By Michelle Poirier
The Pefferlaw Area Ratepayers (PAR) hosted a well-attended candidates’ debate on October 6 at the Pefferlaw Lions Hall.
Karen Wolfe, a founding member of PAR, mediated the debate and introduced the mayoral candidates in attendance, including George Sheffield, Ralph Hirmann, Jeffrey Cathcart, Frank Sebo and incumbent Margaret Quirk.
Regional councillor candidates Naomi Davison and Dawn Zimmermann and the Ward 5 councillor candidates Lee Dale and Kelly McCarthy also participated in the debate.
YRDSB trustee candidates Cynthia Cordova, Carolyn Butterworth and Jeremy Smith, and YCDSB candidates Peter Fracassi and Theresa McNicol, were not included in the debate portion of the event but were able to introduce themselves and their platforms briefly.
The debate started with a tough question, asking candidates if they would be willing to rescind the 33 per cent salary increase for ward councillors, recently approved by the current council.
“The 33 per cent increase by council is disrespectful to all residents of Georgina, we’ve all struggled the last three years, and I will do everything possible to get rid of that for the people of Georgina,” Cathcart said.
Hirmann added the salary increase is ridiculous and feels like a kick in the face after the shutdowns due to the pandemic.
“I will absolutely, when I become mayor, suggest that is taken away. Also, the seven per cent given to the mayor will be given back to non-profitable organizations,” he said.
Sheffield supported the raise but said it needed to be reduced.
“My plan is to divide it over four years at 8.24 per cent, and then the following four years would be at 1.4 per cent locked after that,” he said.
Sebo, who voted for the raise as the current Ward 4 councillor, said it was a difficult decision for Georgina Council to make and that going forward, policies should be in place to reassess remuneration.
“Knowing that we were 42 per cent off the median mark, it was decided that 33 per cent was reasonable. Ward councillors will still be 9 per cent below the median,” he said.
Mayor Quirk also defended the raise. She said council remuneration was decided through a review process using the salaries of the position in comparative municipalities.
Still, She suggested Georgina should form a citizens’ review committee to review further compensation.
“Any review is for the next term of council. The increase is 33 per cent; it goes up from approximately $36,000 to $48,000 for council members. The total increase for all regional, mayor and council positions is $82,000 annually. On the budget, that means a .085 increase,” she said.
Davison also supported the raise. She argued it wasn’t fair to change the compensation candidates believed they would receive when they put their name forward.
Zimmermann said she has never seen anybody, whether in public or private service, receive a 33 per cent raise, and she would put a motion forward to rescind the raise.
Dale said he believes the rise was inappropriate.
“I think the example that Councillor Mike Waddington set by being brave enough to stand up against this is something that the Ward 5 councillor should emulate,” he said.
McCarthy disagreed with her opponent. She said that if the salaries are falling behind, then they won’t get qualified people at the table to handle the big decisions. She said the council compared other communities, and that is where the salaries should be.
Another big question of the night was whether off-road vehicles, licensed, plated and insured, should be allowed to use town roads year-round.
Mayor Quirk said it is an issue that has come up many times and that she supports getting a procedure in place to allow it.
Hirmann said four years ago; he started a petition with 1000 signatures to allow off-road vehicles on municipal roads.
“All municipal governments have the right to have a bylaw for or against. Georgina went for against. We can have it for if you vote for me,” he said.
Sheffield said a test should be in place, similar to a boating license test, to ensure proper care when operating an off-road vehicle, but that it should not be illegal on roads.
Cathcart said part of growing up in Georgina was having four-wheelers and dirt bikes, and he disagrees with how council voted against it.
Sebo said he thinks licensed and insured ATVs should be allowed on roads in Georgina, but we must ensure there are trails for them to go on.
Davison said as long as the driver is licensed, registered, and driving appropriately, they should be able to drive on town roads, but she said there needs to be a balance as there are ATV drivers who drive erratically.
Zimmermann said we should allow recreational vehicles on the roads as a recreational community, but she would like to see people insured.
Dale said allowing recreational vehicles on the roads through bylaw gives the YRP the mandate to remove those who are uninsured and unsafe from the roads.
“I’m fully supportive of licensed, insured, properly plated, and safe ATVs on the road, especially in Ward 5. And if that’s what bylaw necessitates to get moving, is only Ward 5, then I’m comfortable with that,” he said.
McCarthy said she is for ATVs on the roads as long as it is safe and people are responsible, but that something they will have to think about and plan for is tourism season when Highway 48 is busy.
The Pefferlaw Dam and plans for its conservation were also hot topics during the debate.
Sheffield said the dam has been there forever and that “whatever the cost, it has to be done.”
Cathcart admitted he wasn’t involved with the dam’s preservation. Still, he knows Pefferlaw is passionate about it, so he will do everything he can to ensure the funding and restoration.
Sebo said the council heard how important the dam is to Pefferlaw residents after the LSRCA said they would no longer be maintaining the dam.
He said the dam serves an important role but said during the 2022 budget discussions; he was against allocating $1M to the dam as there were many outstanding issues in every ward due to lack of funding. He said he does not believe Georgina should have to maintain the dam by itself.
Quirk said she made it clear to the LSRCA that the Pefferlaw dam needed to stay.
“Councillor Harding and I were the ones who put the motion forward to get $1M to assist with the repairs and the remediation of the Pefferlaw Dam during this last budget, and it was a great decision,” she said. “It is going to happen; we got $1M. The dam’s not going anywhere.”
Hirmann said he has seen the Save the Dam signs many times since moving to Pefferlaw and wants to work to get it done.
Dale said the dam was near and dear to him. He said he was a member of the Friends of the Dam group and has worked very hard for the dam.
“We advocated every day for two years, with the result of the dam in Town ownership and the funding to get it repaired,” he said.
McCarthy said the town has invested in repairing the dam and until testing is completed, all they can do is wait for the results to see where to go from there.
Davison said the dam is an important monument in Pefferlaw and is now a municipal asset which needs to be maintained.
“We’re going to put money aside every year to ensure that we have the money needed to replace, if necessary. We will repair it up to current standards, and whatever maintenance is needed during the year that needs to be done,” she said.
Zimmerman said although she was not directly involved in the advocacy for the dam, she did lend her support as a resident, and she knows that the dam needs to be saved.
While the PAR debate was not televised, you can watch previously recorded mayoral, regional councillor, and ward councillor debates on the Rogers tv Georgina YouTube channel.
The municipal election takes place on October 24. For more information on the election, visit www.georgina.ca/municipal-government/2022-election.
- Opinion: Town’s budget process promotes spending, not savings - November 29, 2023
- Local boxer ranked 4th in the world fights at Pickering Casino Resort on Dec 2 - November 22, 2023
- Local cafe owners offer free hot meals to those who can’t afford them - November 21, 2023