Responses from Candidates for Ward 6 – Sophiasburgh


RSVPs

With the aim of increasing voter turnout in the upcoming municipal election, candidates for Mayor and Ward Councilor in Prince Edward County are being invited to share their thoughts on a wide range of issues once a week.

Responses from candidates for Ward 6 – Sophiasburgh are here:

Respondents

Invitations
Candidates for Ward 6 – Sophiasburgh (1 office) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Paul DRAKE
Bill ROBERTS

Responses to Invitation 5

Candidates received Invitation 5 on September 20, 2022 and were asked to forward their responses by September 26, 2022. Candidate responses were published here and on Facebook on September 28, 2022.

Respondents

Bill Roberts

Candidate photo of Bill Roberts
1. Please rate your level of agreement (Strongly disagree | Disagree | Neither disagree or agree | Agree | Strongly agree) with the following:

“Council should adopt a Strategic Initiative to respond to [the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s] Calls to Action 43, 47 and 57.”

Agree.

2. Please explain your rating.

(43) The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is an important framework document, especially for national governments. At our PEC municipal Council level, I introduced the first National Indigenous People’s Day proclamation on June 23, 2020. In a related context Council also adopted, in consultation with our First Nations neighbours, a Traditional Land Acknowledgement which is now part of our official proceedings. Moreover, I was pleased and honoured to have led the PEC repatriation process for Foresters Island to the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte (MBQ). Also, our municipal Planning/Development procedures now include consultation and outreach to not only the MBQ but to Alderville, Curve Lake, Hiawatha, and Huron-Wendat First Nations. (47) The Doctrine of Discovery & Terra Nullius should be repudiated. I remain hopeful that this renunciation will be forthcoming. (57) Since 1971 and my first radio documentary with Chief Billy Diamond (Mistassini Cree & The James Bay Power Project), public eduction in general has been a preoccupation. In the early days, I was part of the funding process of the Northern Native Broadcast Access project (the CBC played a big role), which eventually lead to involvement in the Aboriginal Peoples Broadcast Network (APTN), with which I still have occasional podcast engagements. A little more recently, I was a founding patron of imagineNative. But most recently… to continue the education thread… I was an advocate on the National Screen Institute’s Board of Directors to create a full Indigenous media program, funded a Truth & Reconciliation bursary for PECI high school graduates to pursue TRC/Indigenous studies, and sponsored the Downie-Chanie Wenjack Legacy Room at Picton’s Books & Co. With regard to “public servant” education, I can confirm that Shire Hall offered a “Canadian Indigenous Culture Training Program – TRC Edition” (May, 2021) through the Northern College of Applied Arts & Technology to all Councillors (and I believe staff but not 100% certain) … it was a good and timely course which I appreciated.

3. Please rate your level of agreement (Strongly disagree | Disagree | Neither disagree or agree | Agree | Strongly agree) with the following statements:

“The cost of maintaining a public register of requests for County records would likely outweigh its benefits.”
Neither disagree or agree.

“The cost of the routine disclosure of County records would likely outweigh its benefits.”
Neither disagree or agree.

“The cost of the active dissemination of County records would likely outweigh its benefits.”
Neither disagree or agree.

4. For any one of your ratings above, please describe your analysis of the different costs and benefits that lead to your conclusion (max. 500 words).

It is my impression that the subject matter of #3 above is forthcoming in the next term of Council; and will be a report with “best practise” recommendations from our Clerk.


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Responses to Invitation 4

Candidates received Invitation 4 on September 14, 2022 and were asked to forward their responses by September 19, 2022. Candidate responses were published here and on Facebook on September 20, 2022.

Respondents

Bill Roberts

Candidate photo of Bill Roberts
1. Please identify and describe the general nature of any conflict of pecuniary interest – real or apparent, direct or indirect – that you would foresee needing to declare, given the sort of conflicts that have been disclosed by your predecessors in 2020-2022. [We later clarified the reference to 2020-2022 here. As the preamble re: “Pecuniary Conflicts of Interest” notes, these three years are the ones reported in the County’s online Annual Registries of members’ disclosoure of conflicts of interest.]

I don’t foresee having to declare a conflict of interest. In particular, neither I nor my family have pecuniary, non-pecuniary or general conflict of interest concerns.

2A & 3. Please indicate your agreement with the following statement: “The County should adopt a Council Code of Conduct that addresses non-pecuniary conflicts of interests.” Please elaborate.

Disagree.

The province’s Municipal Conflict on Interest Act is robust and functions well. PEC Council already has a Code of Conduct; and an Integrity Commissioner. The Annual Registry on the PEC website provides additional transparency and disclosure. In itself, “non-pecuniary” is too broad a term that could be abused and discourage beneficial political participation. Perhaps, along with some researched & common-sense guardrail protections to avoid that potential abuse, the subject could be reviewed at Committee of the Whole (COTW) next term. But the disquiet of unintended (and negative) consequences is a real one. In my experience, Council members have been candid and forthcoming with the Conflict of Interest tools currently in place.

2B & 4. Please indicate your agreement with the following statement: “The County should adopt a Council Code of Conduct that addresses the pecuniary conflicts of interests of a family member who is not a parent, spouse or child.” Please elaborate.

Disagree.

Similar concerns in 3 above. Plus, how far afield into the proverbial Family Tree would this apply? The potentially vast Family Forest? And what kind of unproductive mischief and trolling could result? Is there compelling (or any) evidence that what we currently have doesn’t work in the public interest? What exactly is the problem we’re trying to solve? Having said that, and remaining cautious about the well-paved road of good intentions routinely slamming into the ugly wall of unintended consequences, perhaps an invitation to the City of Kingston CAO to address our COTW on their motivation & experience would be educational for all concerned: in particular the Kingston Code of Conduct’s sections 11 and 12.

5. In the voter’s own words, please identify the most difficult-to-answer question that you’ve been asked in your campaign.

I don’t have any “most difficult” questions as yet. Most of the queries are about items such as: When will my road get fixed? How does MPAC relate to our property taxes?, What is the difference between social housing and affordable housing? Will this new VisitPEC manage tourism better? Where are we on the new hospital? For some land-owners, the costs of severances and planning (e.g. Quinte Conservation) has come up. So they are factual exchanges and not that difficult.

6. Please explain why this question was the most difficult-to-answer.

N/A.

7. On October 21, 2020, Council voted unanimously to deny a rezoning application from Picton Terminals to bring in container and cruise ships. If presented with a similar vote today, how would you vote (deny or approve)? Why?

Hypothetical questions really amount to conjecture. But if this current Council faced the exact same facts as presented in October 2021, my hunch is that it would again be a unanimous vote. However, the owners of Picton Terminals subsequently withdrew their appeal to the Ontario Land Tribunal’s Local Planning Appeal Tribunal citing jurisdictional issues. Specifically setting up the potential for a legal dispute: “Is Picton Terminals federal jurisdiction or provincial/municipal jurisdiction? Or somehow concurrently both?” The County then responded that we “are working quickly to investigate options”. Litigious, complex and dynamic matters are often pursued in Closed Sessions pursuant to Section 239(e) of the Municipal Act.


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Responses to Invitation 3

Candidates received Invitation 3 on September 7, 2022 and were asked to forward their responses by September 12, 2022. Candidate responses were published here and on Facebook on September 14, 2022.

Respondents

Bill Roberts

Candidate photo of Bill Roberts
1. Please rate your overall satisfaction with each of the following strategic initiatives:

Strategic Initiative Very dissatisfied Dissatisfied Neither Satisfied Very satisfied
By-law and policy review
Downtown revitalization
Healthcare initiatives
Municipal Accommodation Tax
PEC Affordable Housing Corp.
Short-Term Accommodations
Tourism management
Understanding Growth and Water/wastewater infrastructure

2. Please explain two of your ratings.

Healthcare Initiatives
We have a healthcare crisis. And it’s largely a staffing crisis; most of it due to a dire shortage of nurses. The County and Council have been commendable in stepping up to meet the challenge with $150,00 dedicated to 2022 doctor recruitment, and a commitment to continue this annual doctor program until 2026 … plus engaging a professional doctor recruiter. But that still doesn’t address the 94% of nurses that are grappling with burnout and the 50% that are considering leaving their jobs next year. Nurse Practitioners have completed Masters degree level training and are fully able to diagnose and treat illnesses, do referrals, prescribe medication, and do multiple tasks/procedures similar to a doctor. They have hospital privileges like a doctor. If nurses are leaving the profession in droves, what about sensible bursaries to County nurses (or other nurses that want to make PEC home) to upgrade their skills and rebalance their work-life? Wouldn’t a Nurse Practitioner primary care clinic on Main Street be worth exploring? Nurse Practitioners could also absorb some of the huge patent load placed on our County doctors and fill a gap for those who can’t find a family doctor. The average annual pay for a Nurse Practitioner is $150,000 year, about $85,000 less than a family medicine physician. Lastly, I just think that financial incentives alone are increasingly not enough … advancement, education, social mobility, and life/work balance are important. And nurses are absolutely key.

Understanding Growth and Water/wastewater infrastructure
We’re in tough on water and wastewater. Rescue plans, studies, ad hoc committees, dipping into reserves, and steady cost increases. The safety of our water is fully (even super) compliant … but it’s increasingly unaffordable, a pressure on fixed income individuals, and the six separate water systems (and two different wastewater systems) are logically inefficient. Add growth to the mix, and even with well-deserved and award-winning accomplishments with developers in Wellington, we might admit that it’s not a structure to be recommended. I’ve been suggesting for a while now that we should consider tapping into PEC’s volunteer expertise … especially among the 4,000 or so actual water customers … and explore the feasibility and potential benefits of a PEC Water/Wastewater Authority or Commission made up predominantly of users who pay. Other rural Ontario municipalities have gone this route and cut costs, let’s at least examine why and how.

3. Please outline one County-wide strategic initiative that is missing from the above and should be adopted by Council.

PEC Poverty Reduction Strategy
Poverty is an issue in PEC. 10% of our friends and neighbours are living in relative poverty, 11% our our kids, 26% of our single parent families are living in poverty. Vital Signs (by The County Foundation) has reported an increasing income disparity/gap, with The County falling further behind the median provincial income. Our dependance on government transfers (like ODSP) is also high. I successfully introduced a “Living Wage” motion at Council (with the help of the Ontario Living Wage Network), but I think we could do more. In a community of bounty, and an average MLS home listing of a million dollars or more, we should do more. I shudder to think what the situation of our low-income residents would be if it weren’t for our not-for-profit and volunteer organizations like the Prince Edward Learning Centre, Kinsmen, Rotary, Food To Share, Women’s Institute, library, food banks, and many others. Shire Hall has done a great deal to mitigate County poverty with investments in social and family services, transportation, food security, etc., but we don’t have an actual coherent strategy. So, I think we should; especially since Covid-19 has intensified economic disparity. And we need not reinvent the wheel, many Canadian municipalities (big and small) already have such comprehensive strategies for reducing poverty, increasing equity, and formally endorsing a culture of caring.


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Responses to Invitation 2

Candidates received Invitation 2 on August 31, 2022 and were asked to share their thoughts by September 6, 2022. Candidate responses were published here and on Facebook on September 7, 2022.

Respondents

Bill Roberts

Candidate photo of Bill Roberts

1. Please identify two internal and one external committee or board listed above whose areas of municipal responsibility would showcase your skills and interests in municipal government.

  1. Community & Economic Development Commission
  2. Police Services Board
  3. Prince Edward County Affordable Housing Corporation

2. For these three committees or boards, please highlight your skills and experience (work, volunteer, life) in those areas of municipal responsibility.
3. For these three committees or boards, please describe the impact you’d hope to make in those areas of municipal responsibility.

Community & Economic Development Commission
I’m a Past-Chair of the Community & Economic Development Commission (CEDC) and led the reform of the CEDC into a more transparent, accountable and representative entity. As the former Managing Director of TVOntario and former President & CEO of VisionTV, I know how to read a balance sheet and manage/encourage people. And I have extensive not-for-profit governance & Board of Directors experience; along with a Masters of Business Administration (MBA). Coming out of the Covid-19 pandemic, we need an activist CEDC with on-board expertise to knowledgeably address community and economic recovery & measurable progress… be it traditional infrastructure, or digital infrastructure to close rural cell gaps and provide high-speed rural connectivity, or social infrastructure to better support social mobility and economic opportunity for all, or health infrastructure as in exploring the potential for nurse practitioners. The CEDC can be a valuable post-pandemic accelerator on these and other fronts.

Impact: Revitalize the CEDC as a helpful community accelerator assuring equitable & effective post-Covid-19 pandemic recovery and municipal vitality.

Police Services Board
I’ve had the past experience working with public safety & security officials at all three levels of government & in professional roles. And in the last years I’ve appreciated volunteering with our local OPP police services on a number of good works initiatives, e.g. in the “Keep Kids Warm” program that supports working families and those in need by providing new, free snowsuits & winter clothing for children and youth; and in the Quinte Region Drowning Prevention Coalition (which won a national award this year). The Police Services Board serves as an independent civilian oversight body and does its best work as a constructive intermediary between our OPP leadership and our PEC community; and in facilitating constant improvement with regard to community-policing best practices. My experience and relationships should be helpful in achieving those goals. Engaged oversight of how policing is provided in our community is vital to our safety and wellbeing, and it need not be inherently confrontational.

Impact: Assure best practises in community policing, build collaborative relationships, provide diligent & informed oversight.

Prince Edward County Affordable Housing Corporation
I’ve been active on the affordable housing and homelessness front since before my time on Council. I was an active participant on the Affordable Housing Working Group that gave rise to our current PEC Affordable Housing Corporation. And I’ve taken it upon myself to meet with stakeholders, do on-site visits of affordable housing options such as reputable & local tiny home builders/suppliers, and provide active support to the vulnerable seeking shelter.

For example, my engagement with Kate’s Rest on Big Island, the only residential and supportive homeless shelter in Quinte, is well-known. Indeed, Kate’s Rest is now an accredited charitable foundation recognized by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), with an expert and autonomous Board of Directors, and receiving support from not only private donors but also from our Sophiasburgh community… including the Women’s Institute and Friendship United Church… and from The County-at-large as in Prince Edward & Addington Social Services (PELASS), Food To Share, and the Kinsmen.

Impact: Push hard for 500+ affordable units within the next 12 months.

4. How would you account for these rates of voter turnout in the County in recent municipal elections?

I was Acclaimed last municipal election, so perhaps this doesn’t directly apply. But it is a bit of a puzzler, since communities with older populations tend to have higher voter turnout… PEC is an older-age municipality so you might expect a higher voting rate. Proximity to Belleville may account for the low (lowest in The County at 37.6%) number in Ameliasburgh. However, PEC is not alone, e.g. Hamilton has had a below 40% turnout for at least a decade… and we are well above 40%. Indeed, across all Ontario since 1982, municipal voter turnout hasn’t varied much from 45% (highest,1994) to 43% (lowest, 2003).

5. Please relate an occasion when you (nearly) decided not to vote in an election.

I have never wavered on exercising my democratic right (and perhaps obligation) to vote in an election.

6. How would you propose to work with other candidates to increase voter turnout in the County in the upcoming municipal election?

Knocking on doors to get the vote out is a basic first step. Actively encouraging younger potential voters to vote is another. More candidate information (like this platform) should be helpful too. Then keep pushing for expanded voting options to make the process more accessible. Looking to the future, perhaps talking with others now to test targeting certain PEC low-turnout polls, or “vote anywhere polls” regardless of which ward you live in. Respectful discourse in election materials, candidate meetings, interviews, etc., should also help in 2022. If part of our voter turnout problem is general political cynicism and discouragement, this last point is hugely important.


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Responses to Invitation 1

Candidates received Invitation 1 on August 24, 2022 and were asked to share their thoughts by August 29, 2022. Candidate responses were published here and on Facebook on August 31, 2022.

Respondents

Bill Roberts

Candidate photo of Bill Roberts

1. How long have you resided in the County?

My wife Sharon and I have been part of The County in one way or another since the 1970s.

Sharon as a public school teacher in Quinte for over 30 years; and me more itinerant, beginning with my late friend John Harney when he was a Member of Parliament (MP) and I was involved in his Ottawa work.

John (also known as Jean-Paul) was an avid sailer, an active County resident, and a joyful member of our PEC yacht club… his deep affection for The County was infectious and I’ve obviously succumbed.

1b. (Additional question for candidates for Ward Councilor only): How long have you resided in the Ward in which you are running to be Councilor?

We’ve been in Sophiasburgh for about 20 years now.

2. Please identify your membership on Council, committee, commission, board, or other body associated with the municipal government in the County during the current term of Council (Fall 2018 – present).

During the current term I served on the Sophiasburgh Recreation Committee, sat on the Nominating Committee for Council, represented Council as a founding member of the Quinte Region Drowning Prevention Coalition, continued my “Monthly Club” involvement with our Prince Edward Memorial Hospital Foundation “Back The Build”, and was a Director on the Interim Board of Directors for the new “VisitPEC” destination marketing and management organization.

3. Please identify your membership on Council, committee, commission, board, or other body associated with the municipal government in the County during the previous term of Council (Fall 2014 – Fall 2018).

In the previous term of Council, I was Chair of the Community & Economic Development Commission (refocusing the CEDC on performance metrics and measurable, transparent goals; and adding youth representation), served on the Ad Hoc Working Group that developed a grants/assistance program for young and new farmers, was a member of the PEC Affordable Housing Task Force (which culminated in Council’s creation this term of the PEC Affordable Housing Corporation), represented Council on the working group that prevented the closure of Sophiasburgh Central School and created The County Food Hub (“the kitchen that saved a rural school”), and was active on Council’s Museum Advisory Committee (advocating for more inclusive history and engagement as per our Indigenous neighbours).

4. Please identify your membership or volunteering in a not-for-profit, non-governmental organization associated with the County during the current term of Council (November 2018 – present).

My membership and involvement has included: being a Director on the Hospice Prince Edward Foundation Board; sourcing and distributing extensive, free PPE for our County hospital & food banks during the height of COVID-19; volunteering with Community Care for Seniors, Kinsmen and others to deliver food to shut-ins, seniors, and the homeless through the pandemic; supporting numerous PEC community and charitable entities & events through donations, labour, and even a Northport Park “dunk-tank” experience; through The Country Foundation, personally provided County high school graduate bursaries for college/university studies in Indigenous Studies and in Farm Innovation/Agricultural Studies; and participated actively in the “100 People Who Care” program (distributing between $9,000 to $12,000 four times a year to PEC registered charities).

5. How do you understand talk of tension between “old” and “new” residents in the County?

Sophiasburgh is a diverse ward and home to a generous mix of what is often referred to as “new and old County”. And I’ve done my best to listen to and represent each resident in Sophiasburgh; most often, this is in the course of resolving or clarifying County policy, practises, and/or bylaws, frequently pointing out jurisdictional differences among three levels of government … or simply addressing an operational oversight.

Consequently, the vast majority of these resident matters never come before Council, Committee of the Whole, or Planning … let alone as “old versus new” folks.

Please indicate your agreement with the following statements:

6a. Tension between “old” and “new” residents in the County influences Council’s agenda. [Strongly disagree | Disagree | Neither disagree or agree | Agree | Strongly agree]

When proposals, files and motions do come to Council, obviously I’m informed by my Sophiasburgh constituents (“old and new”) where, when, and how they might be impacted.

But there are other lenses too …

For example my ongoing involvement with entities outside The County has an impact on my Shire Hall decision-making as with the Ontario Living Wage Coalition being my impetus to secure that formal standing for the municipality … Accessible Media Inc. and my advocacy for accessibility provisions with in our STA rules … with the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network and my Council engagement to return Foresters Island to the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte … and with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and my insistence on a robust & supportive PEC Council resolution on Ukraine (which eventually became formal policy for the FCM itself).

6b. Tension between “old” and “new” residents in the County influences Council’s decisions. [Strongly disagree | Disagree | Neither disagree or agree | Agree | Strongly agree]

But I get your point about “tensions” … and there are often tough decisions to be made around the Horseshoe.

And in those moments I’d like to think that, in the end, I’m processing all inputs and deciding what is fair and benefits The County as a whole.

7. Please identify any role you see yourself in addressing any tension between “old” and “new” residents in the County.

Modelling is often important, especially when it’s positive and empowering.

Two possible “models” come to mind in Sophiasburgh Ward 6, that may point a way forward to “addressing any tension between old and new”.

Firstly, the creation of The County Food Hub and saving our Sophiasburgh Central School was an idea born in our family sunroom.

And from the outset it was organically inclusive of highly collaborative “new” and “old” leadership, dedicated to common purpose… plus the respect and reciprocal trust that focused work engendered.

Secondly, Kate’s Rest on Big Island.

The local community support and sustenance for that (only) supportive housing for the homeless and marginalized has included a joyful cross-fertilization by our 103 year-old Demorestville Women’s Institute and much newer organizations like Food To Share.

There are some common threads there that need more embroidery going forward; and I’ll certainly continue to needle away on that score.


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