Riel Warrilow, city councillor candidate
Born and raised in Owen Sound. After high school, like much of my cohort, I moved away to find work. I started my career in Search and Rescue with the Canadian Coast Guard out in Newfoundland, and have had the good fortune to work coast to coast to coast since then. I had the opportunity to move back to Owen Sound so I took it. My roots run about seven generations deep here, and it was important to me to be closer to family, and to have the high quality of life that Owen Sound offers.
Why are you running? Why should people vote for you?
I’m probably running for the same reasons that anyone else would run - I love this town, and I think that it’s a place that has great potential.
I think that I can offer this city thoughtful even keeled leadership, advocacy for marginalized folks, and creative options for persistent problems.
What do you consider the two most important issues facing the next council?
Two potentially defining issues for the next council might be the issues of cannabis, and environmentalism. The way that the city deals with these issues, and other issues like them, will serve as a litmus test for progress. For the most part, young people are attracted to progressive, innovative communities - so if we want to bring that type of resident to Owen Sound, then we have to act accordingly.
What is your vision for Owen Sound in 10 years? Should the city specialize in one sector for example tourism, industry, small business, retirees?
Ten years from now my dream Owen Sound has a harbour full of visiting sail boats, a bustling downtown, and a healthy community of folks who get to call this their home. That is an attainable dream.
I believe that Owen Sound should have a diverse economic base. Industry, and good union jobs mean that the average Owen Sounder is more financially comfortable, which in turn means more money to spend in the small businesses. When small businesses can count on money coming in from locals, they can be more adventurous in their entrepreneurial pursuits - which make for more lively downtowns, and that brings in tourists. A healthy diverse economy is beneficial to young families, and retirees alike, where everyone has their part of the puzzle and we’re all the better for it.
The current council arguably had a mandate to grow the tax base to help pay rising city costs. Has it succeeded? Should such efforts continue?
This is where the current council is doing a fantastic job. The “Are you most” campaign is fantastic, and aimed squarely at the folks who will grow the city in the interesting ways we all hope it will go. Not enough time has passed for us to know how beneficial their work has been in this regard, but I think that they’re on the right track, and we should build on their effort.
Should city council attempt to cut costs? If so, Warrilow where do you think savings can be found? How would you balance cuts with the need, and public desire, for city services?
I think that every service the city provides should be as efficient as possible. We should always be looking to make sure that our services are being delivered in the most cost effective way we can, but that’s not going to amount to substantial savings. Rather than looking to cut costs, I think the city should be focused on growing revenue. We should re-examine the break on development fees, and see what services we might be able to provide to neighbouring municipalities that might being in revenue. Growing our population will go a long way in increasing our revenues, and we need to make sure that we have infrastructure in place for that growth.
Should the city give special support to the downtown area? If so, what would you suggest be done?
Yes, I do think that the downtown should receive special support. I think that a vibrant downtown is something that most people want, and now it’s just a matter of figuring out how to make it work. We have some really wonderful businesses, and we should be doing what we can to support them. Open communication, and sincere consultation go a long way.
Should the city work to create or encourage more affordable rental housing? If so, how?
Yes absolutely. Inclusionary zoning is the first thing we should be looking into. We have a market that is starved for entry level housing, and I think that mandating a certain percentage be affordable housing is a very reasonable place to start as a city.
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?
Owen Sound shouldn’t opt out of allowing cannabis sales. If history has taught us anything, prohibition of substances drives usage underground, and the only people who benefit are criminals. In my opinion, we would just be delaying the inevitable, so we may as well go ahead with a good plan, and bylaws in place. Anecdotally I will say that a downtown with pot users is a lot more palatable than a downtown with folks using other substances.
Should the city do anything about the harbour? If so, what?
Yes, I think that the city should make an effort to develop the harbour as a tourism destination. We should install more floating docks along the harbour wall and charge a dockage fee for visiting sailors. There are already bike rentals, a grocery store, beer store, and pub all within sight of the harbour wall, really an ideal place to come and tie up. The tourism office is right there, and under-utilized, I believe we can be doing so much more around the harbour to make it world class.
As far as what our next step is environmentally speaking - I don’t think that dredging the harbour is a safe or necessary option. Small craft can already get in there and that’s what we should focus our efforts on attracting.