Only four candidates were needed for the all-candidates meeting in Algonquin Highlands.

All but two of the councillor positions in the municipality have been acclaimed making last night’s meeting purely to help voters decide on a councillor for Ward One and Ward Three.

The candidates running for Ward One are Julia Shortreed and David Lawson. Shortreed introduced herself by saying that she moved up to the Dorset area many years ago and recently retired from a career in banking where she was a team leader for a variety of fundraising campaigns. Shortreed closed her introduction by saying that she volunteers with the Dorset Snowball and had been involved in cleaning up the healthcare hub.

David Lawson kept his introduction short, simply saying that he has lived in the area for generations and cares for the community.

In Ward Three, the candidates are Jennifer Dailloux and Brian Lynch. Dailloux introduced herself by detailing her past experiences and how they would translate to being an effective councillor. Dailloux explained that through her humanitarian work she had been directly involved in city management, community consultation, and an advocate for many causes.

Lynch explained that he has been a long time resident and sits on several committees and has direct experience with municipal council.

The first question of the night came from the media, asking how all four candidates felt about the spreading of septage across fields. The first to answer was Shortreed, who started by admitting that she has limited knowledge of septage, but there are options to be looked at to find a solution. Lawson also pointed out that he has limited knowledge. Dailloux said that she is not behind the spreading of septage in fields, adding that there is a great deal of homework to be done to find a solution.

The next question came from the audience, they asked: “Do you support the municipality regulating short-term rentals?” Shortreed said that she was surprised by the number of rentals that were occupied and touched on by-laws that already regulate things connected to rentals. Lawson expressed that he felt it would be hard for municipalities to monitor the regulations, adding that he wasn’t sure how used the service Airbnb is in the area. Dailloux said that the various lake associations should be involved in regulating rentals and that research should be done to figure out the scope of short-term rentals. Lynch said that there are already regulations in place that can be used and encourages the idea of “using what we have.”

Emcee Rick Lowes going over the ground rules with Algonquin Highlands Candidates

A question specific to Ward One was the next to come. A resident asked: “Where do you stand on the Dorset Library?” Lawson, who answered first, said that he is in support of the library staying. Shortreed agreed that it should stay.

Even though it was a Ward One question, Dailloux says that she would want it to stay. Lynch expressed some concern with it staying, saying that it takes up space at the rec centre and can only be used eight hours a week.

Another question from the floor asked the candidates “what do you see the role of the township with the healthcare hub?” Dailloux explained that it is an important service that can draw in other services and preached that as a councillor she would be an advocate for the hub. Lynch felt that lobbying for the hub was the best way for the township to help. Shortreed admitted that she was a sceptic of the hub until her son used it and now is one thousand per cent behind the hub. Lawson kept it short, saying that the hub is one of the most important services in the area.

Economic development was the next topic brought up. Both Lawson and Shortreed felt that there needs to be a balance between development and trying to keep the same appeal that the area is known for. Lynch felt that a key to economic development was to start by creating affordable housing. Dailloux says that the true Canadiana experience has been lost in Muskoka and promoted the idea of “authentic smallness.”

A woman from the audience asked the candidates if they would work with Muskoka to fix the Frost Centre in Dorset. Lynch, the first to answer, said no because the facility needs to be torn down rather than repaired. Shortreed is all for fixing it if it was feasible to do so. Lawson said there is a lot of work to be done just to get it up to standard. Dailloux answered by saying she wants to do what’s best for seniors, whether that is the Frost Centre or not is unknown.

All of the candidates were asked about their thoughts on the development of a business park at the Stanhope Airport. Dailloux responded that this provides a unique opportunity to create business and would be an economic benefit rather than a drain. Lynch felt that it could create lots of opportunities. Shortreed explained that she is behind the business park in principle, but felt that affordable housing needs to be the priority.

“Should the county have one governing body?” was asked by the media. Lawson started the answers by saying he doesn’t believe that would create a loss of jobs. Dailloux said that she would want to learn more and see how other amalgamations have gone. Lynch was not for the idea referencing the changes that Haliburton has faced in the past. Shortreed also opposed the idea.

The next question came from the audience.  An attendee asked the candidates for their thoughts on the scheduling and repair of roads in Algonquin Highlands. Dailloux started off the answers by saying the “mighty team” is doing good work and that the municipal staff that plan and enact the repairs are the experts. Lynch felt that it is possible to do a better job but that means more money. Shortreed expressed that it is an uphill battle that will always exist and that the repairs try to make the roads last longer. Lawson said that the crews are working hard.

The candidates were next asked if they would consider moving the council meetings around the municipality. Lawson kept his answer quick saying “that’s not that bad an idea.” Dailloux pointed out that other committees do that and that she liked the idea. Lynch said that before he was on council he thought that was a terrific idea but went on to say that it would be incredibly difficult to pull off. Shortreed answered the question by offering an alternative in podcasting the meetings to other areas of the municipality.

The night closed out with an audience member asking the candidates what their personal top priorities would be. Dailloux felt that community consultation is number two on her list after the environment. Lynch said that the community’s priorities are health care and economic growth so those are his as well. Shortreed and Lawson both expressed that affordable housing tops their priorities.

Voters take to the polls on October 22nd.