Brock Ham­ley, city coun­cil­lor can­di­date

The Sun Times (Owen Sound) - - FORUM -

Why are you run­ning? Why should peo­ple vote for you?

Grow­ing up, my fam­ily and I moved around alot as my fa­ther, Bob Ham­ley, coached var­i­ous teams in the Na­tional Lacrosse League. But I al­ways knew that when I got older, I wanted to re­turn to my roots, and where my fam­ily was from. Which is why I count my­self lucky. Af­ter I fin­ished my ed­u­ca­tion and started my ca­reer, I had the op­por­tu­nity to choose to come back to Owen Sound.

Af­ter work­ing for a mem­ber of Par­lia­ment for sev­eral years, I was pre­sented with the chance to work for a small-tech com­pany that spe­cial­izes in pub­lic con­sul­ta­tions; a job that al­lowed me the flex­i­bil­ity to work from home - wher­ever I wanted that to be. And I knew that Owen Sound was it.

Since mov­ing home with the love of my life Jess, I’ve im­mersed my­self in our com­mu­nity. I’m a proud board mem­ber of both the Owen Sound Mi­nor Lacrosse and the Se­nior B North Stars. Pub­lic ser­vice has played a big role in my life, and I am al­ways hap­pi­est when I can help oth­ers.

But the big­gest rea­son I’m run­ning, is be­cause too many of our young peo­ple don’t have the choice that I was able to make. There is not enough eco­nomic op­por­tu­nity to build a great life for them­selves and their fam­i­lies here. They don’t feel like they have the re­sources, the pos­si­bil­ity of ca­reer growth, or the means to pros­per if they stay here. And that’s dis­ap­point­ing.

As a young per­son my­self, I look around our com­mu­nity and all I can see is po­ten­tial. We have a beau­ti­ful wa­ter­front, a his­toric down­town and a unique her­itage that works to our ad­van­tage- but only if we make the most of it. As Oc­to­ber 22nd ap­proaches, it’s clear this elec­tion is about what kind of Owen Sound you want 10 years from now. The pre­vi­ous coun­cil has made a start on many of the is­sues we face, but there is so much more to do. I be­lieve I de­serve your sup­port be­cause of my ex­pe­ri­ence, my vi­sion and as many peo­ple tell me at the doors “we need new, young faces” at the ta­ble.

What do you con­sider the two most im­por­tant is­sues fac­ing the next coun­cil?

Since I launched my cam­paign in early July, I’ve been out ev­ery day knock­ing on doors and talk­ing with res­i­dents, and the two big­gest is­sues that I hear about ev­ery­where I go are taxes and job op­por­tu­ni­ties.

When it comes to taxes, ev­ery­one has told me the same thing: the taxes in Owen Sound are too high. For a young fam­ily, it is like hav­ing an ex­tra three or four mort­gage payments a year, and for se­niors on fixed in­comes, it is more and more dif­fi­cult to bear. Many tell me if they get any higher, they’ll be putting their homes up for sale. It’s a vi­cious cir­cle. Taxes are high be­cause of the small tax base. But, we can’t grow the tax base if our taxes aren’t com­pet­i­tive.

We’ve heard that the new hous­ing de­vel­op­ments near the hos­pi­tal will get started in the next four or five years, and with that will come new tax rev­enues from nearly one thou­sand homes. I worry though that there will be a very large push from some to spend all of that money, with­out a strat­egy to ad­dress af­ford­abil­ity in the short- and long-term.

While I rec­og­nize that some of that money will need to be re-in­vested on things like in­fras­truc­ture to con­tinue that growth mo­men­tum, I strongly be­lieve that the large ma­jor­ity of that new rev­enue should be used to put down­ward pres­sure on the ex­ist­ing tax base. But in or­der to fill those homes, we need to at­tract more job op­por­tu­ni­ties, and to do that, we need re­li­able, high-qual­ity fi­bre op­tic in­ter­net. In an in­creas­ingly glob­al­ized world, small, medium and large busi­nesses alike need to have the abil­ity to reach not only lo­cal mar­kets, but re­gional, pro­vin­cial, na­tional and global mar­kets as well- wher­ever they may be.

In fact, a study by Stats Canada showed that 19% of Cana­di­ans to­day are work­ing from home, with that num­ber ex­pected to grow rapidly in the next 10 years. I am one of them. There are literally thou­sands of peo­ple across On­tario that work from home and would love to live in a com­mu­nity like ours. But the cur­rent in­ter­net in­fras­truc­ture won’t be able to han­dle the in­creas­ing de­mands of the next 10 years. Not to men­tion the many ben­e­fits this can have on small busi­ness de­vel­op­ment, stu­dents and fam­i­lies.

There is an ex­ist­ing pro­gram the SWIFT pro­gram- that is up­grad­ing the in­fras­truc­ture, but progress has been slow. Grey County and SWIFT need sup­port to push Fed­eral and Pro­vin­cial part­ners for more sup­ports. As some­one who makes their liv­ing from the in­ter­net, I want to be a loud voice for this valu­able re­source.

Should the city give spe­cial sup­port to the down­town area? If so, what would you sug­gest be done? I am a big sup­porter of the River Precinct Project that will re­vamp the river­front from the 10th Street bridge to the farm­ers mar­ket. I have seen data from projects like this in other cities of sim­i­lar size that show for ev­ery dol­lar of pub­lic in­vest­ment, there is an ad­di­tional thirty-three dol­lars of pri­vate in­vest­ment. The num­ber may be dif­fer­ent in this case, but there is no doubt we des­per­ately need an in­jec­tion of pri­vate in­vest­ment in our down­town.

An­other way I be­lieve we can sup­port the down­town is free park­ing. It seems to be an is­sue that has been around as long as I can re­mem­ber.

And many peo­ple I have spo­ken with at the doors sim­ply avoid spend­ing time down­town be­cause of park­ing. We will never be able to at­tract busi­ness to Owen Sound, if we can’t as­sure em­ploy­ers that they can at­tract a clien­tele.

Fi­nally, sev­eral years ago the prov­ince gave mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties the abil­ity to opt out of a 30 per cent prop­erty tax re­bate for va­cant com­mer­cial and in­dus­trial land. In my opin­ion, the re­bate has only en­cour­aged com­mer­cial and re­tail prop­erty own­ers in Owen Sound to keep build­ings empty. In or­der to help jump­start our econ­omy, and in­cen­tivize land­lords to lease to en­trepreneurs and busi­ness own­ers, I be­lieve the re­bate should be elim­i­nated, and I will strongly sup­port ef­forts to elim­i­nate the re­bate.

The prov­ince plans to al­low pri­vate sec­tor sales of recre­ational cannabis in On­tario by April 1, 2019, and coun­cils elected in the fall will have a short win­dow to opt out of hav­ing pri­vate re­tail pot shops in their com­mu­ni­ties. Would you sup­port Owen Sound us­ing this opt-out op­tion? Why or why not? While these are cer­tainly im­por­tant is­sues to the peo­ple I’ve spo­ken with, I also know that many peo­ple have ques­tions and con­cerns about the up­com­ing le­gal­iza­tion of recre­ational cannabis.

The re­al­ity is that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment has set Oc­to­ber 17 as the date of le­gal­iza­tion in Canada, and prov­inces and mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties are cur­rently work­ing out the de­tails of what that will look like.

In Septem­ber, the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment in­tro­duced leg­is­la­tion that, if passed, would give mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties a dead­line of Jan­uary 22, 2019 to opt out of a pro­posed pri­vate re­tail model. With a three month win­dow to make a de­ci­sion, I be­lieve city coun­cil should use that time wisely to con­duct pub­lic con­sul­ta­tions to gather feed­back from res­i­dents about what they think should be done.

Brock Ham­ley

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