Posted by & filed under News.

Hello Ward 2,

Month two on the job as one of your Ward 2 council members and it has been a whirlwind in many ways.   It has not been a sleepy post-election period partly due to a number of provincial issues that have been sent to the municipal level with tight timelines.

A huge thanks to veteran members of council and staff for ongoing orientation efforts for us newer members.  The support in terms of wanting to get us into a position to be as knowledgeable as we can about some of the intricacies of council and municipal processes has been very helpful to make informed decisions and to communicate with the public about a number of issues in an informed way.

The positive to the timing of so many controversial issues hitting the council floor early is that the excitement and the momentum from the election has spring-boarded into a lot of attention and interest remaining at the table.  Very trial by fire but good to get so much under our belts quickly to help us learn.

As a county we voted to opt in to Cannabis retail in a 6-5 vote.  I voted to opt-in for a few resons which I detailed here  (https://www.facebook.com/MarcYourVote/posts/10156052156166593).  I also voted in favour of a motion regarding the development of a smoking by-law that we can enact before retail locations begin to open in the province.  This will help with the concerns residents have about second-hand tobacco on cannabis smoke and other valid issues that stem from legalization.

I also happy to second a motion from Councillor Chambers to get a report on how we might be able to incorporate a “Three E” approach to help calm traffic.  I believe that the approach is best when utilizing improvements to education, engineering and enforcement and it needs to be an approach that is adopted for the county as a whole.   We do need to be looking at things we can do in the public works department such as rumble strips, clearer crosswalk painting and design, visible and interactive signage that decreases speeding, tree canopy improvements, clearer way-finding, walkability and public transit along with speed spy technology etc to take a more holistic approach and improve the design, look and feel of our community too.   The OPP has also committed to town halls and to make additional efforts on the community policing aspects of their work to help get more feedback which I know this community will provide on crime and safety issues including traffic enforcement.

We had a big win as a municipality and a province when the provincial government announced it would remove schedule 10 from Bill 66. This would have gutted previously in place environmental protections from numerous acts and would have taken out the requirements around public consultation for a number of developments within the Greenbelt.  I had brought a motion to council to reject the use of these powers if the province granted them.  A big kudos to all the individuals and organization who spoke out and organized against this legislation.  And credit where it is due to the provincial government for hearing these appeals.  In 10 years of political campaigning I had never received more correspondence from citizens on any issue than Bill 66.  The province must have been getting an earful and thankfully they were responsive.

With all that said we must also be prepared to organize in the same way around the proposed Greater Horseshoe Growth Plan which could be seen as trying to do what Bill 66 would have done for development of business lands in the Greenbelt  but for home developers in the Golden Horseshoe.  In a community like ours where we have seen unprecedented, record breaking growth of housing development already occur with plenty more land in Paris already zoned for housing we have to be vigilant and wary.  What problem is this proposed legislation trying to solve.  My read so far is that is just a way to develop more houses, more quickly, without as much oversight and without developers and the province paying their fair share for infrastructure.

We received an email from the province at the end of the business day on Tuesday January 29th – giving us and Brantford, Niagara, Haldimand and Hamilton less than 3 business days notice to attend a regional roundtable on this issue and to try and find community groups to also attend.

Sustainable Brant/Better Growth in Brant and the Concerned Citizens of Brant (CCOB) were suggested by councillor Gatward and I.

This is very odd. Our region is arguably most affected by this potential change and we are given the least amount of time to prep, consult community and arrange for attendance for our community to be represented. We are also put into a group with the most municipalities where other regions are being given weeks to prep etc.

If this is the extent of the consultation on this (along with a slapped together 1 hour session with homebuilders, developers and a few municipalities last month) than this is very tokenizing and troubling consultation not seeking real input.

Hopefully my concerns are unfounded. However, As I have said before – don’t let the win of Bill 66 advocacy take our eyes off of other attempts to do away with environmental and quality of life protections for the sake of more sprawl, more development, less costs to well off development companies and no real plan to address needed infrastructure to accommodate growth or an actual plan for affordable and public housing – which we desperately do need.

We’re in a cold snap which has led to a lot of learning about the dynamics of snow removal – the safety issues, liability issues and practical issues such as a recent North American salt shortage which has increased the cost of life-saving road salt is something that looms large on our budget.  Also, it has been interesting to see how the dynamics play out for our county in terms of having a large geographical area in a circular shape without a true center point and a relatively low population with a large amount of roads to maintain creates more practical issues around the timeliness of snow removal.

This experience will help with decision-making processes on this file over the course of the term.  And just to put some actual numbers to it we have 2,232 kms of roads to maintain in the winter.  Our cost per capita including amortization for paved roads is $239 while the average in Ontario is $192. Our cost per capital including amortization on unpaved roads is $47 while the average in Ontario is $27.

Again this is mostly attributed to our geography and lower population rate than other municipalities.

In my next blog I am looking forward to reflecting on the budget process after having experienced all of it first hand.  It has meant a lot of additional meetings including some marathon 4-5 hour meetings – but it is one of the most important functions of council and staff have done a great job of laying it out for us and the community and being responsive to our questions and requests for further information and clarification.  More senior councilors have also been incredibly kind with their time and mentoring on the process.

A highlight of some of the activities attending beyond regular council meetings and budget meetings:

– Webinar about utilizing apps for municipal governments.

– BIA Annual General Meeting and elections of new executive for 2 year term.

– Meeting with Shady Acres regarding their zoning.

– Grand Opening of Brant Mental Health Solutions in Downtown Paris.

– Volunteering with Conestoga College’s Public Service Program as a connector for young students hoping to work with and in municipal governments.

– Meeting with a Willow St Condo Association.

– Sustainable Brant/Better Growth in Brant community meeting on Bill 66 with Canadian Environmental Law Association.

– Meeting with developers of proposed Paris Grand Estates to try and address some community concerns and get accurate information about plans and timelines.

– Social Services overview meeting.

– South Dumfires Historical Society Levee.

– Mayor’s Levee Brantford and Region.

– Meeting with Concerned Citizens of Brant.

– Meeting with Brant Cycling Club.

– Televised panel discussion on Rogers TV focusing on elections and experiences of the youngest members of council for County of Brant (me), Norfolk County (Amy Martin) and City of Brantford (Josh Wall).