My Promises Going Into The 2022 Election

Job # 1: Controlling our spending and getting our taxes under control.

We must prudently manage our expenses, revenues, and service delivery as we build a post-pandemic vision and strategy for Midland’s growth and prosperity. I will encourage the responsible growth of our community as a premier destination to live, work and play while keeping Midland affordable for our residents.

~ Bill Gordon

What matters to me as your Mayor?

1. Controlling Our Spending

We need to get our spending under control. Just like any small to mid-sized business (and most of your families) we need to focus on separating wants versus needs in our budgets. And, just like any other business where expenses are greater than revenues, we must take bold steps to reduce our cash burn, preserve the cash we have (your tax money) and focus on responsible cost recovery for services that are core to the operations of our Municipality. We cannot run deficit budgets and we cannot keep operating as though our residents are all endlessly affluent and able to pay whatever increases we push their way. As we build our plan for growth, we must get our financial house in order and focus on how we can do more with less, rather than simply adding more resources. With the support of a like-minded council, we will make careful cuts to our spending, look for revenue streams that are fair and equitable to those using the services and press the Province to remedy the inequity in our Municipal Partnership Funding that sees Midland receive a disproportionate share in comparison to our rural neighbours. This responsible combination of efforts should help keep our taxation at fair and affordable levels where you feel that you are getting good value for the money you spend to live, work and play in Midland.

2. Affordable / Attainable Housing

Let’s be clear. Housing is not Midland’s jurisdiction. The funds you are taxed for affordable housing go to the Province who then moves them to the County of Simcoe. So what role does Midland play? We can support and attract development by helping with re-zoning, expedited planning, development charge relief* and we can offer up qualifying land to the County for their consideration when they choose the next of their projects. We can also make it easier for developers to build in Midland by removing red-tape and discretionary delay to the processes. Of course we cannot side-step the building code or the planning act and must rely on the Province to make good on their promises of change and streamlining to help speed up home building in Ontario. I will work with every tool available to me to ensure that Midland is developer-friendly community that makes it easy and attractive to do business here. I do support the “Housing First” strategy to help with homelessness and the limited but important role we can play. I will work with our partners at Simcoe County Alliance To End Homelessness (and their National counterparts) as well as our local shelter and many mental health and addiction service providers all working to help the foundational causes that often lead to homelessness.

Here are some bold steps we can take together as a community:

1. Tax and/or fine developers who purchase land in areas identified for intensification and do not develop it within a set amount of time.

2. Tax and/or fine developers who have developments approved but do not meet set progress milestones.

3. Implement Community Improvement Programs (CIP) to refund development charges for developments that include affordable housing units. In municipalities where this exists, such as Barrie, increase the funding to this program. Review Barrie’s Housing Affordability Task Force
 report for further ideas. Funding for housing in Midland comes from the County of Simcoe and your taxes.

4. In the predominantly low-rise suburban context, diversifying the housing supply means adding more gentle or ‘discrete’ density that can blend into suburban neighbourhoods, including the ‘Missing Middle’, which are neither single family homes nor towers. These housing types include: secondary units, townhouses, medium sized multiplexes, stacked fourplexes, side-by-side and stacked duplexes, stacked triplexes, among others.

5. Communicating with the local neighbourhood is essential in order to achieve greater, more affordable housing diversity, because NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) related opposition is such a problem. Elected officials should see it as their job to promote the benefits of density and affordable housing in its many forms.

6. Pursue funding for and adopt policies and regulations to encourage purpose-built rental units, accessible units, smaller units within low density neighbourhoods, and family-sized units within mid-rise buildings.

7. Celebrate wins and the people who need this housing.

8. Access municipal planning tools such as this one offered by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

9. Highlight the problem! Over 11,000 jobs were recently posted within a month across the County with very little uptake, especially in the lower wage categories. The president of the Barrie Chamber of Commerce attributes much of this problem to high housing costs

3. Increased Community Safety

Our OPP policing partners assumed the role of community policing in 2018 and has not resulted in the millions of dollars of yearly savings that we were promised by the previous Council. In addition, we have around $4 million dollars of debt, now amortized over 20 years, to repay from the up-front costs of disbanding the former police service. OPP are responsive when called but we seem to lack proactive police presence such as radar enforcement in-town, no routine foot patrols in our downtown core and few patrols through our neighbourhoods. With OPP resources under constant strain, officers thinly deployed from Honey Harbour to Woodland Beach to Sawlog Bay, and now the closure of the community policing office in Penetanguishene, it is clear to most that we are going to have to look for other solutions to some of our safety problems until the OPP can replenish their ranks and make community policing (rather than highway and county road patrols) a priority. I will explore photo-radar enforcement in our school and community safety zones to focus on speeders who show no respect for our children and most vulnerable and establish increased penalties in areas currently not designated as community safety zones. I will look at passive traffic calming measure like speed bumps and other techniques to slow people down in our residential neighbourhoods. I will work with the OPP through the police service board / detachment board to make Midland a priority for proactive policing and get more police presence in our community.

4. Revisit Waterfront Development (Midland Bay Landing Re-Think)

There are some compelling reasons to sell off the land to the first qualified developer who expresses an interest, namely the recovery of our initial investment to buy the land a decade ago, and the lure of taxes from the luxury homes that are being proposed for phase one of the waterfront (east side, where the parking lot and fishing access is). However, the addition of these luxury homes will do nothing to help solve our lack of affordable or attainable homes in Midland and it should be noted that we have hundreds of other homes, condos and apartment buildings in the pipeline already slotted for development in our community.

Rebranding Midland as a premium waterfront destination community for all four seasons is made more difficult when all of the waterfront is sold off privately and residents are left with nothing but a narrow promenade. To be fair, there are some compelling features of the current master plan that really only take shape in phase two (decades away from being built) – mixed used commercial, residential and public access features.

As your mayor, and with the support of the next Council, I commit to a re-think of this plan – not to shred it and start over from scratch. I want to re-involve the community, just as was done a decade ago when this was originally formed, to review the plan, consider changes that more align with the current needs of our community and then have a clear mandate to implement that plan. That will delay the sale of the land and may involve some amendments to our master plan. This is what council has been hearing from the community for the past four years with petitions, letters, emails and countless articles in our local media. With the support of Council, I will lead the community through the re-think and then be dedicated to seeing the outcome through to completion, or as far as it can go in this term.

5. Shared Services & Efficiencies

Many years ago, Midland paid for a KPMG audit to look for efficiencies and opportunities to improve our service delivery and achieve savings through collaboration. Two of the successes were sharing a fire chief and chief building official with neighbouring Penetanguishene. Both communities gained. We also have shared transit and we share some public works equipment. There is room for more collaboration. I will work with our neighbours in Tiny, Tay and Penetanguishene to explore more shared service opportunities.

6. Economic Growth & Jobs

Attracting and supporting industrial, agricultural, technical and skilled trades into Midland and our neighbouring Municipalities is the primary goal of the Economic Development Corporation of North Simcoe – a locally focused equivalent of the County’s Economic Development office. The municipality supports this organization financially and in other ways. While it has been difficult to get a measure of their efforts and to quantity a return on our investment over the years, I remain hopeful that the new executive will deliver on that promise early in the new term. Midland needs to ensure our policies are business-friendly, that our BIA is supported and nurtured and that we remove impediments to commercial success. The parking implementation is a lesson for all involved on how not to roll out change. I will stay on top of the paid parking and other user-fee services that impact business growth and ensure that public consultation remains a top priority before any more major changes are considered or get rolled out to our community.

7. Collaboration & Transparency

These two concepts go hand in hand. The residents need to be far more involved in our decision making than simply left to the statutory public meetings for the few matters where we must ask for your input. The perception that the “tail wags the dog” in our Municipal government is only exacerbated when the public is routinely left out of or excluded from collaboration in our decision-making. The pandemic only amplified the feelings of exclusion as we moved to online meetings and the lack of public interaction. Now that we have returned to Council chambers, I want to include more public input, deputations and remove barriers that prevent residents from addressing Council about their ideas, issues and grievances. I am strong believer in mediation and working to find compromises when solving conflict – before it gets to litigation. When people feel included and are part of the process, the trust in leadership and government increases. Midland’s growth and prosperity can only be achieved when we all work together towards a common goal. Establishing that goal, or North Star, will be the first major undertaking for the new Council and must involve the community.

8. Parkland Preservation

I don’t ascribe a park’s value by the volume of people using it on a daily basis. The revived value of natural outdoor spaces is one of the few good things to come out of the pandemic. It is only when you lose access to something, that you realize how important it really is to you. Our green spaces need to be protected. Publicly-accessible waterfront parkland is almost an extinct resource in Midland and one worth fighting for. Other parks such as Little Lake Park, are now a shadow of their former glory and in need of much remediation and care. The return to some historic uses like camping and festivals are all possible with community support and a willing Council. Four season use returned this term when we started plowing Little Lake Park Road and it was rewarding to see the people using it all winter. Winter festive lights in the trees and perhaps a skating trail, outdoor rink and other activities can all return if there is public desire. I look forward to working with you to help protect, preserve, repair and enhance our outdoor spaces.

9. Infrastructure Repair

I could write an entire article on this topic, but suffice to say we have millions of dollars worth upgrades and repairs still to do in our community. Some of our water and wastewater pipes are pushing 100 years old and we have been repairing them as they collapse and fail. The municipality has established a multi-decade capital works plan along with forecasts for expenses and the status of our dwindling reserves. We need grants and funding from the Province and Federal governments to help repair and replace this aging infrastructure. Midland has challenges that require careful planning, financial stewardship and savings to stay on top of the planned work and to deal with the emergency repairs. We just saw the impacts of failing to maintain our playground equipment as we had much of it declared unfit and pulled from service. Then we began to seek funding sources to get as many structures replaced as possible. We have more to do in 2023. I will work with our leadership to ensure that we get all the playgrounds back in service and ensure that policies are in place to maintain the equipment as well as plan for their lifecycle. There are many other assets that will cost us millions such as more combined sewer separation, water tower replacements, wastewater plant remediation, road repair, sidewalk maintenance etc. We are in the service delivery business and we must do so responsibly and as affordably as possible.

10. Climate Resiliency Policies

I’m often asked about what our Municipality can do about climate change. Every bit of effort adds up. We already have LED streetlights and energy audits in Municipal buildings, new technology that has less of a carbon footprint and energy savings devices and programs. We don’t have the money to move our entire fleet to EV yet but we do have opportunities not yet explored. I’ve seen programs where we can get grants to help us capture the heat from our ice-making activities at the North Simcoe Sports and Rec Centre and use that heat to reduce our reliance on natural gas. I will look to organizations such as the Municipal Climate Change Action Centre for inspiration on how we can make changes to our polices and operations that will help impact our emissions. I will explore solar installations on Municipal buildings like our Rec Centre where we can passively capture energy for use in our complex or to sell to the hydro grid. We need to ensure that new programs and policies align with our goals to help mitigate climate change and its localized effects on changes that impact our infrastructure such as our weather.

11. First Nation & Metis Relations

Municipal governments need far better relationships with our Métis and First Nations peoples. Please ask your candidates about their thoughts on meaningful engagement and a duty to consult on matters that may impact treaty or historic use rights, particularly relating to Georgian Bay, our shoreline, parks and woodlands as well as both water and mineral preservation.
It’s important that local governments are both reflective and contemplative of the communities they exist to serve. If I’m elected as Mayor of Midland and with a like minded deputy mayor we WILL foster increased engagement and consultation even when not required to do so under legislation. I will do it because it’s the right thing to do and a core concept in the Truth and Reconciliation report. Please speak to your candidates and get their commitment to engage and consult.

An effective Mayor must collaborate with all councillors through building consensus and finding compromise. That takes strong leadership and a clear sense of purpose, tempered with a desire to seek advice from residents, while respecting the experience and opinions of other councillors/staff, and keeping transparency and collaboration at the heart of our decision making and the courage to change course when previous decisions may no longer prove to be in our community’s best interests.

I know this has been a challenging term, not the least of which has been the two years of the pandemic, coupled with crippling economic hardships and now run-away inflation. We’ve had several contentious decisions in our community, ever-increasing taxes and the extreme pressures on housing availability and affordability. Your next Mayor and Deputy Mayor are your voice at County Council and affordable housing is almost-entirely under County jurisdiction. You can expect hard work from me to lobby for Midland to become a priority in North Simcoe if you send two hard-working and passionate representatives to be your voice in Midhurst (County of Simcoe offices).

I won’t promise things that are beyond my control, but as your Mayor, I can promise you a more accessible, responsive and collaborative Council and Town Hall, and that we will revisit the most contentious issues from this term such as Midland Bay Landing development plans, the paid parking implementation, how many of our services are provided and how much they cost, and to stop focusing on how to raise taxes and instead look first at how to control our spending. We cannot save our way into prosperity, but nor should we work as if it’s “business as usual” as we all struggle to come out of the pandemic, deal with crippling inflation, climate change, homelessness, affordability, healthcare and community safety.

Even as Mayor, I cannot promise you an outcome, but I can promise that we will have the conversations. Open, accessible government are not just catch-phrases with me. The perception that the “tail wags the dog” in our Municipality must change.

If you have followed the local politics this past term, you will know that I stand with the community, putting your needs first and am not afraid to pivot to community concerns and attempt to change direction when it seems we have lost our way. I don’t shy away from asking for advice or seeking community input on decisions and I am not discouraged by adversity – still able and willing to work with anyone, even those who have vastly opposing viewpoints. I will always look for compromises, except in matters of integrity or honesty.