The election is finally over and we have elected the local officials who will represent us for the next four years. Through the course of the election, I did my best to leave opinion out of my writing to let the candidates’ own campaigning and Q&A responses speak to their individual platforms, thereby letting voters make their choice without my personal influence. However, one particular issue bothered me throughout the course of the campaign, and a hint of it did slip through in the front page article for last issue.
Water, oh precious water indeed. Every single Councillor candidate for the recent election pressed water in the villages of Winchester and Chesterville as a major local issue, perhaps even the biggest issue plaguing our local area. The candidates were not wrong – Winchester’s growth is being stifled by a lack of new water connections available, and Chesterville’s water is so aesthetically unpleasing that many Chesterville residents are nervous to perform simple chores like laundry for fear of ruining their clothes.
Issues of water are far from new in North Dundas. Gary Annable told me on the phone that water has been an issue here for decades, before I was even born as it happens. The election candidates seemed to agree that the municipal water issue is not easy, cheap, or quick to fix. We know we need new, sustainable sources of water, such as additional municipal wells, or a pipeline to a greater source of water such as the St. Lawrence River. So much of this is clear, and it is also clear that these types of infrastructure upgrades cost tens of millions of dollars. This is far more than what can be paid by development charges or user fees. The other side of the coin is therefore the administrative task of applying for grants and pitching our case for government financial support. None of this is easy, but we hope our local government will work hard to make needed changes happen.
What I held my tongue about during the election has nothing to do with disagreeing about the need for water infrastructure upgrades in Winchester and Chesterville. I was born in Winchester, lived in Winchester for years, and still work full time in Winchester. I grew up 15 minutes from Chesterville and some of my favourite places to eat and explore are still there. The problem is that now I am an outsider. Not a North Dundas outsider technically, but as a South Mountain homeowner, I sometimes certainly feel like one. Water is important, water is a good local priority, but those of us who live outside of Winchester and Chesterville limits deserve to know what good Council can do for us as well. We have problems, too, and we also deserve consideration for infrastructure and recreation upgrades.
I voted for two of the three Councillor candidates who were elected (and my wife voted for all the same ones independent of my influence after reading the Q&As!). I won’t say who I didn’t vote for on the newly-elected Council, but I will say who I voted for who didn’t make it – Stefan Kohut. I was shocked that he received the fewest number of votes. I found him very knowledgeable on local issues, and more importantly for us outsiders – he actually had ideas for places outside of Winchester and Chesterville! I felt much less forgotten when reading the recreation suggestions he posted online for South Mountain and other areas outside the “main” villages.
Complaining is tiresome and often falls on deaf ears. It is not my intention to whine, and as I said, two of the candidates I voted for were ultimately elected. With an acclaimed Deputy Mayor who is also from South Mountain, I can only hope that fair consideration will be given to the smaller communities of North Dundas in the upcoming four years. I suppose I only hope that the new Council reads this, and incorporates interests outside of Winchester and Chesterville in the years ahead. John Lennox is a Hallville resident, so I trust that he understands.
Things that would be great to have in North Dundas in the years ahead include a dog park, a splash pad, more recreational trails, and maybe even an improved waste management program that includes a green bin for composting. The previous Council has been busy fixing many roads recently (mostly outside of Winchester and Chesterville!) so I have no complaints in that department, unlike some. The small community feel of North Dundas is something I hope we never lose. We don’t need big box stores or a slew of fast food restaurants on every corner, but recreational amenities where our kids can play are essential, especially if we want them to stay out of trouble.
Even within a small Township like North Dundas, there will always be different lifestyles. Some like the sociability of a larger village like Winchester, with the ability to walk to work, talk to countless passersby on the sidewalk, and visit several local restaurants and shops without even starting the car. Others like the smaller community feel of places like South Mountain or Morewood, while some like the privacy and peace of their large backroad properties, with a view of the stars, wildlife visitors, and maybe a nice open area to host a laid back bonfire. Those outside of Winchester and Chesterville don’t want or need everything these larger villages get, but we still belong in the community, and want to be seen and heard as the taxpayers we are.
Congratulations to Matthew Uhrig, John Lennox, and Gary Annable on your election victories! And yes, congratulations to Tony Fraser and Theresa Bergeron on your acclaimed positions – there may have been no one running against you, but that only goes to show the pressures of the job when there is no one else willing to do it. Many thanks to Will Healey, Stefan Kohut, and Joselyn Morley for running as well. Running for office can be a thankless and exhausting endeavour. To those elected, I hope, on behalf of a few thousand of your new constituents, that you will never come to see some of us as outsiders.