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Mayoral candidates make final pitch in Bolton

October 11, 2018   ·   0 Comments

Written By MICHAEL PICKFORD

The atmosphere was palpable inside the Albion Bolton Community Centre on Tuesday evening as local residents were afforded one final opportunity to see their mayoral candidates in action ahead of the Oct. 22 municipal election.

Organized by community member Darlene Kiser, the event brought together the five individuals running for area and regional councillor seats in Ward 5, while also providing a platform for mayoral hopefuls Allan Thompson, Barb Shaughnessy and Kelly Darnley to address and interact with voters in Bolton.

Following brief introductions, candidates were taken to task on issues such as affordable housing for seniors and first-time buyers, the impending arrival of Amazon’s fulfillment centre and how best to go about boosting the local economy. There was an overlying sense of intrigue as contenders went tit for tat offering potential solutions to some of the numerous long-standing problems in Caledon.

Front and centre atop that list was the future of one of the community’s core emergency services. It was revealed over the summer that Peel Regional Paramedic Services (PRPS) plans to make significant changes to its service model over the coming months, abandoning a system that currently sees paramedics report for the beginning and end of their shifts in Caledon in favour of a centralized strategy based in Mississauga and Brampton.

The idea, as explained by PRPS chief Peter Dundas, is to ensure the organization is maximizing the potential of its medical professionals. Reporting stations will be set up in the two cities, where ambulances and paramedics will be based. The key, according to Dundas, is that PRPS will also employ non-medical staff to carry out work such as cleaning and restocking – tasks typically done by paramedics under the current model.

Some residents are concerned that they will be losing the three ambulances that currently operate out of the community, with some believing response times to medical emergencies in Caledon will take a hit. Speaking to the Citizen following Tuesday’s debate, Thompson attempted to allay those fears.

“This paramedic change is not going to have an effect on Caledon residents. The fear is that ambulances won’t be here, paramedics won’t be here, but what we’re trying to do is enhance the time paramedics spend in the field,” Thompson said. “They’re not leaving the community, they’re going to be here more frequently and that’s what we want. What we really want to see are improved response times.”

He added, “I believe our residents will be safe under this new model. Actually, I know they will be safe. The Region of Peel would never put anybody’s life at risk. Not one member of our regional council would put Caledon residents at risk. We live here and rely on these services too – this is all about enhancement and making things better.”

Shaughnessy noted she plans to put a motion forward at Peel Region council to “pause” this service change, calling for a “proper consultation” to take place before anything is finalized. Darnley feels a lot of people in the community are in the dark regarding this switch, stating “residents are concerned that, when they call 911, nobody is going to show up because they’re not going to be in our community.”

The future of paramedic services in Caledon wasn’t the only source of concern for local voters. Groans echoed throughout the room as the evening’s moderator brought up a recent application that, if approved, would see an asphalt mixing plant move into the community.

The consensus amongst all candidates was they didn’t particularly want to see an asphalt plant spring up in their backyard. Shaughnessy called for the reformation of the Caledon Environmental Advisory Committee so that a thorough review could be carried out highlighting any potential problems an asphalt plant could have environmentally.

Thompson said he could not support the proposed development at its current location, on the east side of Coleraine Drive.

“We have a lot of food manufacturing in that area. It’s tough – a lot of these businesses have HVAC systems they rely on and they’re not going to want odours and other things coming through. An already established area, especially one where there is high employment, just isn’t the right place to put an asphalt plant,” Thompson said.

That’s not to say that Thompson opposes the idea completely. In fact, he believes having a business in the asphalt industry could bring many benefits to the community, but he would prefer to see the site located in a more rural spot – “the right place is probably out on one of our regional roads somewhere. A more appropriate location will be determined in the near future.”

Housing was a central issue for each of the three candidates. First-time buyers are continuing to be priced out of the market, while seniors are finding it more difficult to find appropriate accommodation in Caledon. Darnley said she’d like to see the municipality undertake a complete review of the process developers have to go through before they can build in Caledon.

“If we look at user fees and maybe make some guarantees regarding application review times, maybe that will help (bring prices down) a little bit,” Darnley said.

Shaughnessy said she’d like to see more condo developments in Caledon, believing a $300,000 to $400,000 price point on 1,000 sq. ft. apartments would be a more manageable entry point for younger people to break into the market. She claims the current cost of buying a house in Caledon is close to $800,000. Shaughnessy believes there could be potential to develop parts of a 20-acre plot of land a community member has agreed to donate to the town for the development of an urgent care facility.

That land, owned by Caledon farmer Bryan Wilson, has caused controversy in itself with rumours spreading that the community’s current council were not in favour of taking on the land. That couldn’t be any further from the truth, says Thompson.

“At this point, I would like to say that all of Council has been supportive of this offer. We appreciate the donation that Mr. Wilson has provided,” Thompson said. “What we are trying to do now is go through the finer details. There are numerous conditions that come with (the offer), we’re trying to get all those conditions taken care of first. I think we have them all sorted out now other than one, which is a regional issue.”

Thompson indicated he couldn’t go into more details regarding these conditions, but maintained he was “very optimistic” the municipality will be able to move forward with the plan to take responsibility for the land and, potentially, construct an urgent care facility.

For Darnley, accepting the land donation is a no-brainer. By constructing an urgent care facility at the site, she believes the community’s economic development staff will be in a stronger position to attract businesses from the health and sciences sector which, she says, will help Caledon steer away from its reputation of being a “freight village”.

“Anything we can do to keep the number of trucks pounding our pavement down, the better,” Darnley concluded.

Ontario’s municipal election will take place on Oct. 22. For more information on where you can vote, visit www.caledon.ca/townhall/elections.

         

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