My answers to AWARE Simcoe

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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.

2. Development charges never fully cover the cost of new development. Will you make sure that all costs that should be paid by development charges under existing legislation are covered? When considering an application, on what basis will you decide whether a development is a net benefit for the community?

ANSWER
Our municipality reviews development charges every few years and staff suggest changes at that time. Collingwood’s development charges are high and already cover a lot of development costs, but I would hesitate to increase them because that only contributes to housing costs, making homes even less affordable. And affordable housing is a serious concern for this municipality. I would even lower some of them to encourage multi-unit developments.

Collingwood has been designated as a growth area by the province, in part to constrain residential development here and not permit it to sprawl into nearby farmland. I would rather see a development here than in the rural areas around us. That being said, I want to ensure that any development has natural (low impact) stormwater management, retains sufficient greenspace and will encourage developers to include tree planting to replace at least some of the urban forest they remove.

3. Do you support/oppose expansion of the Greenbelt into Simcoe County? In either case, please explain why.

ANSWER
I support the expansion and did so at a recent LS-SGB source water protection committee meeting where it was discussed. I support the Greenbelt legislation and understand that watersheds, groundwater and source water are all connected. Arbitrary lines on maps don’t necessarily define the real boundaries of natural elements.

I support most legislation and policies that protect our environment and believe they are a small price to pay for preserving our natural resources.

4. Simcoe County Council chose a county forest in Springwater – zoned Agricultural – as the site for a (needed) waste handling facility, the Environmental Resource Recovery Centre. Springwater Township objected, pointing out that this is an industrial use and there are suitable properties zoned Industrial. What is your view?

ANSWER
I don’t like to lose ANY agricultural land to uses that are more appropriate in other zoning categories. And I really don’t want to lose any part of a county forest. However, I have not read the report or the opposition to it, so I cannot fairly comment on this particular application. The county very much needs more waste handling facilities and I expect the county has done extensive research and study to identify the best site.

The solution is a bandage on a much larger wound, however. Our consumer society produces a huge amount of non-recyclable, non-reusable waste. I think we need a larger conversation about how to tackle that, and how to educate consumers and businesses in reducing their waste through sustainable buying practices.

5. Since 1924, the Ontario Tree Seed Facility in Angus performed a vital task for the whole province of coordinating seed collection from 37 zones across the province to ensure seedlings are returned to grow in the zone to which they are uniquely suited. The Progressive Conservative government is reviewing the closing ordered by the Liberals. What is your opinion on this matter?

ANSWER
I understand that every government fights to control costs and looks for places to cut spending. However, I was appalled that any government would chose to close such an important facility simply to save a small amount. But I was not surprised – science has been under pressure for the last decade or two and many institutions and facilities have suffered budget cuts or even closings. I would much rather see our MPPs take a pay cut to keep the facility alive.

I am not aware of any report that presented an economic case for keeping the facility open, but I believe a good case could be made on that basis.

6. If elected, what are your top three priorities?

ANSWER
Ensuring we have an open, ethical government that actively engages our residents and works for the greater good of the community is always my top priority. But in particular, my issues are:

  1. Financial sustainability. We cannot maintain our quality of life much less initiate new projects if we cannot afford them. But taxes are already too high here, so our council has to be parsimonious in its spending.
  2. Economic development. Attracting new, low-impact businesses and retaining our existing ones is crucial to our community’s survival. Well-paying jobs mitigate some of the concerns over affordability; well-paid workers are better consumers of local shops and services. Plus these businesses contribute to our revenue through taxes.
  3. Regional cooperation and collaboration. No community operates in a vacuum; lines drawn on a map do not define problems or challenges. Working collectively with our neighbours we can more easily share resources and address problems like affordable housing, transportation and regional environmental issues.
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