Councillor Life

As of Tuesday, April 2nd, it has been 120 days since I was sworn in as a Councillor for Wilmot Township.  Shortly after the swearing-in, people began asking me what being a Councillor is like.  They want to know if it’s what I expected, if I am still happy to have been elected and if I am enjoying it.

My answer to all of those questions is an unequivocal YES!  How could I not love serving this community that I love so much?

Being a Councillor is a lot of work. It isn’t all the cliche “kissing babies and shaking hands”. It is enjoyable work though. Everything from learning more about how our waste is dealt with and the challenges our region faces with waste stream management, to reviewing the entire zoning bylaw (a huge binder!) is interesting to me.

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The Blue Box Bloopers aisle at the landfill site was very funny! FYI, birdcages are NOT recyclable!

So here’s what I’ve been up to.

We have had:

  • 5 regular Council Meetings (plus the inaugural meeting)
  • 4 Budget Committee Meetings
  • Multiple orientation and training sessions to familiarise ourselves with staff, specific Wilmot Township procedures and legislated responsibilities

I have answered emails, phone calls and met with residents to address concerns they have about a variety of topics some of them personal and some of them community issues such as invasive species of plants threatening our local ecosystem.

With the support of Council and staff I have started the Wilmot Trails Committee and revised the formerly staff-only Sustainability Working Group to include a member of Council (lucky me to be that member!) and two Waterloo Region residents with expertise in the field. We had our first meeting on March 27th! Watch for social media posts from all of us about trails we already have and plans for new projects as they develop.  Follow the official twitter account @wilmottrails to get even more updates.

I was appointed to the Heritage Wilmot Committee and Healthy Wilmot.

It was my pleasure to be part of the Heritage Day event as a member of the Heritage Committee. History has always been an interest for me and I am looking forward to the involvement with this committee as an opportunity to learn more about our local history.

Nith River Flooding
The annual flooding of some sections of road along the banks of the Nith is an inconvenience for some of our neighbourhoods but they handle it with grace.

Our Township has had the usual level of late-winter thawing resulting in flooding of low-lying areas.  The Nith River running through our township is an untamed reminder of how much we are dependent on weather and climate.  It has been gratifying to be part of supporting and communicating with residents through these disruptions.  Our township staff have done their jobs well in managing and communicating through it all.

Wilmot Township staff organised a great openhouse to talk with residents about flooding concerns and a variety of solutions to consider that can mitigate the damage caused by the annual floods.  We had insurance, personal emergency preparedness displays, the GRCA and all  the relevant Township departments on hand to talk about ideas and answer questions from residents.

IMG_20190317_1417093My own bridge on my driveway floods as part of this annual cycle and the ice chunks often get stuck on the deck as the water recedes.  I don’t mind too much when it gives me the chance to drive my tractor on a beautiful sunny day to clear it!

This is just one example of how my personal life intersects with the issues that matter to Wilmot residents.  Living on the river means I am always watching the flow rates to know when it will flood.

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Multitasking is the way my brain works best. I keep a notebook handy to jot down thoughts, questions and ideas that are triggered to follow up on later.

My daily work on my family farm is not completely unlike the job of Councillor.  My day starts between 7-8:00am depending on the particular items on my agenda. At my desk I review policies that enable our business to be compliant with various regulations governing employment, food safety and farming. I read legislation that pertains to our business and prepare responses to federal and provincial government requests for feedback. I respond to questions from people who buy our produce and want to know how we grow it or why something is packaged a certain way or many other questions about food and farming. When there’s a problem with quality, a process or difficulty between two co-workers, I help solve the problem. You can find me working on the farm till around 5:30 or 6:00 most days unless I have a business meeting offsite or for Council.

For my job as Councillor, my day starts when I wake up. I check my phone, read emails and check social media. If there’s a quick response possible to a question, I reply right away.  Through the day at the farm, I periodically check emails and other messages and respond as I can depending on my other work. If staff have questions or I want to ask something of township staff, I try to keep it to the business hours to respect their work life balance. On weekends and evenings I spend hours  reading documents to prepare for meetings. When the Council Meeting Agenda package arrives in my inbox, I read it through quickly.  Then I reread it more slowly to absorb the content better.  I read it a third time to make notes and prepare questions.  If my questions require a lengthier response, I generally let staff know ahead of time so they can prepare the information.  That enables them to have a good answer in the meeting.

Before I was on Council, I was busy with my farm, family and various community events. Now, I am still busy working on the farm, spending time with family and friends and doing a lot more around the community.  It’s busy and sometimes intense, but it’s rewarding and it is my honour to serve you.

 

 

Bill 66

Update: I have now received over 200 emails asking me to reject this bill. Please check out this legal analysis from the Canadian Environmental Law Association

I have the 35 page document on my desk. In my inbox there are over 100 emails from concerned people asking me to protest this legislation and carry their voices to the provincial government.

This bill impacts 17 Acts. Some of the changes seem reasonable to me. In this digital age for example, allowing a driver to present their permits as a digital copy on their phone instead of rummaging through the glove box for a little piece of paper seems like a logical evolution. I will leave the verdict on that to law enforcement however, as I may not be thinking of all the ways it could lead to problems.

Of particular concern for all of you who have written to me and other members of council, is Schedule 10 which adds section 34.1 to the Planning Act.

…which allows local municipalities to pass open-for-business planning by-laws. These by-laws involve the exercise of a municipality’s powers under section 34 of the Act and allow municipalities to impose one or more specified conditions. A municipality may pass an open-for-business planning by-law only if it has received approval to do so in writing by the Minister and if criteria as may be prescribed are satisfied. Certain provisions of the Act and other Acts that would ordinarily apply to a by-law passed under section 34 do not apply to an open-for-business planning by-law.

If approved, this would allow particular types of development to be unilaterally approved by a municipality without regard for environmental impacts or impacts to a neighbouring municipality.

This is a tool that creates division and reduces transparency of governance.

While passing of this legislation does not automatically mean development will start springing up in sensitive wetlands and threatened species habitat tomorrow, it represents an erosion of protections. It removes a set of tools we have to ensure that we leave keep the long term health of our environment ahead of corporate interest.

As an example of worst case scenario: this legislation could create a situation where a project such as the Mega Quarry that was proposed in Melancthon Township would be able to be approved with no opportunity for appeal and without any public or resident input. The project could be approved and finalised before anyone knew it was even proposed.

I strongly urge the Ontario Government to reconsider.

Thank You!

This has been a wonderfully enriching experience. From the very beginning, the campaign was full of great conversations about our community and how to make it even better!

We are lucky to have had so many qualified, caring and engaged people who were willing to put forward their names to serve. Those who will not be serving on council, served the community just by running.  Having a choice provides the opportunity for dialogue in a way that is difficult to create otherwise.

Wilmot Township has inspired all of us to offer our service.  We and all residents can be proud of being part of a community that inspires so much passion and dedication.  To those who put themselves forward and were not elected, thank you. You gave of yourself to our community in this race and our dialogue was strengthened by it. Thank you to all the candidates and to this amazing community. Thank you to Marie for giving me that final push to run! I owe a huge thank you for support; to the people who signed my nomination papers, the people who made financial contributions and gave me moral support. Thank you to Megan, Dave, Stacey, Markus, Catherine, Diljot and Sandy for all your time door knocking.  Meredith, you are the best! Thank you for volunteering (not waiting to be asked) to be my campaign manager! And the biggest thank you to my husband, Ekk, who has supported me and believed in me always.  I am truly blessed.

I am humbled by all the support I have received and take this election as a trust that I will spend my next four years working to honour and fulfill. I’m thrilled to be one of three women joining Wilmot Council this year.  Being a woman isn’t what will make me a good councillor, but neither does it hurt.  As we move forward with the new Council, I am excited to begin working on the many projects and ideas that this community is asking for. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to serve.

Persons Day

As I sit on the train and watch the fall colours roll by outside the window, I think about tomorrow.  October 18th is Persons Day in Canada.  It’s not a national holiday and I didn’t really become aware of it till recently.

Yesterday I was privileged to be part of a group of business people, academics and advocates meeting with MPs and Senators on Parliament Hill to bring our concerns and ideas to the table.  Between meetings I slipped over to visit the Famous Five whose footsteps on those very same stones and halls and down the road at the Supreme Court are the reason I am legally called a person in Canada.  There was a tourist with her young daughter visiting the ladies too. I was reminded of the New Hamburg woman whose words of encouragement on my campaign were offered with a thanks to me for showing her daughters that women can be leaders in our community.  She said, “If we don’t show them, how will they believe they can do it?” I sat a moment and offered my thanks to Emily Murphy, Nellie McClung, Irene Parlby, Louise McKinney and Henrietta Muir Edwards for their tenacity, strength and passion.

As I prepare for the final few days of campaigning in this election, their example stands as an inspiration for working to make a difference in the world around us.

Environmental Vision

My vision for the future of Wilmot is a township that has the most efficient energy use, environmentally sustainable growth plan, and positive environment for adoption of green technologies in our homes and businesses.

If elected I will work to connect township policies and strategic incentives for efficiency and green technology with provincial and federal incentive programs to increase the impact for our community. One example would be matching or complimentary rebates.

I will advocate for growth planning that ensures healthy communities where families and individuals can live affordably in an environmentally sustainable way. Where the best choice for the environment is also the convenient and economical choice.

This means working to improve adoption of efficient technology in our facilities.  As systems require upkeep and replacement, installing ones that capture lost heat and incorporate solar, wind or other environmentally sound energy strategies needs to be considered.

It means increasing the availability and accessibility of community spaces such as trails, outdoor and indoor gathering spaces and natural areas that encourage healthy lifestyles.

It also means reviewing our programs and infrastructure to ensure that residents have easy and affordable access to sports and recreation programs and efficient public transit.

Meaningful employment opportunities within the community are also important for environmental sustainability. Being able to work close to home reduces carbon footprints and improves our ability to engage in balancing activities such as bike riding and walking.  As a township we can encourage this through active engagement in soliciting and encouraging the kinds of development that will bring employment opportunities to our community.

Electing me to Wilmot Council will give you representation that considers all the various factors important to building healthy, sustainable communities.

Leadership

As I have been talking to people about this election, the most important thing I want to share is my view of leadership.  You need to know what kind of leader I would be if you vote for me.

If I am elected as Councillor, I will be the voice for the community. That means stepping outside of my own perspective and taking on the many voices of the whole community.  It means hearing everyone’s concerns and weighing all the options for addressing them.  It means explaining myself when someone questions why I took a particular position.  You have a right to ask me to explain why. If I make a mistake, it means taking responsibility for it and making it right.

We should all engage with our local representatives at every level of government and talk to them. Not just at election time either.

Voting for me means voting for someone who will listen, consider and act.  If I can’t fix the problem presented, I’ll take it to someone who can.  I will advocate for you.

The Race is On

With the deadline for registering as a candidate behind us; the race is on.  You, the voter, have a choice in Ward 4.  I think that is a wonderful thing! When a community is vibrant and active and its members are engaged, naturally, there are people who want to serve that community as Councillors.

Over the coming 79 days, I will be coming to your doors to talk about what you think is important for our community and sharing my vision of how we can build on the things that make this community a fantastic place to live.

We know that the biggest single determinant for health, happiness and long life is a feeling of community and connected-ness.  Even though this community has that in spades, there are people in our community who may not yet be connected. I want to work to engage people who haven’t found their community niche.  I want to work to ensure that we maintain and build on the strengths of our town as we grow by making more community spaces that bring people together, encouraging more public engagement in the township business, and protecting the farmland that feeds us.

On October 22nd, I hope you will vote for me so I can be your voice and serve the community I love.