It’s election season in northwestern Ontario!

Q104, KenoraOnline and DrydenNow asked each Council and Mayor candidate for their thoughts on a variety of issues in the community, and we’ll be running a series of articles with candidates’ responses.

With Canada’s inflation rate, municipal taxes and bills continuing to rise – how would you plan to ease the financial burden on residents who are already struggling to make ends meet?

- Andrew Poirier
“The new council has the ability and power to mitigate tax and user fee increases on all residents of our city. It is whether they have the will to do so.

The most effective way to increase city revenue is through NEW ASSESSMENT, NOT RE-ASSESSMENT. This is accomplished by all the housing and commercial development mentioned in Question #2 becoming operational. The city should conduct a line-by-line analysis of discretionary spending within all budgets.”

- Mort Goss
“Gross economic disparity is a sign of the times; globally, too much wealth has been concentrated in the hands of a few. However, the solution lies far beyond the municipal level, those needed changes must come from the federal government.

At a municipal level, there are few measures that can be enacted, but small changes can and will help. I’d encourage the new council to look at all options; subsidize programs where it is possible.

One small example would be to use hotel accommodation tax dollars to subsidize the cost of the Coney Island shuttle to keep costs very low, allowing local and visiting families to enjoy a true local treasure that has become out of reach for many.

Local bus transportation should be expanded, but gas tax funding is limited to capital purchases, finding further funding is essential. Council must focus on these and more efforts to make healthy living more available to all.”

- Sharon Smith
“One way we can help is to keep our tax rate low. The tax rate times a property assessment equals the amount of property tax paid. The tax rate is lower than it was eight years ago. It is 90% of what it was eight years ago.”

- Lisa Moncrief
“Ensuring that municipal services are equitable, well managed and delivered at a fair price. Encourage property development and economic development as a way to keep taxes where they are.”

- Joel McGrath
“Streamlining public services and reducing emergency services costs would help to keep property taxes reasonable. More development, promoted by City Council, would create more revenue and help to spread the tax burden.”

- Lindsay Koch
“I can’t answer this without a deeper dive into the city’s finances. I don’t disagree that it’s problematic and needs some resolution, and I want to explore that for the benefit of everyone, but my expertise is not such that I can offer much here at this time.”

- Kelsie Van Belleghem
“Municipalities do not have any say in regards to inflation control measures. Inflation is a mandate of the Bank of Canada, which is independent of all levels of government and is mandated to keep inflation within set numbers.

The Federal government should be passing laws (as recently seen in the U.S.) to tax corporations at a higher rate on the record-breaking profits they have been making since the pandemic. If they do not do this, it is unlikely we will see gas or grocery prices go down, as there is currently no incentive for them to stop charging these prices unless they are going to see their profit margins reduced. Reach out to me at kelsieforcouncil@gmail.com if you would like a copy of the letter I submitted to MP Eric Melillo asking him to lobby for these tax changes.

With all that being said, I don’t believe that the funding path Kenora is currently on in regard to the municipal tax levy, and service charge increases are sustainable. We need to work to attract people of my generation, either back, or welcome new members here, through accessible and affordable housing options, robust, year-round recreation and entertainment, and proper support services to make life manageable here (aka adequate daycare, and after-school care coverage).

Kenora also needs to work with other levels of government to make sure the communities that we support as a hub, do not overburden our municipal capacity.”

- Mark LaBelle
“Being a homeowner in Kenora there’s a certain amount of tax that we all almost pay. If there are owners that have trouble paying their municipal taxes there are programs in place that would help to ease the burden.

We are all faced with changing our spending habits based on the high cost of living. If you can afford to buy a house You should be in a financial position to pay the taxes. If not, then you should look at the rental option until you can find the necessary finances to purchase a house.”

- Chris Poate
“This is a tough one to answer, as I'm sure it's the case in every community presently. 

Cutting services and therefore staffing would appear to be the only sure way to reduce taxes, but that would create its own set of problems, like producing a lot of unemployed people, that would probably counter any savings in operations with increased costs in other areas of costs to the City.  

Also, the City should be careful in its budgeting so as not to run a surplus during tough times.  This surplus could only be provided by taking it out of the pockets of ratepayers who, in the current circumstances, can't afford it.”

- Mark Perrault
“Only way is to grow our economy by producing something of value we can export.  That requires a post-secondary education system.

Kenora needs to shift from resource extraction to the knowledge economy and invent and produce value-added products. Distance to market suggests we focus on high-value, high quality not quantity products.

The city should work with local artists and artisans to help market their products worldwide taking advantage of trade agreements with Europe and Asia.”

Every candidate was asked for their responses to five questions related to issues in the community. As of the time of publishing, we did not receive responses from: Louis Roussin, Cecile Marcino, Logan Haney, Barbara Manson, Graham Chaze, Bob Bernie, Andy Scribilo, David Byers-Kitt.

Advanced voting is underway in Kenora and voting begins in Dryden on October 14. The Municipal election will wrap up on October 24.