Municipal elections are held every four years and a lot changes in four years so I thought it would be useful to review the issues in the 2018 election. Did Council follow up? Are they the same concerns? No surprise, homelessness was an issue but allowing Cannabis stores was hardly mentioned. I identified 7 other issues and asked Candidates about them. Some things got resolved or died. I have not heard any discussion on expansion of boat slips into the West Harbour, buying the Park Theatre or an open Q & A forum at Council meetings (more detail below). But Tourism was being debated and Holdco’s transparency was criticized. The candidates were different but of particular interest is what the elected candidates said in 2018.
Homelessness – What was happening in 2018
The County released a survey of the extent of homelessness – the problem was quantified although no plan was provided on what to do about it. Transition house, Cornerstone and Habitat for Humanity got some visibility too. See report on Cobourg News Blog here published 17 November 2018. At this point there was no talk of the Town contributing money or land. To my knowledge, this issue was not mentioned by any Candidate in their campaign in 2018 – although affordable housing was.
Municipalities had the option of Opting-Out and not allowing cannabis retailers to operate in the Town of Cobourg OR allow cannabis retailers to operate only in commercial/retailed zoned areas in the Town of Cobourg. The Public were surveyed with 78.5% of 3,458 having no concern. Then in early 2019, Cobourg decided to Opt-in (4 – 3) with John Henderson, Suzanne Séguin and Emily Chorley voting to Opt-out. Currently, there are 5 stores authorized to open in Cobourg – 3 downtown and 2 near the mall. Go here for a map of Cannabis stores in Ontario. Again, to my knowledge, this issue got little or no attention in 2018 campaigns.
As a service to voters, I asked all candidates 7 questions on what I thought were key issues at the time.
Questions asked of Candidates in 2018
- What is your position on the West Harbour All candidates opposed adding additional boat slips in the West Harbour – some unconditionally and some if it negatively impacted any users. This issue has died.
- Tourists – Are they good for Cobourg? Most Candidates supported Tourism if it was managed well – also see recent post on this subject.
- Downtown Vitalization – What do Candidates think? Most Candidates translated “Downtown Vitalization” into the Community Improvement plan which offers grants and loans for Building improvements. There was no mention of any business attraction (to fill vacant stores) or measuring changes in downtown vitality. It might be said that Downtown Vitalization has morphed into King Street façade improvement. It seems to no longer be a key issue although some candidates have mentioned it.
- Holdco – Should their finances be Public? Apart from Brian Darling who was concerned about the legality, and John Henderson who said info is already available, all candidates supported better transparency of Holdco finances. And there has been some improvement. On 26 July 2022, a special Council meeting was held to hear a report from Holdco and its subsidiaries (Lakefront Utilities Inc – LUI – and Lakefront Services Inc – LUSI). This seems to have happened because there is a new chair of Holdco, David Tsubouchi, who agrees with the need for change. The Cobourg News Blog report on the meeting included a link to a download of the presentation which included financial information. Go here. Whether Council caused the improvement is not mentioned.
- Should the Town buy the Park Theatre? This was an issue at the time but the price was deemed to be too high to be viable. There is currently no talk of buying the Theatre and it could be said to be suffering from demolition by neglect.
- Should Council Meetings have an open Q & A Session? Most candidates were in favour and an open forum was in fact implemented as a “Committee of the Whole Open Forum” – but it’s rarely used by citizens. The ability to make a delegation to Council seems to be preferred by most residents with something to say.
- Are there any other issues you want to address?
Some candidates had no additional topics but there were exceptions. Here is what those Candidates said (only those elected are quoted):
- Suzanne Séguin: Managed growth for Cobourg and launching a Small Business Resource to keep our businesses here and profitable.
- Nicole Beatty: I, as Councillor, will initiate a framework and terms of reference for a Social Planning Advisory Council to ensure issues such as affordable housing, employment equality and food security are included in Cobourg’s Strategic Plan.
- Aaron Burchat: The low vacancy rate and affordable housing is another issue where I know Council can play a role in closing the gap.
- Adam Bureau: We require extra by-law enforcement for the beach in the summer. We need more by-law officers issuing tickets to tourists that disrespect our beach.
- Emily Chorley: We need a citizen-centred Council that meets people’s needs: notifying residents of public works that affect them; addressing affordable housing by advising homeowners on how to create legal second suites; and encouraging greater youth participation by establishing an annual Model Youth Council.
The issues this time do not seem as well defined but my list would be:
- Fewer Consultants
- More focus on issues that the Town manages and less on issues that are the responsibility of the County, the Province and the Federal government.
- Homeless people visible downtown and in Parks
- More Economic Development
- More visibility on Capital Projects and their impact on taxes – there is good support for the planned asset management plan
- More attention to how to provide Downtown parking when existing lots are developed by their owners
- Leadership on managing Brookside, Sibrooke, Tannery land and Park Theatre.
- Paying Councillors in line with the work they do.
I’m sure blog readers will have their own lists and will hopefully communicate them to Candidates.
Voting is now available – more details on Town web site here.