Three opt-out of second all-candidates meeting in Cardiff
|By Mark Arike - Staff Writer | October 2, 2014
Although it was organized at the last-minute and with little notice, over 100 people packed the Cardiff Legion on Sept. 30 for an all-candidates/ratepayers meeting hosted by the community.
All of the Highlands East candidates participated in the meeting with the exception of reeve incumbent Dave Burton, who told The Highlander that he had other commitments, and deputy-reeve incumbent Suzanne Partridge and Ward 3 candidate Donna Graham, both of whom decided not to participate due to the lack of an agenda.
"They felt that they did not get an agenda," said the meeting's moderator Anne Whitehead, who pointed out that this was a question and answer meeting, not a debate.
"If there's any nonsense, I will rule you out of order and I will ask you to leave," she said.
Each candidate was given two minutes to give an opening statement before Whitehead opened up the floor for questions.
One of the first questions tackled the new OPP billing model, which will be implemented in 2015 and is expected to increase the cost of policing services by more than $3 million in Haliburton County.
"Are we locked into this?" asked one local resident. "And can we change it?"
Reeve candidate Steve Cosentino was first to answer by calling the model "totally unfair."
"Fifty per cent of Highlands East is Crown land and we're getting penalized for that," said Cosentino. "Why isn't the province stepping up and paying their fair share?"
He added that there should be a way to recoup the costs of false alarm calls from the province.
Ward 4 candidate Todd Bertram said he researched the matter and found that the estimated increase appears to be overinflated.
"I don't think it's going to be as bad as they say," said Bertram. "We can certainly look into it further, but I think we've been scared a bit here."
Incumbent councillor and Ward 4 candidate Joan Barton said that municipalities are "the creature of the province" and therefore must play by the rules.
"What powers a municipality has are delegated down by the province," said Barton, adding that the province is downloading balancing its budget onto the municipalities.
Barton said the current cost of policing in the municipality comes to $149.53 per household annually, but will rise to $369 per year at the end of the five-year phase in.
Councillor incumbent and Ward 3 candidate Cecil Ryall said the increase is imminent.
"Our current bill is $700,000 –- and I don't care where you get your numbers from, it's going to roughly $1.4 million," said Ryall.
Ward 2 candidate Adam Szelei echoed Bertram's comments about the projected costs.
"I think there's been a huge hype over this," said Szelei, pointing out that he doesn't agree with the new model or OPP salary increases. However at this point, "it's too far gone," he said.
Another local resident asked candidates who volunteer with the Highlands East fire department if they would declare a conflict of interest when it comes to personnel issues or proposed wage adjustments within the department. He also inquired about whether they would resign from their positions if elected.
Ward 1 candidate Cam McKenzie said his career as a volunteer firefighter spans 37 years and is coming to an end.
"I planned on resigning if elected, and I'll probably resign anyway if I'm not elected," said McKenzie.
He pointed out that the Elections Act allows volunteer firefighters to keep their positions if elected into office.
"What we're doing is not violating any legislation," he said.
Szelei said he wouldn't resign from the department, but would declare a conflict if matters arose involving him.
"As far as voting for the department, anything that I would vote for would benefit this community," he said.
As a volunteer firefighter, Bertram said there wouldn't be any decisions made about wages because there aren't any being paid out. Like Szelei, Bertram said he would refrain from matters should they directly involve him.
Volunteer firefighters currently receive payment for calls they respond to and meetings they attend. Payment for firefighters is based on a point system.
The question wasn't directed at Ryall, who is also a member of the department.
One resident asked candidates if they would consider hiring a building inspector on a contract basis instead of offering a permanent position.
Szelei thought that was a good idea in light of the many complaints about the previous chief building official, who resigned in August. Former fire chief Bill Wingrove has since taken over the job.
"I think the former building inspector was a huge issue. I don't think it was ever dealt with," he said.
Cosentino thought it was "an excellent suggestion and one that council should consider."
Bertram said all it would take is proper management and direction from council to avoid such problems.
Some of the other topics discussed at the meeting included bylaws, community engagement with council, the feasibility of a pool and recreation centre, and the condition of the municipality's infrastructure.
Event organizer Basil Cox told The Highlander that he was pleased with the turnout, even though a couple of candidates were no-shows.
"As far as I'm concerned, they've missed the boat," said Cox, who admitted that candidates received short notice about the event.
Burton told the paper that he was notified about the event on Sept. 25, less than a week before it took place.
"The thing about it is we had to do it as soon as we could for the simple reason that the ballots were going to be mailed out and then it's almost too late at that point in time," said Cox.
The municipality's first all-candidates meeting was held on September 23 in Wilberforce and was hosted by the Haliburton Highlands Chamber of Commerce in partnership with CARP Chapter 54.
MARK ARIKE is a reporter for The Highlander.