A Q and A with Brian Saunderson.

VFAN: Brian, why are you running for Deputy Mayor of Collingwood?

Brian: First and foremost, my candidacy is about putting the interests of Collingwood first. Our community needs leadership with vision, integrity and a cohesive plan to advance the interests of Collingwood in a sensible, strategic and sustainable way. Collingwood deserves a council that is open, accessible and accountable to the people it represents. I am an advocate for change in the way our Town does business and the way our Town is governed.

VFAN: What is your greatest concern?

Brian: Using the analogy that our town is a corporation and we, the taxpayers, are investors, the residents of Collingwood should ask themselves am I happy with the return on my investment and the leadership of the current board of directors (Council). I think the answer to that question is simple, it is no. There are critical issues that need to be dealt with. Our financial future is my greatest concern.

By way of example, the recent report of BMA Management Consulting Inc. (the consultants hired by the Town to assess Collingwood’s current financial health) dated January 2014, paints a sobering picture. The report found that Collingwood has the highest debt per capita of the other six (6) municipalities we were compared to. Collingwood’s per capita debt, which is debt for every man, woman and child in our community, is $2,297. The average of the other six municipalities is approximately $800 and the next highest municipal debt per capita is Prince Edward County with approximately $1,200 which is almost half of Collingwood’s per capita debt. Collingwood also has the highest tax levy per capita of the six comparable municipalities with an average municipal tax levy of approximately $1,700 per capita. The average municipal levy per capita of the other six municipalities is $1,200 which is approximately 60% of Collingwood’s figure. Collingwood has the highest debt per capita and the highest average tax levy per capita by a significant margin.

We have heard this Council say again and again that Collingwood is open for business. However, the economic reality is to the contrary and this Council has done little to address this in any meaningful way. Economic Development has become the issue of the day in the last six months but there has not been an Economic Development Department since September 2011. This is not a healthy financial picture, nor does it demonstrate strong leadership with vision. I believe we need to change that.

VFAN: What will you push for in your position as Deputy Mayor?

Brian: As Deputy Mayor, I will work with Council members to ensure that we engage the public in a strategic planning process in the first 90 days of our term. The strategic plan will be the road map for Council’s term in office, will identify and reflect the priorities of taxpayers and provide Collingwood residents with a means to assess the performance of Council. That is open, transparent and accountable governance and I believe that is the type of government the residents of Collingwood deserve.

VFAN: What do you think the residents want to see over the next four years?

Brian: II will be on a “Listening Tour” over the next 6-8 weeks to better understand what issues residents feel need to be addressed. I plan to meet with small groups of residents will discuss the strengths, challenges and priorities to better inform my platform. My website is just getting set up and residents can organize a focus group and I will be happy to come and listen to them. Having said that, I have had many conversations with many groups over the last three years and there are consistent messages to date. Residents want:
 A Council that leads with unquestionable honesty and integrity,
 A Council that actively listens and engages residents and businesses,
 A Council that is proactive and welcomes comments on major issues like Casinos, the sale of public assets, and tightens up public policies,
 A Council with a long term plan that addresses priorities like fiscal sustainability, business attraction, employment, and the quality of life in Collingwood, and
 A Council that works with community partners to address our social sustainability issues like poverty and housing.

VFAN: Any final comments?

Brian: I want the residents of Collingwood to know that I will work hard to engage them in setting direction and will work with Council to be open, accessible and accountable to the public who elected us.


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