1. Do you favour the concept of an amalgamated single-tier government for Haliburton County? What would the advantages of such a system be or conversely what are the advantages of maintaining the existing two-tier system?
In order to be successful in our county amalgamation will require wise reflection and thoughtful implementation. Consolidation has been a driving force in both the public and private sectors for the past 35 years and the last amalgamation was mandated by the province without any local consideration.
I recommend a task force be formed and charged with the responsibility of conducting an in-depth study of a county amalgamation. If there is a consolidation to one tier let’s make sure it is done our way and in the best interest of our community throughout the county.
On the positive side of one tier government there obviously would be efficiencies and increased purchasing power. The townships and municipalities already share services with the county wherever economically feasible and have done so for many years.
On the negative side amalgamation may in fact increase the cost of government. For example we could experience higher wage costs with the implementation of a full-time fire department and smaller municipalities could be hollowed out as their reserves and debts would be assumed by the county without necessarily being invested in the local municipality.
Moreover as has been the case with prior amalgamations throughout the province individual township and municipal identities could be lost.
2. Is the county’s tourism strategy working? What are its strong points and weaknesses? Is there anything that could be done differently to attract more people to the Haliburton Highlands?
For the most part I believe the county’s tourism strategy is working. As with all marketing endeavours it takes time to show measurable changes and we are just starting to see positive results from our cultural adventure and culinary assets promotion which was initiated in 2014. In addition we have established a positive partnership with the Ontario Highlands Tourism Organization. This is all good stuff.
Yet if we want to tell the world about the attractions and features of the Haliburton Highlands it is important to dramatically change how we market ourselves. For the most part people with discretionary cash today go to search engines and social media to plan their holiday time. It is essential to keep current in the immediate and changing world of social media marketing.
The only criticism I have is that the strategy may have moved faster than our service providers’ adoption of social media leaving a communication gap.
Spending in traditional media needs to be at affordable levels in order to develop the awareness and favourability required to drive revenue.
3. The county is currently in the process of strengthening its shoreline protection bylaw. What provisions and restrictions should be included to adequately protect the health of the county’s lakes?
The proposed bylaw is both relevant and timely. All of us recognize and acknowledge that our lakes are our most precious asset. Generally speaking the proposed shoreline protection and preservation bylaw should incorporate among other protections new protection for natural shoreline vegetation and native species site alterations and the use of pesticides and fertilizers within 30 metres of the high watermark.
Additionally it would regulate the cleaning and clearing of land prohibit specific activities and prohibit public nuisances such as polluting damaging and vandalizing public and private shorelines. The process demands public and municipal input and commitment.
I recommend that the existing Shoreline Tree Preservation Bylaw be repealed and a new comprehensive bylaw incorporating and enhancing shoreline tree preservation together with new shoreline protections be approved.
4. The issue of short-term rentals of private cottages continues to be a topic of discussion in the community. Should municipalities be implementing control measures on short-term rentals; why or why not? What does a responsible framework for the control of short-term rentals look like?
Not every short-term cottage rental is a problem. However both renters and owners need to be well informed on the various aspects of protecting a rural environment. There are renters who aren’t considerate of their neighbours and our environment. In addition they are understandably ignorant of the mechanics of a septic system.
Unfortunately owners are looking at the short-term revenue gain without considering the long-term consequences of their renters’ actions. There is always that small percentage of renters and owners who abuse the privilege of being in the Highlands and as a result I believe there should be regulations for short term rentals. The regulations should incorporate in the interest of administration cost a multi-year licence with a fee. The maximum occupation per rental should be no more than two people per recognized bedroom in conjunction with the maximum occupancy as determined by the approved septic system.
Also the licence should be for only one building per property. And by virtue of the licence municipal staff must be allowed to inspect the property to ensure that building and fire codes are met.
5. The county has been working toward a public transportation plan which has not yet been produced. Do you think the county should offer a public transportation service; why or why not? What would a sustainable transportation system look like?
I believe public transportation should be established. Medical appointments shopping transportation to our new Youth Hub and even social visits to combat isolation are all good reasons to establish one.
However as with many initiatives in Haliburton County our population base isn’t large enough for sustainability. Hence the service will have to be subsidized. To date the Ministry of Transportation has funded through a grant program started in 2015 a project to examine community-based transportation and in part funded a transportation task force.
The results of the work of the task force has culminated in commitment from the county to invest $50000 in an implementation plan for a local public transit system. I believe that sustainability will only be achieved if the system is multi-faceted including but not limited to car pooling ride sharing designated ride signage definitive routes and a registration/membership registry.