Another Survey

Late last week another survey from Paul Allen dropped into my mailbox.

The preamble was an extensive list of County documents on the topics covered by this survey – a helpful invitation to read and understand … following which I was requested to offer my thoughts by ‘rating’ each of eight strategic initiatives.

  • By-law and policy review
  • Downtown revitalization
  • Healthcare initiatives
  • Municipal Accommodation Tax
  • PEC Affordable Housing Corp.
  • Short-Term Accommodations
  • Tourism management
  • Understanding Growth and Water/wastewater infrastructure

Respondents were asked to ‘Please rate your overall progress/satisfaction with each initiative using the following values:’

  • Very dissatisfied
  • Dissatisfied
  • Neither dissatisfied or satisfied
  • Satisfied
  • Very satisfied

I voted neither dissatisfied or satisfied across the board and provided my rationale as follows:

My concern does not lie with the individual initiatives (thus my neutral rating on all of them) but the lack of joined up thinking! The question for each initiative is how does it further the strategic priorities, identified at the beginning? Only Tourism management identifies the strategic initiatives that it supports. To illustrate: As each bylaw is reviewed it should be tested against the seven strategic priorities – does it further them? And we need to consider how they interact with one another! Our Short Term Accommodation and Municipal Accommodation Tax policies must be viewed in the context of our affordable housing shortage. Since STAs have pressured our local housing affordability and supply, the MAT tax should go to supporting the development of affordable housing. This will require an activist Council demanding this change from Queens’ Park which dictates all funds go to tourism. I don’t think the County lacks for tourism?

The survey concluded by asking that I ‘Please outline one County-wide strategic initiative that is missing from the above and should be adopted by Council’. My answer was that there is no strategic initiative that directly addresses the risks and costs we face from climate change and other environmental risks. Peterborough has budgeted $4 million to cope with the affects of Emerald Ash Borer, Kingston $6 million. The County spent $1.7 mil on flooding impacts on municipal property alone in 2017. Heat waves will affect both the crops we are able to grow. French vineyards have seen their entire production wiped out due to high temperatures. Are our wineries not facing the same risks? What are the threats to our agriculture community from environmental sources? Bylaw and policy reviews should pass through a climate impact lens.

And while we’re at it, why does the “stable and diversified economy” priority speak only of tourism? We need to diversify our economy and bring year-round full time jobs to the County which in turn will support our business community. Look at the effect COVID had on our tourism industry. Full time work will help people with the cost of living here.

The good news is this is far from a finished process. It was disappointing to see Council defer the next stage of the strategic planning process until the next Council. And it was ironic as the next stage was to consult with us in the community! Why defer that? It could only help the incoming council.

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