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.

Do you support a variable tax rate for rural residents, who say they are receiving lessened services compared to urban-area residents?

- Andrew Poirier
“I support the concept of reviewing variable tax rates for rural residents, which I have stated at two community forums held during this election campaign. This is an area of municipal taxation where I have to become more educated.”

- Sharon Smith
“I have yet to hear a thank you from the North of the Bypass group for Council action when we were approached about the condition of some of their roads.

The role of Council is policy development and policy implementation. We don't put on white hard hats and inspect roads. That is the role of staff. When Council was made aware of the situation we took action and hired an external consultant to deliver a report and recommendation to Council.

If there are credible issues regarding lack of services for property taxes paid I'm sure a new Council will listen, just as the outgoing Council did with respect to roads.”

- Mort Goss
“No; dropping taxes in one area will result in tax increases for the rest of the city. I have been, and remain a strong advocate for a thorough study.”

- Lisa Moncrief
"No. I support service improvement to underserviced areas."

- Chris Poate
“I would support a variable tax rate if a study shows that that's the fair way to handle the situation that rural, but within City Limits, residents find themselves in.

However, we need to be aware that any reduction to their tax rates would probably have to come out of the pockets of the more urban residents.  That is unless we can develop or creatively discover other sources of income for the City.

The North of the Bypass group should spend some time helping to identify those other potential income streams.  They have some talented thinkers in their group and I believe they could be very helpful in this regard.”

- Joel McGrath
“As a city, we should work toward reducing the gap in services to rural areas. I would have to examine the fiscal implications of variable taxes before offering an opinion.”

- Kelsie Van Belleghem
“I am open to reviewing any solutions to make sure everyone is being treated equitably.

Although, I believe increasing our tax base (and therefore revenue) downtown through development, and working with MPP Greg Rickford to review the PLT, which has not been reviewed since 2017, and levying part of that increase to cover municipal infrastructure deficits are probably more appropriate pathways.”

- Mark Perrault
“Not opposed but the devil is in the detail.  What constitutes rural?  Where is the cut-off between two homes paying a different rate?  Does this mean no water delivery anymore?”

- Mark LaBelle
“That would all depend on what the variable rate was. I do believe there should be some form of equity.”

- Lindsay Koch
“I support looking into what options there are. If taxes are reduced anywhere, they have to be picked up somewhere else, which ties back to the need for private development.”

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.