LONG SAULT – South Stormont residents had an opportunity to check out in person the nine candidates vying for votes in the upcoming municipal election at an all candidates meeting held October 6.
The meeting, hosted by the South Stormont Chamber of Commerce and the Stormont Federation of Agriculture, had prepared questions from the two organizations that the candidates received in advance. About 120 people attended the two hour meeting.
While the nine council candidates were largely agreeable and cordial, several comments were fired back and forth between mayoral candidates David Smith and Bryan McGillis.
Smith fired first saying his reason for running for mayor was the need for a different direction at the head of the table – alleging McGillis had drawn the ire of Ontario Minister of Infrastructure Kinga Surma during a recent delegation at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario conference in August. The Leader has been unable to verify the claim made by Smith.
McGillis brushed off the attack in his opening saying, “out of 21 people at the meeting, I was the only one to get a hug from Minister Surma.”
Smith continued speaking to his track record, “I have a history of getting things done without any collateral damage.”
McGillis emphasized his experience will be needed as mayor for the next term of council.
“Having someone who is not experienced would not be the best captain for the ship,” McGillis explained. “My decision to run again was a well thought out one: it was not an impulsive, last minute thing.”
The questions from the two host organizations ranged from economic development and supporting small business, to establishing an agriculture advisory committee of council.
Concerning encouraging economic development further in South Stormont, all candidates offered different opinions of what could be done. Councillor candidate Jennifer MacIsaac highlighted the work of council in the 2018-22 term, and said that areas of development need more diversity to attract people working in the community.
Louise Leclerc said she would remove development charges and use census statistics to target specific industries to the area where the workforce is available.
Reid McIntyre said the issue of affordable housing and South Stormont’s wastewater capacity issues are interconnected with economic development. He explained he wanted to diversify the workforce available and attract more immigrants to the community where jobs are difficult to fill.
Tammy Spittal answered that she supported incentives for small businesses to develop in the township, along with developing more of the waterfront. She added that the council needed to look at public transit to address mobility issues throughout South Stormont.
Cindy Woods said she’d continue to promote local businesses as much as possible. Addressing the waterfront she called South Stormont “The Jewel of SD&G.”
Deputy mayoral candidate Andrew Guindon said he would overhaul the Community Improvement Program calling the current funding guidelines too restrictive. He added that he’d connect with businesses to discuss current needs and that housing issues needed to be addressed.
Richard Waldroff answered that the inventory for commercial space available for new businesses needed updating, and he wanted to provide a space for pop-up shops to operate similar to the containers available in Cornwall or sheds in South Dundas. He also called for semi-annual meetings between council and the business community.
McGillis spoke of needing to study for more industrial land development as the shovel-ready land the township already had is mostly sold. He also supported more buy-local campaigns for businesses.
Smith highlighted that over $200,000 in SDG Counties Regional Incentives Program funding flowed into South Stormont during the current term of council. He wanted to continue supporting shop local campaigns and grow tourism in the township.
Concerning agriculture, all nine candidates were supportive of establishing an agriculture advisory committee as a formal council committee in the next term.
A public question submitted to the Chamber prior to the meeting asked if candidates supported the installation of wind turbine projects in South Stormont. Again the candidates largely agreed that they did not support wind turbine projects in the community. McIntyre pointed out that councils can say no, but the province can still overrule and permit construction anyway.
There are no proposals before South Stormont council seeking permission for wind turbine projects in the community. No such projects have been proposed at the provincial level.
No opportunities were provided to the public to ask questions, but candidates were available before and after the meeting to talk with constituents.