The candidates for councillor in Petrolia answer our questions

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As part of our election coverage, The Independent recently sent a survey to all candidates running for office in the Town of Petrolia; the following are their answers.

Editor’s Note: In the print edition of The Independent, Joel Field’s answers to the survey were unintentionally omitted. They have been included online and will appear in the Oct. 14th edition of The Independent. Our apologies to the candidate for the error.

Bill Clark

Bill Clark has been involved in Petrolia politics for years, serving on the Community Services Advisory Committee and the group which brought the Oil Heritage Centre to the town. The 53 year-old now wants a seat at the council table.
What is the most important issue facing Petrolia in the next four years?
I think the main focus should be on growing the town and the tax base so that infrastructure and recreational facility improvements can be made without imposing excessive tax increases on the residents. Many of the items recently before council tied to growth have been stalled or tabled and no real decisions made. Council needs to get these projects moving forward. I feel the current council became distracted with the multiple Integrity Commissioner investigations. I believe some new faces and fresh ideas are needed to help move council forward and get the focus back on the job the residents elected them to do.
What would you do about the issue you identified?
Come to council with an open mind and no personal agenda. Show up having read the prepared council information package. Do the homework and research the topics and be ready to reasonably debate the pros and cons of each issue. Make informed decisions and move forward with or terminate proposals brought forward rather than keeping them tabled and open for an indeterminate time frame. Work together to advance the agreed upon projects in a cost effective manner. Be present. Attend the meetings of the committees of council you are appointed to. These committees are made up of residents who all want to contribute to their community. Listen to the people that elected you.
Do you support implementing development fees in the next term of council? Why or why not?
I think the BM Ross study that council deferred and effectively dismissed is a necessary tool in making an educated decision on whether implementing development fees is the right way to proceed. I think the argument that this fee would deter builders from doing business here is false. Many other communities have implemented these fees and it does not appear to have deterred new home construction in those municipalities. I think the study proposal should be revisited and the study completed. This information will assist council in making an informed decision. I would support implementing development fees if the study and follow-up research concludes the fees would relieve the residents from any possible tax increases as a result of new development.
Many of Petrolia’s subdivisions do not have sidewalks – how do you think the town should address the problem?
I believe it is certainly worth investigating the costs associated with extending the sidewalks on the major routes where sidewalks exist but were not continued when development extended these streets. Extending the sidewalk should have been required, and should be a requirement going forward, when extending any street already having a sidewalk. I do not support going back and putting a sidewalk on every street in town that does not have presently have one. I think the installation and added winter maintenance costs would be extensive. I believe the town is on the right track now in requiring all new subdivision construction have a sidewalk on at least one side of the street.

Transparency is key to good government; how do you think Petrolia could provide more information to the public about the business of government?
I think reminders of upcoming council meetings and further advance public notice of the council agenda would help. I think more detailed social media and print media notifications could be used to make this possible. I also think social media and print media could be used to remind residents that they can reach out to their councillors or contact the town hall and speak directly to staff regarding any town related item or concern they have. Residents do not need to wait for the next session of council to raise concerns.
Recently, town staff applied for and received grants for projects which had not been approved by council in public session. This committed taxpayers to thousands of dollars in spending without the proper approvals in place. Do you approve of this process? Explain why or why not and what you would like to see happen in the future.
I think ideally council would want to know in advance of any grant application submissions before they are made. However, it is my understanding that many grant applications have submission deadlines that do not always align with the council calendar. Further to that it is my understanding that staff will apply for grants based on Capital projects or other projects currently on the books for council to approve. This is done as a means to help accelerate the completion date of the project rather than have the process stalled while waiting for the funding approvals months after the project has been approved by council.
It is also my understanding that applying for the grant and being successfully offered the funding does not commit you to the project. The project still has to be approved by council before the funds are officially accepted and if the project is not approved the offer of funding can be declined.
If this is not the case and applying and receiving an offer of funding does force the project on the community then I would be opposed to staff making these applications ahead of project approvals.

Wade Deighton

Wade Deighton, 49, is seeking his second term on council. He is also currently attending Thompson River University.
What is the most important issue facing Petrolia in the next four years?
Housing, taxes, community, well-being, and Petrolia’s youth
What would you do about the issue you identified?
I would like to see a reduction in taxes where possible. Aiding development of housing for all income levels. Adding more programs or ideas of programs for our youth, and I would like to see the YMCA be returned to the Town of Petrolia to manage with the right leadership in place to make it more accessible to everyone as a community centre.
Do you support implementing development fees in the next term of council? Why or why not?
No, I do not. I believe that we have enough fees that add to the price of housing. Additionally remove roadblocks that have been put in place of developers as a go forward. More affordable housing for everyone.
Many of Petrolia’s subdivisions do not have sidewalks – how do you think the town should address the problem? Should it be a priority? How much cash should be dedicated to the task yearly?
We have a robust sidewalk plan that is concentrated on the central core of Petrolia, linking all subdivisions to the downtown core. I believe we need to put this as a priority to get them up to the current standards and shape that they are accessible to all. Then we will look at the other subdivisions.
Transparency is key to good government; how do you think Petrolia could provide more information to the public about the business of government?
I am a firm believer in having open council question periods that will always be front and centre in my mind and agenda. That is the first step of transparency. Additionally, I would like to see the Town of Petrolia not only televise, but simulcast all council meetings to an open online forum so that people can watch live
Recently, town staff applied for and received grants for projects which had not been approved by council in public session. This committed taxpayers to thousands of dollars in spending without the proper approvals in place. Do you approve of this process? Explain why or why not and what you would like to see happen in the future.
I am all for staff asking for grants. All concepts have been through committee and the staff saw opportunity and seized the moment to apply for grants. Nothing is committed to the town even if given grants, we can turn those back and we’ve decided to move forward with plans for things that are needed for the town.

Joel Field

Joel Field, 55, has been a community volunteer for over 30 years. Before becoming a council member, Field served on a number advisory committees of council. He’s seeking his fourth term on Petrolia Council.

What is the most important issue facing Petrolia in the next four years?

Growth and development and the impact it will have in our infrastructure, services and population

What would you do about the issue you identified?

I think it is important to update our strategic plan and asset management program to ensure that we are meeting the new requirement of the community with the potential of hundreds of new homes and thousands of new residents.

Do you support implementing development fees in the next term of council? Why or why not?

I feel that is very important for us to do the required study that is mandated by provincial guidelines if we plan on charging fees. The study must be done over the course of one year and will provide us with the details that we need to make a educated discussion. Until the study is done it is hard to say what exactly development fees would mean for Petrolia, but I feel that there needs to be additional funds to be brought in to assist our growth and I don’t not see provincial and federal government giving the money needed. Ultimately “growth pays for growth”

Many of Petrolia’s subdivisions do not have sidewalks – how do you think the town should address the problem? Should it be a priority? How much cash should be dedicated to the task yearly?

I believe that Council has made a good step forward with new subdivisions with having sidewalks on one side. To address the lack of sidewalk from years past we are currently undertaking I study through BM Ross to identify shortcomings and a strategic plan in addressing our walking network which look at trails as well. The well-being master plan will be taken into account. Not knowing the results of study it’s premature to put a dollar figure on it.

Transparency is key to good government; how do you think Petrolia could provide more information to the public about the business of government?

I believe educating the public on what is already available to them would be a good first step a lot of information is available through our website or from town hall but not knowing how to access can be a hinderance and perceived as non-transparent. Petrolia’s Civic web has a feature that allows residence to sign up for notifications of meeting or have agendas sent to them directly.

Recently, town staff applied for and received grants for projects which had not been approved by council in public session. This committed taxpayers to thousands of dollars in spending without the proper approvals in place. Do you approve of this process? Explain why or why not and what you would like to see happen in the future.

It is important for staff to apply for grants that align with our budget or capital projects. Ultimately all grant opportunities are approved by council before proceeding. If the grant opportunities follow master plan and asset management then I feel staff are justified. In 12 years that I have been on council I’ve never been surprised by a grant that we were not prepared to receive. Our grant opportunities have aligned with our strategic plan and we have been very successful with this approach.

Shalen Hunter

Shalen Hunter, 35, a supply teacher for the public school board, is taking her first run for political office hoping to become a councillor in Petrolia.
What is the most important issue facing Petrolia in the next four years?
Community engagement – we need to fully engage with all sectors of our community to properly determine long-term and short-term goals for our town.
What would you do about the issue you identified?
Enhance communication to better understand the needs of all community members and increase the responsiveness of council to those needs.
Do you support implementing development fees in the next term of council? Why or why not?
This is an important issue which faces the incoming council. If elected, I will work with my fellow councillors to review the idea of implementing development fees, taking all viewpoints into consideration to reach a consensus based on the best interests of our town and community.
Many of Petrolia’s subdivisions do not have sidewalks – how do you think the town should address the problem? Should it be a priority? How much cash should be dedicated to the task yearly?
Sidewalks are another significant topic which the incoming council should address. If elected, I will work with my fellow councillors to determine the appropriate approach to ensuring this issue is properly resolved to the benefit of our town and community.
Transparency is key to good government; how do you think Petrolia could provide more information to the public about the business of government?
As civil servants, councillors should be open and transparent in all aspects of their role. Increasing modes of communication and enhancing community engagement in municipal governance would promote trust in our councillors as representatives serving in the best interest of our town and community.
Recently, town staff applied for and received grants for projects which had not been approved by council in public session. This committed taxpayers to thousands of dollars in spending without the proper approvals in place. Do you approve of this process? Explain why or why not and what you would like to see happen in the future.
This issue is another one that should be addressed by the incoming council. If elected, I will work with my fellow councillors to determine if this process provides the best outcomes for our town and community.

Chad Hyatt

Chad Hyatt, 41, wants to be a Petrolia councillor to promote fiscal responsibility. This is his first run for political office.
What is the most important issue facing Petrolia in the next four years?
With the tightening of the economy, the fiscal management of the Town will be critical within the next few years. Maintaining a strong plan for growth, service, maintenance, and capital expenditures will be required to support the town and its residents.
What would you do about the issue you identified?
I will actively work to understand the budget and work to bring new ideas and visions as shared by the constituents of the town and from my past experiences.
Do you support implementing development fees in the next term of council? Why or why not?
I do support the implementation of development fees within the town. With the integration of policies around the use of development fees, the cost burden on the town budget can be reduced. Benchmarking policies from other municipalities shall provide insight in how the fee schedule should be arranged.
Many of Petrolia’s subdivisions do not have sidewalks – how do you think the town should address the problem? Should it be a priority? How much cash should be dedicated to the task yearly?
As I reside in a neighbourhood without sidewalks, I can understand how this can be a concern for some and a non-issue for others. Sidewalks are a critical component of infrastructure for the safety of the residents. Instead of installing sidewalks in all new and existing development, I believe a risk analysis should be conducted to determine the necessity for a sidewalk. For high-risk areas, sidewalks be implemented, and low risk areas we could consider wider streets with integrated multi use paths for walking and biking.
Transparency is key to good government; how do you think Petrolia could provide more information to the public about the business of government?
Transparency within the town can be mainly achieved through digitization. Providing digital information to the residents that is easy to find and easy to understand can result in meaningful dialog and data exchange between the local government and the citizens.
Recently, town staff applied for and received grants for projects which had not been approved by council in public session. This committed taxpayers to thousands of dollars in spending without the proper approvals in place. Do you approve of this process? Explain why or why not and what you would like to see happen in the future.
Government grants are a key source of income for the Town and reduce the use of funds which can in turn be allocated to other projects. Applications for these grants can be time dependent and very competitive amongst other municipalities in the province. Thus, I do see high value in trying to receive these grants as needed, when conducted within the means as outlined within the town’s policies and procedures. Pre-planning and maintaining insight into new grants that become available via our MP and MPP are critical to future developments.

Allison Melvis

Allison Melvis is a newcomer to Petrolia politics. The Early Childhood Educator became interested in municipal politics as council approved a new development in her neighbourhood.
What is the most important issue facing Petrolia in the next four years?
The residents of Petrolia deserve an open and honest council that truly stands with integrity. This has been a serious issue in the past and there have been some issues with this council as well. Residents need to feel that for each issue town councillors and the mayor truly have the best interests of the residents, businesses and Petrolia in mind. We need to work hard on regaining trust. Post-COVID, Petrolia is expanding rapidly. We need to allow room for growth, while maintaining the quality of everyday life for the current residents of Petrolia. The town has some major, expensive projects planned in the coming years, such as the expansion at the YMCA. It’s very important that we remain focussed on what town residents truly want and need, so that they receive value for their tax dollars.
What would you do about the issue you identified?
I think the most important thing to keep in mind is when you are a councillor, you’re not there to be best friends with other councillors or the mayor. You are there to represent the residents and business owners of Petrolia who voted for you, who believed in you, as well as those that did not. Since running for council, I have come to learn that most of the discussions are done at committee meeting levels, which creates the reports that are presented to council at their public meetings. I firmly believe there needs to be more open discussion and more questions during council meetings. I have heard from many residents that they feel there is a ‘good old boys club’ mentality amongst the council. What is best for the town, for the town residents needs to be first. I’m not easily swayed. I do my homework. I think for myself. I will speak my mind. I will ask questions. I will challenge. I will focus on what is best for the town, not for the other councillors or the mayor. 
Do you support implementing development fees in the next term of council? Why or why not?
I have to say that this topic frustrates me enormously. I was at several council meetings when the proposal of a study to look into this was tabled to the next meeting. I was at the last council meeting where the topic of having the study completed was not even opened for discussion. Initially I felt council was cowardly to shove the issue aside for so long. It appeared as if the council was concerned with the upcoming election and wanted to avoid making a decision on this topic, so as not to affect their chances at re-election. I have recently been told it has long been the intention that the final decision on this would go to the next council. To an extent I can understand this. But, this topic has been on the agenda for months. I am still unclear as to why this council, in months of time, could not or would not make the decision to move forward with the study. I know there will be people that are offended by my use of the word ‘cowardly’. In my personal opinion, refusing to have difficult conversations, ones that not everyone may agree with you, or where you might need to make an unpopular decision, is cowardly. I will have a discussion with anyone. I might never agree with someone, but that doesn’t change the fact that the discussion needs to take place. I think implementing development fees definitely needs to be looked into. I would fully support having the study done on this topic and then base a final decision with the information presented in that study.
Many of Petrolia’s subdivisions do not have sidewalks – how do you think the town should address the problem? Should it be a priority? How much cash should be dedicated to the task yearly?
I attended the in-person presentation about sidewalks. I must say, I believe the initial reports were extremely thorough and detailed. I also complement the town for providing multiple opportunities/ways for residents to share their opinions on this topic. I am a firm believer that we really need to look at the quality of the sidewalks we currently have. Many are in dire need of repair, and are often unusable. A well thought out plan, looking at the order of what should be addressed first, should be created. Current sidewalks that are used the most should be repaired first. I also feel that any and all new development should have mandatory sidewalks included. Yes, some might not connect to anything, yet. But when a development is built, no matter how small, sidewalks should be included. I think sidewalks should be a priority, due to the fact that they can have a very direct and immediate effect on the quality of life for people. For someone with mobility issues, having a usable sidewalk by their home can literally change the way they live their life.
I honestly can’t say a specific cash figure. I would tie this in with planned road maintenance and current development.

Transparency is key to good government; how do you think Petrolia could provide more information to the public about the business of government?
In 2022 I have attended more council meetings than what I attended in my entire life prior to this year. While attending meetings I was absolutely flabbergasted at the lack of discussion, lack of questions, and sometimes what to me appeared to be the lack of attention of the council. I wondered if it was the intention simply that council passes motions to accept reports? I thought the intent was for council to read the reports, ask questions about the reports, have a discussion. I had the impression the vast majority of the work council does, the discussions council has, is done behind closed doors. I have heard from many people that they believe this. To an extent this is true. I was unaware of how much was accomplished at the committee level. I will add I was also unaware of who could attend those committee meetings, basically that the general public was welcome. I think this needs to change. I feel we need to give more exposure and explanation to residents in general, as well as more clarity, as to how the Petrolia municipal government actually runs. Where and when issues that affect them and the town are being discussed and decided upon. However, perhaps I still see it wrong, but I still would like to hear more discussion at council meetings, more questioning, more dialogue. As a resident I would like to know what it is that our elected officials actually think about issues, and what questions or concerns they have.
I believe that residents need to be able to see Council addressing issues that affect them, and that they are discussed with them, or at the very least, done in such a way that they can easily access what the discussion was about.
Recently, town staff applied for and received grants for projects which had not been approved by council in public session. This committed taxpayers to thousands of dollars in spending without the proper approvals in place. Do you approve of this process? Explain why or why not and what you would like to see happen in the future.
It is true that staff applied for grants without final project plans being drawn up or approved, in regards to the Parks and Rec development planned by the YMCA. However, nothing included in the grant application was a surprise. Everything was based upon what was reported in the Parks and Recreation Master plan, which was presented to residents and council, and was accepted by council. It happened to be that the opportunity to apply for grants was available, prior to blueprints being drawn up. So, prior to full approval from council. Yet, wasn’t applying for the grants the logical thing to do? Is phase one of the plan not much more extensive, given the large amount of grants, than it would have been had it needed to be 100 per cent funded by taxpayers’ dollars? Do we really want to create a situation where town staff had ignored the potential of hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants? Given the information within the Parks and Rec master plan, council already knew what was needed, and what was wanted. Council accepted and approved that report. The development may not have been drawn up to see exactly what would go where, but the general concept had been approved.

Ross O’Hara

Ross O’Hara, 72, has served on Petrolia for 26 years. He’s seeking another four year term this election.
What is the most important issue facing Petrolia in the next four years?
Having all the various subdivisions that are proposed at this time approved.
What would you do about the issue you identified?
I would work with the county and the developers to expedite the process.
Do you support implementing development fees in the next term of council? Why or why not?
No…because it increases the cost to the developer which is passed on to the purchaser of the home.
Many of Petrolia’s subdivisions do not have sidewalks – how do you think the town should address the problem? Should it be a priority? How much cash should be dedicated to the task yearly?
All new subdivisions will have sidewalks and all existing subdivisions will fall under the budget process.
Transparency is key to good government; how do you think Petrolia could provide more information to the public about the business of government?
All meetings are totally open to the press and public. All decisions and motions are open also.
Recently, town staff applied for and received grants for projects which had not been approved by council in public session. This committed taxpayers to thousands of dollars in spending without the proper approvals in place. Do you approve of this process? Explain why or why not and what you would like to see happen in the future.
All grants that the town receives are a benefit to the taxpayers. It actually saves them money. Staff does inform council when applying for grants and when they receive them.

Debb Pitel

Debb Pitel, 59, a mental health advocate in Lambton County wants to be a part of Petrolia council.
What is the most important issue facing Petrolia in the next four years?
I feel those are yet to be determined at this point. All issues affecting our community are important. While campaigning I’m gathering information to research and find related articles from previous meetings to align. I welcome conversations that open up conversations to best represent the issues they feel need addressed.
What would you do about the issue you identified?
Once those issues are determined, facts are found I think it’s my role to bring these concerns to the table for discussion. Learn from the team, offer my insight. Follow up and offer feedback and insight to the source. Offer suggestions, solutions and time frames for resolution.
Do you support implementing development fees in the next term of council? Why or why not?
I have read previous minutes, conversations and although it has been discussed, I was not involved in these proceedings. I am open to learning and reviewing both viewpoints before making a decision.

Many of Petrolia’s subdivisions do not have sidewalks – how do you think the town should address the problem? Should it be a priority? How much cash should be dedicated to the task yearly?
I have seen the issues not having sidewalks firsthand. Safety to residents should always be a priority. Without a deep look into budget as a whole I couldn’t comment on allocation of funds.
Transparency is key to good government; how do you think Petrolia could provide more information to the public about the business of government?
I feel the transparency has been done well. Online, in-person, minutes and videos shared offer a very diverse opportunity of review. However there is always room to improve.
Recently, town staff applied for and received grants for projects which had not been approved by council in public session. This committed taxpayers to thousands of dollars in spending without the proper approvals in place. Do you approve of this process? Explain why or why not and what you would like to see happen in the future.
I can’t comment at this time without facts presented and reviewed. Maybe a current council would be better to field this question for now.

Grant Purdy

Grant Purdy, 48, hoping the third time will be a charm. The incumbent councillor, who is a paramedic and refs both hockey and baseball, is seeking his third term on Petrolia council.
What is the most important issue facing Petrolia in the next four years?
I believe there are a few that are all up there – continuing to expand on programs and amenities for youth – working collaboratively with our service clubs as we have recently began doing is key; I also believe we need to keep taxes in check and work with all our developers to continue our growth and prosperity. Both in residential and commercial capacities. I also feel we need to continue to work with our local businesses to ensure we keep our downtown vibrant and booming. Finally, we need to ensure we try to keep our water and sewer rates reasonable. We have new infrastructure coming to our water treatment plant, and a new wastewater treatment plant which are important keys to those issues.
What would you do about the issue you identified?
All the issues I’ve mentioned above, are currently being addressed – we need to continue the progress.
Do you support implementing development fees in the next term of council? Why or why not?
No. In a nutshell, I believe it will have a negative impact on affordable housing for families. We already have a shortage of that.
Many of Petrolia’s subdivisions do not have sidewalks – how do you think the town should address the problem? Should it be a priority? How much cash should be dedicated to the task yearly?
I have been a proponent of sidewalks from day one. We have finally mandated sidewalk implementation in all new subdivisions; and are in the process of looking to gradually connect between the gaps. This is something that’s been neglected for decades, and will take some time to complete. As for a dollar figure, I’m not sure exactly and wouldn’t want to speculate. This is something that I want discussed at the next budget meeting if I’m fortunate enough to be elected to a 3rd term.
Transparency is key to good government; how do you think Petrolia could provide more information to the public about the business of government?
I think building on our social media platforms is key; I also believe print advertising is still a crucial component in this era of technology, given the fact we still have many seniors and others who are not tech savvy or own devices. I also am going to pursue a system similar to what the County and City of Sarnia utilize at their council meetings; a software that projects onto a screen whereby every time a vote is made, it shows each individual councillor and mayors vote – in essence it makes each and every vote a “recorded” vote.
Recently, town staff applied for and received grants for projects which had not been approved by council in public session. This committed taxpayers to thousands of dollars in spending without the proper approvals in place. Do you approve of this process? Explain why or why not and what you would like to see happen in the future.
I believe each grant process should be approved by Council. I realize there are some instances where this hasn’t occurred; I believe time constraints have been an issue on occasion and there are sometimes extenuating circumstances, but I do believe it’s important to pre approve these items whenever possible. I would like to see it be more consistent.

Marty Souch

Marty Souch, 57, is seeking his second term on council. Originally from the Listowell area, Souch has made his home in Petrolia, helping out with local sports organizations and as a member of council in the past four years.

What is the most important issue facing Petrolia in the next four years?
I believe that the most important issue facing Petrolia in the next four years is residential developmental. Petrolia is a growing community with much to offer. We have great jobs, businesses, restaurants and other local attractions that encourage movement to our town. We also are fortunate to have a hospital, arena, parks, and the YMCA to serve the public with health care and recreational opportunities. We need to make the residential developmental process more efficient to allow for faster development.
What would you do about the issue you identified?
We need to make the residential development process more efficient to allow for faster development. We, as a council, need to work together with the developers to address the issues at hand for a faster and more efficient completion of the developmental projects at stake.
Do you support implementing development fees in the next term of council? Why or why not?
No I do not support implementing development fees in the next term of council. At this time, I believe that these extra fees may deter people from moving to Petrolia. Residents are already paying the third highest tax base in all of Lambton County. If we want to see growth we need to keep the costs for our residents down. Developmental fees have to be spent on growth and growth alone. This money can not be spend on maintenance. Therefore, I don’t believe we are at a point where we need these fees to grow our town.
Many of Petrolia’s subdivisions do not have sidewalks – how do you think the town should address the problem? Should it be a priority? How much cash should be dedicated to the task yearly?
The town should address this through the master plan that is currently in the works. This plan needs to be completed then followed as sidewalks are a priority in our town. The cost for sidewalks should be evaluated from year to year based on needs
Transparency is key to good government; how do you think Petrolia could provide more information to the public about the business of government?
I believe Petrolia has been very transparent over the last four years. We have had a great deal of town meetings to keep the public informed on the business of government.

Recently, town staff applied for and received grants for projects which had not been approved by council in public session. This committed taxpayers to thousands of dollars in spending without the proper approvals in place. Do you approve of this process? Explain why or why not and what you would like to see happen in the future.
No I do not approve of this process; however due to the filing restraints of upper government the time frame for the process is very narrow. The Master Plan has been approved. In the future the upper governments need to change the application processes for grants and allow for more time for approval process.

Liz Welsh

Liz Welsh, 56, is hoping to regain her seat on Petrolia Council. The local historian who has volunteered for years preserving the heritage of the community in local cemeteries and more recently at Petrolia Discovery, last served on council in 2018.
What is the most important issue facing Petrolia in the next four years?
The most important issue facing Petrolia is keeping our long-term financial plan on track and keeping costs as low as possible for residents while continuing smart and sustainable development. To do this, we need to utilize the Provincial Policy Statement, Petrolia’s Asset Management Plan, and other relevant legislation to ensure development meets the needs of the current residents without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Here it is important to note, our assets are not limited to sewers and watermains but extend to the infrastructure and services people depend on everyday – sidewalks, streetlights, playgrounds, and educated staff.
What would you do about the issue you identified?
I would ensure decisions regarding new developments, commercial, industrial, and residential, are made in consultation with residents and using all current legislation and following Petrolia’s Asset Management Plan, Official Plan, and Strategic Plan. This will establish the long-term affordability of services. I want Petrolia to be in great shape to deliver all these services to residents now and generations from now.
Do you support implementing development fees in the next term of council? Why or why not?
Petrolia needs a balanced approach to development, one that reflects the need for all types of housing and businesses and respects the current taxpayers. I was discouraged to see that the current council would not commit to studying how and if development charges could be used in Petrolia. Development charges can be an integral part of asset management and can ensure existing residents are not covering all the costs for new development. In brief, growth should pay for growth. The Development Charges Act guides the application of charges in Ontario and requires the completion of a study before a council can consider any charges. The cost of this study, which takes approximately one year to complete, is recoverable as per the DC Act. I would support undertaking a study so Council can make an informed decision on use of development charges.
Many of Petrolia’s subdivisions do not have sidewalks – how do you think the town should address the problem?
New developments should have sidewalks and priority should be given to filling gaps in the current network so there is safe connectivity for active transportation and accessibility within town limits. Wherever possible we should seek out active transportation and accessibility grants to offset the costs. This approach was adopted into the Official Plan July 12/21. I would support the continued implementation of this approach. A report is expected in Fall 2022 that will detail the cost and scope of the work required to upgrade our sidewalks. Sidewalk costs are currently estimated at $89/square meter for a 1.5 meter-wide sidewalk (this does not include engineering or annual maintenance and snow removal costs) so we can expect this work to have a significant price tag. I will study the report and make an informed decision on how the Town can best prioritize the rehabilitation and construction of sidewalks in our neighbourhoods.
Transparency is key to good government; how do you think Petrolia could provide more information to the public?
Council must engage with residents and be held accountable for its decisions. We may not always agree, but we should welcome healthy discussion on what is best for Petrolia. I will ensure there is an easy process to speak to Council. Over the last four years, I watched as residents sought answers from Council and none were provided. If a resident brings a question to council, I will make sure they receive a timely and thorough response. We must also improve digital access to Council meetings and information, including quality recordings on the Town’s YouTube Channel. I also support more outreach to residents, so they know how and when council is available to them. Finally, communication with residents must be clear and concise. Our residents are busy. They need a quick reference to what is coming up on the Council agenda and how they can have their say.
Recently, town staff applied for and received grants for projects which had not been approved by council in public session. This committed taxpayers to thousands of dollars in spending without the proper approvals in place. Do you approve of this process? Explain why or why not and what you would like to see happen in the future.
During my previous terms on Council, I participated in 12 budget processes. It was my experience that financial considerations were presented to Council through the full-day draft budget meeting as well on an ongoing basis through reports to council. If elected, I would work with staff to ensure clarity for councillors regarding the impact and details of forward planning documents, and to develop a timely and transparent mechanism through which new funding opportunities can be quickly brought to Council. It is always worthwhile to step back and consider how we can improve and deliver the best results for the residents of Petrolia. Moving forward, I would like to continue to see multiple sessions to discuss a proposed budget, ensuring this large and often complex plan, is understood by residents, council and staff alike. I would work to build a respectful relationship with staff that encourages an open and honest dialogue. I commit to continuing to inform myself to ensure all my decisions are informed decisions.