From the left, front row: DFA president Ryan Devries, moderator Bill Smirle, ND Chamber of Commerce members Loralee Carruthers and Jen Feeney. Back row: Councillor candidates, Matthew Uhrig, Stefan Kohut, John Lennox, Jocelyn Morley, Gary Annable and William Healey. Thompson Goddard Photo

WINCHESTER – There was a great turnout for the North Dundas Municipal Election All Candidates Meeting in the Joel Steele Community Hall in Winchester on Oct. 3.

The event was sponsored by the Dundas Federation of Agriculture and the North Dundas Chamber of Commerce with Bill Smirle serving as moderator, filling in for Al Armstrong who was ill. With the positions of mayor and deputy mayor being acclaimed, the only election on Oct. 24 will be for three councillors.

Opening remarks were made from Ryan Devries, president of the DFA, Loralee Carruthers VP of ND Chamber of Commerce, acclaimed ND Mayor Tony Fraser, acclaimed ND Deputy Mayor Theresa Bergeron, followed by the introduction of Larry Berry, the acclaimed English Public School board trustee serving this area. Each candidate was then able to present a three-minute opening statement, with the order determined earlier.

William Healey was the first candidate to speak, commenting on his coming from a farming family which provided him with “a clear understanding of what it’s like to live in an agricultural community and it’s one of the reasons I moved to North Dundas.” He has a telecommunications background, working for Bell Canada for over 20 years, and has had experience in community organizations including serving for approximately six years as in the North Dundas fire service.  He mentioned the importance of economic growth in ND, water concerns being addressed and addressing the landfill situation.

Canadian Armed Forces veteran, John Lennox has experience as a community volunteer and firefighter in ND. “North Dundas has some of the best associations, organizations and clubs I have ever seen or had the pleasure to be part of” commented Lennox, mentioning these organizations are led by leaders to “understand the importance of community service.” Issues facing the township and its residents are infrastructure which includes access to internet and road conditions, issues surrounding water in the community, Dundas Manor, cleaning of ditches to improve drainage, work to reduce speeding problems, and “supporting small businesses and farms better.” He expressed his desire to see the end of closed sessions at council meetings to build transparency and trust.

After thanking people for attending, Jocelyn Morley explained she is very skilled at research, writing, information dissemination and is bilingual. “I understand how two-tier municipal government works and how local government operates in relation to the provincial and federal governments.” commented Morley.  There is a need for transparent and open communication from council, and a decision on the type of community we wish to be in the future. She has experience as a community volunteer, seeks consensus and communication, familiar with “the mandate of provincial conservation authorities” and would like to see a weekly newsletter produced. Morley continued there are several needs facing the community including affordable housing, food security, connectivity and small businesses, small scale producers and “clear policies and practices regarding land use.”

“I’m looking forward to the opportunity to be one of three elected councillors in the township,” commented candidate Matthew Uhrig in his opening statement. He mentioned how covering the ND municipal council as a journalist for the Winchester Press has provided him with “knowledge of departmental operation and overall township structure gives me what I believe is inside track.” He continued how what the municipality will be able to offer in the future as well as the present to community members of all ages as well as infrastructure issues which need to be addressed.

Winchester businessman Stefan Kohut commented how he is looking to the future of the township. He mentioned there is a need for council to provide support to small businesses and is concerned the present plan to deal with the landfill not having a leaching barrier to contain the toxic sludge produced by landfills and prevent it from going into the land or water. Kohut doesn’t wish to see taxes increase nor services cut, so there is a need to find a new stream of revenue and concluded by mentioning there is an affordability issue which needs to be addressed.

Currently sitting as a ND councillor, candidate Gary Annable is seeking re-election as councillor, a position he enjoyed this last term. He commented how the current council has tried to address the many issues facing the township.  Annable noted infrastructure is an important issue, with road maintenance and upgrading, as well as water and lagoon problems which need to be addressed providing information on how these issues were dealt with by the previous council. “Another reason for my wish to serve again when changing from one council to another council, continuity is important,” said Annable, before continuing how if elected he would be the only councillor with the knowledge gained over the past four years.

The moderator then opened the floor for people to provide questions to the candidates after providing the rules for the question period. The DFA and the ND Chamber of Commerce were each provided with the opportunity to ask two questions prior to the audience asking questions.

Topics covered during the question-and-answer period included seeking information from candidates on tourism, promotion of agriculture, pandemic restrictions from council, road-side mowing, promotion of the new Dundas Manor, representation for residents of Chesterville and Morewood, firefighter training and wages, support for the arts and culture in ND and road safety.

The evening concluded with candidates able to provide closing remarks, members of the audience were then able to speak on an individual basis with candidates.