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Russ' Rant
Grey Highlands, Elections October 2014

For some time now the people of Grey Highlands have been looking to the future in hope they will be able to elect a council that will make a difference.  Well that time is fast approaching and there could be some big changes.  It’s not inconceivable to see a complete change in the five councillors at large.  That would certainly shake things up but could come at a cost.  Having all new councillors with no political experience could possibly create an element of anarchy for the Mayor and Deputy Mayor to try and keep at bay.  Kind of like herding cats I would think.

Well, I for one would welcome the change not only in bringing new experience to the table but more importantly a much needed new attitude.  You see I’ve been volunteering my time to support issues in the municipality for the past 7 years and can attest to the lack of leadership across the existing council.  First I was a member of the Economic Development and Tourism committee whereby the experience was like standing against a wall and just hitting your head until it hurt.  We tried to get that council to stand up and see that global competition in every sector was going to have a negative effect on the area unless we came up with a plan.  So what did they do, they decided we didn’t need this committee any long and the mayor decided to discontinue the group.  Yup, just like that it was over.  We were not needed and life should go on just like it had for generations.

Then four years ago we had an election and the old mayor was quickly run out of town in a landslide loss to our current Mayor.  A couple new faces also showed up around the table but it was all for not.  The Municipality has continued to flounder with no real leadership nor enthusiasm for driving us forward.  I also volunteered to sit on the Talisman Task force where I was the vice chair.  Good experience and another eye opener from the standpoint of getting firsthand the diversity in our area.  In the end it was good for the municipality as it sort of forced the hand of a buyer for the resort which is now in the process of being rebuilt.  While on that task force I was also on a water and sewer task force as the cost of water in the Kimberley, Amik areas are out of this world.  Now that was an exercise in futility and really brought out the worst in our local politicians and civil servants.  At every meeting our task force would come up with great ideas to reduce the expenses and we were shot down at every turn.  It literally got to the point we were starting to meet without the appointed councillor and staff so we could at least get something done.  And in the end, we found what should have been a no-brainer idea for council to carry forward in an action plan but they decided it would be better to just put it on the shelf and leave it for some time next year to consider.  Maybe? 

So you see, we really do need some leadership that can actually make decisions that will help not only the people but our overall economy.
Speaking of the economy, this is where I really get scared.  I’m scared because I’ve spoken to numerous candidates and existing elected officials and in most every discussion it’s clear they don’t understand what we have and what are the driving factors to create a solid foundation on which we can build a successful municipality moving forward.   I can understand their position but at the same time while working as a REALTOR® in the area for the past 15 years, it’s clear they just don’t get it.  So here it is in a quick summary.  Manufacturing and industry on a medium to large scale is gone and will likely not return in my lifetime.  Free trade and the strong desire for cheap products along with big box stores that promote nothing but cheap pricing will not change until the world catches up on Wages, Environmental and safety issues.  The family farmer is disappearing as we know it.  Large scale mega farming is replacing hundreds of family operations and that leads to a lack of spinoff business for our towns and small business’.  Okay, I said it, we’re going through change that is out of our control and we need to embrace it or go the way of the dinosaur…

So where does that leave us?  Well, today we are experiencing many young people moving away to find work.  This is quite evident in our school systems and decreasing enrollment.  Teachers are losing their positions, classrooms and even entire floors and wings at our local schools are being closed.  All taking away additional parts of our economy and adding to the “Brain Drain” happening all across Ontario’s rural areas.  The downtown core is suffering and some people think the government should fix it.  How can they do that when the remainder of our local population of the area can’t afford to spend any money?   Across Ontario it’s a race to the bottom for most small towns and only those with good leadership will survive. 

So what’s the solution?  Well it starts with good leadership that can understand the areas assets and can formulate a plan to take advantage of these assets.  We are so lucky to be neighbours with one of the richest rural municipalities in Ontario and most of our politicians don’t even know it.  The Blue Mountains has become the best “four Season Playground” in the countries most populated province with easy access to almost 10 million people.  Many of these people are looking to buy property that will lead to an entirely new economy.   From young professional families visiting every weekend to the active living 50 plus crowd looking to move to a new permanent residence, Grey Highlands could offer the best of both worlds.  Reasonable pricing, easy access to the regions four season recreation activities, a brand new Hospital and nothing but fresh air.  Now if the politicians could see the light and declare the Municipality open for business, we could see new development and a huge infusion of money that would lead to construction and service jobs, greater tax revenues and spinoff business for the town of Markdale leading to a revitalization of the town’s main street. 

So let’s see who gets in and let’s see who can see the light.  I have my picks… Let’s hope whoever does get elected, they will prove worthy of our vote.

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