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Stewart Strathearn wants to keep 'promoting growth, opportunity'

'I’m proud of what we accomplished over the past four years,' mayoral incumbent says. He hopes Midland Bay Landing plan takes shape soon, citing positives of an increased assessment base, tax relief and new amenities
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Stewart Strathearn is hoping to be reelected mayor of Midland.

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 Stewart Strathearn, who is running for mayor in Midland. 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?

Name: Stewart Strathearn  Age: As old as my tongue and a little older than my teeth. Key Immediate family members: My wife, Joan.

In 10 words or less, why is your municipality the best in the province?

No response.

What prompted you to run as a municipal leader?

As your Mayor, I’m proud of what we accomplished over the past four years. We need to build on that momentum and keep taking action to promote growth and opportunity in our town. I want Midland to be a prosperous community providing value for taxes, good jobs, and a sound economy - a vibrant, livable community, where our children and grandchildren grow up and choose to call Midland home. 

Midland Bay Landing is mired in controversy, involving contaminated land, residents wanting to protect parkland, developer visions for the future, and the municipality’s choice for that developer. What is your stance on Midland Bay Landing?

I support Midland Bay landing as a multi-use space with housing, public spaces, commercial and institutional uses. The existing master plan supports this vision and forms a significant part of the town’s Official Plan. The selling price is a multiple to the purchase price and contributes significantly to rebuilding town reserves. It will generate jobs during and post-construction in businesses on site and in the downtown.

It creates an increased assessment base, generating significant tax relief to residents and providing the new amenities throughout Midland. Residents own a beautiful completely accessible space with public square, healing gardens, pedestrian ways and more. It will attract tourists as well as residents, looking to enjoy a beautiful, vibrant space. Finally, the entire 3,700-foot waterfront remains in public ownership  included in the entire 10 acres of the public lands. The developer is responsible for creating and paying for these public spaces. The public retains ownership. In other words, you can park at Midland Bay Landing Park and watch the sunrise/sunset as you choose and, fish the entire shoreline from Midland Bay Landing to David Onley parks.

You will be asked to join committees and other municipal representations. Which are you eager to become involved in?

As Mayor, I am ex officio involved in all agencies, committees and boards as a non-voting member and serve as County Councillor. My preference is to be involved in those that have the greatest likelihood to see Midland be that prosperous community providing value for taxes, good jobs, and a sound economy - a vibrant, livable community.

These include Midland Bay Landing Development Corporation, Police Services Board, Physician Recruitment Committee,  Attainable Housing Committee and to recommend Councillors with appropriate skills to the remaining committees. As County Councillor, I chair the Economic Development Committee and will continue.

Voter apathy is always a concern, ranging between 25.7% to 42% of ballots cast 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

We have implemented digital voting systems (internet and touch-tone telephone) to make it easier for all to access polls and the voting period extends from October 11 to the 24th. A help centre will be in council chambers at town hall during the voting period. I believe semi-annual or quarterly Town Hall meetings can be meaningful in engaging residents.

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?

The Municipal Comprehensive Review being conducted at County on behalf of the province. This review allocates growth, determines where municipal boundaries may be expanded, defines rural/agricultural sensitive areas and maps natural heritage boundaries. Growth allocation and boundary expansion has been set. However, natural heritage designations as well as rural/agricultural designations significantly impact the ability to develop lands. We need to monitor this process carefully lest our ability to row is negatively impacted while still recognizing the value of such designations.

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?

Town Hall expanded capacity in the planning, the building and the engineering departments to manage anticipated growth and to ensure we get the right growth. Growth that provides a balanced age distribution, attainable and market residential, as well as commercial and industrial growth for jobs. All growth must ensure that the character of Midland which draws and holds people here is respected.

A new Official Plan is in place and a comprehensive zoning bylaw has been budgeted. Digital tools for all departments are being or will be put in place to  expedite sign-off of projects. There are 3,500 housing units (excluding Midland Bay Landing) in  the queue with up to 3,000 more at different stages of discussion.

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?

We have created the Community Safety and Wellbeing Plan with our neighbouring municipalities addressing three principal factors that may predispose activities relating to crime: Mental health and addictions, education and homelessness. We piloted the CMART program where a police officer and a person trained in psychology/social work intervene directing persons away from the criminal justice system and towards appropriate help. The SCRAM database program registers (voluntary) security, doorbell and other security camera systems giving police permission to access these systems to solve crime. New software allows monitoring of vehicle speed, direction of travel and time of day allowing targeted enforcement of traffic speeds. 

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?

Midland needs to upgrade/replace linear infrastructure (roads, sidewalks, sewers, and water  systems). Plans are in place phasing these tasks over a 10+ year timeline to spread the costs and manage financing through reserves and loans. Completion of several master plans, traffic, parks and trails, water/wastewater identify needs and estimate costs over periods ranging from 10 to 50 years and allows for financial planning.

The most critical need is attainable housing where we wish to build a reserve to offset incentives for the building of this type of housing. A Community Improvement Plan to permit Midland to legally provide incentives is to start shortly.

Times change. What is the most aged or obsolete bylaw in your municipality’s code?

The ones that everyone has forgotten, and nobody applies.

Once you complete your four-year term, what is the legacy you want residents to best remember for your time in office?

Having created the policy and financial framework that will see Midland realize its growth potential and creating the prosperity necessary to make Midland an even greater place to live while maintaining excellent services and for reasonable taxes.