MP Eric Duncan attends council meeting

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    by Joselyn Morley

    The North Dundas Council held its regular meeting via Zoom on June 22. It was broadcast on the Township’s YouTube channel.

    Mayor Fraser began the meeting by congratulating Deputy Mayor Armstrong for being elected by fellow County Councillors to sit as Interim Warden at the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry (SDG) Council.

    Deputy Mayor Armstrong thanked the Mayor, saying he was, “truly humbled and honoured to have been given this opportunity during this ‘difficult’ time for all the municipalities” in SDG.

    MP Eric Duncan made his annual appearance at Council, discussing six points. He noted that the constituency office in Cornwall is now open to walk-in traffic. Satellite offices in Winchester and Morrisburg will resume by appointment. Citizens are advised to call or email before visiting. The key contact is Adrian Bugelli, at Adrian.Bugelli.502@parl.gc.ca.

    Cell service
    Ongoing challenges with cell and internet service is a concern. The funding for the Eastern Ontario Regional Network (EORN) Cell Gap is confirmed. There is bipartisan support for EORN Gig Project, yet funding from the federal government is lagging, and timelines are slower than MP Duncan would like.

    High-frequency rail
    Via Rail is proposing a new high-frequency rail project. MP Duncan stressed that this is a high-frequency line, meaning many trains, from Quebec City to Montreal, then up through Alexandria to Ottawa, and a new way of going down through Peterborough to Toronto. They have selected this route so that they can have a sole dedicated line, owned by Via, where they are the priority. This is good news for people needing more transportation options, but there are many questions, as cities along the 401 Corridor are not on this line.

    National Suicide Crisis Hotline
    MP Duncan is also looking for support for the 988 National Suicide and Crisis Hotline. Most of the municipalities have indicated their support, and North Dundas added their support at this meeting. Someone in distress should not have to remember a ten-digit number. Eric stressed the need for funds going to more frontline supports for mental health. In the case of the OPP Nurse Ride Along Program, the Counties paid for the project because they believed it would help. It turns out it is cost neutral, but the province is not funding it. This speaks to problems getting money from where it is to where it is needed. He says that there is work to be done to ensure the provincial resources are in place to support the 988 Suicide and Crisis Hotline.

    Last week MP Duncan wrote four notes of condolences to bereaved families of four male suicide victims under the age of 35, including a 16-year-old. Eric said, “We don’t need more studies. We don’t need more action plans. We just need dollars delivered to local providers so if someone does need counselling, or does need social work, or does need addictions help, they can get that in a timely and affordable manner….this is desperately lacking.”

    Affordable Housing
    MP Duncan is concerned about affordable housing. He indicated there is a need for diversified forms of housing aside from the single-family dwellings. He said condominium and rental housing development is required to help meet the need and the province is working hard to tackle issues of supply. The high cost of building materials is a concern. There are claims that the cost of materials have come down recently, but demand and costs outstrips supply and inflation.

    He said three issues need to be addressed. There needs to be a temporary freeze of non-resident foreign buyers. One in five new mortgages in Canada currently are coming from foreign buyers. These investments sit empty, taking away much-needed supply, and introducing unhealthy competition. People are using real estate for money laundering the proceeds of crime. We need tax incentives for purpose-built market rental housing, such as 6-12 unit apartment buildings.

    Access to infrastructure funding
    Finally, MP Duncan addressed infrastructure funding, saying that we need to get our fair share in SDG. Timelines need to improve. There is no shortage of money and promises of money. Projects need to be delivered in a timely manner. Often the timeline for using infrastructure grant money is very short, and impossible to get the work done because of market constraints. Timing of grants needs to take this into consideration. Eric encourages the Township to make use of the Enabling Accessibility Fund, and New Horizons for Seniors.

    Council met for a 25-minute closed session based on: Section 239 (2) of Municipal Act 2001, c) a proposed or pending acquisition or disposition of land by the Municipality or local board.

    Pools
    The pools in Chesterville and Winchester are open, and there is public swimming. Only one pool is open each day, due to lifeguard shortages, and only 15 people in the pool for 45-minute blocks. You must register. Registration for group and individual swimming lessons is open.

    Rezoning on John Street
    An application was made to re-zone a property on John Street in Chesterville, to remove a building formerly used for Jujitsu and the Legion, in order to allow for the development of townhomes. There will be a public meeting on July 13 prior to the regular meeting of Council.

    Pride Flag
    Finally, to round out Pride Month, the Policy governing Flag Protocol was discussed. Three members of council supported changing the policy to allow for the flying of the Pride Flag. Two did not. Mayor Fraser, Deputy Mayor Armstrong, and Councillor Annable supported flying the pride flag.

    Councillors Thompson and Hoy did not.

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