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 running in Bracebridge. Five candidates have come forward and three will be elected.
We posed the following three questions to each of the candidates:
1. 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.
I am seeking re-election for the next term of Council ( 2022 to 2026 ) to continue leading our Community through ever changing times in a positive and forward thinking manner. Bracebridge needs to move forward with “controlled growth”. To thrive, our community needs to grow and supply amenities our citizens expect and deserve. We need to address current issues and plan for the future. We want to put ourselves in a position that is welcoming and financially sustainable. The small-town atmosphere must remain as it gives a comfort level to our residents and attracts others for growth and economic development. Together, through communications and consultations, we can create a balanced lifestyle community to live, work, and play.
I retired from Muskoka Ambulance Service after 35 years of dedicated service and started a new career in politics listening and advocating for our residents.
I have been Deputy Mayor (and currently hold that position), been chair of the Bracebridge Accessibility Committee, currently the Deputy Chair of the District of Muskoka, Chair of District Community Services, and currently chair of District Health Services.
We have been very fortunate to have a forward thinking council and staff that have planned for the unknown and future. We have many projects on the books and projects coming in the near future that need the assistance of Provincial funding. Such as, infrastructure maintenance / replacement, and expansion, local hospital share contribution for a new health care facility here in Bracebridge, Long Term Care, as well as attainable / affordable housing initiatives.
Other projects I would like to see completed and have input on are the Downtown Master Plan, development of the Rhona property, and the completion of the Muskoka Lumber Community Centre. All very important issues moving into the future.
To continue to flourish and influence the lives of our future generations it is necessary to review and understand the past, adjust for the current situation, and forecast the needs of the future. By accomplishing these tasks we should be able to solve issues and create a healthy, caring community.
By having high character and good conduct I plan to use these traits to help lead Bracebridge in being a warm, welcoming community and a desirable place to live, work, and play.
Having lived my entire life in Bracebridge I endorse the work of the prior councils that have got us to the point we are today. I have a passion for the small town feeling and appreciate all our town has to offer.We are a community of diversity, accountability, inclusiveness, and I am proud to call Bracebridge my home.
Mark Quemby, who’s represented Monck Ward residents for the past three terms, says his mission to help Bracebridge residents live their best lives is what’s inspiring him to now compete for one of just several District of Muskoka seats reserved for the town.
“I want everyone to have opportunities to enjoy a life well-lived,” says Quemby. “People who know me understand my passion for the well-being of my hometown and its residents. I bring this inspiration to my public role and am strongly committed to ensuring our community enables people to live their best lives.”
Quemby believes all folks who call Bracebridge home should be able to pursue healthy and active lifestyles on their own terms, noting that “Muskoka’s natural settings are uniquely well suited to this, and present us with an opportunity to have Bracebridge recognized as Ontario’s Great Outdoors Capital.”
Quemby says this vision is not new. “I was elected as a town Councillor to pursue my Great Outdoors agenda back in 2010, and remain grateful for the sustained community support I’ve had for my ideas like the outdoor ice rink these past 12 years. The improvements to Annie Williams Park, the new arena facility, the Fire and Ice Festival, the disc golf course at Peake Fields … these are all significant projects I’ve helped make a reality on the Great Outdoors agenda.”
The move to a District chair from a town seat would enable Quemby to have more influence on active transportation and trail issues for example.
“I often receive encouragement from Bracebridge residents to better integrate the needs of cyclists and pedestrians in transportation planning. This is an obvious fit with my Great Outdoors agenda that would best be pursued at the District level,” says Quemby.
Quemby has served as the alternate District Councillor for the town since the beginning of this term, and was recently appointed to fill a vacant District council position for the remainder of the term. He also serves on the District’s engineering and public works committee.
“I can hit the ground running, so to speak,” says Quemby. “I can get right down to business because I already know the processes and how to get things done within them. My achievements speak to this. I’m the only Bracebridge candidate with recent experience as both a town and district Councillor, which means I’m uniquely positioned to help both levels of government work together constructively for our benefit.”
Mark Quemby is a family-oriented, life-long Bracebridge resident and local small business owner. He was first elected as a Councillor for the Town of Bracebridge in 2010.
You can connect with Mark at (705) 646-7676 or at [email protected].
I have a deep love for Muskoka. I have always felt grateful that I grew up here and had the opportunity to come back to work, live and play!
I live in Bracebridge with my partner, Joe and my stepson Luke.
I grew up in Gravenhurst and graduated from both Gravenhurst Public and Gravenhurst High School.
It has been a privilege to work for the Bracebridge Chamber of Commerce for the past 7 years. During this time, I have built strong relationships and championed our needs with all levels of government, and I am not afraid to respectfully challenge issues, when necessary. I have built strong relationships with our leaders, community members, business owners and government officials and can work with all political stripes. Now more than ever, all levels of government are going to have to work together with all interested parties to find innovative solutions to our issues and I want to be part of those solutions.
I love the outdoors and cherish Muskoka because it is a beautiful playground for me to explore. I spend a lot of time with my family, and I am very blessed that they live here in Muskoka. My brother, Lee and his wife, Jennifer, just had a son named Heath. He is my first nephew! Now more than ever, I want to make sure our community is as strong as it can be so Heath, and other young people, will have options that youth before them might not have had.
2. What are the biggest challenges in our municipality, and what do you envision as the best way(s) to address them?
Housing and Broadband
These are the two fundamental issues that need to be addressed for our businesses and citizens to be successful.
Through the Chamber, I have been working with community, government, business, financial institutions, and organizations on how we fill the gaps. We need leaders who will call for coordination between municipalities on bylaws and regulations, so we are ready when a company/business or the government present opportunities for funding.
I have been an advocate for responsible business and development growth in Bracebridge and Muskoka. We know the Muskoka brand is strong and we need to make sure we make decisions to grow, while preserving our natural environment.
ALL decisions need to be made by viewing them through an environmental and sustainability lens. Everything is connected and we need to make sure we are making the right decisions for future generations.
Inclusivity and Communication
We need more diversity around tables where decisions are being made. Having a District Council that has 18 men to 4 women and a Town Council that has 7 men to 1 woman is unacceptable. Electing more women is just a start.
Our representatives need to be able to communicate and engage with our residents. We need to help individual community members understand the issues, truly listen to their points of view, and provide proper consultation when decisions are being made. I have been thinking of innovative ways that I will stay engaged with our community.
3. I love how close our community is. When a family is in need, our businesses and restaurants are struggling through the pandemic, or we need sandbags filled to save houses, we come together and rally around each other. I have lived in larger cities but always felt out of place because you were just a number. Here in Bracebridge and Muskoka we know each other and support each other. This makes me proud and motivates me to volunteer and work tirelessly to support and improve our community.
I also cherish our natural environment. I was always thankful that my parents chose Gravenhurst as the place where they would raise our family. It gave my brother, sister, and I the opportunity to be kids, grow up in our own time, have independence and learn how to respect, preserve and be in awe of Muskoka’s natural environment.
To learn more about me please visit my website at BrendaRhodes.ca
1. During the past two terms, it has been a privilege to speak on behalf of the people of Bracebridge. Listening to voters’ concerns, getting them assistance and asking the tough questions that need answering has been important to me. I am passionate about listening to the people of Bracebridge and getting their voices heard.
My personal and business background provide the insights to help ratepayers.
Moving to Muskoka in 1968, I completed high school at BMLSS and began my career as a journalist in 1971. Purchasing my first publication in 1976, I have worked locally as a publisher and editor since then.
In my 20s, I served two terms as a councillor and one as a school trustee. During that time, I earned a certificate in municipal administration from Queen’s University.
Elected as a District Councillor in 2014, I have been the council-appointed representative on the Muskoka Watershed Council, Muskoka Tourism and Bracebridge Chamber of Commerce. As vice chair of the Muskoka Watershed Advisory Group, I worked with others to make recommendations to the Province on flood mitigation and water quality.
A past president of the Bracebridge Rotary Club and the current vice president, I have volunteered with many groups – organizing community events, been a workshop speaker and partnered with others to promote business growth.
In addition to publishing, my wife, Susan, and I have also been active in downtown businesses. After starting and selling Momma Bear’s Ice Cream and Sweets, we opened and currently operate the Unique Muskoka store.
2. Affordable housing is the biggest local challenge facing councillors. Currently, the waiting list at the District for public housing is approaching 650 applications but at the present rate of construction, it will take over 30 years to address current needs without any consideration for future growth. That is unacceptable! During this past term, I advocated for the creation of the Muskoka Housing Task Force and supported funding for the Muskoka Land Trust as it develops a plan for housing. Additionally, I brought forward a motion for the replenishment of funds for District housing programs and particularly advocated for the creation of plans to have shovel-ready projects prepared to move forward. This last step is particularly important as municipalities do not have the budgets to build much-needed housing without provincial and federal funding. In the past, short timelines have made it almost possible to take advantage of provincial and federal programs. By being shovel-ready, we will be able to compete with major urban centres for funding. Our needs, proportionately, are every bit as great, if not worse than those of the cities.
With one of the lowest average incomes in the province, we have needs that are the same as most northern Ontario communities. However, there was a perception by the province that Muskoka did not need this support and was removed from “northern” designation in 2004. We need to advocate to get that funding back.
Caring for the environment and acting on climate change must also be priorities.
3. There are many things I cherish about Bracebridge and Muskoka but the two that top my list are our sense of community and the environment.
Despite the challenges many face, there are so many who are dedicated to making a difference and improving the lives of those who are in need. Some days the needs seem overwhelming but the support offered by a volunteer, a caring positive greeting or the sharing of a problem by another community member – all this, and more, make our community a special place. Opening doors for both those in need and those who are helping others is what drives me to be a councillor and to serve the community.
From my earliest days of arriving in Muskoka, first as a youthful vacationer and then as a resident, the environment has steadfastly been foremost on my list of features that make Bracebridge a standout. As a municipal councillor, I feel compelled to not only do everything I can to preserve the environment that brought me and my family here but to find ways to allow others to enjoy it in a non-intrusive manner. It’s one of the reasons I’d like to see greater access to the waterfront by utilizing town-owned land for access by local residents and visitors. We, however, must also be prepared to contribute our fair share to address the changing climate, and that will be a priority of mine in the coming term as I aim to preserve the community I cherish.
1. Three generations of my family call Bracebridge home – from my four-year-old daughter who my husband I are thrilled to raise in beautiful Muskoka, to my senior citizen parents who also enjoy Bracebridge’s small-town character, thriving retiree community, and local hospital.
I manage the day-to-day operations of a local website development and marketing firm, and have a strong background in municipal politics from years spent as a constituency and legislative assistant with a focus on both large and small-scale development applications, community consultation facilitation, and affordable/rental housing. I am a member of the Board of Directors for the Bracebridge Public Library and am Chair of its Strategic Planning Committee.
I would like to contribute a fresh perspective and new ideas to the decision-making table as a working parent with an eye on the environment. I am acutely aware of how inconsistent decision-making on development applications can lead the incremental erosion of area character and the natural environment, and want to be a voice for protecting what we love most about Muskoka – for all generations to enjoy.
I want to ensure that my daughter is able to afford a house and have economic opportunities as an adult in Muskoka, should she so choose. For people like my parents, I want to prioritize improved health-care access locally and work further with the province towards a future that involves fewer trips to the city for specialists.
2. As I spend time knocking on doors and talking to folks about their concerns the same themes appear time and time again:
Affordability (of life, not just housing)
We need to work very quickly with all levels of government to build affordable housing and take a serious look at both 1) density and 2) purchase cost, when approving development applications to avoid in-town developments that are out of reach for local people. Expensive developments impact property taxes for surrounding areas and through a ripple effect, the cost of goods and services.
Protection of the environment (a lot of clear-cutting being witnessed in Muskoka)
The development of over-arching environmental policies and tighter supervision/accountability around the activities of developers would help curb some of the negligent and irresponsible clear-cutting and developers blatantly not-following site-plans.
Lack of local medical specialists and in-home care for seniors
Let’s take a look at what other jurisdictions are doing to incentivize and retain medical professionals locally and work with the provincial government to improve. The population is aging, and it is harder and harder to keep young people in town (this ties into affordability). There is no time to waste.
Ontario needs over 86,000 more childcare spots to meet demand, and Muskoka is feeling it. We need to work with schools, families, and centres to find innovative ways of expanding local opportunities for childcare.
3. I cherish being able to wake up every day and raise a family in one of the most beautiful, unique places in the world. I do not take for granted for one moment that we have access to pristine lakes, towering pines and quaint, charming, friendly small-towns here in Muskoka. It is so important to me that we protect the ability for future generations to continue to enjoy the Muskoka that we know today, and am dedicated, energetic, and enthusiastic about the opportunity to serve our community.
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