Due to my continued postive COVID status, I am unable to be at the debate in person along with my fellow candidates.

I believe that voters deserve to have your questions answered - I am therefore following the live stream and sharing my responses here.

QUESTION: How would you differentiate yourself from the other candidates?

I agree with Jeff who kicked things off – we are all very passionate about Port Hope. But I do think there are things that make me different from my fellow candidates, some of which are shared by one or two others, but in combination make me unique. For example, I am a mom of three kids, currently raising my family here. Being a parent of young kids now is something shared by only a handful of us. I think it’s an important perspective and represents a growing demographic in our community that should be represented at the decision-making table. That said, what makes me qualified to be that representative, is my professional background. I have spent 20 years training for this! My work in community development has enabled me to build skills and experience in community consultation, building programs and services that meet community needs, and monitoring results to improve and do even better. I believe this is an important skill set to bring to the Council table. Finally, I genuinely enjoy meeting with and getting to know people out in the community. This is something I have been doing long before I decided to run and even more so these past 4 months. I won’t stop! If elected, I will be out in your neighbourhoods, and rubbing elbows with you at community events. I intend to be as open and accessible as possible to make sure I continue to understand your needs and interests and can properly be your voice within the Municipality decision making process.

QUESTION: Name two top concerns you feel this community really has.

As some others have referenced, affordability is one of the primary concerns I hear when I am talking with neighbours. I hear this expressed as concern about the housing crisis and whether people who are here can afford to stay here. I hear this expressed as frustration about our property tax rates. This must be addressed with a sense of urgency. I have shared here on my website and in recent posts about how I think we can address these from both sides – first by getting serious about facilitating the development of affordable housing in our neighbourhoods (see porthopeclaire.ca/live), and second by expanding our revenue base through attracting new business development (see porthopeclaire.ca/work).

The other is a little more subtle. I believe there is a cross-cutting theme in other comments and concerns that I hear – whether people are expressing frustration about planning, about bylaw enforcements, about the PHAI, or our tree canopy, etc – people are concerned about how the Municipality communicates with them and how difficult they find it to find information and access support. Great line on that by Terry Hickey just now – “What we have here is a failure to communicate!” I absolutely agree! The good news is, this is easily remedied. With a more open, transparent, approach to public engagement we can alleviate confusion, help residents to feel heard and make it easier to get the information and services they need. I would love to help with this! In fact, I have been enjoying helping with this already during the campaign, answering questions and helping direct neighbours to the information they’re looking for.

Just heard Will Lambert’s comment – looks like he and I are on the same page on this one. 

QUESTION: The reputation of the Planning Department is that it is slow to respond and difficult to deal with. Do you see this as a problem? And what do you intend to do to deal with it?

While this was directed to incumbents, I’ll take a stab at this too. 

I hear this concern expressed a lot, whether it is from neighbours trying to make some changes on their properties, from businesses who were in need of permits, or citizens seeking information about planning applications by developers to understand the process.

I think much of this ties back to the issue of communication. But, as I spoke to at the All Candidates Event organized by the Port Hope Chamber of Commerce, I also think we need a shift in approach. For the most part, when we are liaising with the planning department, it is because we are trying to advance community goals. We are trying to establish new businesses, and create new housing in our community. The planning department is the gatekeeper to our growth and development as a community. I would like to see the planning department “working with” property owners to navigate the system. I would like to see there be an individual whose job it is to “work with” those wanting to explore building additional residential units on their properties – because that is in our community’s interest. I would like to see the planning department “work with” new businesses to get the permits they need to grow our local economy in line with our official plan – because that is in out community’s interest. 

Finally, I would like to see our planning department act as a line of defense for our community – enforcing the vision and parameters laid out in our Official Plan and working with developers to ensure that their plans align with our vision. And, importantly, I agree with Laurie’s comments that we need to seek out, partner with, and issue permits to those developer partners that want to work with us to build our future. I have, in the past couple of years, been concerned about some recommendations – e.g. related to the Aon/Mason homes development and their proposal to clear cut Penryn woods – where it seems to be implied that Council should approve something on the basis of all the forms being complete, with no reference to the fact that they have ignored our Official Plan…specifically to our stated goal of achieving 25% affordable housing in all new developments (they have provided 0%) and that no development should cause the deterioration of our natural assets (as clear cutting a forest surely would). I propose that all staff reports to council should use a template which requires comment on alignment with 1) our Official Plan, 2) out Strategic Plan, and 3) our climate action plan (once in place). 

Great point there by Chris Collins about coaching. A working culture that isn’t working, is not necessarily a reflection on individual staff. That’s important to remember. I liked Vicky Mink’s comment too. Customer service is a particular skill set and professional development should also be supported. 

I was heartened as well by Laurie’s comments about the new Director of Planning!

QUESTION: ….do you support continuing to pursue the purchase of the OPG Wesleyville lands?

The short answer is YES.

While the deal was eventually cancelled by the Province, I think the steps Council took to purchase the Wesleyville lands was a good example of leadership and vision. Had the deal gone through, the ownership of these lands would have given us an opportunity as a community for greater control over growth, including the ability to set parameters in line with our vision for affordable housing options, strategic commercial development, and for sustainable land use.

Intrigued by Jeff Lees’ comment about trying to recover some of the funds we invested in the process.

Excellent comments by Betsey Price about the value of land in Ward 2 as well as about the need for transparency about discussions of this nature…I agree with her about taking a creative and visionary approach!

Good point as well from Darrell Toms regarding the fact that most residents only heard about it after it was cancelled. That is a concern for sure. 

Wow – looks like there’s across the board agreement on this one 🙂

QUESTION: Why was the flooding risk not shared with the public before the Waterfront and Riverwalk plan?

Sorry, I don’t know about this one. I hope this resident is able to get an answer from the Waterfront and Riverwalk Committee.  

According to the website, the person to contact is:

Julia Snoek Director, Parks Recreation and Culture, Phone 905-885-8760 x4108 | Email jsnoek@porthope.ca

QUESTION: …what will you do over the next 4 years to ensure we have a plan in place for affordable housing? (referring to aging population and support workers who cannot afford to live here)

Too much to say on this one for typing….

QUESTION: Who supports the idea of a planning advisory committee?

Yes, I do. Thank you for the question Chris Wallace and for the suggestion Will Lambert.

I think this would ensure community engagement and would make good use of the tremendous expertise that we have in our ranks as a community. I think it would also give some weight behind any decisions not to approve plans which could be useful if developers choose to take the Municipality to the Ontario Land Tribunal – as Aon/Mason Homes has done.

I do think Betsey Price raises important concerns about a sad history of committees feeling like they are not taken seriously or listened to. This absolutely must be addressed.

QUESTION: …please discuss some measures that can be taken to strengthen our bylaws and protect animal welfare in our communities.

From my reading and consultations so far, my understanding is that there are some gaps in our existing bylaws such as the restrictions on numbers of animals that can be owned (though those are in place for dogs) which raise concern that they would allow for puppy mills in our community. There are also rightful concerns that enforcement of some of the measures are dependent on other by-laws – an example being the provision against chaining up animals outside which can only be enforced through a noise violation.

My sense is that much of the concern relates to enforcement – a larger concern which is voiced often when I meet neighbours at the door. For example, I spoke to some neighbours who are concerned about the wellbeing of dogs in a home on their street – they cited that there are five dogs in a town house which is a violation of the bylaw regarding limits on numbers of dogs per home. They have contacted bylaw numerous times and there has never, to their knowledge, been any follow-up. I believe by-law enforcement is an important priority. I believe we need to invest in by-law enforcement for these and other issues of concern that interfere with the livability and enjoyment of space by residents and which impact the safety of people, animals, and our environment.

I also understand that there has been some confusion in the community regarding the handover of some responsibilities from the Municipality to the Humane Society. For example, a family wanted to report a dog bite incident and to ensure that the dog did not have rabies and did not pose a danger, they were given contradicting information from bylaw enforcement and the humane society about who to contact for support. I was told of a similar experience by another neighbour who was concerned about the wellbeing of a fox that was living in their neighbourhood and who never did find any support in our community. I understand that this may be a result of a transition period, but I would support some clear information on the Municipality’s website about who is responsible for various aspects of animal control and animal wellbeing so that residents can direct requests accordingly.

I would be willing to work with concerned citizens and with community partners such as the Humane Society to identify opportunities to strengthen our bylaws in regard to animal welfare.

Our family has two dogs who are important members of our pack. I would like to see Port Hope be a safe place for all residents, our pets, and for the other animals that live in our shared eco-system.

QUESTION: Do you understand the commitment that is required to this job – do you have the time? do you have the skill sets?

Absolutely! I recognize that this is a big commitment. I am self-employed and as such have flexibility. I have already scaled back on my client work these past months to make space in my day to fully commit to the campaign. I am fully prepared to scale back as required to make sure I can do justice to the faith that neighbours place in me (assuming I am elected). 

I do believe I have the skills to do this job and to do it well! I am collaborator who regularly joins new teams, develops rapport quickly and can work effectively with diverse groups. I regularly have to do lots of reading to get up to speed on issues and community contexts so that I can ask the right questions and facilitate strong project design processes. I am a listener who knows how to connect with communities to understand their needs. I also believe I am a good communicator (but you can be the judge of that based on what you see / watch here!)

QUESTION: If you were in charge of the tourism department, what would you do to bring the fun back to Port Hope?

Thank you Ed White for the question – sorry it was too late in the evening for you to get replies from those on stage!

I think there is a lot of fun to be had in Port Hope as it is! Our family loves the amazing calendar of fun family friendly events to be enjoyed from the early Spring, right through Summer, Fall and into the holidays! If I were in charge of tourism, I would focus on a co-promotion marketing campaign about all the different reasons to come out and visit Port Hope (I think there are many residents who are unaware of the many festivals and events as well!) – from Float Your Fanny, the summer concert series, various maker markets, The Fall Fair, Run Salmon Run (excellent new addition), Cultivate, the Candlelight Walk and park lighting, etc.

I would also love to see more cross-promotion at events. Could this be the Muncipality? Or part of the contract with the Port Hope Chamber of Commerce who operate the Visitors Information Desk? A display at each event with promotional posters and information about the upcoming events is what I have in mind. I think it’d be great for visitors in the Spring to know about all the great reasons to come back later in the season! 

Finally, I would also like to see promotions include highlighting the unique assets of our community which include the heritage downtown, but also our thriving rural businesses and our beautiful landscape! It’s a great place for a weekend getaway, and I believe it’s really all about getting the word out.