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We will be going to the polls on Monday October 27, to elect a mayor and councilors for the next four years.

We can choose to continue with our present representatives or we can choose new representatives and encourage new methods and priorities in how our public policy is conducted.

In order to accomplish this we will need to actively encourage new people to contest the election, and provide lots of opportunity for candidates to detail their policies through a number of public debates. We owe it to the people standing for office to participate and ask questions wherever we can.

We all recognize that our population base is older than the provincial average and that our local economy could be doing better. The provincial government is financially pressed and has been reducing the programs it supports, and the consequent payments to municipalities. This financial pressure originating with the province will make balancing our municipal budget more difficult.

The facilities and services, which Owen Sound provides, are supported by the property tax and services payments of a population of 22,000, while the facilities and services are accessible by a broader community of at least 35,000. That does not seem equitable.

We share a conviction that our taxes and the costs of municipal services are too high, particularly when compared to other Ontario communities. We are all getting a little tired of having this pointed out to us by our visitors.

Our elected representatives have occasionally demonstrated their inability to collaborate with immediately adjacent communities to equitably share the costs of facilities and services and to pursue regional tourism and economic development projects. The mayor and council have reversed themselves, which has caused implementation delays and resulted in murky policy direction.

Almost half of the city's budget is absorbed by police and fire prevention services, costs over which the city has limited influence. Clearly the Ontario municipalities need to petition the provincial government for changes, which transfer more budget authority back to the municipalities. Roughly three quarters of the city's operating costs are made up of employee costs. At some point in the near future, if not now, we will be forced to finally acknowledge we can't afford new programs and we begin questioning whether our present services are sustainable and affordable.

There does not seem to be a sense of urgency in the council chamber to confront the city's ever rising costs. Unchecked, these rising costs will continue to limit expenditures to maintain existing infrastructure or to pursue new economic development opportunities.

The city has unfulfilled potential and has a number of opportunities to expand the local economy. A clear vision from our elected representatives anchored on a cohesive broader community will be important if we are to secure these opportunities for or future. Our harbour area remains a very attractive location to develop tourism, accommodation and cultural assets. It can grow into a must-visit destination. We can fund investments here by being more careful how we spend money elsewhere.

Our mayor and some councilors have been at this for a long time. On October 27th we have the opportunity to sincerely and respectfully thank them for their services to our community and place our trust in new ideas pursued by new people.

Ted Renner
Owen Sound


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