Brock Hamley, city councillor candidate
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.