As part of Doppler’s ongoing coverage of the upcoming municipal elections we reached out to all of the candidates running for election in Gravenhurst, Bracebridge and Muskoka Lakes.
Today we look at the candidates for District Council in Gravenhurst. Eight candidates have come forward and three will be elected.
We posed the following three questions to each of the candidates:
1. Can you tell us about yourself and why you’ve decided to run for office?
2. What are the biggest challenges in our municipality, and what do you envision as the best way(s) to address them?
3. What do you cherish most about this community?
All candidates were given the same amount of time and the same word count for answers. Answers over the word count have been shortened by Doppler.
The municipal election takes place on October 24, 2022. You can find more information on voter eligibility, how to vote and candidate information here.
1. Born in London and cottaged in Gravenhurst since 1960 came back to Gravenhurst in 1987 to live work and play and raise my family Now a blended family of 5 plus spouses 10 Grandkids, my husband Marty and my amazing mum Helen Barnes
I worked as Recreation Program coordinator for the Town for just over 8 years before I was elected in 2000 as Ward 1 councillor for 3 terms and District for 3 terms and will have served the residents for well over 30 years ! I have sat on many Committees and volunteer for most events and activities in Town so I am very involved and I do listen to the needs of our Community!
I am running for Re-election as District Councillor because as you can see by my history that I care deeply, I am invested and I care about our Town and want to be sure that we are on and stay on the right path to protect and preserve our waters and lands, deal with our changing climate, insure safe and proper development of mixed use housing. We have lots of studies on the go and I want to insure that we have a plan to move them forward, Parks and Trails Master Plan, Wharf Revitalization Plan, Tourism Destination Strategy and Public Works Storm water management report to name a few and want to be sure recommendations are all followed up on and put into place over the next 4 years and not put on the shelf.
2. Environmental / Climate changes / Beautification
Housing / Employment
Large Developments along our waters
Waste Disposal at our docks and landings
Communication / Community involvement
The key to a great community is Communication and Education and I feel we really need to communicate better!
3. We are surrounded by some of the most beautiful and environmentally significant wetlands and nature. We have great Residents, Cottagers and Visitors! I am happy to be a part of Gravenhurst
1. I am a Certified Public Accountant, Chartered Accountant.
I worked as a partner in an accounting firm in Barrie providing audit opinions for business clients and financial and tax advice to businesses and to individuals. In 1993, I took a job with the YMCA of Barrie as the Chief Financial Officer. At the time, the YMCA had one location and about 30 employees. Over the 19 years that I worked there, the organization grew to have 8 locations not including separate Child Care Facilities, with the number of employees increasing to over 700 people.
I have always worked for the long-term best interests of the organization that I work for.
I have been a Rotarian for over 30 years including being a Past President and a Past District Governor.
My reason for running is to continue to work to make positive changes for the Town of Gravenhurst and the District of Muskoka.
2. Gravenhurst and the District of Muskoka are beneficiaries of tourism dollars. Our communities are also vulnerable to tourism as people may decide to go elsewhere for their vacation.
It also makes full-time and year round jobs difficult to achieve leaving some of our residents without employment income throughout the year.
In the past, the Town of Gravenhurst was very vibrant when there were a larger number of full-time year-round jobs. These included lumbering, the Muskoka Regional Centre (MRC) and Rubberset. We need to focus on attracting good fulltime employers that will be with us for a long time. The MRC property and the Fire College property need to be used to generate these opportunities. The difficulty is that these properties are owned by the Province of Ontario. We need the Province to work with us in a timely manner to encourage opportunities for appropriate businesses to come to Town.
Growth needs to take place with as little impact on the environment as possible. We need to ensure that any activities will provide a minimal amount of long-term impacts.
Council and the residents of the Town need to be prepared to make necessary investments in ASSETS for a better community and that these investments need to be made on a timely basis.
3. The Town of Gravenhurst is proud of its history and its diversity and heritage and remembers where we came from. These include West Gravenhurst, Ryde, Severn Bridge and Kilworthy.
This is a caring community that is willing to help others and includes Gravenhurst Against Poverty and the Salvation Army.
I enjoy living in an area that is surrounded by trees and water. I like being able to grow some of my own vegetables and compost my food on my property. I enjoy sunsets from the deck, stars on a clear night and the call of the loon.
I cherish my connection to our community through Probus, the Opera House and the Library and especially my daughter and her partner who reside here now.
Due to personal reasons I will not be actively seeking election in 2022.
1. I am a 23 year old business owner who was born and raised in Muskoka. I currently serve as a board member for the Gravenhurst Chamber of Commerce, started Wake Cannabis with my sister, and do freelance marketing and sales for small businesses in Muskoka. I also have an educational background in Public Relations. I am running under the idea of being invested in our future while respecting our past and what makes Muskoka unique
I decided to run for office because I have always been passionate about government. I want to bring both a young and qualified perspective to Gravenhurst. I am also looking to give back to the community that welcomed me as a business owner by having a part in its improvement through policy.
2. Gravenhurst currently has three main comercial cores that do not work together to create a seamless experience. We have The Wharf, Historic Downtown, and the south end. These areas can often feel like they are not cohesive due to this lack of connection. While on council I would look to find ways to have each comercial section of Gravenhurst promote the other sections through signage, beautification of connecting roads and improved transportation infrastructure.
Any big project requires teamwork from a group of dedicated people, a municipality is no different. While on council I will work to get our community involved in the areas they are most passionate about by: leading by example and being actively involved myself, responding to all questions in a timely manner regardless of the popularity of the answer, and encouraging young people to be excited about Gravenhurst.
If elected I would look to improve signage for existing walking/cycling trails to encourage residents to travel actively. I would also look to introduce bike lanes, and continue to push for public transit in Gravenhurst. It shouldn’t be seen as a bad thing to travel by means other than car if possible while in Muskoka and increased active transportation infrastructure can be a draw for many visitors.
3. Gravenhurst has a certain level of openness to new ideas that drove me here to start a business. After integrating into the community this idea was proven to be true. What I love most about Gravenhurst is our small businesses, from the coffee shop in an artistic furniture shop to the antique/music store and the retail spaces on the water at the Wharf we have a lot to be proud of, and perhaps, more importantly, a lot to promote to other prospective business owners.
Peter M. Johnston
1. I was born and raised in Gravenhurst and now, having returned home, would like to use over 30+ years of experience in municipal government management at both the local and provincial levels to contribute to the positive well-being and sustainable growth of this community. Experience counts!
My roots in this community are deep. The Johnston family has been in Muskoka for over 150 years.
Before leaving Gravenhurst with my family to further pursue my career in local government, I served on the Gravenhurst Council and on the Muskoka Council, I was President of the Gravenhurst Lions Club. I served on the South Muskoka Memorial Hospital Board of Directors. I began my local government service in Gravenhurst as the Clerk -Administrator for the municipality
I served 14 years as a Senior Advisor with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing and 1 year as Acting Regional Manager for all of Northeastern Ontario with the that Ministry. My last municipal post, ending on Dec 31.2022, was 7 years as the Chief Administrative Officer for the Township of Bonfield in Nipissing District.
2. A more diverse and inclusive commercial sector that recognizes and promotes the contributions of all local businesses and actively encourages new sustainable economic development. I hope to help create a stable and prosperous economy in Gravenhurst that allows the local government to provide all the necessary services at a reasonable and fair tax rate.
A housing stock in Gravenhurst that is accessible to all current and future residents. By housing stock, I am referring to existing apartments, condominiums, single family dwellings of whatever age As well as new construction. By accessible I mean that individuals or single families, of whatever income level, are able make choices on where they will live based on adequate and reasonable supply.
Preservation and enhancement of all municipal infrastructure including our streets and roads and our waterbodies. Climate change is a growing threat throughout the world and I want to ensure that our infrastructure, including roads, parks and waterways, are protected and preserved for the continued use and enjoyment by our residents.
The natural environment in Muskoka is our most tangible asset. If we do not preserve and protect that, there is no Muskoka!
I will address these issues by developing a positive working relationship with my fellow council members and municipal staff. Teamwork can be a powerful tool.
Municipal councils serve for four years. To achieve positive and significant goals during that time Council must have a realistic and very comprehensive long-term plan. I would intend to work with my fellow Councillors and municipal staff during the first 100 days to develop such a plan.
3. The pristine and scenic environment.
Our welcoming nature to both tourists and new residents.
A visible sense of community pride.
Allan J. Kent
1. My name is Allan Kent and I am running for Gravenhurst District Councillor.
I grew up in Lambeth, Ontario and was fortunate enough to spend my summers at Kahshe Lake.
I graduated from the University of Waterloo Co-op Program in 1977 with a Bachelor of Mathematics. I then worked on Bay Street in Toronto for a few accounting firms before I moved to Calgary in 1979.
I left the accounting field in 1981 and started to work in finance in the oil and gas industry both in Canada and Internationally. Though we lived in Calgary, my wife, Sue spent the summers at Kahshe Lake along with our 2 children. Our son, Jason married a Kahshe Lake girl in 2017 and I am now a proud Grampa. Our daughter, Krista still lives in Calgary and is getting married at the end of this month.
Sue and I permanently moved here in 2018 and have made Muskoka and Kahshe Lake our home.
I have never run for office. I was encouraged to run by my life-long friends and neighbours on the lake. I am a businessman with many years experience of creating and running public companies along with my own, and have a long history and love for Kahshe Lake and the whole of Muskoka. I want my friends and family to enjoy a long future here while maintaining our Muskoka environment. As such, there are a number of issues that must be addressed in the short term and resolutions implemented.
2. I strongly advocate to continue to improve the quality of our water and shoreline which threatens our Muskoka environment. A reduction in the amount and type of boat traffic results in a reduction in water pollution and shoreline erosion. A stronger control over massive tree cutting, and an increase in septic compliance are a necessity.
Implementing an acceptable and local solution to our waste collection and disposal for everyone, especially for those cottagers with water-access only, as what we currently have on some lakes is not working.
I am not a supporter of any tax increases, at this point in time. Continual tax increases following the inflation rate is not the answer. We must address the services we are providing and reduce or control these cost increases. With my financial background, I intend to be part of this process.
I support the construction of roads to water-access only cottagers where it makes sense. All cottage access roads are constructed in a manner that does not have a negative environmental impact on our environment, which can be done. Increased demand on limited marina spaces has created additional burdens for water-access owners. As cottage owners age, there is a real concern for their health and mobility, and roads would provide improved access to key services such as Emergency Medical Care, Hydro, Police, Fire Departments, Septic maintenance, and utility services. One of my first tasks will be approval of the construction of a road to the Grants Bay cottagers on Kahshe Lake.
3. My wife and I love Muskoka and that is why we have made it our home. The people, the community, the lakes and the environment. Muskoka is a place for all people to enjoy.
Since our move here in 2018, I have been a volunteer director and treasurer of the Gravenhurst Curling Club. I strongly believe that I have more to offer this community, and if I am fortunate enough to win a seat as one of the District Councillors, with my business background, I intend to deliver.
I, like many of you, are frustrated with some of the red-tape and the time it takes to get things done. I want to cut through this as much as possible over the next 4 years and implement resolutions.
If I am afforded the opportunity, I will listen and address your issues. I will do my best to represent all persons in our community, with honesty and integrity, and above all, common sense, in all my responses.
1. I decided to run for District Council to represent Gravenhurst to give us a voice at the district table. Gravenhurst has faced many challenges and will face many more in the coming term of council. We need a strong voice who will not only be heard but also address the issues we face. I want to be there for our most vulnerable, our seniors and people with disabilities and hard working families. I want to make changes that will enhance the lives of the people of Gravenhurst and Muskoka not only for my generation but future generations.
As a fifth generation Muskokan, my family and I have a deep history in Gravenhurst and Muskoka. I wouldn’t choose anywhere else to live but right here in Gravenhurst. We have one of the most beautiful and diverse environments that shines with natural beauty. I own and operate an online bakery and volunteer for many community projects and town/district committees.
When it comes to experience, I have worked on many committees including the Gravenhurst Accessibility Advisory Committee, Terence Haight Financial Assistance Committee, Chair of the Gravenhurst Youth Council. I have also served as the Liaison on the District’s Accessibility Advisory Committee. In addition to serving on official committees, I have served on many other community groups such as Gravenhurst Against Poverty (GAP), Ontario Disability Supports Program (ODSP) Advisory Committee and PROMPT. I have also been involved in political campaigns on the federal level as well as provincial.
2. Gravenhurst has faced many challenges. I am committed to addressing the mental health crisis, the affordable housing crisis and I am committed to Fixing our roads. All of this must be done in accordance with our commitment to safeguard our environment.
Mental Health crisis:
A. Gravenhurst itself is not in a position to fund mental health clinics or services, the district can. We need to open a Mental health clinic in Gravenhurst where we can have a dedicated area to offer mental health services.
B. Bringing forward direction to staff at the district to create a plan of action to ensure we have adequate services.
C. Create and Promote youth programs and services
D. Promote participation and socialisation for seniors
Affordable Housing crisis:
A. Cut the red tape and provide sensible zoning support – outside the box thinking and more wiggle room (Such as more sustainable development options including tiny homes)
B. Support not-for-profit organisations and developers
C. Promote a workforce with more disposable income in Gravenhurst
D. Increase rental unit stock and lower-cost housing options
Fixing our roads and increasing our infrastructure maintenance:
A. Increase snow removal and develop new methods
B. Reduce snow accumulation in the downtown core to enable people to walk and shop during winter
C. Cooperate with other municipalities at the district to find solutions to benefit the people
D. Direct more funds to enable more road repairs and maintenance.
3. Gravenhurst is one of the most unique places on earth! (This opinion is completely biassed and that is totally fine!) We are the Gateway to Muskoka, our lakes, rivers and trails make for a picture perfect moment to make memories. We have some of the best shops and restaurants this side of the GTA, We have one of the most beautiful and diverse environments that shines with natural beauty. However all of these things combined, the thing I cherish the most about Gravenhurst is the people.
Growing up in Gravenhurst, graduating from Gravenhurst Highschool (Yes this makes me a Gryphon for life!!!), getting my first job at a local pizza place and volunteering in my community I have met so many remarkable and unforgettable people. You will not find anywhere else that has some of the most beautiful souls, kindest hearts and uncontrollable community spirit than right here in Gravenhurst.
The people of Gravenhurst have helped shape me to become what I am today, teaching me how important it is to have community spirit and to spread as much love as you can, to help others when they are down on their luck and to provide a cheerful hello while passing a stranger on the street.
To sum it up into a few words, the people of Gravenhurst are simply amazing.
1. I would first like to take the opportunity to re-introduce myself. I am Erin Strength (formerly Erin Eiter) and successfully held the Ward 2 Councillor position in the 2014-2018 term of Gravenhurst Town Council. I have 23 years of experience advocating and championing for our community as a front line healthcare professional. I am the manager at Gravenhurst Pharmacy – I.D.A. in the heart of our downtown.
I am a graduate of GPS and GHS, as are my children. I came back to town to raise my children in 1998 and they have chosen to build their lives in Muskoka. For them, I want to contribute to a thriving town.
The 2022-2026 term will be pivotal with a new Mayor and a new District Chair. I want to be around the table to participate in progressive, positive change. Knowing municipal and Town history is important to the continuity of Council.
2. We are fortunate to live in a town and community with so much natural beauty. Our waterways, rivers and rugged rock are what people come from miles away to embrace and experience. Preserving this natural environment so that it remains as we know it today, I feel, is one of our biggest challenges. I believe as with anything, progress and development is a necessary part of existence. Council needs to be vigilant in what they deem allowable and protect its biggest asset that we have – our environment. We also need to improve our bylaw process and educate our constituents in that process to ensure wrong behaviours are reported and deterred immediately.
With interest rates at a 14 year high, necessary spending is a top priority. This Council will need to exercise a prudent attitude in making sure that the 2023 budget is supporting needs and not wants. 4 years of deciphering Town of Gravenhurst budgets is the experience I can bring with me to ensure any tax levy increases are as minimal as possible.
I know that garbage is a contentious issue for our rural and island property owners. Garbage is a really sensitive subject for me – so I appreciate everyone’s concerns in the closing of the bin sites. I feel that the Summer Waste Collection was a solid first attempt to rectify our constituents concerns. I believe we will get to a “new norm” by listening to feedback in what worked and what doesn’t. Introducing a second day of pickup through the week or an alternate method on the bigger lakes such as a barge pick up is certainly something to be considered.
After the great example of Alex’s Place by the District, I would like to stimulate the ongoing discussion on affordable housing. Cooperating with our population to understand the needs and advocating for those needs. Support the application of federal and provincial funding wherever possible and try to discover new initiatives to help with this delicate issue. Perseverance and hard work will surely aid in a solution to this prevalent issue in our community.
3. Most cherished is hard to pin point!!
The relationships that I have built over the 24 years that I have been back in Gravenhurst are undoubtedly a very important part of who I am. The people that I first started providing health care for are now parents and grandparents so the relationships that I originally had are growing and evolving regularly. I feel lucky to have had such a fulfilling career.
My husband and I own a small tow boat that we can take anywhere there is public access. My favourite pastime in the warmer months is towing that boat to all lakes big or small in Muskoka. It is a real luxury to be able to drink in the scenery that surrounds us by way of this vessel.
I am a big fan of tourism in this area and nothing gives me more pleasure than to see people enjoying what Gravenhurst and Muskoka has to offer. It has been a long time to go without events and the promoters partnering with the Town of Gravenhurst and the District of Muskoka has really made this year one to remember. I hope that the new and old events are encouraged to come back giving us all the opportunity to create new memories.
I am happy to encourage discussion and seek input. I welcome interaction in any form.
Please contact me by email: [email protected] or by phone
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