Aspiring resident reviews candidates’ messages

Photo: Harrison Haines

As a prospective resident of the Township of Madawaska Valley and therefore likely to be impacted by the soon-to-be-elected Council, I took the opportunity to hear each candidate’s platform and their responses to questions from the community at the All Candidates Meeting held at Barry’s Bay Royal Canadian Legion Hall on October 11th. I’m not eligible to vote in this municipal election, however I have a real stake in its outcome.

I’m a regular visitor to the area. For close to a year now, I have spent every other weekend and most of my holiday breaks in Barry’s Bay. I have taken occasions to see and do much of what the Madawaska Valley has to offer. I have visited antique shops, art and craft shops, and museums. I have strolled beaches and trails, eaten at church suppers and farmer’s markets, and, recently, journeyed a studio tour. I receive the warmest welcomes everywhere I go, and when I look onto the natural beauty of the Madawaska Valley and reflect on the kindness of its people, I can’t think of a better place to put down roots.

Now, I want to preface my remarks on the All Candidates Meeting by acknowledging the efforts of the incumbents in their roles as Councillors and Mayor. I’m under no illusion about the challenges they contend with on a regular basis, and I’m sure their investment of time in connection with the Council exceeds what most of us would expect for a job with a part-time designation. I commend the other candidates vying for a place in the Council too; their resolve to contribute to the operation of the Township is worthy of admiration.

Imagine my disappointment to hear the incumbent Mayor’s platform (and subsequent statements) replete with reports of division and infighting. I won’t dwell on whether that discord is among the members of the current Council or the villagers of the Madawaska Valley. Instead, I want to point out the picture painted by the Mayor’s gloomy narrative. In the position of appealing for the support of the residents of Madawaska Valley, the Mayor could hardly muster one good sentiment about the community. That didn’t sound good to someone thinking about establishing himself (and a business) here.

It was clear that some members of the current Council have found their duties increasingly onerous. Frankly, I was taken aback by their divulgements of dismay and frustration. I wondered, Is this a pity-party for them or a town hall meeting for the residents? It goes without saying that the work of a municipal council member is tough. I for one showed up to hear the candidates’ plans for making a great place greater.

I don’t want to give the impression that the incumbent members of Council didn’t share their achievements of the past 4 years. A few were mentioned but most of them pertained to minimizing property tax increases. Laudable though the accomplishment may be, low property taxes don’t attract visitors to the Madawaska Valley, and they don’t, on their own, persuade those visitors to stay for a lifetime. Low property taxes are an “added extra”; they don’t make up for a shuttered gallery, unkempt attractions, and reduced recreation programs.

On the topic of recreation…. Of all the questions posed during the All Candidates Meeting, the one about the recent closure of the Madawaska Valley Fitness Centre gave me pause for thought. The questioner, who exercised in the Fitness Centre on a regular basis, wanted to know why it closed. The Mayor placed the blame squarely on the community at large. Not enough people had purchased memberships.

Losing a fitness centre is all the more distressing when you consider the difficulty of attracting health care providers to the region. There are too few physicians here and now one less space for residents to exercise and be proactive about their health. One has to wonder about a Council that continues to whittle away at the things that are needed for a good quality of life.

In these last laps around the campaign trail, I hope the candidates will show more enthusiasm for the township they’re asking to serve. Tell folks about the cultural and recreational initiatives you have planned. I’m beginning to worry that the activities I enjoyed over the last year will be taken away.

8 Comments

  1. Joanne Olsen

    Let’s hope that all candidates have HEARD Jason’s comments as well as the excellent responses to his remarks. Our Ottawa Valley Physiotherapy Clinic in Barry’s Bay provided a clinical internship to an excellent Queen’s student this past summer. She gave her placement rave reviews. Would she return to the Township upon completion of her studies? Her response……what recreational, social, cultural activities would be of interest to a single, 23 year old professional? How would we answer this????

  2. John & Beth Hildebrandt

    People don’t move to an area because they have good roads!!! They move because it is an inviting place to live in, and has many recreational, cultural and health facilities. Twp. of Madawaska Valley has had at one point, and still has all of these things. These are the things that drive an economy up and encourage growth from within. These are some of the things that will inspire people to (a) visit here and spend their money (b) move here and increase the tax base. This will boost growth…..without growth…..we die. We MUST have all of these 3 things – recreational, cultural and health facilities to encourage development in our wonderful Township. We MUST encourage our visitors to “come for a visit and stay for a lifetime”…..and that can only be possible if we have the facilities that people want and need. – recreational, cultural and health to name a few.

  3. Miriam Hedderson

    I read your comments with interest and understand your dismay about the current situation in the Madawaska Valley. My husband and I have been retired here for 21 years and have always been active volunteers in the Arts, Heritage ,Culture, Recreation, Tourism, Horticultural Society and the development of Zurakowski Park. The state of the first five of these is, at present, shameful….there have been significant and discouraging losses. These can happen ‘in a breath’ and take years to restore.
    What I believe, though, is that there are candidates for our council who are interested in progress, share these concerns and are offering commitment to progress. In time, more good candidates will come forward to join them and we will feel their enthusiasm. This will take time, but it will come.
    In the meantime, we welcome you to the Valley…..and want you to be assured that many of us share your concerns and want the very best for our ratepayers.

  4. Linda Neuman

    Thank you for your comment from the perspective of a possible new resident. As a former councillor (2010-2014) I can certainly relate to present day council and the comments with regards to how much time is spent on council duties when you become a councillor. But, that is the commitment one makes when they submit their name to represent our municipality. As a councillor, tax increases were always a concern but I also see how important it is to have facilities and activities that will attract people to our area whether they plan on living here or just visiting. It would be interesting to know what the increase would be on our taxes per $100 000 to keep the fitness centre open. They always talk percentages when it comes down to increases but I like to know what will the “dollar amount” be that would be added to our tax bill. Now I know, many people will say, why should I pay for a fascility that I don’t use. Why should we have to pay for anything we don’t use? But, this is our municipality and we want it to attract people of all ages, we want it to be vibrant and active so people will want to come for a visit and stay for a life time. I hope that the new council will look into reopening the fitness centre and maintaining the railway station, bringing it back to what it used to be for heritage, the arts and inviting visitors to our area. Yes, taxes will always be an issue, but if we attract new residents, it increases our tax base and that benefits everyone.

  5. Gib Glofcheskie

    It is Intresting that you write this article . Their were others who were of the same mind .
    It would be to the benefit of the community if we heard from people who either agree or are have a different opinion.
    Now is the time to speak up .

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