With the election almost here, the Haliburton Chamber of Commerce wants businesses to be remembered by the candidates.

Earlier in the month, the chamber asked all of the municipal candidates a series of questions that touched on economic development, year-round prosperity, housing, as well as internet and cell service.

The first question asked the candidates what their long and short-term goals would be in improving the business and communities’ prosperity.

Several of the candidates felt that a short-term goal would be to work with the chamber as well as the Haliburton County Development Corporation to start. Another common response was working within the economic development committee to create policies and programs that encourage prosperity.

Aaron Walker, running for Ward Four in Dysart, says that the skills gap is the biggest obstacle for small businesses. Minden Hills Mayor, Brent Devolin, says that it is important to engage the entire community when creating plans which he says that Emily Stonehouse the Economic Development, Marketing and Destination Officer, has already started.

Question two asked what each candidate’s contributions would be to support a healthy economy all year round, especially in the off-season. The consensus of those to respond to the chamber was that the promotion of the activities in the area is a great way to support the off-season economy. Another consensus thought was that the seasonal tourism industry will always be present in the community.

Bram Lebo, who is running for Ward One in Dysart, says that tourism can’t be the sole focus of the county.  Jennifer Hughey, a Ward One Minden Hills candidate, feels that less red tape for businesses is the way to support the off-season.

The third question addressed the fact that many businesses feel that they are being held back in terms of staffing, in large part because of the lack of affordable housing in the area. The question itself “was how will you address the housing affordability and availability in the area?”

The majority of the candidates felt that zoning by-laws and restrictions need to be updated to allow the creation of things like tiny home communities. Many candidates felt that the county has to look into what’s available as it is and work to create the housing. Andrea Roberts, running for mayor in Dysart, said that she wants to work with the School of Art and Design on creating a residence for students and opening up rentals for others in need.

Just like the all-candidates meetings the topic of cell and internet was brought up and how each candidate would improve service in the area. Many of the candidates felt that the Eastern Ontario Regional Network is working on it across the province. Lebo felt that the current council does not have the knowledge or expertise to come up with viable options, suggesting that if he got on council he’d support the creation and use of repeaters to send the signal around.

The last question asked the candidates what they would do to balance economic growth and environmental sustainability.  Everyone felt that there needs to be balance but at the end of the day environmental sustainability needs to take priority.

Lebo suggested that to protect the environment, the council needs to enforce by-laws. Walker pointed out that there is a program called Partners for Climate Protection, adding that the council could get up to $120,000 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through PCP.

According to the chamber, the following candidates did not answer

Dysart et al

Mayor: Murray Fearrey
Deputy Mayor: Patrick Kennedy
Ward 1: Nancy Wood-Roberts
Ward 2: David McKay
Mike Stinson
Ward 3: Cindy Baumhour
Tammy Donaldson
Ward 5: Walt McKechnie

Minden Hills

Mayor: Jarrett Campbell
Deputy Mayor: Lisa Schell
Councillor at Large: Ron Nesbitt
Ward 1: Clayton Cameron
Rob Luke
Dwight Thomas
Ward 2: Pam Sayne
Ward 3: Russ Duhaime
Jean Neville

Highlands East

Mayor: Dave Burton
Ward 1: Steven Kauffeldt
Cam McKenzie
Ward 2: Suzanne Patridge
Ward 3: Cecill Ryall
Ward 4: James Deterling
Bradley Keller