By Chris Pickup
Charges of lack of respect, condescension, and the need for more communication and consultation with residents were levelled against the present council by candidates vying for a seat on the next council.
Eight Dunnville area candidates faced off in a large packed hall at the Legion Thursday, hosted by the Dunnnville Chamber of Commerce.
All were allowed a two minute timed opening statement before moving on to questions that required a one minute answer.
Joey Tingle of Lowbanks blasted incumbent Rob ShIrton for not answering his emails for two months on a road issue in his ward, and for his condescending attitude. “We deserve someone who can treat constituents with decency and respect,” he said.
Marianne Kidd, who also lives in Lowbanks, is looking for ways to save money at the county, bring in more jobs, recreation and agricultural tourism to help small businesses, and public transportation for those who don’t drive. “It’s time to move over guys,” she joked.
Rob Shirton (incumbent), defended his record. “I always get back when there’s work to be done,” he said. Dunn, Moulton and Sherbrooke are the only rural ward and they badly need high speed Internet. Promised gravel road conversion is taking place.
Julie Marchese, who owns her own business says she has met and become friends with many people. “I want to open the doors to new ideas,” she says. Regular communication with citizens, monthly visits to hospitals and regular meetings with social services are top of her mind.
Bernie Corbett: (Incumbent) “Dunnville gets nothing?” he said, deriding the oft-spoken allegations of residents of his ward. He cited the new library addition, new pathway along the river, farmers market and 14-unit seniors housing, among others.
Ken Hewitt, (Incumbent) who lives in Caledonia, noted the municipality is the most important level of government for people. “I was elected on the promise of change,” he said, adding that council works well together.
Lisa Taylor. The Dunnville resident says “We need to make things better. No-one has a monopoly on good ideas. We need to talk to everyone in the community.” East and west Haldimand have needs to be respected, she added. “We’re losing community spirit.”
David McClung, who lives in Cayuga, also claims citizenship in Dunnville where he was born and spent his formative years. “Dunnville hospital saved my life, two of my three children were born at Dunnville hospital.” He has fond memories of the Grand Island BBQ and the Port Maitland Pier. Essentially, there are two Dunnville candidates in the race for mayor, he said.
Directed to mayoral candidates, “In your opinion, what are the strengths that most qualify you.” Taylor: “Past mayors had some great attributes – personality, stubborn. I have all of those attributes.” McClung: “Integrity, education, group work, respect for everybody.” Hewitt: “We’re a $130 million corporation. It’s your money. I’ve demonstrated in the past I can provide the level of assurance funds will be spent wisely.”
What will happen to the old market building? Marchese would like to see it left in the same area and re-purposed, however Corbett noted it has to be removed as part of the contract and the land used for parking for the boat club.
Safety crossing at Main Street: All candidates were in agreement it is a priority. Speeding, the fact it is a truck route, the popularity of the new river pathway, and the need for a wheelchair crossing were all points brought up.
High speed internet: All three mayoral candidates agree high speed internet is needed for digital businesses and the need to be able to compete in the workplace, but Taylor added the caveat that it is not necessarily a priority since most seniors don’t have access.
Why do so many people feel they’re left out? Corbett said there are all kinds of things in the community, lots of opportunity. “If you want to see something, get involved,” he challenged. “Maybe we need more communication,” Marchese observed.
What are the plans to deal with dead ash trees? Shirton noted when he was elected in 2010 Haldimand shared an arborist with Norfolk. Now Haldimand has its own arborist and trees are being removed with a replant scheduled in about two years. Corbett added it takes one year to decimate a tree but there is no help from the provincial government. “It’s a priority with us.”
Differing estimates on cost of new Cayuga Administration Building: Hewitt said the tender for the bidding came back $2 million less than originally estimated. “It’s a 50 year building for $700,000 a year. We are paying $300,000 for sub-offices now. Taylor felt the new building was definitely justified. McClung indicated it is “just one of all the places where the numbers don’t add up.”
If elected, how will you work with the present incumbents? McClung: with total respect for everybody. I’d get down to work with whoever gets elected. Taylor: In a clean respectful manner. “I’ve said from the beginning I’ll not be part of any bashing.”
Police presence on streets re speeding. Corbett: As police board chair, Haldimand policing is at 72% of what is required. Higher priorities are domestics, drugs, 911 calls. It’s difficult to have police there. Shirton: we have speed signs where issued, hope they will work. Kidd: decreasing speed in different areas, use spy cams. Taylor: suggested police auxiliaries could step up. Hewitt: OPP contract fixed based on households. Can’t get more officers. Why can’t we as a group take some ownership? McClung agreed and suggested the question of speeding be addressed in school. “Get them before and just after.” Tingle: signs great. No-one has seen a speed trap in five years. Marchese: got to put some money in and fix the problem.
How can improve rural policing model? Hewitt: Only way is Queen’s Park. It’s an issue all across the province. They don’t have the officers to give us. Taylor: as a volunteer for the last 5 years, I’m staying quiet. McClung: suggested more technology for monitoring so policing community can be more active, might get more done.
Shelter in Dunnville, where will funding come from? Marchese: Provincial and federal funding. Families and people living in fields. Have to start somewhere. Corbett: If you can get any money, good for you. I’ve been trying for years to get funding. Told possibly 2019 but that’s an election year.
What would you do about escalation of capital costs? McClung: I would work toward an independent audit of Dunnville Farmers Market, the Cayuga Library, and possibly the Grand Vista Trail in order to determine what went wrong. Then I would work to hold accountable those who had shown poor judgement, and put safeguards in place to make sure it didn’t happen again. Hewitt: We have a good credit rating and it’s not because we’re surrounded by stupid people.
You’ve lived in Dunnville all your life. Is that an advantage? (addressed to Taylor) There was a time when I tried to get out but I came back where my roots are. Hewitt: I live in Caledonia but feel Dunnville has passion and energy. McClung: I’m originally from Dunnville, but I’ve been to a lot of other places, Asia and Europe, and I wouldn’t give up the experience for anything.
What would you change in regards to capital budget? Kidd: would look at the tendering process to make sure don’t make mistakes and stay within the budget. Shirton: Concern in the public about budget. We have 600 projects and about six go over and that’s all we hear about. Corbett: we have excellent staff. I’m quite pleased with capital projects. Marchese and Tingle: no answer
Has the county ever had a forensic audit? Hewitt: No, had no need for one. We’re AA Stable, financials in order. Independent auditor looks at our financials.
Shirton: County in great financial shape, worked well together with teamwork and respect. Recognize still room for improvement. Achievements: Lowbanks light, bridge to Byng repaving, one-stop shopping new admin bldg. Need development, indoor pool, high speed internet, shoreline protection. “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”
Kidd: Need fresh ideas, public transportation, high speed internet, help for people with home businesses, family doctor recruitment strategies, more stable seniors accommodation, more parking Port Maitland, more new recreational programs, regular public meetings. “People of ward 5 would be my boss.”
Tingle: Focus on needs and concerns of community has been slow and sometimes absent; need opportunities for growth; make sure community is viable for jobs and visitors; make sure have funds to operate massive spending projects. “Voting for me is giving a voice to the average Joe.”
Corbett: Achievements: spy cams for speeding; financial stability; extremely proud of our gravel road conversions; reasonable tax increases; there’s a policy to get funds to do such things as indoor swimming pool. Needs: extremely concerned about affordable housing, some seniors on 7 yr list to get a home; change boundaries to line up wards.
Marchese: Honest, will speak the truth; can lead by example; people being pushed away and not being heard; will keep little office in Dunnville for public consultation; working together to make things right.
Hewitt: Crisis in Ontario with regard to social housing, I support it but 2 parties not here – province and feds – local tax dollars cannot support it by themselves, it’s frustrating; 8% increase in police budget; financials – hydro funds; increased capital budget to $36m.; growing communities fund – pools, rec. facilities, enhancing libraries and museums; high speed internet not luxury but a necessity.
McClung: Hewitt can understand financial data, but is he actually doing it? Increased capital spending by 30% over past 8 years, but my taxes with no improvements, went up 37%. Proportionally capital spending has actually decreased, and some of it went in projects whose budgets ballooned way up. Growing communities fund actually a tax grab, created by adding $150,000 to staff-recommended tax-supported operating budget to fund such things as indoor pools. What you will get is higher taxes, and probably still no pool. “Mr. Hewitt is someone who is theoretically capable of minding the store, but I am someone who will actually do it.”
Taylor: New ideas, new blood always a good idea; this is not about me, but about you; good memories of childhood in Dunnville; open communication for people to have a voice. “May the best female win”.
EARLY POLLS: GRANDVIEW LODGE OCT. 12, 11 AM – 7 PM