To keep everything on an even keel I asked Chris Carrier the same 10 questions that I asked Joe Gardhouse when he declared here:
A couple of the files have had some movement since I asked Joe, but I asked them in a similar fashion anyway. I should have known better though, Chris can be a little “wordy” at times. So I separated this Q and A into 2 posts as follows:
1. This town has undergone some drastic changes in the past 15 years, It has changed from a manufacturing factory based town, to community more reliant on the tourist industry. I have never seen this fact either dealt with or even acknowledged by most members of town council what are your views on this?
I believe as Ontario’s economy has seen the loss of manufacturing Collingwood to has seen its share of manufacturing migrating to more friendly government regulatory jurisdictions, cheaper wages and payroll tax regimes and much cheaper utility costs. Canada’s economy use to be measured in terms of GDP that was largely dependent upon a manufacturing base whereas now we are dependent upon consumerism. Automation of production has also seen the loss of manufacturing jobs as less people are needed in the process of producing goods. Collingwood still has good manufacturing jobs that require skilled or semi-skilled labour to fill their production, sales and management positions. MacLean Engineering, Pilkington, Agnora, Goodall Rubber, VOA Canada and other industry jobs are still here but need to have the undivided attention of a Town Economic Development Officer. Looks at the jobs from our local Engineering Offices; Green Land, Ainley and Associates, Tatham and Associate, Burnsides, Chris Crozier’s firm; public sector employment with Collingwood General and Marine Hospital, the Public and Catholic school boards with 2 publicly funded high schools and 5 elementary schools, the Town of Collingwood, both public and private sector long term and transitional health care facilities such as Sunset Manor and Chartwell (to name only 2), physiotherapy and naturopathic health service, dentists, chiropractic services, real estate, banking, insurance, legal and accounting, grocery, small and large retail, golf courses, Cranberry and Georgian Manor Resorts and other hotel/motel accommodations. Switch Marketing is an example of a new employer that came to Town in 2008-2009 and is expanding. Their decision to move here was largely facilitated by our EDO, Catherine Durrant. I believe our local (Collingwood, Wasaga Beach, Clearview and Blue Mountain) economy is interdependent on a number employment sectors and we do share a workforce between all of our communities. Has traditional labour intensive manufacturing in Collingwood changed dramatically from 15-20 years ago or left altogether, yes it has but almost all other sectors have seen increases. However Collingwood still benefits greatly by being sandwiched between natural heritage tourism draws, the Niagara Escarpment and the freshwater sand beaches of Wasaga. Trail development and our downtown heritage districts are certainly a draw but pale in comparison to the tourism draw of the skiing to the west and the summer activities to the east of us. With our large part-time active population I would suggest it is not necessarily a tourism draw but an active lifestyle destination draw we have evolved and continue to evolve. There are a myriad of opportunities for continued job growth and retention but it is key to have a council that understands the importance of local economic development and the needs of our various employment sectors.
2. As a follow up to the above question, if we accept that Collingwood is now a tourist destination rather than a manufacturing hub. How do you plan to enhance economic development in Collingwood?
I respectfully reject your premise that we are a tourist destination for the above stated reasons recognizing it may be just semantics on my part but I concur with the view we are not the manufacturing powerhouse most communities in Ontario use to be. Job retention and expansion opportunities are key to our achieving future success by maintaining a local economy that is diverse enough to not become too reliant upon one sector and thus vulnerable to externalities beyond local influence. Our existing employers continued prosperity is the key focus as most job growth will come from expansion of your existing employers.
Completely new opportunities like Barber Glass (now Agnora), Switch Marketing and the Mushroom Farm proposal are rarer opportunities however they too need the necessary professional staff resources engaged to ensure we bring them to Collingwood. When Collingwood was able to successfully bring Barber Glass to our community it required 12 months of ongoing discussions with the Economic Development Office, Chief Administrative Office, the Director of Public Works and other provincial and federal officials involved to resolve and meet their needs to bring that new world class architectural glass manufacturer here. Our existing employers continued prosperity is the key focus as most job growth will come from expansion of your existing employers.
I believe that both the new millennial workforce and aging baby boomer workforce present great opportunities as employers need employees and these two demographics are looking for our kind of community but with different perspectives. A place to have fun and work, and a place to work but still have some fun that is close by. In other words a Quality of Place, a lifestyle destination community that meets the needs for both recreation and work. Collingwood is such a place and we should be able to take advantage once again with dedicated resources and a clear plan from council.
I would like to do what I did last time as Mayor, listen to the needs of our existing employers and work with our Economic Development Professionals as both a Goodwill Ambassador for new business opportunities and as an Advocate for the needs of our existing employers.
3. The property at the corner of Hume and Hurontario seems to have been ignored by this current council in terms of general maintenance and housekeeping. Many people have said to me that this property is an eyesore especially at the gateway to downtown. As mayor will you enforce bylaws that are already in place (ask Fram) to either develop this site or fill in the hole and at least make the property presentable on the towns timetable rather than the developers?
It is clear by the actions of this council acting as the applicant for development interests instead of letting the developers incur the costs Council has not ignored this site (Hume and Hurontario) at all the facts would indicate the opposite to be true.
The FRAM (the former shipyard site) and the Admiral site should be developed as both sites provide an opportunity as infill projects to be strong economic positives to our bottom line. I remain committed to seeing them developed with the current owners or new owners. It should be emphasized once again that the recession of 2008 has hit many communities hard and these development projects are casualties of Ontario’s economy. That being said it is Council’s responsibility to enact the policies and Staff’s responsibilities to ensure compliance of the conditions for approval of any development application. These issues should have been resolved before the political quagmire we find ourselves in now. I am not privy to any discussions with members of council or staff other than what has been published in the local print media with the development groups you mentioned. Reading the comments attributed to the 2 development groups on the Admiral site it would seem they are not on the same page as both have requested 2 different lengths of extensions to the current agreements. I believe the fundamental question for Council to resolve is whether or not these two developers are going to sell their properties to other development interests or to begin the construction phase soon. If they are to be sold I would suggest filling in the lands and thus allowing access to municipal owned property to complete the downtown reinvestment capital project should be done is reasonable.
If they are committed to building then granting an extension of 2 building seasons seems reasonable to me however all normal securities being posted is a reasonable insistence by Council.
The Shipyard site could also have a similar response from council but a thorough understanding of what the development group needs to move forward and if those needs can be addressed should be understood by council. It must be very difficult for the homeowners in the Fram/Slocker development to live within an unfinished construction zone. A non-response or inaction by Council is not acceptable.