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 Ward C/Ward 3 in Muskoka Lakes Township. Seven candidates have come forward and two 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. I am lucky to have been coming to Muskoka all my life. I am a 4th generation cottager on Tobin Island. I have a deep love and appreciation for these lakes and communities that we enjoy and the year-round economy they enable.
Professionally, I retired at the end 2015 as Chief Financial Officer of a publicly traded high tech start-up company based in Markham and Palo Alto, Calif. Prior to that I worked for IBM in various senior management financial roles, including international experience in Brazil and the Caribbean.
I currently serve as a Board member of Safe Quiet Lakes and I chair the Decibel Coalition. I also served eight years on the Board of the Muskoka Lakes Association in the late 1990s/early 2000s.
I have one daughter and two grandsons. Although I have a home in Toronto, I now spend as much time in Muskoka as I can – more than half the year, including lots of time in the winter.
Four years ago, like many in Muskoka, the development at Legacy Cottages in Minett was a wake-up call about the need for improved controls on resort commercial developments. To get more involved and informed, I became a member of the Committee of Adjustment for the Township of Muskoka Lakes. Through this experience, I have gained significant knowledge about the Official Plan, bylaws and the issues facing Council.
I believe that the current term of Council and this next term will be a turning point in finding the right direction and attitudes towards development on our lakes. And I want to be part of that change as a Councillor for Ward C.
2. Council must put the Environment First. The natural beauty of Muskoka is the very foundation of our region’s year-round economy. All municipal policies must be viewed though the environmental lens, especially for the land-use policies and bylaws.
The construction, maintenance and service of lakefront properties are a very significant industry in Muskoka, providing economic wellbeing to many hundreds of families. Township policies need to be supportive while prioritizing the long-term need to protect the precious environment.
It is important to keep our township tax increases in line with inflation. Increases above inflation should be fully justified and clearly explained to the ratepayers. Budgets must be developed from the bottom up, rather than based on the previous year’s budget.
Lack of affordable housing for permanent residents is a big challenge in the Township as it is across most of the province. There are no immediate or easy solutions but Council must keep creation of affordable housing as a priority and work with our highly skilled building and development community to find opportunities.
Access to the lakes, such as boat launches and public beaches, are important to enable people who do not own waterfront property to enjoy the lakes. These access points need to be well maintained, enhanced as needed and expanded if possible.
Community Centres and rinks play an important role in the social and wellbeing fabric of the township. They must be supported by Council.
3. Muskoka has a long and rich history. From the thousands of years the indigenous peoples living on these lands and waters to the deforesting during the logging years followed by the arrival of settlers working to develop farm land then the steamship era that opened up the lakes to tourism and finally cottagers, Muskoka’s story gives us who live or spend time here a rich backdrop to our collective love for the area.
Muskoka is a worthy recognized brand around the world. It is our collective responsibility as one community to ensure it stays that way.
Matt Fairbrass – No response
Sally Moyer Kent
1. As a long-time island cottager, I am passionate about preserving what makes Muskoka, Muskoka! With my island cottage on Lake Joseph across from both Sugarloaf Island and the development on Caniff, I’m acutely focused on preserving the environment and developing the proper direction, rules and enforcement framework for responsible development. There is a responsible way to develop that preserves the essence of Muskoka and contributes to all community members.
With a business school background and roles as the Chief Financial Officer of numerous small and large companies, I would bring expertise, a passion for financial clarity and transparency and a unique perspective to the Council.
2. I believe the biggest challenges facing the Township include, preserving the environment, creating balanced, and yet progressive, development frameworks for the long term, and addressing the lack of affordable housing and related staffing shortages. The township must do a better job of enforcing the current by-laws and ensure that new by-laws are appropriate and enforced. Although affordable housing is the defining issue of the District of Muskoka and the Province of Ontario, not the Township of Muskoka, I will work to move this issue forward within the District and the Province to the extent possible.
3. I cherish the quiet, privacy and the natural beauty of Muskoka. As a councillor my priorities will focus on preserving the Environment (the water quality, flora, fauna and shorelines) for future generations and creating a proper direction, rules and framework for responsible development over the long term.
“I absolutely cherish Muskoka as you say, and was hoping to contribute to the community by stepping forward for Council, I have unfortunately for personal reasons had to withdraw my candidacy.”
1. I was born and raised in Muskoka and continue to live here year round, with my wife and 3 kids. I am an active business owner and employer in Muskoka. Over the last number of years, I have learned first-hand experience of our bylaws and how they are implemented in real life situations. My highest level of understanding is in development and building areas.
After delegating at a number of council meetings and getting involved in the OP discussion, I became very frustrated with the new bylaws being proposed, and the pace at which they are being rolled out. In some cases there is a disconnect and misunderstanding of how these changes affect trades in the industry, the day-to-day livelihoods of residents and individual property rights. We keep hearing at council, “lets see what the public thinks” which is good, but when what the public asks for doesn’t align with what councillors want, or with select Lake Associations, township staff is sent back to the drawing board to start over. Our councillors need to have a better understanding of what’s happening on the ground in Muskoka, and they need to give township staff better direction to fix the issues they are hearing about. Lake Associations need to voice their concerns and give input, but councillors should not feel pressure from these groups that have become so political. They need to take the time to hear what all constituents want and make decisions based on the greater good of all.
Completing the Official Plan:
A lot of money has been spent over the last 2 years and we still do not have a document that is ready to be enacted. It is very hard when the public can’t decipher a complicated 280-page document. This document needs to be far less complicated, and drafted more in line with our district plan.
Protecting the Environment:
We need to promote and educate on environmentally sustainable building practices, including septic systems and encouraging protection of the vegetative buffer around the lake. We need more data on what parts of the environment we need to improve, and where our actual problems are. Once these problems are identified we need to setup a committee of local trades and businesses owners to discuss solutions and implement action items.
Housing affordability is a complex issue in Muskoka. Affordable housing allows younger generations to stay in the area. We also want to welcome new residents and ensure local business’ are able to attract the staff they urgently need.
Protecting the rights of property owners:
Over the last 2 years some council members and a few Lake Associations have made every effort to strip property owners of their rights by proposing new bylaws and a new wide sweeping OP. Most constituents don’t know what’s in these documents and most don’t realize how these changes will affect them personally. We need to have a balanced approach protecting property owners’ rights while also protecting the environment and this takes creativity.
3. This is a hard question because there is so much I cherish. First and foremost, I cherish the people; the year-round residents and the seasonal cottagers and how these two groups come together to form the culture in Muskoka. I want to see Muskoka sustained for future generations and I want my kids to enjoy this place as much as I do. I want it to still be here for them and to be protected through sustainable development practices. We need to strive to find the balance between what people want to enjoy their property while also making efforts to protect Muskoka.
Daniel Simmonds – No response
Sean Stokes – No response
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