An opinion on BESS proposal sent to Councillors.
Hello. My name’s Jane Lesslie and I’m running for Councillor in Ward 1 (Picton).
This web site is intended to inform potential voters and state my reasons for running and hopes for the future.
All posts are displayed on this page, from newest to oldest, six or so posts to the page. Try it, it’s all here!
So I blew it. There have been a lot of survey requests coming my way and I missed the deadline for the Prince Edward County Arts Council Survey of Candidates. What makes this even more frustrating for me is that along with their survey request, PECAC sent a terrific backgrounder/business case that lines up with my own guiding principles. You may recall these are:
- Be Fact Based/Employ Data
- Search Out Best Practices
- Quantify the Impact
- Recommend Specific Actionable Targets
You can find the link to their excellent paper here:
Some things I learned from their paper
- The Prince Edward County Arts Council represents 400 artists, galleries, arts organizations and community arts participants
- Moneysense.ca ranked the County 9th out of 100 cities in their list of “Canada’s Best Places for Arts and Community (2017)” (So we have momentum!)
- County Arts signature programs generate more than $1 million in direct and indirect economic benefits, including roughly $250,000 in arts sales, attended by 15,000 people
- 3.1% of the County workforce is in the arts, recreation and entertainment sector – on par with Stratford.
- The County Arts lab has created 30 new teaching jobs for artists and paid out $25,000 in teaching wages to artists
- The US National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has found that at risk students involved in the arts, compared to students with little to no arts exposure, have higher secondary school graduation rates and higher grades and test scores – including math and science. (Could they be of help to our highschools)
They have identified ideas from other communities
- Stratford and Kingston pay $3.56 and $4.36 per capita to arts related initiatives. The County pays $2.56.
- Guelph requires developers to pay a 4% of the land value of a project to a Community Benefits Charge which in part funds the arts
- Huntsville, Kingston and St. Catherines use a portion of the Municipal Accommodation Tax to fund art and cultural events
- Toronto has a public arts program whereby 1% of capital budgets of all major municipal buildings is dedicated to public art; and the city encourages a public art budget of 1$ of gross construction costs on private development
The Prince Edward County Arts Council is seeking a doubling of the annual budget for arts related activities to 137,000. This would represent 0.20% of our annual spending. (Or basically 1/5th of 1% of our spending)
I support this but with a few requests:
- That the annual art show held at the Armoury in July be moved to a non peak time of year – perhaps May? This fits with my goal of supporting tourism in shoulder seasons rather than peak seasons to smooth out the summer tourism impact and extend the tourism season to support the incomes of our people employed in the tourism sector
- Working with our school trustees, I’d like to see some of the funds be employed in our high schools for initiatives there to improve school results – seek out specific ideas from the US NEA?
- That we seek out project partners among nearby First Nations as part of our reconciliation efforts
- That the County encourage a matching program of donations. So we would start with an increase to $4 per capita (the halfway point between Stratford and Kingston) but encourage a matching program from the community in the first year, perhaps working with the County Foundation.
- Discuss with the Vital Signs team at the County Foundation how to go about assessing the impact of the increased funding.
I hadn’t realized just how impactful our Arts Community is. Thank you PECAC. Let’s Do More Of What Works!!
So I see Dryden’s point, but I can’t help but think about the message that Sarah Michel, Youth Inclusion Program (YIP) worker from the ROC (Recreation Outreach Centre) delivered at the recent County Foundation Vital Signs presentation. Sarah noted that only half our youth describe themselves in good mental health. The social and educational costs of COVID, the lack of full time well paying jobs in our community, a lack of affordable housing and now the responsibility for solving Climate Change. These are hefty demands on people who didn’t create these problems!
Then I saw Nolan Steen, a Queens University student, at the Mayoral All Candidates meeting last week. He had a very simple question for the candidates: “Why should young people vote for you?” There was a certain amount of mumbled response and then one candidate said “Because we’re up here and you’re not.” The room groaned. The tone of the response pushed me back in my chair (and the candidate immediately lost my vote).
Nolan, admirably undaunted, turned up again the following night at the Picton Ward All Candidates Meeting to ask questions again. We need more Nolans. And we need a Council that will listen to them. (Nolan did advise me that the candidate in question contacted him the next day to apologize.)
So here are a few thoughts I have for more youth engagement in the County
- We need a Youth Advisory Council to Council. The ROC’s Youth Advisory Council would seem a good place to start
- We should ensure there is a youth representative on each Advisory committee – and connect them to one another – again a potential youth council
- Vanessa Lavendar, our amazing youth rep on the Environmental Advisory Committee, has identified environmental champions at all the local high schools. We should have a youth council of the EAC since it is our young people who will pay the biggest price if we can’t get our act together.
- We need a closer working relationship between school trustees and council, with a focus on improving high school completion rates
- Could our high school students tutor our elementary school students who are wrestling with particular subjects in order to complete their volunteer hours?
- Scholarships for those from lower income families, or bursaries to help with transportation costs or the cost of a computer for distance learning.
- And of course – more affordable housing and year round full time jobs.
And maybe one day soon I’ll be serving on Council with Nolan and Vanessa
A number of people have forwarded to me an op-ed by Hockey Great, former MP and former Cabinet Minister Ken Dryden that appeared in the (still annoyingly un-linkable) Globe and Mail recently. Entitled “We Will Need To Find A New Possible – Ken Dryden on the Biggest Question Young Canadians Face: Climate Change”. It’s drawn from a course he designed and is delivering at McGill University: “Climate Crisis and Climate Action” As Dryden notes, young people have more skin in the game because of their longer expected life.
Note: link is here
Alexandra Asks: “We believe that our councilors should support affordable housing, but also have to help the public redefine what affordable housing looks like – not a four bedroom, four bathroom, rec-room etc..”
I support the work being done by the Prince Edward County Affordable Housing Corporation (PECAHC), particularly the recent secondary suites pilot. And while I’m sad to see Councilor Margetson step down from Council, I’m reassured by his appointment as Chair to PECAHC.
If I look at the PECAHC and County Foundation needs analysis, our principal requirement is for rental accommodation for singles and couples, particularly those who are older or wrestling with disabilities. At a recent presentation, Chuck Dowdall, the Executive Director of PECAHC reported that 750 affordable homes are on the way over the next 3-4 years, including 20 Tiny Homes.
One example is the upcoming Picton Disraeli Street project – 12 units, half bachelor apartments and half one bedrooms. Fifty per cent of the units are available to indigenous youth age 18-30 who are working in the County. I like this initiative for a number of objectives that it meets.
- The focus on helping people working in the community given the challenges our businesses have attracting and retaining staff
- It is helping people 18-30 who are among the most challenged finding affordable housing
- The size of the units meets the needs identified for singles and couples
- It is being done in partnership – in this case with the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte
- And it represents a specific action supporting reconciliation with First Nations, not just words