Editor's note: MidlandToday has asked council candidates in Midland, Penetanguishene and Tiny Township to provide a synopsis of why they are running for public office. Municipal elections take place Oct. 24.
The following response is from Erik Schomann, who is running for council in Tiny Township. For more election coverage, visit our 2022 municipal election page by clicking here, where you can find candidate profiles and other election news.
What is your name, what will be your age on election day, and who are your key immediate family members you rely on for support?
I’m Erik Schomann, 47 years-old and all immediate family members have provided overwhelming support during this election. I couldn’t do it without them.
In 10 words or less, why is your municipality the best in the province?
The supportive community and incredible access to nature.
What prompted you to run as a municipal leader?
I spent much of my life in the “developing world” and watched helplessly as communities and ecologies were being devastated in the name of “progress”. I was not a citizen of those host countries and didn’t have a voice, but here, I am a citizen, and I do have a voice. I see in Tiny popular sentiment being undermined by moneyed interests on several issues and, as I am a citizen here, I can be a full participant in the democratic process. I am exercising my rights to draw attention to the issues and ensure that any development in Tiny happens in a responsibly sustainable way that is responsive to the needs of preserving out cultural and natural heritage.
Beach ownership doesn’t affect all residents, but is fiercely disputed by those who get involved. Before property owners took over their part of the shoreline, the municipality allowed seasonal cottagers to use the land, after signing the Indigenous treaty many years ago. Who owns Tiny beaches, and what is your stance on beach rights?
I’ve been to many regions in the world and, to be honest, to me, the concept of owning a section of a beach is odd, but that is the case here in Tiny. There is a hodgepodge of ownership patterns across the shoreline and discerning which are legitimate and which claims are not, is important. I feel that the communication of access and property rights to the beach using is vital so everyone’s enjoyment can be respected, and I feel this can be done using the technology the vast majority of us carry around in our pockets.
There is a difference between what is legally right and morally right, and the aggregate operations in Tiny appear to straddle that definition. What is your stance on aggregate operations in Tiny?
I try to not make a moral issue out of the extraction activities but that is hard to do.
This is particularly true at French’s Hill where over 50 peer-reviewed studies conducted over a dozen years have established the groundwater at the recharge area located there as the purest known to science. Using this water to wash gravel, gravel that appears to be a major component in the purification process seems immoral to me.
Current studies into understanding how the water achieves this level of purity is ongoing but threatened by the aggregate activities. I’d propose a moratorium on extraction until those studies are completed in a little under five years time. With the data gleaned in the study, we can then assess how any harmful activity can be adjusted to minimize impact on the water, and if it cannot, then to encourage extraction at a location with significantly less planetary significance.
You will be asked to join committees and other municipal representations. Which are you eager to become involved in?
All the committees have enormous responsibilities covering important aspects of life here in Tiny. The committees I think I’d be most suited to and could make the biggest impact include the following:
Youth advisory committee- the youth are the future and ideally, all we do should be done with the next generations in mind.
Short-term-rental accommodation task force- has been defunct at a time when they are needed most. This task force must be revitalized to draw the consultation that was missing in the drafting of recent bylaws that need revisiting.
Culture Alliance in the Heart of Georgian Bay and heritage advisory committee- to respect cultural heritage going back 11,000 years of human habitation and respond to the needs of changing demographics in our township.
I would also like to see an ecology and climate change advisory board that I’d be willing to take the lead for its establishment.
Voter apathy is always a concern, ranging between 25.7% to 42% of cast ballots across North Simcoe in the last municipal election. Knowing you could be elected without even half of possible voters turning out, what will you do to combat voter apathy so your municipality is best represented?
Voter apathy is an issue at all levels of government but most troubling at the municipal level where decisions made have the most direct impact on people’s lives. I feel the most effective way to tackle this, especially for future generations, is in secondary school education with an emphasis on civics. By understanding and engagement on political issues and to promote democratic values, young people can develop an appreciation of their stake in our future and how important the democratic process is, how to participate and how to protect it.
There are many prominent concerns ongoing in the region, from affordable housing to the opioid epidemic to short-term rentals as well as others. What is one concern that you think the majority of residents are not aware of?
One concern that many simply do not want to look at is human trafficking. Simcoe County has been identified as the second worst region in Ontario for human trafficking.
While certain communities are more susceptible than others (and those communities should receive special support), it is important for us all to realize that this problem is not restricted to those communities and can and does effect everyone even in more rural areas like ours. In many cases, children as young as 12 are often “recruited” online. Keeping tabs on the digital experiences of our young people is key. It is important, through education, to let both parents and youth identify the tactics used and why they work to meet the needs of young people that make them vulnerable and susceptible. We need to face this issue to let people understand the methods so they can be identified, avoided, and, if possible, reported to appropriate authorities.
The province is planning for a population of 555,000 and 198,000 jobs by 2051. If now is the time to prepare for that influx, what will you proactively do as your part in the process?
The infrastructure needed to accommodate an influx in population needs to be established proactively, and not in a way that has us playing “catch up”. This includes everything from access to health care and education, road maintenance, grid development and alternative power sources, as well as addressing issues regarding septage.
Recidivism isn’t just on the police and courts. As a municipal leader and crafter of bylaws, what initiatives will you undertake to address crime in your care?
Most violations of law in Tiny appear to be happening at a bylaw level. In 2021, over 700 noise complaints were issues and bylaw, empowered with a zero-tolerance mandate issued exactly no fines but only warnings. This is not zero-policy. Clear expectations for enforcement need to be expressed and bylaw officers need to be empowered to follow through on those directives. You can have all the best rules and regulations to maximize benefit to the larger community but if those rules and regulations are not enforced, they are pointless.
Infrastructure projects require taxpayer dollars. What infrastructure project does the municipality desperately need, and does it justify a tax increase from the ratepayers to have it done as soon as possible?
Tiny is unique in terms of septage, where every facility runs on a septic bed. At some point, a sewage processing facility is likely going to be necessary. This development can be seen as an investment rather than an expense, however, if the treatment plant is also able to process the waste into fertilizer pellets already in use in many regions in Ontario.
As the Trudeau government places directives on farmers to decrease fertilizer usage by 30% by 2030, there is promising research from Dr. Michael Powell that mixes processed fly ash with the pellets to create a product markedly more effective than chemical fertilizers. If an initiative supporting this can be achieved, the sewage treatment would not only pay for itself but also create more effective, both in terms of cost and yield, fertilizer that would help our farmers in the federally mandated transition to reduce chemical fertilizer use on the fields.
Times change. What is the most aged or obsolete bylaw in your municipality’s code?
I’m not sure if any existing bylaws are “obsolete” but the absence of a tree-cutting bylaw is of concern to me in light of recent developments at Thunder Beach where an owner mowed down a tragic number of trees to make way for a development for which the individual in question had not received any go-ahead from the township. This act was done with impunity and so far, faces no consequences for their actions. This kind of action, as well as general clear cutting of wooded lots for housing construction and needs to incentivize more selective cutting.
Once you complete your four-year term, what is the legacy you want residents to best remember for your time in office?
One of the courses I teach at Seneca College is a Chinese history course and I’d like to draw on the wisdom of Laozi, the ancient Daoist philosopher with a quote about how I feel about governance in general: “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: 'we did it ourselves.'”
In this way, I’d probably prefer to not be remembered much at all. I hope to fulfill my mandates with maximum impact and minimum disruption, responding responsibly to the needs of the community and in such a way that the people of Tiny can sleep at night knowing the township is in good hands and that they rarely need to think about.