This is a continuation of my interview with Chris Carrier. Part 1 was posted on Monday and prior to this. This deals with Chris’s tenuous relationship with the current mayor, VOTE, the water front and terminals, PRA Dome, local development and whether he intends to run for mayors chair again. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed putting it together.
Nobody: Did you win the your mayoralty campaign because of VOTE?
Chris Carrier:Voices of the Electorate was a group organized by citizens who were concerned about the political decision making process and the resulting decisions of Councils prior to 2006. I was not a member of VOTE so some questions are better answered by them. Did VOTE’s involvement in the 2006 election process have an impact on the outcome-I am sure it did. I believed the increased awareness of various issues resulted in the increased turn out. I believe it is a commonly held belief that I was the underdog going into that election and I had not made my mind up to run until late July or August of that year. Our Team ran a positive message campaign.
I believe my 3 previous terms on Council of thoughtful decision making, integrity, honesty were greater factors. My opponent had lost 2 previous times running for Mayor and was unsuccessful both times. I cannot reasonably predict that a vote for me was given because the public did not want my opponent, I would think that if neither of us were appealing as candidates people would have not voted for either of us. I was successful by over 1000 votes which was a significant margin of victory. Did VOTE give me that margin-no I do not think so but once again I think their participation raised the awareness of the differences between myself and my opponent.
Nobody: During your time as mayor your relationship with then Deputy Mayor Sandra Cooper always seemed very strained and she voted against you on many occasions. Was this rift always the case or did something cause it.
Chris Carrier: I wish I knew what caused it. Sandra and I were first elected to Council at the same time (December 1996). She and I would often get together on the weekend, usually at her home and over a pot of tea we would review any concerns we had on the agenda. Sandra was able to assist me with the people aspect of the reports as I was often unaware of who was related to whom in Collingwood. I provided my insight on the financial impacts and planning regulations on various reports. It was a good way to learn the ropes of the municipal decision making process.
I would like to emphasize that our relationship changed/evolved over time. In 2004 our incumbent Liberal MP, Paul Bonwick-Sandra’s brother lost by 100 votes or so to Conservative candidate Helena Guergis. I had been somewhat active in Helena’s campaign and helped introduce her to numerous Collingwood business and political insiders. I think that Sandra felt it was a betrayal of our friendship to support Helena rather than her brother. Once again I do not know if that is true but our relationship soured significantly after election loss.
The Tremont Hotel purchase further polarized our relationship. Paul had been hired by the BIA for 25 thousand dollars to get the then Council to reverse its decision to not purchase the Tremont Hotel-he was successful with that objective. The events surrounding that deal have been discussed at length. I was very vocal about my concerns about the lack of controls and lack of sharing of the details of the purchase. I think some members of the public and council felt this was a personal attack on their integrity when in fact it was an attack on lack of controls for Taxpayer dollars being spent without Council’s knowledge (the deposit on the purchase was made by the Town of Collingwood yet our name was not on the real estate contract).
When I ran for Mayor it was clear to anyone active in politics that Sandra was supporting my opponent and in fact they had arranged their joint victory party to be held at Georgian Manor Resort. I knew when I had won that my Colleague was not supportive of my victory.
After 9 years of one Mayor’s way of doing things it was a difficult transition for some including Sandra to my way of doing business. Our relationship had been strained since 2004 and one of my first actions not to appoint Sandra as Chair of the Finance Committee was seen as slight to her when in fact no such Committee existed. If Council wished to formalize such a committee then a by-law would have to be done to create one. A by-law that defined the scope of the authority of a committee and the people who populated the committee. The first meeting of the committee Sandra showed up 15 minutes late. I had not been notified she would be late or if she was coming at all. Kathy Jeffry declined to be Chair so I was appointed.
Our responsibilities at the County of Simcoe and differing political views were evident to our colleagues as we often voted in contrast to one another. I voted NOT to support Site 41 whereas Sandra was an ardent supporter of the proposed Landfill Site until near the bitter end of that process.
I agree that our relationship was strained but I believe if you speak with our former CAOs, our Clerk that you will find that numerous olive branches were extended but produced little to no result in creating a better working relationship between us. I often hear our Council was dysfunctional but I believe when you look more closely at our record you will see 2 members of council (Sandra and Ian) chose a path that they acted more like an opposition party than colleagues who disagreed with the decision of the majority of council.
Nobody: What should be done with the harbour including the terminals?
Chris Carrier: The solution lies within the current Strategic Plan, Vision 20/20, Sustainable Community Plan, Harbour Master Plan, Parks and Recreation Master Plan and utilizing our staff experts such as Marta Proctor and Robert Voight. I am not an active recreation user, I am a runner and a cyclist and I try to play golf so I have always relied upon research of the strategic relevant documents listening to the stakeholders in dealing with matters relating to active recreation users whether it soccer, swimmers or fishermen and women. My position for the active recreation at the harbor is the focus should be on smaller water craft (non-motorized). Canoeing, kayaking, small sail boats and such are great ways to promote good health and for water sport is more affordable than larger motor craft and the personal water craft such as sea-doos. The day docking along the Fram/Slocker development was always a good idea.
The water levels will continue to be low until such a time the “baffle” solution is implemented in the St. Clair River limiting the outflow from the upper Great Lakes-so water levels are going to continue to draw the attention of decision makers and resources that may have been used elsewhere could be used for dredging to maintain a minimum and safe channel for our sail boats and our commercial fishers.
The Terminals are a revenue generator and looking to sell another Municipally owned asset in a recessed real estate market is a mistake. The strategic partnership brought forward by the “mushroom” agricultural business looked good and the zoning was already in place. A long term lease could have been negotiated bringing another stable revenue source. The Town has had 2 significant operational surpluses in 2011 and 2012 and the monies were available to divert some towards the cleaning and painting of the Terminals.
Until I reviewed the current documents and had an opportunity to hear from the community on what their desires are for the harbor it is difficult for me to draw any definitive position on the potential uses for the harbour.
Nobody It is my view and many others that there is now too much housing stock in and around the Collingwood area. Do you agree if so how should this be dealt with?
Chris Carrier: You are the first person I have heard say it. I believe that both Fram/Slocker (Shipyard development) and the Admiral Development decisions to put on hold and or stop their respective development applications is a result of a particular product that the market demand is lagging the supply. The Toronto condo boom because of the higher densities seems to be the preferred market for the major development stakeholders to invest.
Other high profile development here seems to be moving along as the building department permit numbers would indicate.
I have been out of office now for 2 and half years and have limited access to latest data and our best resources Town staff in order to better understand what is happening in our current local and regional market, so please keep that in mind when reading my response.
The Provincial Growth Plan supports Collingwood as a growth node-a community that can continue to handle growth both in population and as a small “r” regional employer (a supplier of jobs for our community and neighbouring communities). The closest Simcoe County neighbor that is also a growth directed community would be Midland or New Tecumseth and Innisfil depending on how you measure distance travelled.
A number of the subdivisions in the south both east and west of hwy124 have sold homes-I am sure they would like to sell more but there are so many external factors at play. If a developer like the recent Pretty River Estates application came forward and said they would like to increase density in a portion of their development to better respond to the changing market conditions then by saying no to such a request (that is supported by the Provinces Growth Strategies) are we turning away from our community middle class families who may not be able to afford a larger home on a large lot but can afford a more modest home on a smaller lot in a new subdivision that is close to schools, green space and other neighbourhood amenities. The general principle of higher density is supported by planning policies and economic reality but council is there to weigh the application and effect on specific properties. I am not trying to be evasive in answering but many of the developments were approved years ago and are at the building stage now (the market has changed from the approval process to build period). The residential policy section of the Official Plan was to be completed by now and should provide ample wiggle room in trying to meet the current needs of the market. Pretty River Estate’s request seemed a reasonable request to me. I know this Council has increased density in other developments and I was surprised at their refusal of this developer’s request for a similar request.
Nobody I have been told that a proposal is on the table to for PRA to sell the sports dome to the town. If you were still mayor would you try and buy that recreation facility?
Chris Carrier: The Town of Collingwood approved the Sports Dome use as an ancillary use to the school almost 3 years ago. The Town Council further approved a leasing agreement where the Town acted as the leasing agent for the facility thus meeting the legal definition of a community facility and exempting the dome from any development fees that may have been required. The recent news that the zoning was not in place caught me unaware as I reviewed the planning approvals from 2 plus years ago on the Town web site. I was pleased the Town was not contributing any capital costs nor any ongoing operational costs for the Sports Dome yet we were in control of leasing the facility outside of school hours. It seemed a pretty good deal and was supported by most of Council with only Sandra and Mike voting against.
The facility is new and was costly, so no I would not want to buy it. When I was Mayor I had tried to get a developer to buy the Good Year property and build an ice surface and a fire station on the site as part of their overall development proposal. It was one of those almost had it done and yes Council and senior staff were aware of the proposal and the developers. Good Year mysteriously raised their price on the property after becoming aware of the discussions with the developer and the deal for the lands fell through.
There are or at least there were a number of private development interests who wanted to develop here and were willing to discuss public private partnership opportunities. I prefer those opportunities and partnering with our existing community partners such as the YMCA when looking to who can deliver the best service for best price instead of relying upon the local tax base for both fixed capital costs and the variable operational costs. The Dome fixed costs I would think would be rather high and I am unsure of the operational costs. Now that being said if you as a soccer user and other user groups could put forward a business case that showed that financing costs and operational costs could be borne 100 percent by the user groups then that would be a very good question to be debated publicly.
Nobody: Last question and you knew I would ask this. Do you have any plans to run for mayor again in 2014?
Chris Carrier: I never aspired to be Mayor- it was never in my plan until late 2006. I tried to convince others to run-could not so I ran. Those 4 years as Mayor were extremely satisfying and day after day I had so many opportunities to work with fellow elected officials locally, provincially and federally-the interaction with staff was much closer than when I was a Councillor and learning from them and the experts we hired from the outside of the immediate organization made the job as Mayor of Collingwood the best work experience of my life. I am proud of the work we accomplished, the much needed infrastructure investments my colleagues and I made with most projects coming in under budget, with substantial grant monies from other levels of government and financing our portion of asset investments at 40 year low interest rates.
I have been asked to run again many times by a rather wide cross section of our demographic. I have given it some thought and it certainly has made me pay closer attention to the decisions made in this term of Council. I too am disappointed in many of the major decisions by our elected officials especially knowing most of the people on Council.
I have no plans to run for Mayor again in 2014 but plans do change. If they do I will let you know.
Nobody: I appreciate you indulging me like this Chris. I will not edit any of your responses and post exactly as you have written them.
Chris Carrier: I have surprised more people have not asked for my opinion especially in light of the recent CBC news reports. I should note I was pleased that Council voted to purchase the lands the soccer pitches are on-they were a land lease and I am pleased to know that the Town will have this property in our portfolio.
I have no issue if you wish to edit as I tend to be verbose. I also have no issue if you wish to correct my grammar-I use to drive some of my supporters crazy when I wrote a speech as I tend to write as I would say it rather than perhaps someone who writes for a living.