EDITOR’S NOTE: This week marks The Manitoulin West Recorder’s first coverage of the municipal election candidates, with the elections taking place on Manitoulin and throughout Ontario on October 22. This week we are profiling the three candidates for the position of mayor in Billings. In a subsequent edition of The Recorder we will profile the candidates for Billings council.
“I am committed to ensuring that Billings taxpayers get good and fair services with a reasonable tax burden,” said Ian Anderson, a candidate for mayor of Billings Township in the upcoming municipal election.
Mr. Anderson said he is “committed to ensuring that our collective voice is heard when meeting with government.” And, “I am committed to listening to and acting on the concerns of the residents of Billings Township.”
“I am committed to ensuring that Billings Township remains a great place to live for all its residents, myself and all our families.”
Mr. Anderson has lived in Billings for the past 43 years (with a total of 45 years on Manitoulin). He has been a member of the Billings Township volunteer fire department, sat on Billings’ recreation committee and assisted in improvements to Kagawong’s tennis court and in the construction of the outdoor rink.
He was vice-president of Western Manitoulin Minor Hockey for two years and a coach and trainer for minor hockey for six years.
“I have assisted in raising over $4,500 in the last three years for Manitoulin Streams to further their fish habitat improvement projects across Manitoulin and the Kagawong River, and volunteered on a number of Manitoulin Streams projects to improve the health of the river ecosystems, restore spawning beds and educate the public.”
Mr. Anderson said he believes the future of healthy ecosystems relies heavily on the education of our youth and he has been involved for most of his time on Manitoulin in programs within the schools, most recently through the Gore Bay Fish and Game Club (GBFGC). “I was successful in obtaining funding to purchase one micro hatchery outright and assist in funding a second hatchery. Students in Gore Bay and Mindemoya learned how to raise sportfish from eggs to fingerlings and stock in local waters.”
Mr. Anderson is a member of the GBFGC and assisted in rearing walleye to advanced fall fingerling size for stocking in Lake Kagawong in the hopes of establishing a fishery that will greatly benefit the community.
He is a current member of the Manitoulin Planning Board, appointed to represent Cockburn Island.
Mr. Anderson was appointed as a Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) conservation officer on Manitoulin Island in 1973 and over the next 36 years his duties expanded to include district investigator, MNRF prosecutor and intelligence officer with a focus on investigating commercial wildlife crimes within Sudbury District and across Northeastern Ontario.
He currently serves on several organizations including the Auxiliary Coast Guard—Manitoulin for the past 40 years; 10 years as co-chair of Fishery Management Zone 14 Advisory Council working with the MNRF on issues affecting northern Lake Huron and the North Channel; 10 years with the North Shore Search and Rescue; two years as a member of Fishery Management Zone 11 Advisory Council which includes Manitoulin and the North Shore; two years as a member representing Manitoulin on an advisory council to the Sudbury District of the MNRF; member of the GBFGC and the Cockburn Island Conservation Club for over 30 years, assisting in projects to improve the fish and wildlife stocks locally; 10-year member of the Friends of Misery Bay Park, “where I have led educational tours and given lectures to youth groups visiting the park.”
“To be an effective mayor you should be an effective communicator,” said Mr. Anderson. “Work well in a team environment; ensure that council meetings run smoothly, efficiently and effectively; know what is important to the township taxpayers; see that long range planning in an affordable manner be implemented to further the township strategic plan; and ensure the taxpayer is updated in a timely fashion on capital projects.”
“It is also important to try to maintain a balance between infrastructure improvements that benefit all citizens of the municipality and those improvements that benefit specifically those living either in the village or in the outlying areas,” said Mr. Anderson. “We need to ensure that our roads are safe and well maintained, that we have good fire protection and that the mayor, council and township staff all be accessible and accountable.”
“One of the ongoing issues in the township is the low water levels on Lake Kagawong,” said Mr. Anderson. “Extreme heat and a lack of precipitation this year contributed, but it is a complicated issue requiring perhaps some changes to how we manage water in the lake.”
“But generally speaking, in going door-to-door to meet taxpayers, people are happy with Billings Township. That is one reason I’ve lived here for 43 years,” he said. “Billings has a wonderful natural attraction in Bridal Veil Falls; estimates vary but perhaps as many as 25,000 to 35,000 folks visit annually.”
“I like the direction our past councils have guided Billings Township generally. We have an excellent recreation committee, a great library and museum and with the current planned waterfront upgrades, all will contribute to keeping Billings a great place to live,” said Mr. Anderson.
“The township of Billings is an active, growing community thanks to the efforts of our long-serving mayor, Austin Hunt, of our dedicated township staff and council and of our many enthusiastic volunteers and residents,” said Ms. Erskine. “I am excited about our opportunities for the future and I have the experience and knowledge to manage decision-making in this beautiful and energetic community.”
“Why am I running for mayor? I love working on behalf of this community and I want to do more! Ultimately, I can hit the ground running as mayor because I am currently working on township initiatives and I’m connected to outside municipal resources and people through webinars, reading and conferences.”
As for her vision for Billings, Ms. Erskine said, “I want residents to feel a sense of belonging to this community. Billings is a vibrant township, alive with events and culture. These events create a sense of connection among residents-to each other and to our township. Let’s keep this connection alive online. In addition to activities, transparent and easy-to-access website information can provide accurate reports about projects, activities, council decisions and committee work.”
“Another part of my vision includes acting on our strategic plan goals for infrastructure, economic development, energy efficiency and outreach to the community,” continued Ms. Erskine. “The processes for council and committee decision-making will be made clear and available. All committees will include public members. Residents will feel a sense of belonging when they are both informed and actively engaged with their township.”
“How do we get there, to this vision of a connected, vibrant community that achieves its strategic goals? Billings needs a leader who is open, accountable and effective.”
“As an open leader, I plan to write quarterly reports as mayor to update people on projects and activities in the community,” she said. “Not to mention, people will have a good sense of where their tax dollars are being spent and how these initiatives will benefit Billings. Mayor’s reports will be available in hard copy and online so I can reach out to season and permanent residents wherever they may be. I will bring our committee representatives together to plan a yearly calendar of events. Agendas and minutes for all committee meetings will be uploaded to the website and I will work with the township staff to make this website easier to navigate. I also plan to meet with and listen to community youth and seniors to understand their needs and ideas. Openness, communication and listening will serve to enhance the connectedness of our community.”
Ms. Erskine said, “as an accountable leader, I will work with council to set short- and long-term priorities to address our community goals. For example, we can look at short-term and long-term approaches to dealing with water levels in Lake Kagawong. The short-term strategy is to meet with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) and Oakville Hydro to review practices in making water level data available to the township, to discuss the rule curve and to review our contract. Our township could establish a reporting responsibility to council so that council (and the public) is regularly updated about water levels.”
“For the long-term, we need to look at lake health in general,” she said. “Our township has the Go Green committee that has already hosted successful Green Living events. Volunteers and lakeside residents can work together and host an event to educate the public about protecting water resources and dealing with climate change impacts. Public involvement, public events and clear communications about our progress are keys to accountability.
“As an effective leader, I will support council by setting council meeting agendas that reflect our strategic plan goals,” said Ms. Erskine. “For example, now that we have data about the condition of our municipal buildings from the Facility Condition Assessment (delivered in December 2017), council and the infrastructure committee can meet regularly and develop a comprehensive plan. I will support council in setting annual targets for achieving all of our strategic plan goals as well as tracking progress in meeting goals and staying on budget.”
Fiscal responsibility is at the forefront of Margaret Tuomi’s campaign. The former councillor told the Recorder, “I want to make sure we take care of and manage the ratepayers’ money in the best possible way for all residents of the township. So fiscal responsibility, accountability and honest open discussion is what I would focus on as mayor.”
Billings Township covers a vast area and is not just the Village of Kagawong, said Ms. Tuomi. “We have boat launches that need repair or replacement, roads in poor condition, a high cost of water for residents, a fire department that needs to be brought up to standard, infrastructure requirements and bridges that need to be replaced. Our municipal water system is old and more and more homes are being built, putting more demand on the system, so we need to be planning and saving to replace lines, repair leaks and find a way to increase the number of users. We need to be planning for the problems associated with a waste site closure.”
“We need to work as a team and be ready with plans and costs in place to apply for funding as it becomes available from government for municipal projects,” continued Ms. Tuomi.
“I am very concerned with the low water levels everywhere, but especially concerned with Lake Kagawong,” said Ms. Tuomi. “The water levels of Lake Kagawong are supposed to be controlled. Why has the municipality allowed the lake level to be drawn so low? We need to find solid solutions to these problems and monitoring carried out on a regular basis.”
Ms. Tuomi noted her education consisted of a diploma in Accounting Finance, a degree in Business Management, a certificate in Customer Service, the council and heads of council training courses through the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO), a certificate of Community Emergency Management Coordinator Course and a certificate in Adjudication for Administrative Boards and all are beneficial to the position of mayor.
Her experience consists of seven years on Billings council, (a three-year term and a four-year term), acting as deputy reeve in the second term, she did run for mayor against Austin Hunt eight years ago and lost. She served 10 years on the Council of Nurses of Ontario, chairing several committees and discipline hearings and is now retired from the College of Nurses. She spent three years on the Manitoulin-Sudbury Community Care Access Board and many years on the Western Manitoulin Royal Canadian Legion executive. She has spent the past 25 years working as an accountant, tax preparer, consultant and is now semi-retired and has the time and energy to devote to being mayor of Billings Township.
As for any major projects she would like to see the township undertake in the next few years, Ms. Tuomi noted, “we will be walking into two major projects that are set to move forward in the summer of 2019. We need to be prepared and we need to repair and replace infrastructure instead of putting bandages on problems. We have a great number of volunteers in Billings township and their input is invaluable–actions speak louder than words.”
“My husband and I chose to live in this township 33 years ago and as a team we built a wonderful home and property and made many great friends,” said Ms. Tuomi.
She added, “most of the people on Manitoulin enjoy the beauty of the rocks, trees and starlit sky, so you can ask yourself what amount of change do you want? In the words of the old Joni Mitchell song, ‘Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone—paved paradise put up a parking lot’.”