1 – Improvements for TML / Better Community:
As a Councillor, my priorities will focus on preserving the environment (the water quality and the flora and fauna of Muskoka) and creating the proper direction, rules, and enforcement framework for responsible development. The existing council has made major headway on addressing some of these issues and I expect to continue their work on the Official Plan.
As a long-term Islander on Lake Joseph, directly across from Sugarloaf Island on one side and the Daviggi development on Caniff Island on the other, I have a direct bird’s eye view of the environmental damage caused by blasting and rogue residential development. I believe that the Township must do a better job of enforcing the current by-laws and ensure that new by-laws are appropriate and enforced.
Finally, I believe all community members deserve financial transparency and a fair understanding of how their tax dollars are being put to use.
2 – Tax Increases / Effective Delivery:
I do not feel I can answer this question properly until I am elected and have access to detailed municipal budget and tax information. As a Harvard Business School Graduate and the Chief Financial Officer of numerous public and private companies, my background is in finance and financial planning and budgeting. I would tackle the issue of tax increases and delivery of services the way I would approach any business/financial problem. Once elected, I will need to dig into the details, analyze and understand them and than make observations and recommendations to provide more effective delivery of services.
Any tax increases need to be understood within the current overall economic environment, driving staffing costs and public works increases. The very first job should be to inspect and critique how current tax dollars are being used, and what component of taxes are variable versus fixed. Any contemplated tax increase must be subjected first to a rigorous inspection, and it must have an obvious justifiable beneficial purpose and intent.
3a – Data to Justify Environmental Improvements:
Although I am not yet a Councillor, I understand there is data available to support many of the proposed changes. There is currently a Muskoka Lakes Septic inspection program in place. This program rates septic systems by risk profile and staff (summer staff included) have been building this database for some time. Initial data has been presented to council from three of nine Wards in the Township. There is also detailed data collected by the Muskoka Watershed Council to access, monitor and evaluate environmental health which has been consistent and ongoing for years. If elected, I will review available programs in more detail and determine if more data collection is required.
3b – Financial Impact of Regulatory Environmental Changes:
I am not able to answer this question until I have access to further details as an elected Councillor.
4 – Affordable Housing:
Affordable housing is the defining issue of the District of Muskoka and Province of Ontario, not the Township of Muskoka. As most know, the residential tax base of Bracebridge and the District of Muskoka is largely supported by dollars earned in the Township of Muskoka. Despite the commute from town to job site, most people want and need to be close to schools, medical facilities, and community centres. Affordable housing should not be built in isolated locations, away from taxpayer funded community resources in the District of Muskoka. Affordable housing should be located close to community and resources, where housing density is appropriate (more likely in Bracebridge, Gravenhurst areas). I do believe that building affordable housing (that should be rented long term, like 20 yrs.) should be a District/Provincial priority, allowing families the security of a home and an ability to bring up a family with stability.