Like most municipalities, we face some difficult challenges. Unlike most municipalities, The Blue Mountains has tremendous resources, not least of which is a diverse population that offers a wide array of knowledge, experience and skills. As a community, we need to use all our assets to enjoy sustainable growth and prosperity in the coming years. I believe the Town needs to engage its residents, from all walks of life, in a dialogue that will allow us to find common ground. We can learn from each other, but we have to avoid the "Us and Them" mentality that is the downfall of so many growing communities. Diversity can be our strength, but only if we are willing to work together.
LIST OF ISSUES
Too often, governments wait until too late to let the public know what's in the works. I believe the taxpayers have a right to know what their municipality is working on.
Believe it or not, nobody sets out to make your life more difficult, but sometimes they forget to give you the chance to understand and help alleviate the problems. And don't forget the other side of the coin -- you have to be engaged and participate. I'll actively seek the community's involvement in town issues.
Sustainability has a lot of elements. For example, long-term economic prosperity isn't possible without environmental sustainability. Our community, more than most, relies on protecting our natural heritage for agriculture, tourism, recreation and more.
As a member of Sustainable Path steering committee in 2008-2010, I saw the many opportunities for our community to become a leader in sustainable growth. Growth will c0me, but we can -- we must -- ensure that we protect the environmental heritage that has been passed on to us.
The good news is that there are plenty of good opportunities for economic growth if we are willing to look in new directions.
I support development so long as it meets our community's standards for sustainabiity and needs. We can work with developers to ensure that we have the right kind of growth. Every development comes with issues, but as a community we can encourage developers to create new homes and commercial/business spaces that suit our long-term goals.
We have to support our existing small business and agricultural sectors. Not only do we need to encourage our residents to shop local and buy local -- look for locally-produced food products -- we need to ensure our land-use planning and other by-laws give farmers opportunities to add value to their farms. Other parts of Ontario, such as Niagara, have done this very successfully -- we can, too.
Housing opportunities for young people and young families is a major challenge. Many of our businesses face a severe labour shortage because of the lack of "starter" housing for local youth who want to stay in their home town and others who would like to make their home here.
I know that young entrepreneurs who would like to start a business here, and provide good jobs, go elsewhere because of the lack of attainable housing.
We have to look at the range of opportunities available and encourage new development that addresses this need. That may mean a change in our thinking, so that we allow more small-scale multi-unit developments in some areas so that we can encourage attainable housing for young families.
I know that our relationship with Grey County is a vital issue and, frankly, has been for many years. We are a major contributor to Grey's tax coffers, and we question whether we get value for our dollars.
Although I'm open to any solution, I don't believe it's realistic to talk about leaving Grey County. The province is very unlikely to consider allowing The Blue Mountains to stand alone as a single-tier municipality, so the option would be to join Simcoe County. Given the number of large urban municipalities in Simcoe, we would be lost in the shuffle.
The answer, then, is to continue to push for our fair share of Grey County services. As a "have" community, we will always have to support those municipalities that don't have our good fortune. That doesn't mean we should be taken advantage of. We deserve a fair return on our investment in Grey.