source of trash” according to data collected by NGO Ocean Conservancy. Smokers are universally dirty – I’ve never met one in all my years who didn’t litter. Just take a look at the sidewalk in front of the coffee shops downtown, or the deep reefs of discarded butts beside Wal-Mart or other box stores where staff go to smoke. Do town staff (who do nothing about the toxic butt problem let alone smoking on public property) really think a single pot store is worse than all those smokers and the outlets where they can buy their drugs?

Personally, I would prefer to see a store downtown because it would be good for the downtown economy. But I don’t think it should be the only viable area offered for a retail outlet: location should be the retailler’s choice based on their business model and own studies (and concerns like parking). Arbitrarily limiting its location might be a fine way to do things in the old Soviet planning system, but those of us who still believe in free enterprise have always found that system rather stifling.

Cannabis should be treated the same way as alcohol and other drugs. We already have zoning in place to limit where retail or commercial operations can take place. Why create artificial buffer zones when we already have all the necessary planning rules? All that will do is add another unnecessary layer of bureaucracy to the process in a town already labelled closed for business.

But maybe that’s the goal.
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What about climate change? No. 2

Climate change
A few of the apocalyptic headlines from the past few days:

Final call to save the world from ‘climate catastrophe’ – BBC news

Landmark UN climate report warns time quickly running out – Al Jazeera news

Scientists Just Laid Out Paths to Solve Climate Change. We Aren’t on Track to Do Any of Them –Time magazine

Planet has only until 2030 to stem catastrophic climate change, experts warn – CNN

Earth has only until 2030 to stem catastrophic climate change, experts warn – ABC news

UN report on global warming carries life-or-death warning – CBC news

Terrifying climate change warning: 12 years until we’re doomed – New York Post

U.N. Panel Warns Drastic Action Needed to Stave Off Climate Change – Wall Street Journal.

Unprecedented action needed to curb global warming – UN report – ITV news

UN report on global warming carries life-or-death warning – Victoria Times-Colonist

A major new climate report slams the door on wishful thinking – Vox

Climate Report Warns Of Extreme Weather, Displacement of Millions Without Action – NPR

Alarming as it is, this is hardly the first time scientists have warned us that we have to make changes or we face a catastrophe. And it’s not like we can’t see it coming: record tornadoes, record hurricanes, record typhoons, record temperatures, record tsunamis, record droughts… this summer we were warned “2018 Is Shaping Up to Be the Fourth-Hottest Year. Yet We’re Still Not Prepared for Global Warming” (New York Times).

As the BBC story notes:

Preventing an extra single degree of heat could make a life-or-death difference in the next few decades for multitudes of people and ecosystems on this fast-warming planet, an international panel of scientists reported Sunday. But they provide little hope the world will rise to the challenge.

A SINGLE degree. Can’t we strive for at least that?

In the US, the NOAA reported:

August 2018 was characterized by warmer- to much-warmer-than-average conditions across much of the world’s land and ocean surfaces. Record warm temperatures were present across parts of each major ocean basin, with the largest portions across the Barents Sea and the western Pacific Ocean, and small areas across Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America. During the month, the most notable temperature departures from average were present across Europe, central Asia, the northeastern contiguous U.S., and southeastern Canada, where temperatures were 2.0°C (3.6°F) above average or higher.

All of which makes me wonder why we’ve heard so little about climate change and Collingwood during this election campaign. Aside from what I wrote in my earlier post, I’ve heard only one candidate mention it. And that concerns me.
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My answers to AWARE Simcoe

AWARE SimcoeCandidates 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?

ANSWER
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.

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Ten points on affordable housing

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.

  1. “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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

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Red light cameras for Collingwood?

traffic cameras
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.

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Time and conflicts in mayoral politics

No time?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.

Doesn’t Collingwood deserve a mayor and a deputy-mayor who are accessible, available and who can participate fully in the town’s business?
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