At the Sarnia and District Labour Council, we believe our city requires a forward looking City Council, focused on building Sarnia, not focused on the past. How will you ensure Sarnia isn’t held back by the past?
1. Always look forward with an election to being a time of renewal, new ideas, new visions and to reinvent government. Will not have a rear view mirror approach to look at the past but will use it to guide major changes on Council and City Hall in the next four years. No matter what the challenges ahead will continue to provide full time leadership working with Council, Business, Labour and First Nation’s to build the “New Sarnia.”
The message to the new Council will be to advise as Mayor that they have a great opportunity to erase the past four years and focus on what citizens want from their Council, good government, openness, accountability from staff, mutual respect and long term thinking and strategies.
Our community was built around organized Labour. With almost 17000 unionized workers in Lambton County currently, how important do you feel the Labour Movement is to our community?
2. The labour movement has been part of my entire adult life. My mom May used to joke if my Dad Des had a choice in a fire of saving the family home or the Labour Hall at 900 Devine Street, he would save the labour hall. He was a long time President of the SDLC, head of the local Steelworkers and led the initiative funded by the Labour Council to have an occupational health and safety office in Sarnia for union and non union workers which was among many others social justice causes he championed. A plane flies with two wings both equal and moving the plane forward. A community is the same. Two wings Labour and Business moving forward together. Without Labour there cannot be economic and social success. Pleased to have part of creating a Labour seat on the Sarnia Lambton Economic Partnership and am unaware of any similar position on economic development groups across Canada. Greatly disappointed in this term in the anti labour attitude at city hall from councillors and top administration. Some in the first group who claimed to be friends of Labour but weren’t. Hope the questions are asked of incumbents how did you vote on building the asbestos hill in Centennial Park? How did you vote on cutting city staff and retiree benefits? How did you vote on cutting four firefighter positions? The last two were in camera votes but under the rules of order councillors have the right to state their own vote and position.
Can you please describe initiatives that you have been involved with that resulted in positive change for our community?
3. As Mayor work daily to bring positive change to Sarnia. For example: By building a bridge between labour and management through being the original facilitator of the Project Agreement’s. By being involved in many other economic and social initiatives from waterfront development, business park development, downtown renewal, dealing with addictions, leading the Research Park Board and the Sarnia Lambton Economic Partnership to diversify the economy particularly with bio fuels and green energy, by leading the Sarnia Police Board, by developing a strong relationship with First Nation’s and being a champion for disability employment across Canada through the Mayor’s Challenge. Creating the Save the Jail committee and the RAIL committee brought citizens together to create powerful voices on those issues. What I most proud of is being the people’s Mayor is being there to serve citizens and to assist them in their lives and issues daily. By being an advocate in a position to lead as Mayor has given the opportunity to be a champion on many different local, provincial, Federal issues, Border and international issues. Full Disclosure; Was blessed to sometimes be the leader, sometimes to be the Cheer leader sometimes just a spear carrier but because of the support and collaboration of many other citizens we made Sarnia better.
What do you believe are the most important issues facing our community?
4. Important issues include continued diversification of the economy, dealing locally with the national addiction crisis, strengthening our local health care system and defending it from cuts to service with an aging population, affordable housing, infrastructure both human and physical, and the gap that continues in Canada for those who have and those who do not. A better just community and Canada is needed where everyone has the chance to succeed.
How would you make local government more inclusive, open and responsive?
5. By doing exactly what have done my entire life as a leader by being a crusader for open government, accountable government and where every citizen is equal. Known provincially and nationally as a champion for open government and accountability. The former Ombudsman used to praise Sarnia for being the most open government in Ontario. Not over the last four years. Citizens denied access to council, information and input on key decisions like changing the voting system. A new Council at City Hall can take down the physical and other barriers to citizens at their City Hall and restore public confidence and trust.
If elected, what steps will you take to ensure there is ongoing dialogue with the labour movement, including timely notice on emerging issues?
6. I meet regularly with labour leaders and will look forward to continuing to do so. The President of the Labour Council Jason McMichael being a key person giving advice on emerging issues and labours concerns. The advocacy of Jason McMichael and the SDLC has made a difference and will only continue to grow because of the community outreach on important issues. Would advocate for an annual meeting between the SDLC and the new city council and would work to providing statutory notice to SDLC on budgets and other issues as they emerge. It takes a Council and Administration to take consultation as a right not a privilege to be granted to key groups in the City beyond the usual suspects.
What infrastructure projects and municipal services do you think should be top priorities for the municipal government?
7. The basic services are core to why people pay tax dollars, police, fire, roads, sewers, parks, etc. Those services need to be maintained and in some cases enhanced. The present Council has cut firefighters, bus service and other services and the same increased staff, debt and taxes. In the future those decisions will be a challenge for the next Council. The oversized load corridor is an immediate priority. Recently met with the Provincial Infrastructure Minster last month on that issue and other issues including high speed rail and upgrading Hwy 40. Reducing the city debt has given us more dollars to improve infrastructure but it is never enough. Canadian cities have a 6 billion dollar infrastructure deficit. Sarnia is part of that deficit. Will be looking for a new deal provincially and federally so we can do more without large local property tax increases and significant water and sewer rate increases.