DAN CEARNS, The Standard
KAWARTHA LAKES: The Lindsay and District Chamber of Commerce held an all-candidates meeting at the Victoria Park Armoury on Monday, October 3rd.
The event included a chance for residents to meet and talk with their Kawartha Lakes ward councillor candidates, mayoral candidates and school board trustee candidates. There was also a question-and-answer portion of the event with the six mayoral candidates.
One of the questions the candidates received was about what they’d do as Mayor to reduce crime in the City.
Kathleen Seymour-Fagan stressed the importance of mental health support and lobbying the upper levels of government for legislation changes. “We have to look at the problems which started it, which are mental health and the drug issues. We have a big problem right now. Luckily the town isn’t quite as bad as the other areas. There [are] other towns that are very bad,” she said. “The police are as frustrated as we are because they can’t even take them in and hold them anymore. We have to work with the province and the [federal government] to get tighter rules.”
Faye McGee agreed the City of Kawartha Lakes needs to discuss this issue with the provincial government. “The police bring them in and then send them home because there is nothing to hold them on,” she said. “It’s not just in the towns; it’s in the rural areas as well.”
Jim Riches explained this issue is broad, sweeping across the municipality in all ages of people. “Every single person, even our children, are suffering mentally. If we can’t even control it in our own homes, it will be difficult at a municipal level to be able to leverage change,” he stated. “We have to partner with CAMH or some other institution who has actual working solutions.” He added it would take the community coming together to address the overall mental health crisis.
William Denby pointed to the opioid crisis as a contributing factor to the crime issue. “If you give these people respect, give them a place where they are comfortable and feel safe, eventually they stop doing what they are doing, and they realize there is a better life out there than going to a needle, or taking pills, or getting drunk. A lot of them become productive citizens again. I look at this as the role of the churches. They have to get back involved in the community again.”
Doug Elmslie suggested partnering with local crime watchdog organizations. “I think, as a municipality, we need to protect the citizenry who are not afflicted. How do we do that? We do it through things like Neighbourhood Watch, Crime Stoppers and those types of organizations. Organizations who exist and can at least help keep our communities safe.” He also proposed increasing police street patrols as an option.
Pat Dunn stated through his conversations with local police officials, there is no obvious answer. “Until [the police] get some level of authority to lock someone up, these people are back on the road before the cop finishes doing his paperwork. It’s just that quick of a turnaround. So, there isn’t an easy solution.”
The candidates were also asked how they’d support local businesses in the community.
Ms. Seymour-Fagan reminded the community of the importance of shopping locally. “We all live and work locally here, so we have to start supporting local [businesses]. We have to stop going to Peterborough and going to Costco all of the time. If you want to have businesses here that employ people here, we need to start supporting local, or we will have empty downtowns.”
Ms. McGee pointed to the lack of employees willing to take jobs in the municipality. “The council has to listen to the businesses and see what we can do to support them,” she explained. “[The] biggest issue is trying to get people back to work.”
Mr. Riches suggested a modern approach to this issue. “We need to stop taxing small businesses the way we are. They are paying way too much for rent and taxes. The city can deal with that and also incorporate some model where they can invigorate these younger kids to work for them, but not have to be on site.”
Mr. Denby said for businesses to thrive, the City “needs a reason for people to come” to the Kawartha Lakes.
“To come and explore Kawartha Lakes, to enjoy Kawartha Lakes, that puts money into our small businesses.”
Mr. Elmslie stated the City already has some of the necessary infrastructure in place with organizations like the city’s Economic Development department and the local Business Improvement Associations (BIA) operating, as well as the summer company program the City puts on.
Mr. Dunn said dealing with an apparent lack of parking will help to aid the local businesses.
“If the people can’t park, they’re not going to stop at your stores. We’ve got to address the parking issues.”