Democracy in action, up at the old schoolhouse

The candidates

Other candidates listen as school-board-trustee incumbent Thelma Goodfellow answers a question. They are, from left: Roseann Trudeau, Timothy Donoghue, Jim Flieler and Don DeGenova (all seeking councillor seats), Linda Akey (running for deputy mayor), Kali Meeks (councillor), Brian Treanor (deputy mayor), Fearnley Davies and Jamie DeMarsh (councillor) and Larry Whitfield (school board).

Well, it’s almost past my bedtime, folks, but I can’t retire without giving you a report on this evening’s all-candidates meeting in Queensborough. All of those seeking election (or re-election) for Municipality of Tweed council and public school-board positions in the Oct. 27 municipal vote had been invited to appear, and sure enough, all of them showed up at the venue, the Queensborough Community Centre – our historic former one-room schoolhouse. (Incumbent Mayor Jo-Anne Albert was not invited since she has been acclaimed for another term, having been unopposed.) As for the audience, there was a very respectable turnout, people not just from Queensborough but from other parts of the Greater Tweed Area (as well as some interested visitors from next-door Madoc Township).

It had been a long time since I attended an all-candidates meeting for a municipal election; the last time would have been sometime during my career as a reporter for the tiny Port Hope (Ont.) Evening Guide daily newspaper, way back in the 1990s. And Raymond? As far as he can recall, it was a first. So that was kind of cool.

It was a well-run (by our neighbour Brian MacNeil, who ably served as moderator) and largely low-key affair, with the candidates making brief statements to start and then questions invited from the audience. As you would surely expect, the issues raised were very local ones, and that’s just as it should be; the whole point of municipal governments is that they represent people at the strictly local level.

I suspect I was not the only one in the crowd who was a little disappointed not to hear more about Queensborough per se from the candidates in their opening speeches; two or three made mention of our little hamlet, but it didn’t go much farther than that. Overall their focus seemed to be on issues that affect the village of Tweed, as opposed to the Municipality of Tweed – a much larger geographical entity encompassing vast rural, and even wilderness, areas as well as several hamlets like Queensborough. I was pleased to see that audience members smartly turned the candidates’ attention to issues closer to us than how urban Tweed deals with its too-low sewage-capacity situation. People, out here we are in septic-tank territory, and our only real concern about whether the village of Tweed gets a new sewage lagoon or a full waste-treatment plant is how much it will affect our property taxes.

The crowd

An attentive crowd listens as a question gets posed to the candidates.

So yeah, the Queensborough folks raised Queensborough issues, and that was great. Issues like road plowing, and school-bus stops, and the lack of garbage and recycling pickup, and an issue that is really close to my heart: the lack of reasonably-priced and reliable high-speed internet here. (There was much applause and general agreement whenever that issue got raised; I was happy to see such clear proof that others care about our execrable internet situation as much as I do.) The candidates were asked about deterioration of the bridge leading into the hamlet from the east, and why some of the popular summer Music in the Park events in Tweed can’t be held in the park in Queensborough. Some excellent suggestions were made (from both the audience and the candidates), including designating a geographical area of responsibility for each council member, so that each area’s interests and concerns would have a champion at the council table; doing more to celebrate and promote this area’s aboriginal and French Canadian heritage; establishing a municipal composting program, with the compost sold back to residents for use in their gardens; more support for beautification programs; instituting a buy-local policy for the municipality; and so on.

It was the farthest thing from slick politics. It was down-home politics, the candidates getting close to the people they want to represent and the people getting a close-up look  at those candidates and their positions. And at the end there was an opportunity for one-on-one conversations over coffee and tea.

As Raymond and I walked back to the Manse through a very autumn-like chilly and rainy night, we agreed that it had been interesting and eye-opening. We both came away with changed minds on some of the people we plan to vote for.

Which means that the all-candidates night accomplished exactly what it should have: educating us voters about the issues and the candidates. And as Moderator MacNeil said, in the perfect ending to the evening: Now it’s up to all of us to get out there and vote!

22 thoughts on “Democracy in action, up at the old schoolhouse

  1. I know I had a great time in a community filled with such warm and friendly people!

    I truly hope you received the answers you sought, and I was pleased to meet you as I have followed this blog for quite some time.

    Thank you to all in Queensborough for your warm hospitality and for welcoming us with open arms into your charming hamlet!

    • Thank you, Jamie, for coming out to participate in the Queensborough all-candidates debate, and for throwing your hat into the ring for a job that is often thankless, demands a huge amount of time and effort, and is vitally important for the community. I have the greatest respect for those who want to take on public service. It was a pleasure to meet you!

  2. Attendance: I counted 42 in the audience, 12 candidates plus the Moderator, for a total of 54. Great turnout, indeed.

    It is wonderful that many Queensborough-specific issues were brought to the attention of the candidates. At around 8pm, in frustration, I observed [out loud] that the initial Q & A format wherein a question would be directed to a specific candidate wasn’t the most conducive format from the audience’s perspective. It eventually evolved into a format wherein a concerned resident would pose a question or an observation and interested candidates could volunteer an answer. Alas, I fear I made the Moderator’s job a lot more difficult….

    • But Moderator Brian held up very well, and did an excellent job. I am quite sure that all the candidates came away from the evening with a deeper understanding of the kinds of issues that matter to Queensborough folks. Which is exactly as it should be!

  3. I love that people are so concerned about municipal politics and care about closely questioning the candidates. I went to a packed mayoral all-candidates meeting not long ago, and was similarly impressed. Sure, there are oddball single-issue questions, but there were other great ones like the woman who asked each candidate to give a specific instance of a time when they helped bring about consensus on a difficult issue. In the absence of parties, local politics is far more based on character and issues, which maybe is how it should be.

  4. I didn’t get around to raising several other issues [“As if I didn’t have enough to say?”].

    One would deal with election signs which municipalities have the power to regulate. Accordingly, Toronto doesn’t allow campaign signs until October 1. In Tweed, signs appeared as early as JULY. Centre Hastings & Belleville have experienced a raft of sign vandalism. Belleville is considering banning campaign signs on public property. In Queensborough, there was apparently a dispute regarding the placement of signs near/on the flower boxes at each end of town in the lead-up to Historic Queensborough Day. Some residents have referred to such signs as a form of “political pollution”.

    Anyways, perhaps it is time to consider reasonable [oh, that’s a loaded word] guidelines/restrictions on political campaign signs.

  5. I’m glad Lud raised the issue of the confusion that arises between the use of “Tweed” to refer to both [and either] the “Municipality of Tweed” and the “Village of Tweed”. This was also an issue during the 2010 Mun. elections and reflected Queensborough sense of alienation, being “north of 7” and thus so misunderstood and unappreciated.

    With amalgamation in 1998, the initial Mun. of Tweed Council went with “Municipality of Tweed” as an INTERIM measure to allow for other names to emerge for consideration. Evan Morton suggested “Sagonaska” and there may have been other suggestions. Alas, a year later, Tweed Council decided to stick with “Municipality of Tweed” as it would have “cost” too much to invoke a name change. How lame. Furthermore, for an issue that revolves around the very identity of the municipality, it is sad that the residents were never consulted via survey or referendum. It would have been a nice exercise in local democracy.

    Arguably, in the opinion of some [ie, employers, businesses, law enforcement, political ideologues], the name “Tweed” has now become sullied by the emergence of “Tweed, Inc”, the medical marijuana grower in Smith Falls. When surfing on the web for “Tweed”, how many arrive at Tweed, Inc’s website “http://www.tweed.com/” instead of “http://www.tweed.ca/”?

    Is a name change possible? Sure; just a matter of political/social will. Is it desired by the residents of Hungerford and Elzevir & Grimsthorpe? Probably. Is it feasible? Sure: the argument of excessive costs related to the replacement of letterhead and signs is bogus. The transition in letterhead, etc can be gradual and facilitated via a $5 rubber ink stamper. Signs can have vinyl appliques applied. Several Ontario municipalities have changed their names the past 1.5 decades with little difficulty.

    • Hmmm… not sure what I think of this. While I’m not crazy about being considered part of Tweed, and along with others can get annoyed by the Tweed-village-centric nature of the municipal council, I’m not crazy about new names for old places. I was kind of appalled when Durham Region came up with “Clarington” to replace the former municipalities of Clarke and Darlington townships; both of those names had history and meant something. Likewise “Centre Hastings,” which causes endless confusion much of the time when what people are really talking about is just plain old Madoc. Bring back Elzevir and Grimsthorpe, I say!

  6. Another issue or suggestion I could have raised involved the relocation of the Municipal Office to Queensborough. When Tweed Council Meetings are held in Queensborough, we have by far the greatest turn-out [ie, 50-55]. And we are vocal. Surely, we are the “heart and soul” of the municipality, eh?

    So, we could have a nice modest 4-5 [ok, 6 if you like] story building erected, say, on Marty’s lot. The first story could have various shops and delicatessens. A library could be on another floor, and so on. The possibilities are myriad…

    Such as are pipe dreams…

    • I would love to see there be something like that! It makes me sad sometimes that there are far fewer young people around central Queensborough than there used to be in my own childhood. Then again, when I drive to work in the morning I see all kinds of kids waiting for the bus along Queensborough Road west of town. So obviously there are still lots of families with kids around, but just not right in “town.” If there were a sports park or something like that for kids, perhaps they would congregate in the village once again. As for where it would go, hmmm – the land beside the Orange Hall? The old ball diamond? (Maybe a little too far from the centre of things.) Have to think on that…

  7. On Wed Oct 8, I attended the All Candidates Meeting for Centre Hastings at the Ivanhoe Hall. One interesting topic was the renovation of the intersection of Hwy 62 and Stirling Ridge Road. The issue of contention was the installation of a stoplight vs a round-about. [Apparently, MTO plans to install a round-about in about 5 years.] Most of the candidates weren’t in favour of a round-about, however.

    So, after the Q & A session, I relieved everyone’s concerns by suggesting a “cloverleaf” — a big, honkin’ huge, ginormous 401-style cloverleaf intersection [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Cloverleaf_interchange.svg]. Sure, it would by hugely expensive and consume a lot of prime farmland but at least we wouldn’t be inconvenienced with slowing down [as we wiz by at 120 km/hr]. (If space is a problem, a diamond exchange would be a viable alternative: https://wiki.waze.com/wiki/images/e/e9/Jct_diamond.png) In that way, we’ll be ready for the future “Hwy 462” — a 4-lane version of Hwy 62.

    BTW, the All Candidates Meeting for Madoc Township, our neighbour, will be held on Wed Oct 15 at the Eldorado Hall

    • I would have liked to have been at that all-candidates meeting, which was by all accounts very lively, but had to be at the Belleville mayoral candidates’ evening with my students. What the deuce so people have against roundabouts? They are the most efficient (and civilized) traffic thing ever!

      • Yes, it takes just a modicum of time and experience to become proficient with round-abouts. Unfortunately, many round-abouts in Ontario are too small [ie, in Trenton & just outside Picton] — the too tight radius hampers a motorist’s ability to look ahead of the circle [ie, ahead to the left] with peripheral vision

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