SC: What does sustainability mean for you, with respect to Cobourg?
PP: From my perspective, sustainability with respect to Cobourg means several things:
- Integrated Planning
Ensuring that both the Town’s and the County’s Official Plans (the latter currently under development) fully consider and respect our local heritage and that future commercial and residential development reflects a responsible balance of environmental, social and economic needs.
- Local Matters
Promoting the production and processing of local agriculture, encouraging local producers and processors to reduce and to the extent possible eliminate its chemical content and work with our provincial and federal members of the legislature and parliament to provide more meaningful labeling of origin and content.
- 3Rs Matter
Reuse, Reduce, Recycle can have a big local impact on waste management, from landfills to composting and there are things we can do to improve and increase local involvement, from improving recycling efforts and composting to riding bicycles and labeling food.
- Protecting Our Assets
Our waterfront, harbour, parks, trees and green space need to be preserved and made accessible to all of the community.
- Green Infrastructure
The planning and development of infrastructure should take into account all aspects of sustainability, from safe and enjoyable cycling and walking to access and natural habitats.
SC: How would you ensure that it is provided adequate funding in the budget allocations?
PP: Our financial house is not in order. High taxes and debt, a result of overspending in the past are not only a contributing factor in the decline of our local economy, but a serious barrier to long-term growth and an impediment to sustainability unless it is corrected.
A first objective of the new council must be expenditure control and tax reduction. It is critical in building a prosperous economy and ensuring that we are in a financial position to accommodate all considerations for sustainability. If making something more sustainable costs more money, we want to be able to be in a fiscal position to do that.
As Deputy Mayor, I will request a detailed review of core services to:
- Make sure we are getting full value for our money.
- Ensure that sustainability is factored into our decision-making.
- Determine how we can deliver better services for less cost.
In order to provide for the community services we all desire and need, we must eliminate wasteful and big-ticket spending schemes, which are crowding out funding for needed projects, including many environmental components. For example, improving the bicycling and walking safety and culture in Cobourg.
Based on projections contained in the 2014 Budget, council will be faced with increased spending demands that, if left unchecked, will result in a $4.1 million or 19% increase in the municipal levy in 2015.
While I will certainly support responsible funding for green infrastructure and pledge to establish a budget for such initiatives, it would be imprudent for me, at this time, to say that it will be “adequate” without first knowing what specific dollar amounts we will need over the next four years. However, I will commit that in the first year any request you make in pre-budget submissions will be fully considered and in an open and transparent process, we will assess what is practical and affordable. If something is not affordable in the first year then every consideration will be given to finding mutually acceptable levels in future years.
SC: What is the first thing that should be done and what priority among your other responsibilities would you give it?
PP: The new Council will be faced with making a critical decision early in its term on the proposal to expand the marina into the west harbour. It will have a significant impact on the natural environment of our waterfront.
In my view, the Cobourg harbour is one of the most valuable assets we have in our community. It belongs to all of the people, not to any single segment, and any decision we, as a council, make will have a significant cultural, environmental and financial impact on the quality of life enjoyed by all our residents.
From a personal perspective, I do not support any expansion of the marina that would encroach on the west harbour. Of course, there is a need to balance the needs of all users, whether they are boaters, dragon boaters and kayakers or people enjoying picnics on the grass and walks on the beach; consequently, we must preserve the natural beauty of the harbour and surrounding environment. I believe we currently have an appropriate balance and that any further expansion to the west would not be in the best interests of the community.
Based on the public opinion and comments I have read and heard to date, it is obvious that a majority of those who have voiced their opinion share the same view that I do, and are strongly opposed to expanding the marina into the west harbor and, if elected Deputy Mayor, I will propose more public discussion before Council makes a decision. Extensive public consultation on important matters like this – and all sustainability issues – is a key to restoring people’s faith in their politicians. If the public consensus continues to clearly oppose expansion of the marina then I will certainly vote against expansion.
If, for any reason, there is no clear consensus or a “split vote” on Council, I will propose that such a vote be held in abeyance until the citizens can be given a final say by means of a referendum.
SC: Would you be prepared to sign a pledge to support active transportation within Cobourg?
PP: Yes! And I have.