There were few surprises at the inaugural meeting of the 2018-2022 Frontenac County Council, which was held on Wednesday, December 22, just as the Frontenac News final edition for 2018 was being printed.
North Frontenac Mayor Ron Higgins will serve as warden for the second year in a row, to be followed in 2020 by Frances Smith (Central Frontenac), who was elected deputy warden for 2019. Ron Vandewal (South Frontenac) will assume the warden’s mantle in 2021, followed by Dennis Doyle (Frontenac Islands) in 2022.
While all four of the above-mentioned mayors are serving at least their second term on council, four new members of Frontenac County Council took office at the meeting. They are: Alan Revill (South Frontenac), Bill MacDonald (Central Frontenac), Gerry Martin (North Frontenac), and Bruce Higgs (Frontenac Islands).
The only other major appointments that were made at the meeting were to the Kingston Frontenac Public Library Board. There are two Frontenac County resident positions on the board, appointed by Frontenac County Council. Council appointed Louise Moody from Central Frontenac to the board, and Natalie Nossal from Howe Island. Council also sends a representative from their own ranks, and that will be Alan Revill.
Warden Higgins delivered an inaugural address. He talked about the importance of the next phase of work by the Eastern Ontario Regional Network (EORN) and the focus on cell and broadband coverage in remote regions of Frontenac and neighbouring counties, a key issue for North Frontenac Township in particular. He talked about the completion of the K&P Trail to Sharbot Lake and the next phase of the trail, through North Frontenac.
He also touched on what he considers to be the very real possibility that the changes in governance that were forced on Toronto City Council in the early days of the new Ontario government last summer, was the first step in a more comprehensive municipal amalgamation exercise in the province.
“Personally, I believe it will expand to municipalities across the province,” he said, and then added that “it is obvious that amalgamation is not working the way it was intended and does not reflect the needs of some municipalities today. I believe we should be thinking about the challenge now to ensure that we are proactive and ready in the event that the province mandates restructuring.”
Among the dignitaries who attended the meeting were MP Mark Gerretsen from Kingston and the Islands, Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson, as well as Lanark Frontenac Kingston MP Scott Reid and MPP Randy Hillier.
They all spoke briefly, bringing greetings and said they were committed to working with Frontenac County over the next four years.
In his remarks, Scott Reid took up Higgins comments on municipal restructuring, and said he was addressing his remarks “mainly to an audience of one” MPP Hillier, in order to get a message to the Ontario Minister of Municipal Affairs, Steve Clark, who had been scheduled to attend the meeting but was called back to the legislature for an emergency session.
“To try and go back and correct the errors of the past through further amalgamation, will likely bring about a further series of problems that we do not foresee.”
He said that the Canadian experience of governance that features incremental rather than radical change in structures has served the country well.
In his brief remarks, Hillier avoided making any commitments in response to Reid’s advice that municipal restructuring is a dangerous path to undertake.
Instead, he said “regardless of whatever comes up, whatever challenges the county and the municipalities have to face, I will be proud to be with you, to work with you and make sure that we have a strong collaborative approach and that we make things better for this very unique jurisdiction that is Frontenac County.”
Both North and South Frontenac gave cannabis fans in their municipalities a green Christmas present at their final meetings of the year, deciding to permit private cannabis retailers access to their market, subject to the restrictions that are set out by the government of Ontario. But the chances of a pot store opening up within the next six months within either township are remote, as the government has limited the number of private stores in the entire province to 25 when stores will be allowed to open up on April 1st, only 5 of which will be located in Eastern Ontario.
The problem is one of supply, and once that is sorted out the government has indicated they will let the market determine how many stores are viable in Ontario.
Both townships received staff reports that outlined the pros and cons of permitting private stores in their jurisdictions before debating the issue at a council meeting.
Claire Dodds, the Director of Planning Services for South Frontenac, summed up the benefits of cannabis sales in her report: “It is broadly recognized that the legalization of recreational cannabis creates a new sector in the economy. While projections of users and sales vary, it is anticipated that the market will be sizeable. It is also expected that the market will grow over time as Canadians begin to participate as legal consumers.
“Opting out of permitting retail sales in the Township would mean that the only legal sources of purchase will be online or through retail outlets in neighbouring municipalities. If retail stores are not permitted in South Frontenac, any associated jobs related to retail stores will occur in neighbouring municipalities.”
The Province has stipulated a 150 metre buffer around schools in any municipality that opts-in to retailing, and has also said that there can be no further restrictions on locations other than commercial zoning.
North Frontenac opts in by Craig Bakay
North Frontenac Council voted 7-1 to opt in with retail cannabis outlets at a special meeting last Friday in Plevna. The lone nay vote came from Coun. Vernon Hermer.
Although he didn’t get a vote, Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston MPP Randy Hillier, who came to Council on another matter (his letter questioning the role of conservation authorities), stuck around to see how the cannabis question resolved.
“I was glad to be here so they could hash it out,” Hillier said.
As it turned out, Council engaged Hillier right off the bat while it ‘hashed out’ the question asking him about the provincial government’s recent decision to limit the number of store licences to 25 in the initial round.
“That’s only the first round,” Hillier said. “It’s because of supply.
“It’s not a cap we’re imposing.”
“I’m aware a lot of people grow it and use it,” said Coun. John Inglis. “Our benefit initially is $5,000 (a government grant when a municipality opts in).”
“Sounds like a bribe,” said Hermer.
“It’s legal now, so if somebody wants to have a business, that’s OK with me,” said new Coun. Fred Fowler.
“It would be a great summertime business,” said Coun. Wayne Good. “Maybe we should open one here in the office.”
“It’s going to be available anyway,” said Mayor Ron Higgins, not necessarily referencing, Good’s comment.
“I think we made the right decision to let municipalities decide if they want to opt in or out,” said Hillier. “I think there will be a benefit by reducing revenue for criminal activities.
“I can see there being lower policing costs from less criminal activity.”
Clerk Tara Mieske pointed out that a retail store cannot be a home-based business.
“So I can’t run it out of my basement?” said Coun. Gerry Martin.
Cannabis Debate: South Frontenac by Wilma Kenny
In bringing the staff report on cannabis to Council, Claire Dodds, Director of Development Services, said there have been some further changes in the provincial regulations since her report was circulated to Council last Thursday. Not more than 25 retail outlets will be phased in ‘at any time’, of which a maximum of five (of the first 25) will be allocated to the Eastern Region of the Province (ie from Lindsay to Quebec). Most of these will be directed to municipalities of 50,000 or more. “Therefore, if we (South Frontenac) opt in, it’s unlikely we will have an outlet here (in the near future), but it keeps us in the conversation.”
Councillor Sutherland proposed that a motion to opt in be amended to stipulate that any outlet should be located in the LCBO stores, “so we would know where they are.” Councillor Barr said that the Province has already decided that cannabis outlets would not go into LCBO stores. Dodds said the Province has given the municipalities only one choice: to opt in or out, with no additional criteria. No one supported Sutherland’s proposed amendment.
Councillor Revill said he was reluctant to opt in, for he was not in favour of enhancing the use of cannabis, but he recognized the danger of encouraging the black market, and respects those who need cannabis as a medication.
The motion brought to Council was to opt in, and to direct staff to develop a policy statement for Council’s approval, which would assist staff with providing comments to the AGCO (Alcohol and Gaming Corporation of Ontario) in line with the municipal public interest on proposals for cannabis retail stores in South Frontenac. This passed in a non-recorded vote, with Councillors Sleeth and Roberts opposed.
Back on Nov. 9, Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston MPP Randy Hillier send a letter to Rod Philips, Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks regarding growing concerns with the activities of the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority and the Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority. The letter asked that the section “an authority may enter into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with a municipality situated in whole or in part within its area of jurisdiction in respect of programs and services that the authority provides on behalf of the municipality” be deleted. Hillier copied the letter to municipalities in his riding, asking for their support.
North Frontenac deferred the request, directing the Mayor to contact Hillier for clarification.
That clarification came Friday at a special meeting of North Frontenac Council.
In the interim, North Frontenac also received correspondence from the general managers of the two authorities in its area, as well as letters from representatives of various lake associations.
“Conservation authorities are currently under review as they’ve moved to a new Ministry,” Hillier said. “The purpose of my letter (to municipalities) was to ensure a variety of views on the review.”
The Townships of Central Frontenac and Mississippi Mills passed resolutions that support what the local conservation authorities have been doing.
At the end of Hillier’s presentation, North Frontenac took a different track, passing a resolution that supports a review of the Conservation Act to include:
• “Municipal makeup of the Executive Committee (Board of Directors) and define the length of the term for its members;
• “Ensure conservation authorities have detailed asset management plans and adequate reserves to avoid negative municipal levy impacts, which is not mandated in the Act;
• “Review of Development Application Packages where possible versus conducting on-site inspections to avoid duplication and additional costs to the applicant;
• “Ensure that their mandate is fulfilled.”
The resolution also asks that municipalities be involved in the review.
Hillier told Council that in his experience, CAs have had trouble fulfilling their core mandate of maintaining water levels, erosion control and regulating development on waterways and conservation lands.
“We’ve seen them expand their ancillary services thru MOUs with municipalities instead of replacing bridges culverts and dams and maintaining trails/maintenance of their properties,” Hillier said. “I don’t want to get rid of them but I want them to look at their ancillary services as temporary and get back to their core services.
“(And) in the MVCA, representation on the board is more based on the number of people in the municipality rather than the size of the watershed. North Frontenac has one representative, Mississippi Mills has two and Ottawa has five.”
“I sit at those meetings and all I ever hear about is Carp Creek,” said Coun. Gerry Martin.
“Some would call it a ditch,” said Hillier. “I call them about the Clyde — the dams on it are in disrepair.
“I’m told they don’t have the resources — as I drive by their $6 million building.”
Mayor Ron Higgins said the Township finds value in some of the services like the voluntary septic inspection program but questioned the need for a governing board.
“Why do they need a committee?” Higgins said. “I’ve concluded that aspect should go back to the province.
“I think the whole conservation authority needs to be reviewed, not just the specifics of your letter.”
“The thing I find most frustrating as the lack of reserves for infrastructure,” said Martin. “They spend money on new parks when the Kash dam needs to be replaced.
“And there’s the Ottawa old boys network who suggested a special levy on North Frontenac to fix the dam — Thank God that didn’t fly.”
“If you’re interested in conservation, you fix the dam,” said Hillier. “If you’re interested in politics, you build a building.”
“I’m not in favour of restricting MOUs because they’re requested by the municipality,” said Coun. John Inglis. “I hear a lot of praise from lake associations because they get a lot of help with their lake plans.”
“My letter isn’t saying they don’t do some good,” said Hillier. “But there are a number of examples of expensive litigation over a half-acre of land.”
MPP Randy Hillier was at a special meeting of North Frontenac Council Friday to drum up support for a review of the role conservation authorities play in municipalities. Photo/Craig Bakay
Central Council passed a resolution stating that it does not support MPP Randy Hillier’s request for support in his investigation of Conservation Authority practices at the final meeting of the outgoing council on November 27.
Coun. Brent Cameron questioned some of the Conservation Authority practices.
“I will support Council in its decision but CAs aren’t as easy to deal with as perhaps they might be,” Cameron said. “Remember when Welly Smith Road was flooded?
“There was a beaver dam on Authority property and we went back and forth with them on it too long. If it were anybody else, we could have forced action on it far more quickly.”
CAO/Clerk Cathy MacMunn said that she supported the CAs as they do site visits when planning matters are involved that would be far more expensive if private companies had to be engaged to do the same inspections.
“If their (CAs) responsibilities were downloaded to municipalities, there’s no way we could afford it,” said Coun. Bill MacDonald.
“Downloading can happen bit by bit,” said Mayor Francis Smith. “And we have been downloaded on before.
“It’s more cost effective for a small rural municipality to do it the way we’ve been doing it.”
John A. Macdonald didn’t have to deal with it. Neither did William Lyon Mackenzie King, Lester Pearson, Pierre Trudeau or even Stephen Harper.
But, in this, the 21st Century, everyone is having to deal with social media, and politicians are no exception.
Recently, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson was sued by three people he blocked on Twitter. They claimed he violated their charter rights.
And Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston MPP, Randy Hillier, isn’t immune either.
Hillier recently blocked Perth resident Jeff Collver on Facebook over a disagreement over the PC Provincial government’s decision to repeal Ontario’s cap and trade system.
Collver decided to go public with Hillier’s ban after the Watson incident.
“He blocked me too,” Hillier said in an interview this week.
Hillier said he sees his Facebook page as his forum, not an extension of the government and certainly not an ‘official’ communications outlet.
“There’s no requirement for MPPs to have a Facebook page,” he said. “It’s not an official communication channel for my business as an MPP and thus no one has a guaranteed right to either access its contents or post to it.”
Having said that, he did acknowledge that it can be a good communication tool, but no more so than the phone, mail, email, fax or a visit in person to his office.
“There are no rigid statutes for social media, just policies,” he said “And do we need statutes? I hope not.
“We have too many laws as it is.”
As far as policy goes, Hillier said he tries to treat social media as he does his office code of conduct.
“If a person comes in asking for assistance, we don’t ask them if they’re Liberal or Conservative,” he said. “But if they start swearing, I’ll throw them out.”
He said he has about 20,000 followers on Facebook and Twitter so “I must be doing something right.
“If there wasn’t good content, people would go elsewhere.”
He pointed out that media outlets like CBC moderate what goes on their pages and he intends to continue doing so.
“I’m having my hootenanny Dec. 16 with the Bowes Brothers at the Grand Hotel in Carleton Place,” he said. “It’s open to everyone.
“Nobody will be blocked unless they get unruly.”
Long a critic of the local conservation authorities, going back to his pre-government days with the Ontario Landowners Association, MPP Randy Hillier is now taking steps to try and curtail some of the activities of both the Mississippi Valley (MVCA) and the Rideau Valley Conservation Authorities (RVCA).
Last week, he sent a letter to Rod Phillips, the Minister of Environment, Conservation, and Parks, which talked about his “growing concerns with the activities” of the two authorities.
“Unfortunately, I have to question the viability retaining these Conservation Authorities in their current form,” he wrote.
He takes the position that the two authorities do a poor job satisfying their core mandate, to manage dams on local lakes and keep water levels within acceptable parameters, and to “oversee development in floodplains and proximity to provincially significant wetlands”.
He said that both the MVCA and RVCA have “increased their focus on expanding consulting services while neglecting their core responsibilities”
He urges the minister to repeal the section of the Conservation Authority Act which allows conservation authorities to enter into contractual relationships with local municipalities to provide a range of services, including septic inspection services among others.
Hillier also sent the letter to local municipalities, including North and Central Frontenac, requesting a motion of support to be forwarded to the minister.
The letter sites three cases in which, according to Hillier, the authorities provided poorly conceived technical review services in their consultant role for municipalities that led to delays and increased costs for developers.
The MVCA and RVCA issued a joint response to MPP Hillier’s letter on Monday, November 26. The response, which was sent to the local townships says the authorities “would be pleased to respond” to the specific assertions made in the letter, offering to appear before Council to do so. It then goes on to provide an overview of the services that the two Authorities provide and the legal and contractual basis they operate under.
The letter points out that the services provide a level of expertise to municipalities that “can lead to cost-efficiencies, streamlined delivery and better service for applicants and the environment.”
The response also says that “providing additional services to municipalities with respect to planning and development does not take significant resources away from other conservation authority priorities as fees are collected from applicants to cover, or to offset the cost of these services.”
Randy Hillier’s letter to Minister Phillips made reference to one specific case that is relevant to North Frontenac, dealing with the K&P Trail.
“As a recent example, when concerns about much needed repairs to the K&P Trail were brought to my attention, my staff was advised by the MVCA that there was no money to do the necessary repairs because the budget had been spent litigating a claim against the MVCA.”
Paul Lehman is the Manager of the MVCA, a job he has held since 1989. He will be retiring early in 2019. In an interview early this week, he addressed some of the points made by Randy Hillier in his letter. In particular, he was asked about the K&P Trail case.
He said that the MVCA owns about a 40km section of the trail, running from just north of Snow Road in North Frontenac, and east through Lanark and into Renfrew County. The section of trail was owned by the Province of Ontario, under the authority of the Ministry of Agriculture. The MVCA first got involved in maintenance on behalf of the Ministry in the 1980’s. The trail was transferred to MVCA in the early 1990’s and for the first few years the province provided some financial support for maintenance, a situation that ended in 1996.
“From that point on we have maintained the trail as a recreational trail, working with the snowmobile associations and the Ottawa Valley ATV Club to keep it going. We only have limited resources devoted to it, about $5,000 per year,” said Lehman.
The authority was indeed approached by a landowner on the trail this summer with concerns over flooding, Lehman said.
“The landowner was using the trail to access to their property. We only deal with the trail as a recreational trail, not as an access road. We did have a local contractor look at the culverts in that location, and they were not crushed but were blocked and we had them cleared, but that is all we can do,” Lehman said. “It is not in our mandate to maintain a trail for access to a neighbouring property, only as a recreational resource.”
There has been a legal case along the trail, near the border between Lanark and Frontenac County for a number of years, Lehman added.
“That is a case where a neighbouring landowner encroached on the trail, and the MVCA initiated a court case. We needed establish our ownership of the land, which did cost a fair bit of money. The case is settled, pending a survey, and we had to use our general funds to cover the legal costs.” Lehman said.
When the Hillier letter came up at North Frontenac Council last week, a proposed motion of support was deferred. When it came up at Central Frontenac Council this week, it was defeated.
The Mississippi-Rideau Septic System Office, which is jointly managed by MVCA and RVCA, provides septic re-inspection services for the voluntary inspection program, on lakefront properties in North Frontenac. The same office will be delivering the mandatory inspection program in Central Frontenac. It also provides all septic inspections, for new and existing properties, in Tay Valley. Inspections for new construction in Central and North Frontenac are provided by the Kingston Frontenac Public Health Unit.
Tuesday noon, Township Council and staff held a special COW meeting at the Perth Road Firehall with MPP Randy Hillier to discuss two Township roads and their upkeep.
To no ones surprise, the township is seeking provincial money to help improve the roads. While Hillier listened to the requests, he didn’t quite open up the provincial chequebook
One of the roads is the 401 emergency detour route (EDR) which runs along township Road 15 (Moreland Dixon and Sunbury Roads), and the other is Road 38.
Mark Segsworth, Director of Public Works, said that as part of next year’s reconstruction of Sunbury, they want to rebuild Sunbury Road to withstand EDR loading, and “do it so it will last”. The current plan is to budget $1 million for each of 2019 and 2020, and ask the province for a further $990,000 which would allow more strengthening to be done on the road. Hillier agreed,
“The province can’t have 401 without EDR routes” and asked what the Provincial response has been to previous requests for help with Sunbury Road. Segsworth replied: “They say they don’t subsidize EDRs anywhere else in the province.” He added that the Township’s previous applications for road grants had appeared to have been denied “to some extent because we’re in a stable financial position.”
Hillier said that while the province had claimed that “those who manage their assets in a responsible manner will be recognized,” one problem of the current lottery-style funding is that it can favour less responsible areas.
“Government and infrastructure (funding) should not be random.” He agreed to talk to Catherine Moore of MTO about the need for the province to recognize that some portion of EDR upkeep should be a provincial responsibility. “We need a dedicated fund we can depend on, not just one-off programs,” said Vandewal.
Councillor Barbeau asked “Why did we get stuck with Road 38 at the time of amalgamation?” It seems that it’s a unique situation: at the time of amalgamation, Frontenac County became Frontenac Management Board for several years, and as such, was not eligible to own a highway.
So, 38 was handed over to South and Central Frontenac as a township road, with Kingston agreeing to provide upkeep funding assistance for ten years. (Later extended for a further five). This was based on the fact that Kingston depends on 38 as a direct connection route up to highway #7.
“38 should not be seen as a Township road,” agreed Hillier.
CAO Orr interjected that the Township CAOs are trying to find a way to get the amalgamation agreement amended so that at least a token percentage of 38’s ownership could be transferred to the County. Apparently the Province is likely to look more favourably on grant applications from a County, as opposed to those from a Township.
Hillier said he could at least try to help get 38 moved into becoming a County Road, with a service agreement with the Townships.
“South Frontenac already provides services on 38 such as traffic counts and organizing joint tendering,” said Segsworth, “We scratch their backs, but our back usually stays itchy.”
The general impression was that the meeting had been worthwhile, and that Hillier seemed to have a clearer understanding of South Frontenac’s dilemmas with these two situations. He also seemed prepared to try to help find solutions which might ease the apparently inequitable expectations the Province has in regard to our maintenance of these roads.
There was a moment in the Ontario election campaign when voters were telling pollsters they were seriously concerned about supporting Doug Ford for Premier. Ford has been a polarizing figure in Toronto City politics and has no history on the provincial scene, and is connected in many people’s mind with his brother, who was the most well known municipal politician in North America for a time, for all the wrong reasons.
Doug Ford, or his party handlers, came up with a two pronged attack. They brought out the Tory team, other MPPs and candidates who have more solid reputations, to temper the idea that it is “Ford Nation” Ontario was being asked to buy into. And, picking up on the fact it was the NDP who was their foe, they started to do some red bashing.
Ford began talking about how afraid he was of an NDP, anti-business government, said that ‘thousands’ of business people had told him they would pack up their bags and leave Ontario if Horwath were elected. Aside from the fact that the United States is not exactly rolling out the red carpet for Canadians or Canadian businesses these days (although the election took place before Prime Minster Trudeau earned his “special place in hell” in the words of one Donald Trump’s advisors/enablers.
Most business people will not pack up and move if an election does not go their way, even if a 1% increase in business taxes is in the cards. If they are making money, have a good work force and access to markets, they are unlikely to take the chance on moving, especially to another country.
Even though Ford’s was likely afraid more of losing the election than he was of the impact of an NDP government, he was able to raise doubt in the minds of voters.
Before the Conservative Party began displaying its internal strife to the public a few months ago, voters were ready to follow a set pattern. The Liberals were a spent force, and Ontarians like to try the right when they get sick of the left, and besides they like Queen’s Park to be blue when Parliament Hill goes red.
What Doug Ford managed to do was control the ballot box question without revealing how he was planning to fix the healthcare system, keep all the rural schools open, cut taxes and trim the fat without laying any provincial employees off. Oh, and according to our own MPP Randy Hillier, Ford Nation will also mean stable, improved funding for municipalities.
Looking at the new government from the point of view of rural municipal politics, which I have done ever since the waning days of the last Conservative regime under Mike Harris, I have to wonder where things will be going.
I agree, as Randy Hillier has pointed out often enough, that the Liberal government at Queen’s Park has had an urban bias. There has been a lack of interest in the struggle for survival in rural Ontario, a gutting of ministries such as the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Ministry of Rural Affairs, the former being combined with forestry and the latter with agriculture, demonstrating a sense that rural Ontario is about what can be extracted from it rather than who lives here and how they are getting along. This is not a conspiracy or anything, just consistency with the global phenomenon of urbanisation. The Conservatives, with their unflinching rural support base, promise to change that tone.
However, under the Liberals there has been a steady reform of the untenable financial reality that was created by the Mike Harris Conservatives, who created the modern Ontario municipality through forced amalgamation in the 1990’s. By the time Ernie Eves, Harris’ successor, was defeated in the same kind of landlslide that greeted soon to be former Premier Kathleen Wynne last week, municipalities were faced with a tax burden for roads and bridges, paramedic services, social services, and much more, as the result of downloaded administrative and financial responsibilities. While the Liberals did not reverse-course in any way, as far as administrative responsibility goes, they have alleviated the financial burden in a substantial way, steadily, and over time.
Transfer payments have increased and become more transparent than they were. Cost sharing arrangements have improved as well over time. We still live in a Harris universe in Ontario municipalities, but the edge has been softened, quite a bit.
One of the things we will have to watch over the next 12 to 24 months, as the Conservative agenda takes shape, is if they repeat history. Will they do as Harris did, transfer the tax burden onto the municipal tax base in order to keep their own budget from sliding deeper into deficit. All so they can claim to be cutting taxes while at the same time increasing spending on healthcare and education.
One of the problems with this is that municipal taxes are already a lot higher in 2018 than they were in 1998. Waterfront taxes have shot up year after year and even off water properties have doubled or tripled over that time. This hits rural people hard because incomes are static and the number seniors living on a fixed income are higher than the provincial average. If downloading costs to municipalities is a fiscal tool that Ford Nation chooses to use, it will be an attack on rural Ontario perpetrated by a government that said it was going to be responsive to our needs.
The upcoming provincial election is one week away and after taking an early lead, the PC party is now running neck and neck with the NDP, while the Liberal Party has slipped to a distant 3rd place standing at a historic low of 20%. In the previous provincial election (2014), MPP Randy Hillier (PC) polled 43% of the vote in the former Lanark, Frontenac Lennox and Addington riding. It is unclear what impact removing Lennox and Addington from the riding and adding households in rural Kingston and Mississippi Mills will have on this race. There are six candidates in the new provincial riding of Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston: Steve Gebhardt (Libertarian), Ramsey Hart (NDP) Randy Hillier (PC), John McEwen (Independent), Anita Payne (Green), and Amanda Pulker-Mok (Liberal) The following profiles were prepared by Jeff Green, based on interviews this week and over the past few months, statements made by the candidates in public meetings, and official party bios. For information about how to vote in the election, the best palce to go is to the Elections Ontario website. Click on voting, then on Electoral District Maps and Information. That will bring up a screen with a bar asking for a postal code. Once the postal code is entered, every road corresponding to the code comes up, and once the road where you live is entered your polling station will come up. We would like to thank all the candidates for attending our all candidates meeting in Sydenham and for given their time for interviews this week. The profiles are below, in reverse alphabetical order based on last names.
Amanda Pulker-Mok joined the Mississippi Mills Township Council last year, after answering a call from the township for candidates. She was one of 11 candidates and was selected by Council. She is taking a leave from municipal council to be the Liberal candidate in this election. The fact she is a woman with young children at home gives her a different perspective than any of the other candidates in Lanark Frontenac Kingston. Her support for the full day kindergarten program that the long serving Liberal government brought in several years ago, stems from the fact that she has a 4 year old who has thrived in the program. Similarly, her take on the daycare issue is rooted in how her own family makes use of the system.
During the campaign she has spent a lot of time going door to door, and contrary to what people are saying about how unpopular the Liberal brand is in this election, she has found a receptive and interested audience.
"I thoroughly enjoy knocking on doors, it leads to some very interesting conversations. While I have found that a lot of people are still undecided, I find that they are very open to discussing the issues that are important to them and I have learned a lot. The experience has reinforced why I wanted to get into politics, which is to make life better for people," she said.
The jump from municipal politics to provincial politics has been an eye opener for her, especially the party politics aspect, but "for me, it still touches on services that affect peoples lives. It is different when you are talking about major initiatives like healthcare and education which have a direct impact on everyone in Ontario, but I take it on the same way, by listening to people and pledging to work for them."
As a young municipal council member she has been learning quickly about the long lasting impact of the download of costs from the province to the municipalities that took place almost 20 years ago under the Mike Harris government, and she brings some of that municipal perspective to provincial politics.
"Some of the highways and bridges that were downloaded never should have been downloaded, and while the Liberal government has done a lot to improve things and give municipalities more breathing room, we are still living with that reality" she said.
The most prevalent issue on people's minds during this campaign has been healthcare.
"People are really concerned about the kind of service they and their elderly loved ones are receiving and will be receiving in the future, and the specific concerns vary in different parts of this large riding. I talk to them about the Liberal platform and the priorities that it places on dealing with wait times, with primary care, whatever is the most pressing issue for them and their communities."
One thing that has also come up, Pulker-Mok said, was hydro rates, an issue that has dogged the Liberal government in rural Ontario.
"It is a very emotional issue for people to be sure," she said.
Ultimately, although she is aware of the polls which have been difficult for Liberal party members to read, she remains optimistic, both about the riding and the province as a whole.
"I remind people to look at the local representation and the direction they see for the future of the riding, and tell them what my personal experience is. I'm also hearing from PC supporters who are concerned about what a Doug Ford government would look like. I have also been hearing from a lot of people who are going to vote strategically for the NDP or the Liberals depending on the polls."
Anita Payne doesn't just put on her trademark green clothes when an election writ is dropped, in order to spend a few weeks getting the message out about the Green Party and climate change issues. Her activism is a day in day out, year round kind of thing.
The day after the election, she is off to Washington with a group of activists to meet with the bipartisan congressional caucus working on climate change issues.
"Even with Trump in the White House there are still people working on these issues in congress and with the mid-term elections coming there may be a further opening. There are 70 or 72 members of the caucus and they come in by twos, there needs to be a Republican for every Democrat," she said.
This is her 5th campaign for the Green Party. She was the candidate in Perth-Wellington in the 2007 provincial election, in Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock in 2011, in Prince Edward-Hastings in 2014, and in the inaugural federal election in Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston in 2015. Her party activism stems from attending a Green Party meeting, almost by chance, in Stratford in 2006, and she has been involved with the party ever since.
"The Green Party understands the implications of climate change, which is at the core of my politics. It is also a grass roots party. The leader of our party doesn't make decisions about policy on the fly, during an election campaign. We set the policy as a party. I don't know why the other parties don't do that."
Payne also thinks that the carbon tax policies that the Liberal and NDP party have adopted and the one that had been adopted by the PC's under Patrick Brown but has since been jettisoned under new leader Doug Ford are at least a step in the right direction, but says that the Green Party carbon fee and dividend system is a much better plan.
It calls for a fee of $10 per ton of carbon pollution to be charged at source for all carbon emitting products. This would raise the price of gasoline, for example, by 2.4 cents per litre.
The money that is collected in fees would go directly to Ontario residents in the form of a taxable benefit.
"The residents can use the money to invest in technology to lower their own carbon footprint," said Payne, also pointing out that since it is paid out equally to all residents it will mean that "the lowest income people, who maybe don't own a car and live in a small house or apartment, will get a benefit, while higher income people with maybe two cars and a cottage, will end up paying more in higher carbon costs than they receive in rebate."
That would create an incentive for them top invest in green technology, she added.
The other issue where the Greens differ from all the other parties is on nuclear energy production. The Greens would close the Pickering plant this summer and would not re-invest in the Bruce Generating station.
"Instead, we would purchase inexpensive water power from Quebec until the Ontario renewable energy generation is able to take up all of our power needs," she said.
While she is not certain, Payne is thinking this will be her last campaign.
"I am getting tired more easily now, maybe because the heat has been getting to me. I think it is time for some younger candidates for our party. But I will remain involved with the party," she said.
She will also be looking very carefully at the polls on election night, particularly those from Guelph, where she hopes Green Party leader David Mike Schreiner will win the first ever Ontario seat for the Greens, and from Parry Sound, where the Green Party candidate Mike Richter has an outside chance of being elected.
"Imagine having two Greens in the Ontario legislature. I'm really hopeful."
When introducing himself to the audience at all candidates meetings, John McEewen is up front about his intentions.
"I am a single issue candidate," he says "I'm not here for your vote, I'm here to talk to you about something that causes 1,500 cancer deaths a year in Ontario, mostly among people who are under 25. It kills our children and it is completely preventable."
The culprit is radioactive radon gas. Because of what is called hydrostastic pressure, the mass of a house pulls moisture and gases from underground. The same process which causes leaky basements causes radon infiltration.
McEewen, who makes his living doing remediation work on houses with leaky basements, said that the same building technique that would make his job obsolete, would also prevent radon from seeping into and building up in basements.
"If an impermeable membrane is installed before the house is constructed, which is a minimal cost item when building a house, the gas and water will never get into the basement. That would be the end of radon in all new homes in Ontario," McEwen said.
He also said that the regulations requiring that membranes be installed is included in the national building code, because scientists at the National Research Council figured this out decades ago, but it is not being enforced by local building officials anywhere in Ontario, which is something the premier of the province could change with the stroke of a pen."
The reason the provision for membranes to be installed is not enforced is because local municipalities have the leeway to define hydro-static pressure however they wish.
"All houses create hydrostatic pressure, and if the province made that clear, local Chief Administrative Officers would have to tell their Chief Building Officials to enforce the code, which says membranes will be installed where hydrostatic pressure exists."
McEwen said that the Kingston Frontenac Public Health Unit is working on a number of measures, such as testing of daycare centres and schools, to find radon in buildings that are already constructed and there are ways to deal with the issue in older buildings.
As the meeting in Sydenham wound down this week, McEwen made one more pitch to voters.
"What you need to do," he said to the voters watching the debate, "is talk to these people" he said pointing to the candidates. "One of them will have the premier's ear."
Should he be re-elected for the 4th time, Randy Hillier will mark 11 years at Queen's Park in October, and he thinks it has taken much of that time for him to overcome the perception that came with him when he first arrived in Toronto to take up his seat.
"People had an image of me, a narrative about me as a kind of rural radical, a show boater, but what I have always done to my best is represent my constituents, bringing their concerns to the PC party and to the government instead of the other way around."
The radical label came from Hillier's rise to prominence as a leader in the so-called 'rural revolution' as President of the Lanark and Ontario Landowners Associations. The landowners, wearing trademark red suspenders, came out in support of rural entrepreneurs, from small scale egg farmers dealing with provincial egg sizing regulations, to sawmill operators facing regulations over sawdust regulations, even supporting property owners in dispute with local townships. The landowners also organised some high profile tractor convoys to Parliament Hill and Queen's Park, interrupting urban traffic patterns as they delivered loads of manure to fertilise the ground around the iconic legislative centres.
He has since split with the Landowners organisation and has become entrenched at Queen's Park, where he is active both in the PC Party and the legislature. He has taken on party leaders within the PC party on a number of occasions, most recently reporting now former party leader Patrick Brown to the parliamentary ethics commissioner. He once ran for party leader. He finished fourth and threw his support to the eventual winner Tim Hudak. His relationship with Hudack deteriorated and Hudack ultimately removed him as PC critic for labour relations.
In the most recent Tory leadership race, just this past winter, Hillier supported Christine Elliott, who lost a close vote to Doug Ford.
But with ten days to go before the election, there is little space between what Hillier is saying and the stance being taken by Party leader Doug Ford.
"Doug Ford is unlike a lot of leaders I have known. He doesn't pretend to know everything. He is a very authentic, very sincere, very genuine person," Hillier said this week, when interviewed at the Sydenham Legion just before an all candidates meeting.
"He takes phone calls, he takes input, from his caucus members. I called him at 10:30 last Friday night and he picked up. It wasn't voice mail. I've never seen that in a party leader. Some people don't like someone who is blunt and forthright, but most people like that sort of individual," he added.
And when asked how Ford and the Conservatives will be able to finance their election promises while cutting taxes and committing to not laying off any government employees, Hillier is quick to respond. He talks about money that he says the current government has squandered over the years.
"They have spent billions, billions, with nothing to show for it. The waste from the Green Energy Act, gas plants that were never built, e-health, ORNG [air ambulance] and the list goes on. The people of this province have been ripped off for 15 years. Once you stop all that waste, you will find there is more money available for long term care beds and to eliminate hallway medicine in our hospitals."
He said that the level of dishonesty from the Liberal government has been well beyond anything he expected to find when he arrived at Queen's Park in 2007.
"All we were used to was Dalton McGuinty saying he would do one thing during the campaign and then doing something else, but the level of dishonesty, the willingness to create any public policy no matter how harmful it is in the long run just for a short term advantage, that I never thought I would see."
With a very close campaign setting up on a provincial level, Hillier said he is "confident" about his own re-election, but said this election has been different from the three others he has experienced, because "for the first time, it really is a two way race. The Liberal vote has collapsed. This is something new."
Ramsey Hart is pretty well known in Perth as the Executive Director of The Table, and for his volunteer commitments. When first interviewed about receiving the nomination from the NDP in Lanark Frontenac Kingston (LFK), he said that he saw running for the NDP, the perennial third party in the former ridings that make up LFK, as an opportunity to represent the values of the party and to promote the social justice causes that he is committed to in his professional life.
When interviewed this week, with the election 10 days away and the NDP party polling neck and neck with the PC's, Hart said that everything has changed, he is now running to win a seat.
"Everything changed when, as we were going door to door, we started seeing the level of support. We have shifted our perspective based on that, looking at it from the realistic perspective that we can take the riding, and it has become a priority for me to make sure that as many people as possible get a chance to meet me," he said.
There is no polling data that is specific to this riding, and Hart is reacting to what people have been telling him as he travels the riding, and to province-wide polling which may or may not translate in Lanark Frontenac Kingston. He recognises that in order to win the riding he needs to do more than convince voters on the left, Liberal and Green Party supporters, to vote for him. He needs Conservative Party supporters to vote for him as well.
"Lots of people are drifting away from their traditional voting habits," he said, "and are moving away from the Conservatives."
At the all candidates meeting in Sydenham, he addressed one of the issues that has dogged NDP campaigns, the perception that NDP governments run high deficits.
He said that the track record of provincial NDP governments as far as deficits go is better than Liberal or Conservative governments. They have run deficits less often, in percentage terms, and those deficits, on average, have been smaller.
"The NDP record for fiscal responsibility is better than that of the PC's or the Liberals," he said
The other thing that has happened during this campaign, and this is a matter of some amusement for Hart and people he has met during the campaign, is the fact that his past employment at Mining Watch Canada has come to the attention of PC leader Doug Ford. Between 2008 and 2014, Hart was the Canada Program Co-ordinator for Mining Watch Canada, a small organization funded by social justice groups in Canada to work on human rights, social justice and environmental issues as they relate to the activities of Canadian mining companies at home and around the world. Hart wrote numerous articles that were critical of mining projects in Canada.
Several times during the campaign, and again on Sunday Night, Doug Ford referred to Ramsey Hart as a star candidate who has "spent their entire career, in shutting down mines, in celebrating when companies close down forestry ..."
"A few people have mentioned this to me at the door, everyone finds it pretty funny. I don't think it is an issue here. And besides, Randy Hillier was on the same side as Mining Watch on some issues in Frontenac County,"
Hillier, and Mining Watch Canada, both supported the efforts of the Bedford Mining Alert and the Citizens Mining Action Group of Tay Valley over prospecting on privately held land in Southern Ontario, as well as aspects of the protest and occupation of uranium exploration in North Frontenac in 2008.
As the campaign enters its final phase, buoyed by the jump in the polls for the NDP and the fact that people he is meeting are responding to the NDP platform, Hart said that his campaign is "nominally shifting its focus away from informing people about the party platform to a "get out the vote strategy" and talking about the strengths of the party leader.
"It was really helpful to have our leader come out to Kingston last week, it provided a boost for all of us in Eastern Ontario," he said.
After the campaign, he is ready to return to his job at the Table in Perth, an innovative and dynamic food program. That is, unless something very unexpected happens on June 7.
Steve Gebhardt has lived in Frontenac County for 11 years, on an off-grid farm south of Arden with his wife and two young children. He works as a pilot gathering geophysical data for a couple of months at a time, and spends the rest of the time with his family on their property, gardening and making improvements.
"I love living here. I love the privacy it brings, the freedom it brings," he said.
But somehow, he has been drawn into politics.
"I lived in Alberta and maybe that's where I get my Libertarian bent," he said, "but I was a member of the Conservative Party until the passage of Bill C-16.
Bill C-16 is an Act to amend the Human Rights Act, extending protections under the Act.
Under C-16, "prohibited grounds of discrimination are race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, family status, disability and conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted or in respect of which a record suspension has been ordered."
For Gebhardt, the way the act affixes rights to people based on labels, rather than their very humanity, is an offence.
After leaving the Conservative Party he began to look at the Ontario Libertarian Party, which does most of its organising online, and he is now the Libertarian candidate in Lanark Frontenac Kingston.
"I oppose any kind of identity politics, which in provincial terms translates into interest group politics. As individuals, we all deserve all of the same rights, that's a tenet of libertarianism," he said.
The Libertarian party has nominated candidates in 116 of the 124 ridings in this election, its most ever, and while some of them are what are sometimes called 'paper' candidates, who have little or no connection to the riding where they are running and may not be campaigning at all, most of them, like Gebhardt, live in the riding and are conducting a campaign.
The party platform is focused on its opposition to taxation and big government, what Gebhardt called "the nanny state" at the all candidates meeting in Sydenham earlier this week.
One of the taxes that Gebhardt opposes most vigorously is property tax, which he likens to "medieval serfdom".
"A house is the only thing you can tax yearly and if you don't pay they can take it away from you," he said.
In general terms as far as all taxes are concerned he said that "instead of governments taking people's money and then handing it back to use as presents or goodies, we should let people keep their money in the first place. It's their money."
He also said that the reason people have been leaving rural Ontario behind and moving to cities is that taxes and regulations have made it hard or impossible to live in the countryside.
"If we can allow people to live away from the city, they will be able to live on less money. But we need to let people do what they want to do on their own property, and not kill them with taxes. With more people living in the country, there will be a stronger rural economy, and less need for government help," he said.
Since 2004, students at the Granite Ridge Education Centre have been involved with the Student Vote Committee and while the majority of the audience weren’t old enough to vote during last Thursday’s all-candidates debate, the candidates themselves were taking the exercise seriously.
There was also a sizable contingency from the North Addington Education Centre in attendance.
Green Party candidate Anita Payne was the first to speak and in her opening statements linked what she called a “Lyme disease epidemic” to climate change.
After acknowledging that this event was happening on unceded Algonquin territory, Liberal candidate Amanda Pulker-Mok said her priorities were health care, both from an administration and a user-standpoint as well as expanded cell phone and broadband service.
After pointing out that he has represented this area in the Ontario Legislature since 2007, PC incumbent Randy Hillier said that he continues to campaign for rural residents.
NDP candidate Ramsey Hart said hello in Algonquin and noted that 40 per cent of the students here identify as indigenous. He encouraged students to “get involved.”
Libertarian candidate Steve Gebhardt noted that the party name comes from the word “liberty” and said he wants people to keep their paychecks, property rights and freedoms.
Independent candidate John McEwen acknowledged that he is a single-issue candidate seeking to alert people to the dangers of radon gas.
Questions from the audience were prepared in advance and ranged from such topics as “how would your party assist rural families,” to “what is your policy on healthcare, particularly for older and younger people,” to “how will you make post-secondary education more affordable” to “how are you going to improve mental health care.”
GREC students plan to hold a student election before the actual election and The Frontenac News plans to publish those results when they become available.