1) Yes or No: Should Owen Sound allow bricks-and-mortar marijuana shops to operate in its boundaries? Why?
I need more information before deciding. This is one of the biggest and most divisive decisions we will make. The City and County will face increased policing, social services and addiction treatment costs. Will we receive more funding if we allow stores? If we opt out, will stores locate outside our limits and supply city residents anyway? What planning controls do we have to regulate the number of retailers, their hours and locations (schools and playgrounds)? Council should seek community input if we have time before the provincially imposed deadline.
2) Yes or No: Should Owen Sound lower its property tax rate? If yes, how would you achieve this? If no, why?
No one wants to pay more taxes, but many people are just as concerned about losing services. Council will continue to explore cost saving opportunities and find financial efficiencies for our City. We've worked hard to ensure tax payer money is fully utilized. We've leveraged grants, found efficiency in the operations of our City and have explored costing options. We will research and review opportunities to regionalize service and will make an informed decision on how to best spend tax payers money. We need growth to help spread the tax burden over a larger tax base.
3) Yes or No: Should Owen Sound continue to offer a vacancy rebate on commercial and industrial property? Why?
The Province introduced the Vacant Unit Rebate in 2001 for vacancies in commercial and industrial buildings. Municipalities were given control over their own Vacancy Refund programs in 2018. We can reduce rebates from the default legislated 30-35%, or phase-out rebates altogether.
The City is currently reviewing the vacant land rebate program. The Province requires municipalities to engage the local business community and report to Council of the potential impacts. Reducing the rebate will increase the costs to owners, which could drive down property values and therefore the City's taxable assessment base. There could be increased tax rates as a consequence.
4) What is your plan to attract new industry and jobs to Owen Sound?
Our current council has made investments toward economic growth, and we can't stop now. We've invested in infrastructure in order to have development ready land and we have launched an entrepreneurial attraction campaign. We're working with local industry, small business and local entrepreneurs to leverage success, secure jobs, re-purpose space and support the new economy. We have attracted world class employers.
Now we will work with Grey County and Georgian College to implement the skills training and business development centre to attract and train labour. We need reasonably priced housing to live in. We need to tell our positive story to the world.
5) What is one other issue facing Owen Sound you would like to speak to, and how will you address this if elected?
Managing our costs is always important. We've worked hard to ensure tax payer money is fully utilized. We've leveraged grants, found efficiency in the operations of our City and have explored costing options. We will research and review opportunities to regionalize service with municipal partners and will make an informed decision on how to best spend tax payers money. We're not done yet.