The Reeve and Deputy-Reeve candidates in Haliburton County were in the hot seat for the last time last night, and they addressed the inevitable OPP billing model. Running for Reeve in Dysart, Janis Parker said the municipality will need to do some creative thinking to keep the increase at the minimum and limit any other increases. She said any alternative needs to be brought to the table and seriously considered. Steve Cosentino is running for Reeve in Highlands East and he said crown land is something to look at because the province is double dipping in their costs. Brent Devolin, in the Reeve race for Minden Hills said his goal is to only increase taxes based on the OPP model, and nothing else. Running against him, Brigitte Gall said they can offset costs by putting the planning and building departments in a position where they can build the tax base.
A question was also raised from a Haliburton County resident that had candidates answering the possibility of amalgamation. The Reeve candidates running for re-election in each municipality agreed it isn’t something for now, but other options can be addressed. Murray Fearrey, running in Dysart said there are studies showing amalgamation doesn’t always work and it will produce a lot of things like unions in places where people wouldn’t want them. Dave Burton, running in Highlands East said they would have to look at it from every aspect, but believes the people in Highlands East would lose some of their pride and unique qualities. Barb Reid, for Minden Hills said they should be talking to an expert about the risks and opportunities, but they need to look at the facts.
Another question addressed the candidates platforms being advocates for local businesses, but asked how they would commit to supporting local companies and contractors rather than hiring outside firms. Candidates unanimously agreed local contractors need to be used wherever they can, but sometimes it gets tricky. Cheryl Murdoch, running for re-election in Minden Hills said issues come up when grant money requires the use of a company that is bonded and most local contractors aren’t. She said they need to continue encouraging hiring local businesses as sub-contractors. Dennis Casey, running as Deputy-Reeve in Dysart said they need to make sure existing businesses are stable. Against him, Andrea Roberts said they’ve encouraged local contractors wherever they can, but it’s about supporting local businesses not only as councilors, but as individuals.