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Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Richard Thomas (incumbent)

Owen Sound | by Matt Hermiz  

Owen Sound City Council Candidate

1) Yes or No: Should Owen Sound allow bricks-and-mortar marijuana shops to operate in its boundaries? Why?

Yes. I support legal cannabis sales in Owen Sound. Past attempts at prohibition didn't work out so well. Allowing legalized sales will force out the uncontrolled and illegal sales, just as it did when the sale of alcohol was finally permitted. We've learned that lesson.

2) Yes or No: Should Owen Sound lower its property tax rate? If yes, how would you achieve this? If no, why?

Yes and no. A lower property tax rate is a worthy goal to pursue, but I believe it has to be achieved through increased growth. During the past term of council, our service analysis found $800 thousand in annual savings. To lower the tax rate now would mean cutting important services. The development charge holiday introduced in 2015 has had a positive impact on the city's tax base. So much so, that we reduced the 2018 tax bill by 2% from the revenues generated by new development that came about as a result of this initiative. I support the continuation of the development charge holiday. In 2017, building permits hit a 27-year high. We need this growth to continue.

3) Yes or No: Should Owen Sound continue to offer a vacancy rebate on commercial and industrial property? Why?

No. In the early days this was meant as a relief for local property owners looking for a tenant. Many of our vacant storefronts are owned by out of town property owners, who may feel less motivated to fill vacant storefronts as long as there is a discount on the tax rate. Repealing this may result in more occupied stores in the downtown.

4) What is your plan to attract new industry and jobs to Owen Sound?

Our commercial sector is growing. We have two major industrial employers currently expanding. And two new nuclear related employers have chosen to locate in Owen Sound. We continue as a council, a through staff efforts, to approach entrepreneurs and businesses. Our "Are You Most" campaign has proven very successful and the second phase is presently being prepared. I am committed to bring affordable high speed internet to Owen Sound through the SWIFT project. One of the things stopping high tech companies from locating here is the lack of affordable high speed internet that other communities take for granted.

5) What is one other issue facing Owen Sound you would like to speak to, and how will you address this if elected?

We continue to work towards reducing the cost of police and fire services, which presently account for almost half of our municipal budget. An OPP costing initiated by council helped to show significant savings were possible on our police budget. That work is going on right now.

I am committed to continuing our efforts to reduce the cost of emergency services. I have nothing but respect for the employees of these organizations, but we can no longer afford to spend half of our annual budget on police and fire.

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