SBP Candidates Meeting
Over 180 people packed the Sauble Beach Community Centre for the first public all candidates meeting for the Town of South Bruce Peninsula on Sept. 2.
Thirteen of 14 council candidates attended the event, hosted by the Sauble Beach Residential Property Owners Association, with only councillor candidate Don Standen absent.
Michael Lemme, a candidate for trustee for the Bruce Grey Catholic District School and Jane Thomson, the incumbent and acclaimed school Trustee for Bluewater District School Board also attended.
The meeting got off to a rocky start when a front-row audience member protested a request from MC Ken Frook that the audience hold its applause until all candidates had spoken.
In spite of this, audience members for the most part listened attentively throughout the rest of the nearly threehour meeting.
The five mayoral candidates - incumbent Mayor Janice Jackson, incumbent Councillor Ana Vukovic, Lois Keays, Neil Richardson and John Schnurr gave short opening remarks, followed by the two candidates for deputy mayor - incumbent Deputy Mayor Jay Kirkland and challenger Jeff Leonard.
Six of the town’s seven councillor candidates gave their opening remarks before written questions from unnamed members of the audience were posed to the candidates, covering a wide variety of topics.
When asked if they supported tourism and festival events, most candidates agreed council should be supportive and encouraging, with Kirkland calling for council to steer volunteers.
Jackson said the Wiarton Willie Festival was a “money maker” for the town. “We could do the same thing with Sandfest,” she said.
Incumbent Councillor Paul McKenzie said he supported festivals as they “bring the whole community together.”
Caleb Hull, a councillor candidate, thought some events should be expanded to two days - such as the Wilfred Campbell Poetry Festival. Fellow councillor candidate Ann Marie Hadcock said she’d like to focus on festivals in the shoulder season to increase revenues to local businesses. She’d also like to the see the town’s future economic development officer write grant applications for festival and events funding.
Kathy Durst, who is running for councillor, suggested sport tourism could be developed, with the town hosting tournaments.
Vukovic said effective beach and garbage management plans have to be in place before events and festivals are added.
Candidates agreed the town should not hire someone to manage events and festivals.
“Let’s develop the resources we have,” councillor candidate Terry Bell said.
A question about barbecues on the beach led to general agreement that they should not be allowed.
Bell, a former OPP officer, called for more police presence at the beach to enforce the rules, especially given the beach receives up to 100,000 visitors. The town was “lucky” no tragic incidents occurred over the summer, he said.
Leonard suggested a shuttle trolley to move visitors to the beach area would keep them from carrying their own food down to the beach and encourage patronage at local restaurants.
Jackson said the beach’s paid parking brings in $250,000 annually and covers beach maintenance. Without it, taxes would increase 2-3 per cent every year, she said.
Many candidates called for food trucks to be allowed in Sauble Beach - albeit with varying opinions on the details. Leonard called for an “exorbitant license fee to food trucks” and Schnurr said, “The restaurateurs needed to be looked to first” if food trucks were allowed as they’ve made investments in the community.
When asked about the impact of the council complement being decreased from nine to the current five members, incumbent Coun. Vukovic said she didn’t see a difference. Other incumbents Deputy Mayor Kirkland, Coun. Paul McKenzie and Mayor Janice Jackson - agreed the former nine-member council had been frustrating and unwieldy. The change had enabled council to make decisions more quickly while having a “more fulsome discussion,” as Jackson described it.
Schnurr said council should have “at least seven members.”
Other topics included the West Road expansion (which is under the jurisdiction of the county) and the town’s financial position.
“We’re in an incredible financial position,” Jackson said, adding the town is audited every four years and “has $3-million in uncommitted reserves.”
“That’s peanuts,” Vukovic said about the reserve amount, adding $440,000 to date had been spent on land claims and raking the beach. The town has also created six new - but unnecessary in her opinion town staff positions she said.
An audience member asked about the former Sauble Beach amusement park and the former Wiarton Foodland location - two large vacant properties in the town.
Tyler Olmstead, a councillor candidate, said these properties were privately owned, but ideally he’d like to see a developer bring in another long-term care home.
Mayoral candidate Lois Keays said the town needed to develop and utilize incentives to encourage new developers.
The mayoral candidates were asked about the status of the court case regarding the Town of South Bruce Peninsula and the Sauble Beach land claim.
“We are in the litigation of a lifetime,” Jackson said, adding she believed the town was “close to going to court.”
Challenger Schnurr said he didn’t know how to answer the question - calling for more information to be shared with residents as “it is a claim we are involved in,” he said.
Lemme and Thomson were asked about what sex education curriculum their boards would follow.
Thomson said the Bluewater District School Board would discuss this at their first board meeting on Tuesday (Sept. 4).
“It’s an evolving conversation, so we’re going to have to watch and see how that goes,” she said.
Lemme said his board was instructed by the Ministry to follow the draft curriculum that was produced in 2010, adding the Catholic faith was incorporated into all subjects and would be in this one too.
In response to a question about how the candidates would reduce the town’s legal expenses, Keays said council should avoid litigation in the first place.
Schnurr, who said he was the first paralegal in Ontario, said, “we’re going to get sued and we’re going to get sued regularly. We need an inhouse council more than we need a CAO.”
Toward the end of the question period - the unidentified front row audience member who protested at the meeting’s start, once again spoke out. As he began, another male audience member yelled, “Kick him out!”
An obscenity was fired back in response and the disruptive audience member was asked several times by the MC to leave, which he finally did without further incident.
Candidates gave their closing remarks - with about half the original audience in attendance.
At press time, all candidate meetings for the Town of South Bruce Peninsula candidates were scheduled for Sat., Sept. 15 at 10 a.m. at Colpoy’s Bay Women’s Institute Hall in Colpoy’s Bay, hosted by the Mallory Beach Ratepayers Association and on Sept. 22 at 1 p.m. at Peninsula Shores District School in Wiarton, hosted by the Wiarton & District Chamber of Commerce. The municipal election is Oct. 22.
Municipal candidates for the Town of South Bruce Peninsula attended the first public all candidates meeting at the Sauble Beach Community Centre in Sauble Beach on Sept. 2. From left to right (top): incumbent Deputy Mayor Jay Kirkland (standing for Deputy Mayor); Jeff Leonard (running for Deputy Mayor); incumbent Mayor Janice Jackson (standing for Mayor); mayoral candidates Lois Keays, Neil Richardson, John Schnurr and incumbent Councillor Ana Vukovic (standing). Front row: Michael Lemme (left, running for Bruce Grey Catholic District School Board Trustee); Councillor candidates Terry Bell, Kathy Durst, incumbent Coun. Paul McKenzie, Tyler Olmstead, Ann Marie Hadcock and Caleb Hull; incumbent Bluewater District School Board Trustee Jane Thomson (acclaimed). Absent: Don Standen (councillor candidate).