/AH candidates talk housing cell service
Candidates for Algonquin Highlands Wards 1 and 3 introduced themselves to voters at an all-candidates meeting at the Dorset Recreation Centre on SEpt. 13. From left David Lawson Julia Shortreed Brian Lynch and Jennifer Dailloux. /JENN WATT Staff

AH candidates talk housing cell service

Four candidates – two for Ward 1 and two for Ward 3 – presented their perspectives to voters at the Algonquin Highlands all-candidates meeting on Sept. 13 at the Dorset Recreation Centre.

Topics ranged from the McClintock Quarry to the future of the Dorset library branch how to better support the health hub to affordable housing. The future of the Frost Centre long left empty on Highway 35 even came up.

The meeting was organized by the county’s media organizations both print and radio and was moderated by Moose FM host Rick Lowes.

In Ward 1 voters have a choice between David Lawson and Julia Shortreed.

Lawson said he moved to Algonquin Highlands in 1999 following his father and grandfather before him who had both built cottages in the area. Retired from a career at Xerox he said he was looking to be more involved in the community and has already spent time volunteering with the Lions Club.

Shortreed moved in 1988 to Dorset where she has raised two children. She’s worked for Scotiabank for 35 years and just retired in March. She said she’s been a volunteer in the community listing the Snowball winter carnival as one of her commitments.

In Ward 3 Jennifer Dailloux is competing against Brian Lynch for the seat. Lynch is currently on Algonquin Highlands council representing Ward 1 and has switched wards in this election.

Dailloux described herself as a career humanitarian who has overseen programming at three refugee camps with operating budgets double that of Algonquin Highlands. She said skills from her previous experience would translate nicely to working with council.

Lynch told the audience that he and his wife have been residents of the township for 19 years. Aside from his four years on council he has worked in non-profit and for-profit sectors. He also listed many committees and clubs he has been a part of over the years including the Snowball winter carnival health hub Lions Club and several council committees.

Candidates answered questions pre-written by local media and took questions from the floor.

Below is a sampling of some of the topics. To hear the meeting in its entirety visit the Canoe FM website and click on “programs” then “interviews.” (See story on page 3 for candidate responses regarding the Dorset library branch.)

On Septage Spreading

Brian Lynch said the issue which had come up at council around one specific field near Maple Lake was to be discontinued with the year. While there are other methods that could be used to dispose of residents’ septic waste he said they are expensive and not fully understood.

“The township is currently looking at the disposal of septage in trenches and this trench disposal method has been around again … for some time and has also proven to be very efficient and economically attractive” he said.

Jennifer Dailloux said she wasn’t a fan of field spreading which is “going to only give rise to problems in the future.” She said she’d learned about the lagoon expansion plans and thought they’d been well done.

Julia Shortreed said she wasn’t as familiar with the topic but knew the price range for alternative practices are “astronomical.”

David Lawson also said he didn’t know much about the topic but said field spreading didn’t sound like a good idea.

“I would think that spreading septic [waste] over a field probably isn’t the best way to dispose of it.”

Short Term Rental Bylaws

Candidates weren’t keen on introducing new bylaws to voters and there was little uptake on the question of whether a bylaw to regulate short-term rentals such as Airbnb would be a good idea.

Shortreed answered first saying there were concerns of renters disrespecting lakes and fellow cottagers but she wasn’t sure how specifically to regulate that. She suggested noise bylaws could be used.

Lawson said he agreed with his competitor that some people don’t behave well as renters.

“As far as the town trying to control it I think that would be very hard to do when it’s private properties that are involved” he said.

Dailloux said the lakes in her ward were different from one another with some more remote and others much busier. She said she’d want to consult with the lakes to see what the best solution would be.

Lynch was against regulation.

“We have a lot of regulations now that could be better enforced to deal with most of the problems that we get from renters. Problems are usually noise problems fireworks problems boating problems” he said.

On Cell/Internet Improvements

A member of the audience asked candidates to describe what the Eastern Ontario Regional Network is and detail what it could do for economic development. EORN is run by the Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus and works to improve cell and internet service in the region.

Shortreed said EORN’s most recent project which would expand cell service would mean more towers but would connect people who need it.

Lawson noted there were companies that supply internet to the area already. If it was expanded it would allow more economic development he said.

Dailloux said improving cell and internet should be on the township’s priority list as it’s an economic and safety issue.

“I spoke to one man who was way out Troutspawn Road 4 a.m. one morning on his way back to work one Monday morning … and his car broke down. It was pitch black he’s on Troutspawn on a very dangerous logging road. He’s miles away from home miles away from Highway 60 and there wasn’t a single bar on his phone. It’s a safety and security concern” she said.

Lynch reminded the audience that this initiative was ongoing and said people want better cell service but some don’t want towers on their lakes or near their homes. He said the service was coming.

On Development

Asked on their views about whether additional development should be encouraged candidates noted current barriers to growth.

Lawson said a “fine balance” needed to be found between development and the environment.

Shortreed said affordable housing was needed before any development could take place.

“My son is 19. He wouldn’t be able to find a place to rent. I’ve talked to numerous people there’s nowhere for them to live. Housing is too expensive now for the average person” she said.

Lynch agreed that housing should top the list.

“We need to encourage builders when they’re building a unit to look at perhaps adding a rental unit” he said.

Dailloux said council needed to protect the charm of the cottage experience. Muskoka had the market cornered on the mansion-sized cottages she said and Algonquin Highlands should work to maintain the “authentic smallness” of the more traditional cottages on its lakes.

On the McClintock Quarry

Asked by a member of the audience what candidates thought about balancing private business resource development versus preservation of the environment in relation to the McClintock Quarry answers were mixed.

Shortreed said she wasn’t aware the project was still going ahead.

Lawson said sometimes people lose sight of the environment when economic development is the focus.

Lynch had more details saying the quarry application wasn’t something the township had a say in. While Algonquin Highlands wants the project to conform with its guidelines that it not be closer than 1000 metres from Harvey Lake and residences it sits on provincial land and is up to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.

“It’s not likely that economic endeavours will be turned down lightly [by the provincial government]” he said.

Dailloux said she would be shocked if the business owners couldn’t find another location farther away from a lake. While the township couldn’t assert itself regarding setbacks and other planning matters she said the council should still work as an advocate for the people.

“We should be working hard alongside cottagers not just in Harvey Lake but elsewhere in the municipality to advocate for those sorts of grey areas in policy where there’s a clash between what the province sees as necessary and what the municipality sees as necessary” she said.

On the Environment

Asked about the top environmental concern and what council could do to help Shortreed said septic systems were top of the list. She said council is heading in the right direction by requiring inspections.

Lawson agreed and mentioned the inspection program.

Dailloux said she supported the septic inspection program and was pleased to see how environmental issues were taken into account throughout council’s decision-making process.

Lynch said other than septic issues lakefront coverage was on the top of his list. “Large places with large lawns” can be harder on the lake he said noting people needed to naturalize their shorelines with vegetation down to the water. Recent studies of local lakes have confirmed that more needs to be done he said.