Meet the candidates for mayor and council of Central Manitoulin

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

This week we are profiling candidates in the municipality of Central Manitoulin. Elections will take place for the position of mayor, with the candidates being Richard Stephens, Steven Shaffer and Maja Mielonen. There are three people vying for two council seats from Ward 3 (Sandfield). They include Rosemarie Diebolt, Linda Farquhar and Lois Middaugh Keller.

For Ward 1, Campbell, Brian Mitchell and Derek Stephens and Ward 2, Carnarvon, John Bisaillon and Dale Scott have been acclaimed.

The candidates for mayor and council follow alphabetically below.

Candidates for Mayor

Maja Mielonen

Maja Mielonen is proud of her past accomplishments, but stresses that she is grateful to the community for the support she has received both for her social endeavours aimed at improving her community and for the business she has successfully run in Mindemoya for the past 12 years—much of it as a single mother.

“I am running for mayor because I have been working for the betterment of our community for years,” she said. “I love my community and I want to give back.”

A meticulous planner, Ms. Mielonen has attended every committee and council meeting for several months in order to better understand the work of council and the issues that it deals with.

“I have come to realize that council and administration are not always aligned with what people want,” she said. “I intend to bring a lot of transparency and honesty, and especially, a lot of listening to the interests of all of our communities, not just Mindemoya.”

Ms. Mielonen cites a three-facet approach to community interests—”honouring the past, the present and the future.”

Among the key issues that are facing the community in the present and future is the question of waste. Ms. Mielonen said she was intrigued by a recent project aimed at alleviating Island communities’ waste issues but adds a caveat. “I know very little about the plan,” she said, “most of the discussions with Gagnon (Gagnon Renewable Resources Inc., the proponents of a waste to energy plant proposed to be based in Central Manitoulin) have been held in camera. I do know there is a plan to offer them a lease with option to purchase land near the current abattoir.”

Ms. Mielonen said she believes it is important that Central Manitoulin look to the future through a lens of sustainability and innovation. She notes that council has been aware of the issues surrounding the community’s landfill site for 20 years. “We must acknowledge the present,” she said. “Something needs to be done.”

Ms. Mielonen noted that Central Manitoulin has been very successful in attracting seniors to settle in the community through establishing and expanding opportunities. “We need to do more to create the ability for those seniors to stay in the community, instead of having to go to Little Current or Gore Bay,” she said, adding that more needs to be done to improve opportunities for youth.

Ms. Mielonen noted that European communities have enjoyed considerable success with models pairing seniors and senior care with youth and childcare. “Seniors and the young are a good match,” she said. “The old have patience and the young need guidance.”

Other key challenges include the need for affordable housing, an issue that Central Manitoulin shares with communities across the province, she notes. “Job retention and affordable entry-level housing are very important. Job opportunities are here,” she continued, “but here needs to be a place for people to stay in order to take advantage of those opportunities.”

“I really admire the people who stood up for the Mindemoya Old School,” she said, “honouring our history, celebrating and being proud of what our history is.” Ms. Mielonen noted the current plans for repurposing of the Mindemoya Old School. “I think the Old School will be a revolving door of opportunities for seniors.”

“We need to embrace the future with a clear vision and a clear plan for our asset management,” she said. “All communities are mandated by the province to have an asset management plan in place; the last time Central Manitoulin created one was a while back.”

Ms. Mielonen said that council’s decision to pour vast sums of money into assets such as the arena in Mindemoya was not the way to go. “That arena was red-flagged years ago as something that needs to be replaced,” she said. “We need to have a vision and strategic plan where people are able articulate what they want.”

She pointed to the need for more recreational assets along the community’s waterfronts, both for residents and visitors.

As for the assets she would bring to the head of the council table, Ms. Mielonen pointed to her experience and many successes in lobbying different levels of government, noting that she has a great rapport with the Ministry of Transportation through her work on creating 1,500 kilometres of cycling trails across the North, paved shoulders on Highways 550 and 551 (“we are working on Highway 552 which remains in terrible shape.”).

Her community involvement has included founding and stewarding Manitoulin Island Cycling Advocates since 2010, sitting on the board of Manitoulin Fine Arts Association, sitting on a travel advisory board for the region and 25 years of helping to advance the arts and businesses on Manitoulin.

Steve Shaffer

Steve Shaffer is hoping to have the top job in Central Manitoulin council this October and is running for mayor of the municipality.

“For the past four years, I have sat on Central Manitoulin council. You don’t do that job, and yes, it’s a job, for the accolades and you certainly don’t do it for the pay. You do it because you have a vision, passion, and a commitment to your community.”

“I bring four years of history and experience having been a member of council for one term. So, I’m not coming in cold,” stated Mr. Shaffer.

“If I’m honest, through those last four years there have been times when I asked myself, ‘why am I doing this, is this worth the stress and aggravation?’” said Mr. Shaffer. “I pride myself on being prepared for all meetings and I’m confident that if you speak to any of my colleagues they would acknowledge this preparation.”

“After awhile I realized that if I was going to put in that much time and effort I should utilize my skillset at the next level, being mayor of the municipality,” said Mr. Shaffer.

“When I announced my intention to seek the mayoral position, some folks asked, ‘what is your platform?’ There is no simple answer to this question. We face many of the same challenges that other municipalities throughout Ontario face.” “Housing, jobs, inflation, engaging and retaining our youth, landfills, and provincial downloading are just a few of our challenges. We have people that are getting out of their homes and moving elsewhere because they can’t afford the costs of owning a home. We, like a lot of municipalities throughout the province face the same housing supply shortages.”

“And the province continues to download more on municipalities without providing the necessary funding to support this,” said Mr. Shaffer.

“We also face the additional challenges of providing infrastructure to a population that increases significantly during the summer months,” continued Mr. Shaffer.

“I hope as a council, as a team, we can take a collaborative approach to solving these and other issues, thinking outside the box, and considering private/public partnerships,” said Mr. Shaffer.

“I recognize the need to keep property taxes low and at an affordable level. Any additional spending will need to be based on sound financial information and be beneficial to the municipality. The role of the mayor and council is to do what is in the best interest of the municipality and its ratepayers.”

Mr. Shaffer said, “many may know me as a retired postmaster from Canada Post. However, my 32-year career with Canada Post is much more extensive than that. Through evaluations and performance appraisals, they demonstrate my ability to lead. These skills combined with my municipal experience make me the best choice for mayor of Central Manitoulin.”

“Even in my early ears I demonstrated an ability to respond, access and manage a situation, while under pressure,” said Mr. Shaffer. He pointed to an award he received in 1979 at the age of 18, from the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem certificate of commendations for ‘who near Providence Bay on April 3, 1979, during and immediately following the time a school bus in which he was riding rolled onto its side, acted in a very cool, helpful and responsible manner, managing and preventing possible injury to a small girl by grabbing her and shielding her, opened the emergency door and removed an injured boy and tended the injured boy and prevented him from going into shock.’ “I have been able to build upon and enhance these abilities throughout my working career and life.”

Mr. Shaffer noted as well, “I am proud that I have received the support of two or three councillors who are endorsing my run for mayor.”

Mr. Shaffer said, “I strongly believe that I have the skill set, desire, drive, and municipal experience to build a team approach that will tackle current issues and lead Central Manitoulin into the future, it’s time for change, it’s time for a new management and leadership style.”

Richard Stephens, incumbent

Central Manitoulin incumbent mayor Richard Stephens was born at the old Red Cross hospital in Mindemoya. After completing high school on the Island, he headed to Toronto to attend university. Mr. Stephens is married with three children, who live in Alberta, Manitoba and Southeast Asia. “We all left the Island at some point,” he said. “I was one of the fortunate ones to come back.”

In Toronto, he took the courses he needed to obtain his accounting designation. That education has served him well over the years, as he held positions as accountant, auditor/audit supervisor and controller at various organizations including Canada Packers, Manitoulin Transport and the Department of National Defence. Mr. Stephens is currently owner/manager of Rainbow Accounting in Mindemoya.

Mr. Stephens has an extensive history of community involvement and municipal service. He has served as mayor of Central Manitoulin since 2003, except for the years between 2010 and 2014 when Gerry Strong held the seat. “It’s a job that has to be done and I have the experience to do it,” he said.

Aside from his time as mayor of the Municipality of Central Manitoulin, he has been a councillor for the former Township of Carnarvon and chairman of several boards and associations, including the Manitoulin Planning Board, Manitoulin Municipal Association, Manitoulin Economic Development Association and the Espanola Credit Union. He has been involved in minor hockey, serving as president of Mindemoya Minor Hockey and treasurer of Manitoulin Minor Hockey Association. Mr. Stephens also served as secretary of the Central Manitoulin Lions Club and as a member of the Manitoulin Sudbury District Services Board.

He believes his management experience is a valuable asset for the municipality and has entered this race for re-election because of his ongoing interest in the well-being of his community. “I want to continue to make Central Manitoulin the place of choice to start or expand businesses,” he said.

He also wants to continue to improve roads, buildings and infrastructure and to make Central Manitoulin “a great place to live and work.” That includes an ongoing program to hard-top all municipal roads and a commitment to making improvements that are compatible with a changing climate.

Mr. Stephens would like to work with the community to develop an assisted living facility for seniors on Manitoulin Island. “That project is very ongoing,” he said. “It’s been talked about for a long time.” When the apartment building across from the hospital was erected, the game plan for the second stage was to build an assisted living facility but there hasn’t been any activity from the developers since then.

Assisted living is like the step between long-term care and staying in one’s own home, he explained. “There’s a lot of people here who would fit into that category but they’re losing that opportunity,” said Mr. Stephens. “We’re still working with a couple of other groups to encourage them to look seriously at developing assisted living here on the Island and hopefully in Central Manitoulin.”

Mr. Stephens would encourage environmentally sensitive economic growth that would provide opportunities for young people to live and work on the Island. “If there’s something we can do to support and facilitate working in a green environment, we want to do that,” he said.

“We’ve accomplished a lot during these past few terms,” he added. “For example, we bought that property just at the bridge on Highway 551 and built the Welcome Centre. It’s used as a stepping stone to go into the museum, which is a popular attraction during summer months and is also a big hit with local schools. We have a school day and have guided tours, and those have been well received.”

He is also proud of the reconstruction of Yonge Street from the main corner heading south. That project also involved better flood controls as flooding had long been an issue there. Mr. Stephens didn’t take the credit for the project itself, which received the go-ahead and a 90 percent funding contribution from the province during Gerry Strong’s term as mayor, but Mr. Stephens and the previous council had worked on previous proposals for the project to get the ball rolling.

He is promoting accountability within the mayoral office and wants to ensure a direct line of communication between himself and taxpayers; to help facilitate that, Mr. Stephens plans to regularly attend at the municipal office. He urges all eligible voters to get out and vote and hopes to once again represent Central Manitoulin as its mayor.

Candidates for Council

Rose Diebolt – Ward 3  (Sandfield)   

My reasons for being re-elected as your councillor for Ward 3 of The Municipality of Central Manitoulin are quite simple.

My agenda is to help Central Manitoulin and Manitoulin Island move forward for our generations and future generations.

Since moving here almost 40 years ago, we have been involved in a small business for 28 years, have raised a family here and  followed them through our school system until they left for other endeavours. We have used our local arena, library, hospital and all stores, etc. extensively.  Some of our children have returned to live here. There are now three generations of us here, including young grandchildren, that will need the same and better opportunities in our municipality than we had, as will any young family wanting to move here.

Of major importance to our township are the following: a new landfill site that utilizes alternative methods to reduce our waste footprint. We need to look after our garbage- trucking it off the island makes it someone else’s problem and is a temporary measure only. It will not reduce our carbon footprint. We are already considering these methods.

We need a modern arena/recreation centre for all of us here now, and for future users. This building must be multi-purpose to accommodate all users and increase recreational, cultural and social opportunities.

We need to really look after all of our lakes and rivers-especially Lake Mindemoya- it is of utmost importance to our municipality as a water supply and recreational use. It needs to have an environmental assessment done on it for future users (and us) to help with managing it and for baseline data. We have started this.

As taxpayers- we all realize that we have limited funds available, and we need to look after our roads, infrastructure and all services that we utilize and presently pay for. Your taxpayer dollars must be spent wisely. I would like to continue to be part of that and represent you.

We have an amazing municipality on an amazing Island. What a wonderful place to live.

Lois Middaugh Keller – Ward 3

I was born and raised in Big Lake and have lived most of my life in Central Manitoulin. I have been a member of many organizations over the years; from former Director of the Manitoulin Tourism Association, to current member of the Little Current Lions Club, 3rd Vice of the Little Current Legion and Treasurer of The Big Lake Community Association. But it is not important what I’ve done in the past, it’s what I can do in the future that is important.

In the past, I have preferred to work behind the scenes to make the endeavours of others a reality.  Over the last couple of years, I have learned that if you believe in something, if your heart is truly in it, you must, as a colleague of mine likes to call it, be the ‘head of the spear’.

I am running for council because my heart is truly committed to both honouring the heritage and improving the future of my ward and municipality.  This can only be accomplished by officials talking and listening to their constituents so that informed decisions can be made based on the peoples’ wishes, while also creating a more independent community.

A clear example of this is the pending closure of our landfill. I believe the current potential solution will save the taxpayer long-term, and possibly create a future source of income.  I would, if elected, follow through on this direction and work to expedite the solution.

I would also request each ward put forth a “wish list”; ways constituents believe their wards and municipality can be improved.  Council can then research, evaluate, and prioritize these requests in an effort to honour the taxpayers’ wishes.

It is crucial to honour and care for the resting places of our forefathers, thus I would work to reinstate cemetery boards.  The boards will ensure the upkeep of our cemeteries and create items such as gravesite layouts for family and friends to locate their loved ones.

Based on my personal experiences, I would ensure taxpayers have a say in decisions on closing or divesting of municipal properties and the possibility of a new multi-million dollar complex. I would also advocate for the implementation of more frequent inspections on our municipal buildings to avoid damages we have incurred in the past few years.

It is my firm belief that an elected official’s key role is listening to and representing the interests of their taxpayers and I would be honoured to represent you.

Linda Farquhar – Ward 3

My name is Linda Farquhar and I am a candidate for the position of councillor representing Ward 3, Big Lake/Sandfield, in the Municipality of Central Manitoulin.

I was born and raised in Big Lake and have resided there in retirement for the past 22 years.

I have served one full term on council and part of another so feel that I have knowledge of council operation.

For Ward 3 I would like to see a few improvements. We have a very dangerous intersection at the top of a hill in the Sandfield area which I would like to see fixed.

There are many cottages and homes built around the lakes in our ward—Big Lake, Manitou and Windfall—but we have very few public beaches. I would like to see some beach development on land belonging to the council around the lakes so all residents and visiting tourists can have access.

Just a reminder also that we as residents should be very thankful that we do have good roads, fire protection and ambulance service at all times.

Reaching beyond the borders of Ward 3 I would like to see a “Memory Wall” built in the Mindemoya cemetery. In this day and age many people prefer to be cremated. This wall would be a nice option to have.

Of course my dream is to have a new side street built in Mindemoya that would enable traffic coming from the east to get to doctor’s appointments, dentist appointments, the Hospital and Hwy 551 exiting Mindemoya without having to deal with the main corner in Mindemoya, which I feel the Ministry of Transportation will never fix, and is the cause of an accident waiting to happen.

Providence Bay has a wonderful beach and boardwalk which needs no promoting and is a wonderful tourist attraction.

If I am elected I will work towards keeping municipal taxes low so that our senior citizens can afford to live in their own home if they so choose.

We should also have more activities in our community for our seniors to take part in which is sadly lacking now considering the high number of seniors living in the area.

Council can discuss and make Motions but we also need to have co-operation from staff at all levels to carry out these tasks. No more should we operate with the attitude of ‘we’ and ‘them.’ More emphasis needs to be put on this problem I think.

My door is always open and my phone number is in the phone book. If you have a problem or a question I will try to help—just contact me.

I thank you in advance for your vote in October.