Arena All-candidates Meeting Recap

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MNBP all-candidates meeting at Lion’s Head Arena on Oct 1. Candidates at the back, from left: Councillor candidates Patricia Greig, Yvette Roberts, Aman Sohrab, Todd Dowd, Laurie (Smokey) Golden; emcee Doug Embleton; Deputy Mayor candidates Debbie Myles and James Mielhausen; Mayoral candidates Karen Phillips and Milt McIver. Absent: Deputy Mayor candidate Rod Anderson.
By John Francis, Bruce Peninsula Press

The second of MNBP’s planned all-candidates meetings took place at the arena in Lion’s Head on Saturday, October 1. The 2:00PM starting time found the arena’s “warm room” lightly populated, with about 40 in the audience.

Eight of the nine candidates for Council were present; Deputy Mayor candidate Rod Anderson was unable to attend.

Doug Embleton handled emcee duties, welcoming the candidates, explaining the rules and reading and directing the prepared questions. The questions and discussion had a distinct Lion’s Head flavour.

The candidates were each offered a few minutes to speak about what they hoped to accomplish.

Incumbent Mayor Milt McIver identified “navigating our popularity” with tourists as a major challenge. He explored several concerns: washrooms; listening to the very different perspectives of community members; finding a way to help the business community thrive. He listed his priorities as: improving cell service, especially in Lion’s Head; affordable/attainable housing; a municipal asset management plan; a recreational master plan.

The other Mayoral candidate, Karen Phillips, promised common sense, conflict resolution and collaboration with knowledgeable community members.

Deputy Mayor candidate James Mielhausen offered a list of the past term’s accomplishments — the Climate Action Plan, creation of the Sustainable Tourism Advisory Group, winning federal and provincial assistance for the arena upgrade, then switched to a list of next steps — water/wastewater infrastructure, parking and washroom improvements to promote tourism; support businesses and farmers.

Incumbent Deputy Mayor Debbie Myles criticized the rest of Council for failing to follow the detailed program she prescribed to foster more transparency and accountability with both Council and senior staff. She asked why Council Meetings aren’t recorded and made available online. She cited an instance in which County Council was found to have acted improperly with respect to a property in Southampton.

Councillor candidate Patricia Greig mentioned her three previous terms on Council. She stressed that careful research and planning can increase the urgency and credibility of funding requests to senior governments.

Councillor candidate Yvette Roberts (who is a member of MNBP’s Attainable Housing Task Force) identified affordable/attainable housing as her highest priority. She pointed out that a very small number of MNBP residents live in rental housing because there is no housing available to rent. She suggested several strategies to improve this situation.

Councillor candidate Aman Sohrab works as a nurse at the Lion’s Head hospital and the Tobermory Hyperbaric Facility; he is also a volunteer firefighter and a food bank volunteer. He proposes to help find creative solutions to our social and health care problems and to demand more support from Bruce County.

Councillor candidate Todd Down stressed his varied life experience and promised to be open-minded, diligent and willing to listen to the concerns of his fellow residents.

Incumbent Councillor Laurie (Smokey) Golden expressed her pride in the municipality’s accomplishments over the last four years — the Safe Communities Committee of which she was a member, “has made a difference on an issue that affects the entire peninsula”; the implementation of STA regulations (“It wasn’t easy and it’s not perfect.”) and the Municipal Accommodations Tax (which she would like to expand to cover all accommodations, not just STAs). She applauded the creation of the Attainable Housing Task Force and the Sustainable Tourism Advisory Group (she was a member of both). She apologized to Lion’s Head for the way paid parking was implemented in 2021 (“We dropped the ball there”). She identified numerous priorities — incorporating climate change into the Comprehensive Zoning Bylaw; creating a Lion’s Head Waterfront Plan (“I know they did some surveys but not everybody lives on their computer” — we need to figure out what people want; our job is to get the best outcome.) 

Questions were posed to the candidates on a variety of subjects, including:
• Do you support closing the campground at Lion’s Head beach?
• If you can report a murder to Crimestoppers without giving your name, why do you have to give your name to register a complaint to the municipality?
• Should the municipality be putting more effort into “beautifying” the village of Lion’s Head? (They all said “yes”.)
• Would you support public input at Council Meetings?

Most answers were collaborative rather than combative, stressing the need for careful public consultation. That’s an encouraging sign, given that five of these people will have to form a team, beginning on November 15.