Candidates Jim Winsor and Gary Connolley have been given a moment to introduce themselves:
Jim - Hi, my name is Jim Winsor, I'm a candidate for District 11. I'm a certified professional accountant by trade and I've spent half my career in financial management and half in general management. At one point, I managed a system of 52 public airports with a budget of up to $45 million dollars. I've been always engaged in community and I've developed credentials over my time that I feel will be beneficial to the council table.
Gary - Hello Kings County. I am Gary Connolly. I was elected a municipal councillor on Oct. 20, 2012. My time in council was well spent and I look forward to returning to council after the March 16 election. I have lived in New Minas for 34 years, operate my business there and raise my family there and do community outreach from there. Welcome to this forum and I look forward to answering your questions to the best of my ability.
Preserving agricultural land in the A1 Zone or supporting requests for rezoning for residential development, what is your position?
Gary - All of our agricultural land should be kept as agricultural land because once a house is sitting on it, there will be no more agricultural land. Those who own the land should never be held hostage to the possessions. I feel the provincial government must create a farmland bank which will enable others to farm the property as they wish, but leased back to them at a rate for whatever they produce will provide them with a profit.
Jim - Well, first of all, I believe there is sufficient land in the Valley to meet all of our needs. We need to be judicious in how we use it. We need to preserve the land that is agriculture because we need to feed our nation and the world. Our food goes world-wide. We need to have development plans that use inhospitable land, like where New Minas was trying to expand, for development, residential and commercial, and we need to be able to accommodate people who want to get out of their land by ensuring it continues through som trust, maybe the Agricultural Trust in place, so people are fairly compensated with their land if they need to get out.
Do you think the working relationship between the Village of New Minas and the County of Kings could be better than it is today? If so, what would you do to improve it?
Jim - Absolutely. Our council must work in partnership with our villages. and help them achieve their aspirations.
Gary – I believe that process is already started and that the present Warden, Warden Brothers, has broken with the past and has invited not only New Minas, but all villages, to come to a monthly meeting, that there will be participation of ideas back and forth. It’s the beginning of something that hasn’t been happening in a long time. As with New Minas, it generates 30 per cent of the income from the county. And therefore, the county must look on New Minas and especially work with New Minas on their endeavours in the future. New Minas must have a say in its growth.
For Gary: In regards to your flyer it states vote integrity and credibility, it goes on to say we would like you( the voter) to know that in just one and a half months we achieved the following: most of the pot holes in New Minas have been repaired( I beg to differ)is this New Minas Nova Scotia we are talking about.
Gary – Thank you for the question, it also states in my flyer that was as of December and that there are many more potholes to come, because that’s the nature of our climate with our freeze and thaw action, any pavement that’s older in nature, tends to come apart. We’re hopeful that a lot of the repaving work will get done this summer, but as long as we have pavement in Canada, there will be potholes.
For Jim - In regards to your flyer you state that what you offer above all else is sincerity and integrity, how will this carry over post election if you are elected.
Jim – This means that what I say is what you can count on, and what I say, I will do. I believe that I will bring credentials to our county that will helkp us look at our financial management decisions and we will do things that is in the best interests of our voters. There should be no more vested-interest decision making. We’ve had enough decisions that was not in the interest in the voters, but certain individuals. We’ve wasted significant dollars because decisions were made before we had approvals, like the Greenwich investment in water systems. We wasted money on a management review study and subsequent elimination of senior management positions at about a million dollars cost that would have been best spent in services and maintaining our infrastructure like roads. I am not about making promises that I cannot keep. I am about working hand in hand with the people, and for the people. I intend to roll up my sleeves and do just that should I be successful.
What are your thoughts on the Kent development proposal for Exit 12 and is this progressing quickly enough as far as the municipal planning process is concerned?
Jim – I think the Kent proposal was an excellent proposal that met the desires of the Village of New Minas, fitted with the ambitions of Kent and it worked for the land owners in that area. No, it is not moving fast enough; it sat almost a year before there was really action. Our planning dept was not responsive to the needs, to the frustrations, again, of our village and our businesses. We need to do better, we must be open for business. The Kent proposal could’ve been taken as a baseline, modified if there were concerns and it should have been action by now. This, again, is another example of our council working in and adversarial relationship with businesses and villages. We must do better in the future, we have to for us to prosper.
Gary – No, nobody would think it’s moved along fast enough, certainly not stakeholders, not council. I got involved with Exit 12 in November, where New Minas PAC passed a motion which pleased everyone involved and moved the process on to committee of the whole. Where it was the previous period of time, I don’t know, I haven’t asked. It passed through committee of the whole with no problem and went on to amendements. On Dec. 21, I received a call from Madeline in the planning dept telling me the amendments were made but was unable to send them to me. Patricia Bishop was going away on a trip and they didn’t surface again Feb. 19. It was sent back again to PAC New Minas, where the PAC passed the amendments and sent it back to COW. Nobody likes process, but we have to have one. Perhaps, within this term of council, we can make adjustments to that process, but right now, it’s necessary to work with what we have.
Question for Gary: The Municipal Elections Act is a piece of legislation. County council has neither the power nor authority to change any of it. Isn’t it overreaching to say that being elected councillor will bring about changes to the elections act?
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Gary – Being elected councillor will enable the input from the councillors to be taken by the warden to Minister McDonnell, who has said he intends to open the Municipal Elections Act and make changes where necessary, hopefully to upgrade it, hopefully to include the necessity for criminal background checks for anyone wishing to run for council and accountabilities for funds raised during campaigns, because there is none now. Yes, it is provincial legislation, and that’s the level it needs to be changed at.
For Jim - How can one separate political decisions and good business like decisions on matters brought before council, when matters are voted on.
Jim – They don’t necessarily have to be mutually exclusive all the time. Sometimes good politics is good business. We can do things to stimulate our business, we can do things to foster business. Example: our airport. Can we look at that airport and find a business case to give it some stability that would generate even more business? Right now there’s no commitment to it, so people can’t invest. If I was involved in that process, I’d be looking for airport expertise, include on the committee someone in the Halifax Airport, the Greenwood Military Base, look at the expertise they’d bring. A small airport can prosper under the shadow of a large airport. We can take nuisance business from them and allow us to prosper as a business. The thing that you have to guard against is making decisions for the vested interests of certain people instead of the broad interests of the county and voters. Business should not conflict with the broad interests of our county. We’re not put there as councillors to foster special interests.
In which direction would you like to see development in and around New Minas go in the immediate future, primarily commercial or primarily residential and why?
Jim – The future expansion for New Minas should be to the south of highway 101. The village has been saying that for some time. The municipal planning strategy has said it for 20 years, the land is inhospitable for farming, so it makes good sense to use it for commercial and residential. New Minas has outgrown its commercial and residential properties. The positive about expanding south of 101 as well is that we would likely capture shopping dollars, business dollars, that now go on into Halifax. We need those dollars to stay local. They would generate taxes for the county.
Gary – Personally, and you ask me how I would like to see it, I’ve met so many people moving out west because there’s no place to earn a living here. We are blessed to have the business we have, but 95 per cent is retail. We have very little light industrial in New Minas that creates job, We presently have 235 empty building lots, our housing starts have gone from 30-40 per year to 3-4, all you need to do is walk through our county fair mall and see where our economy is at right now. In the future, as development moves on in Exit 12 A, I’m sure it will bring families to New Minas, which I’m sure will be in the retail sector. While not the highest-paying, they’re good jobs and I look forward to the recovery of our economy, which will add more stability to our commercial base.
We have the Kings Partnership Steering Committee to work toward local inter-municipal co-operation. Does this go far enough toward regionalization or should we take a long, hard look at amalgamation?
Gary – I believe in regionalization, I believe in the sharing of resources, I believe we have a ways to go in that because everyone likes to have their own place in the county. I’ve spoken with a number of people about regionalization, and as long as you’re talking privately, they’re all for it. When you start talking publicly, people start getting nervous. At a recent 2050 meeting, one of the discussion groups of which I was a part talked about shared resources, how it’s beginning to move towards regionalization, which is something we will have to come to in the future. Examples were used of bus system, which is a shared resource from Weymouth to Windsor, and how we can build on that, perhaps with our water specialists, engineering dept. The future is regionalization.
Jim – The question brings three words into it – cooperation, regionalization, and amalgamation. It could be three different concepts, I’m not sure what regionalization and amalgamation mean in the mind of the asker, but any time we can ciooperate to mutual advantage, we need to do that. It’s a way we can get maximum value for our scarce dollar. I’m not aware of any work or discussion that can be done on amalgamation, and that is something that becomes the will of the people. And I haven’t heard anyone bring it up at the door and I’ve hit just about every door in new Minas. It may come in the agenda at some time. If regionalization means sharing resources and cooperating across different jurisdictions, I think most people would want to do that. It does require that we look at the bigger picture and it is an opportunity for the county to take a leadership role.
For Gary - what is one thing that you would change if elected, knowing how council works and votes on matters, concerning the village of New Minas
Gary – In the time I was in council, the month and a half, I found council members looked very favourably on New Minas. I had no one give a negative comment on council towards New Minas. I don’t understand the question, as relationships are being built, as I know that is the aim of council, to build a relationship with the villages. There is nothing I can change because I’m one vote along with 10 others to make any changes.
Each candidate has been given a moment to sign off:
Jim – I appreciate the opportunity to share my thoughts this evening. I appreciate the opportunity to meet many of you at the doors. I’ve asked you, based on my credentials and based on the priorities I believe you’ve been sharing, and that I agree with, for your vote. Many of you agree with me that this election is about stewardship over our governance and our some $50 million budget. Many of you agree that we need solid credentials to represent the interests of our people on council. I am delighted to present myself as your candidate. And I commit to working justly and humbly for you if elected councillor.
Gary – To the voters of New Minas: thank you for taking part and allowing me to take part in this forum. I would hope that as you have known me over the last 34 years, that you will do the right thing and come out to vote Mar. 9, 12 or 16 and support our good work, which we got started in council after being elected in October. We are providing transportation, if you need it, please call. Thank you.
Thanks to the readers and the candidates who participated!