Meet the candidates for Burpee and Mills Township and Cockburn Island

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MANITOULIN—With the upcoming Manitoulin Island municipal elections taking place October 24, The Expositor is profiling the candidates for mayor/reeve and councillor positions in all those municipalities where elections will take place.

This week we are profiling candidates in Burpee and Mills Township and Cockburn Island.

For the Township of Burpee and Mills incumbent reeve Ken Noland was acclaimed for another term. However, there will be an election held for the four council positions with a total of 10 candidates in the running. Incumbent Art Hayden is in the race for one of the councillor seats along with Nicole Middleton, Kim Middleton, Ed Wright, Mike Wright, Melanie Blain, David Deeg, Steve Dinsmore, Larry Pfeiffer and Roger Morrell. Nicole Middleton could not be reached by press time Monday.

In Cockburn Island, incumbent Mayor Brenda Jones is seeking re-election while incumbent councillor Robert Brown is also in the running for the mayor’s position.

There are a total of seven people running for the four seats on council. They include Lee Chappell, Glen Cressman, Jeff House, Simon Lacombe, Evan Papineau, Richard Rintala and Scott Stewart.

This week also includes Ken Blodgett’s bid for Gore Bay council. The Expositor did not have Mr. Blodgett’s submission by press time last Monday to be included with the other Gore Bay candidates.

Cockburn Island

Rob Brown, mayoral candidate

After two terms on Cockburn Island Council, Rob Brown has thrown his hat into the ring for the position of mayor of the island, a place he refers to as ‘a gem.’

“I am finishing my second term on council, so I have been a councillor for the past eight years,” said Mr. Brown. “One of the reasons I am running for mayor is I feel there are new people coming to the island and they have a lot of questions without answers being provided.”

“There are residents who are happy if everything were to stay status quo and those who want to move forward. We need to help provide a mixture of both,” said Mr. Brown.

“I have been asked by a lot of people to run for the position of mayor,” Mr. Brown told The Expositor. “Those who have encouraged me to run say ‘you are a doer and seem to be able to get things done.’ I can give more back to the community and will continue to listen to what the taxpayers want, to move forward but not lose the quaintness and community spirit. This is a big issue in the community. Community spirit drives the island, we don’t have any retail stores on the island so if you need help with something or need a cup of sugar you have to go to your neighbours. Everyone has to work together.”

Mr. Brown noted he is a seasonal resident of Cockburn normally living there from May to November during the year. “My wife is a seasonal resident as well. I leave the Island to go to council meetings, the Manitoulin Planning Board, grocery shopping and pick up our mail in Espanola.”

“Cockburn Island is a gem,” stated Mr. Brown. “We have been very fortunate over the years to secure grants for work on our church, school and hall. But it’s the people that live there that are generating the money coming into the community.”

Mr. Brown said that the township is saving significant funds in its current roadwork and major waterfront project. “We have a road where work was needed to be carried out on it to make it a safe road for travellers. It needed to be carried out for safety.” The township received funding for this project.

“It was a former councillor who had the fantastic idea that if we are fixing the corner of the road, of using the rock that is being cleared there for our breakwall,” said Mr. Brown. He pointed out Cockburn had basically been given the wharf and breakwall on the island from the government with the township maintaining responsibility for it.

“It was Don Rodgers idea to use the rock that was being cleared for the road project, to use around our docks,” said Mr. Brown. “The road work will be finished this year, and the rock is being piled up. We will be ready to do the wharf breakwall project as soon as we get the okay from DFO (Department of Fisheries and Oceans) for work to be done in the water. There is only a small period of time the work can be carried out. We have generated enough excess rock from the road project that we don’t have to bring in any more rock for the wharf breakwall project.”

Mr. Brown said, “I am very satisfied with what we have done as council over the past few years. We have a very good council that thinks outside the box for solutions. Cockburn Island is a small place, and we have seven people running for four council positions, so you can see people are looking for some change to take place in terms of thinking to continue moving forward.”

Mr. Brown noted that Cockburn has grant money in place to revamp a small building on the Island for a first response centre to store first response equipment. “There is an old building that we could use for this centre, and we will be putting out tenders for this in January.”

“With the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC), a lot of negative comments have been made on Manitoulin Island about the land that they have purchased over the years,” said Mr. Brown. NCC owns a large tract of land on Cockburn Island as well. “We have a special relationship with Huron Timber, the NCC and Zhiibaahaasing First Nation on the Island. Everyone respects each other, we have very good rapport with all our partners and everyone’s interests are being heard and covered. The biggest thing is that we are all cultivating great relationships by having open communication.”

“We bill ourselves as being a conservation island because of the amount of property the NCC owns on the Island,” said Mr. Brown. “I feel it gives us an identity.”

Mr. Brown pointed out, “one of the reasons I feel I have the support of people is that I don’t quit; I put 150 percent into everything I do. People know that and respect that. The ratepayers are the ones who pay the taxes and number one their voice has to be heard.”

“I’m really enjoying being the Island representative on the planning board,” said Mr. Brown. “If we don’t keep our seat at the board table, we lose that representation. We need to have a voice at the table. I’ve really enjoyed being on the board, I have learned a lot and ask a lot of questions.”

Brenda Jones, incumbent

Candidate for Cockburn Island mayor Brenda Jones is seeking her third term at the helm of the Cockburn Island council table, having served for 14 years previously on council. Ms. Jones is the owner of the Valu Mart in Thessalon, but she has generally pulled back from day-to-day operations of the store.

Ms. Jones’ roots run deep in the Cockburn Island community. “My great, great, grandparents settled on the island and the log cabin they built still stands and is in use today,” she said. Generations of Ms. Jones’ family were born in that cabin. “Including my mother,” she said. She is the fifth generation in her family to serve on council.

Ms. Jones noted that, like all tiny rural communities, Cockburn Island faces some serious challenges in the years ahead—some related to being an island. “The sheer logistics of getting anything here is a challenge,” she said. “There is no bridge, no ferry, just about everything and everybody has to arrive by boat.” That places the community at the mercy of the weather in a way that most other communities don’t have to face and makes the community extremely dependant on its docks. “It’s really our only major infrastructure,” she said, noting that the municipality’s new roadwork is being leveraged to help rebuild the docks. As with most things, the pandemic-related supply chain issues are playing havoc with getting things done.

The other major issue springs from demographics.

“We are probably Ontario’s smallest municipality,” she said. “Yet the Ontario government expects us to meet all of the conditions and regulations of much larger municipalities—they expect us to be the same as Toronto, but we don’t have anything near the tax base they do.”

That adds an additional twist when trying to keep taxes in check while at the same time maintaining the charm of the island community.

Ms. Jones said that she “absolutely loves” her community. “I live here practically from the 10th of June until the 14th of September,” she said. Now that she is no longer involved in the day-to-day operations of her business, Ms. Jones has more time to enjoy life on Cockburn Island. “I get to see what is going on with my own eyes, not just getting reports.”

While she is focused on maintaining the charm of the community, Ms. Jones also said she believes Cockburn Island needs to move forward and “keep up with the times.” Hence the importance of the dock project.

“The current docks were built in 1949 and we did some major work about 15 to 20 years ago,” she said. “But we didn’t have the funds to complete it.” Thankfully, funding has come through from the upper tiers of government and, with the rubble displaced by the current road project, the docks are on the agenda for next year.

Ms. Jones’ links to the community are not simply forged through blood and history. She has been a central figure in most community events over the past several decades. “We usually have a big fish fry in August and in the fall, we hold a pork dinner for the hunters,” she said. Ms. Jones expressed hope those events will be able to resume in the coming year. “It is usually me that spearheads those events,” she said. “It is probably because of my background in the food industry.”

Ms. Jones said she enjoys her role on council and expressed the hope that the ratepayers of the community will continue to support her on October 24.

Burpee and Mills

Melanie Blain

I am a new member of the community having moved here with my husband almost six years ago. I have been a small business owner/operator for the better part of 25 years. I am currently running my business Pure Relaxation Studio in Mindemoya.

This is my first time running for council. What I lack in experience, I make up for in enthusiasm. I believe my years of running my own business have allowed me to develop many skills that have yielded me success in business. I believe these skills and my dedication to all I do will help me serve my community in an effective, responsible manner.

Burpee and Mills is a small community which is unique in its needs compared to larger communities, however at the heart of every community some things remain the same. Safe roads, affordable housing, fiscal responsibility and council transparency. I feel some fresh ideas and views are needed to move forward but it is also vital to maintain our way of life and values. As a community we need to be made more aware of what’s going on in our community. We need to have more say in the decisions that affect us and our way of life.

As a council member I plan on working hard to find ways to encourage community involvement in any changes made that effects peoples’ way of life or their personal property. To be a team player to support and encourage others’ views and plans to help improve the community as a whole.

I look forward to having the opportunity of serving our community.

David Deeg

I was born and raised in Burpee and am a permanent resident of the township. I think it’s a great community and I am proud to call it home.

I’m excited to run for council, and hoping I have something I can contribute to this community.

I’m sorry to lose the councillors that are not running for re-election as I feel the previous council has done a good job of using the finances and resources available.

If elected I hope to contribute my experience to help better the community.

I have no experience as a councillor. Moving forward, if elected, I would do my part to see that taxpayers’ dollars are put to good use. We have had great winter road maintenance these last few seasons and I would like to see that kept up. There is always improvements that can be made and I hope to help.

As for an agenda I have no personal grievances with services now. I would like to improve our disposal services for garbage and recycling. I would like to help improve on our summer road maintenance, and use of equipment. I would also like to see a plan set in place for a permanent access to our waterways, namely Bayfield Sound and Wolsey.

Steve Dinsmore

I have not had the opportunity to serve on council, however, throughout my career I have had the privilege of working for some world class companies, many of which I was a senior manager.

I strongly believe in small government, not large, and also feel in many cases the smaller the community the larger the politics.

I have decided to run for council as I feel that everyone should contribute something to the community.

The one thing I believe in most of all is freedom for everyone.

Art Hayden (incumbent)

Born and raised on Manitoulin in Burpee township, I and my wife, Cora, have many family ties in the township. We left Manitoulin to live and work in Sudbury. During that time, we maintained property in Burpee-Mills and our ties to the area.

I worked at Inco and Vale for more than 42 years, during which time I progressed to senor leadership positions in several operating facilities and administrative areas. I had the opportunity to successfully manage large teams of people, had accountability for all aspects of the business unit, including multi-million dollar operation and capital budgets. I also completed a number of university and training programs as part of my goal of life-long learning.

We moved back to Burpee-Mills in 2010, building a new home and becoming involved in community work.

My work experience and knowledge of the area have served me well in the past two terms on municipal council, and I have been proud to serve the residents of Burpee and Mills. I have been pleased to work with a diverse and talented group of councillors and staff members to get things done. My personal approach is to accept input and address issues in an objective, fact-based way. During this term on council, I have served as deputy reeve, chair of the recreation committee, chair of the Burpee Mills cemetery board, board member of Manitoulin Centennial Manor Long-Term Care Home and board member of Sudbury-Manitoulin District Services Board.

In terms of successes as a member of council, I have supported projects and initiatives to improve infrastructure and services while delivering a prudent, balanced budget and limited tax increases.

Moving forward some critical issues I see are the increasing costs of essential services such as policing and how this can affect the tax levy if senior levels of government funding do not keep pace with increases. Health care availability could become an issued due to stresses in the provincial health care system and, closer to home, if recruitment efforts are not successful to fill expected vacancies at the Gore Bay Medical Centre. This is certainly a concern in our municipality due to a relatively large senior population.

If elected, I will work diligently to represent all residents of Burpee Mills.

Kim Middleton (Johnson)

I am a Haweater and I am a proud descendant of those who pioneered both Mills and Burpee Township with my mother’s family being from Burpee and my father’s family from Mills.

Although I have lived in many different places throughout my life, I’ve never felt a greater sense of belonging than I do here. I am proud to call Burpee and Mills township my home.

Many people are running because they are inspired by specific issues. I am running for council because I think we need people who are willing to step up and provide strong leadership, integrity and common sense. Running for council is about giving back to the community and I consider myself to be an action-oriented individual who can contribute and make a difference.

While this is my first time running for council, I do feel my career, which has been spent in human resources, has provided me with many important skills that would be beneficial as a member of council. You can always count on me to listen, think critically, ask tough questions, communicate clearly and effectively, and tap into other resources for guidance when I’m unsure.

I hope you will find me worthy of consideration and support me when casting your vote.

Roger Morrell

I was born and raised in Evansville. After finishing high school at Manitoulin Secondary School, I went to Laurentian University where I finished a degree in chemistry. After coming back home for a couple of years to work as a carpenter, and a very brief stint teaching at MSS, I became an air traffic controller. I worked in the North Bay control tower for a couple of years before moving south and working at Pearson International for the remainder of my career.

I have always had it in the back of my own mind that one day I would like to serve on council. I’ve always been the type to get involved. One thing I have always avoided, though, is getting involved if I couldn’t commit. I retired recently and now have the time to devote myself to serving on council.

I do believe ‘serving’ is the correct word to describe being on council. I don’t have any agenda. There’s nothing in it for me. I am running in the election because this community is home. I know so many of the people that live here, and have my whole life, and I do think I can contribute something. I have no experience in politics, but I enter this race knowing that, if elected, I will have a lot to learn, but I’m prepared for that, and look forward to it.

I do believe I am a good candidate for council. I do have a ton of experience working with people. I spent 28 years working in a fairly stressful environment where communication and teamwork were everything. I don’t know a ton about local council operations, or even the biggest issues, but I’m a strong listener. I’m pragmatic. I avoid unnecessary conflict, preferring instead to find reasonable solutions that everybody can live with. I’m not the most outgoing person you will ever meet, but I do enjoy meeting people and working with others to solve problems.

If I’m elected, and you can contact me with a problem, you will be treated respectfully. I will listen, and I will help if I can. I promise no more than that.

I didn’t enter this race lightly. I considered it seriously waiting until the last minute before filing my nomination papers. If the voters in the township choose to elect me, I will do my best to be worthy of their support.

Sylvia Pfeifer

In response to the municipal election on October 24, 2022, I am submitting my name to the list of nominees.

I am fairly new to this community, but not new to politics.

In the past I was road superintendent for several years, and farmed for 43 years in Perth County, before moving to Manitoulin.

Being that I am currently in the farming business, my interest lies with road maintenance and drainage. I believe in the stewardship of the land, where agriculture meets nature. We have a lot of tourism here on the Island, whether it is cottagers, or hunters or farmers. Roads and drainage is good for property values if well maintained.

So, if your views are the same, perhaps I could count on your support on October 24.

Ed Wright

I was born and raised in the Township of Mills and have lived here my whole life. I farmed beef and dairy cattle and worked off farm at Manitoulin Transport, National Grocery and at Lafarge Meldrum Bay.

I spent two terms on council in the late 1990s and early 2000. While I served on council I served on the airport board, Provincial Offences Act board and roads board.

I have no personal agenda and decided to run because we in Mills have had no one on council in the last four years.

If elected I would work at keeping taxes in check, and as the only thing taxpayers see is how well the roads are kept. We are a small township and seem to have a lot of road equipment. I will be looking into why we needed a wheeled excavator.

I would like to say thank you to the previous council for keeping things in good shape during challenging times in the world.

Mike Wright

My main concern is proper management of our township roads. The upkeep on road repair/maintenance has been lacking in some areas over the past few years. We are a small township with a limited tax base therefore, we must be cognizant of our dollars and how they are spent.

I am looking forward to having a new voice on council to ensure the protocols of the ‘New Municipal Act’ are followed going forward.