Four Takeaways from the Municipal Election Forum

Candidates from ward 2 gather on the stage. L-R: Sarah Jensen, Galen Naidoo-Harris, Michael Vertolli, John Challinor, and Giles vanderHolt

By: Laura Steiner

The candidate forum was a full day of politics featuring candidates from all four wards.  Here are four things to take away

1. Generation Shift: There is a creeping generational shift.  The amount of younger candidates (30 and under) is surprising, and it fits with Milton’s demographics as being one of the youngest communities in the country.  Some of them were impressive in their knowledge of the issues facing Milton.  There are also more women involved this time.  Wards, 1,2, and 4 all have one or more female candidate running for either local, or regional seat.  In recent years there has only been one woman on council.  For the 2018-2022 there’s a chance there could be at least three.

2.  The “Tax question:” There was one question that was asked multiple times about holding the property tax to inflation or increasing it beyond that.  Almost nobody answered that, which in one way is understandable.  The reality however is town staff have called for a proposed 12.82% tax increase in the 2019 budget.  I sat through council meetings where the general message of the finance department was that the days of raiding reserves, in order to keep taxes low were at an end.  The Town was either going to need a big increase in taxes, or council would have to decide where to cut services.   This has become the looming elephant that nobody wants to talk about.

3.  Experience/ new ideas: It was a reflex of many incumbent politicians to talk about their records; a hospital expansion, and a university campus are both accomplishments to crow about.  But  how do you solve gridlock? How do you ensure Laurier has what it needs to make a success of its campus? What about dealing with marijuana? Or Transit? How do you lure well-paying jobs to Milton? The town still has challenges to work though.  Few talked of new ideas of solving these concerns.  The closest was the idea of a region-wide transit system instead of municipalities.

4. Growth’s the thing:  The Places to Grow is provincial legislation forecasting population growth in Milton to be 230,000 by 2031.  What the new provincial government plans to do with it remains a question mark.  Intensification; the idea of building up not out,  is set to play its role as well.  How high do you build- current zoning laws allows between 4-6 storey buildings in the downtown area.  What this growth will look like is going to be a juggling act.  The idea of slowing it down to a more manageable rate was mentioned.

 

1 Comment

  1. Tax is always an election issue. Nobody wants to be hit with a larger bill, especially with the cost of living going up and high housing costs. Combining the 2018 and 2019 property tax increase, we will be approaching a 20 per cent rate increase. This is quite a drastic increase. Most municipalities want to keep the increase in line with inflation. On the other hand, we have one of the lowest property tax rates in Ontario which would limit Milton’s ability to serve its population.

    What we should really be looking at is sustainable and MANAGEABLE growth. The current development charges should be reevaluated. Development charges should do what they are meant to do: have growth pay for growth. Real estate development charges should be an “initiation fee” to pay for their fair share of infrastructure expansion and incremental increase of demand for municipal services. If Milton’s real estate development charges were proportionate to the expansion costs, we would not be seeing such large property tax hikes. Higher development charges would also slow growth to a more manageable level for Milton.

    Increasing development charges will kill two birds with one stone: slow property tax rate increases and slow growth to a more manageable level.

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