Cornwall, Ontario – Here are five questions (and answers) with 2018 Cornwall, Ontario Mayoral candidate Bernadette Clement.
1 – Tell the voters a bit about yourself. What skills and experience would make you a good candidate for Mayor? Also, why are you running for Mayor?
I want to tell you about a love story. It is about my love for Cornwall and its people. Some 27 years ago, I applied for a job as a lawyer with the Legal Clinic. I didn’t have a car, so I came in on a bus. I got the job, but I also fell in love with this community.
I fell hard for this place and its people. And I learned from the people of Cornwall about the value of community and about the importance of a sense of belonging.
As a City Councillor for three terms now, over these 12 years I have sought to contribute to its success. I have always felt deeply honoured to receive the trust of residents and I have worked hard to respect the confidence which they placed in me.
Seeking the role of Mayor is part of my ongoing love for Cornwall. I’m not going to be running against anyone, but I will be running FOR principles and values that are important to me and that I believe are important for this community.
I look forward to speaking about regional cooperation, strategic planning, team building and the engagement of residents in true and new ways of effective participation and consultation.
I have been asked whether I would be a full-time Mayor.
I can tell you that I will be a Mayor who devotes herself fully to the advancement of our community, in everything that I do.
It is also my belief that to engage a new generation of leadership we should be able to draw upon those individuals who also continue to be part of a workplace apart from City Hall.
I have to also say that my way of approaching my responsibilities has always been energetic, conscientious and thorough.
In retaining my role with the Legal Clinic on a part-time basis I will continue to be connected to the needs of those of us who struggle daily.
A Mayor who remains truly connected to the people will, as a result, be able to be a better Mayor, ever mindful of the community’s challenges and sorrows but also able to bring about needed change.
I want to be the Mayor for everyone, including for those who will not vote for me, or who may not vote at all. I know that many women might pay close attention to my campaign, which means that I feel a special responsibility to make it a strong, positive and credible campaign so that young people understand that running for office is just something that women do.
2 – In what ways could we improve Economic Development and how can we make Cornwall a friendlier city for small businesses?
It’s time to rethink the dynamics of economic development, as part of a fresh approach, and look at the bigger picture. I want us to bring all our energy and determination towards what should be called Community Development. For economic development is truly linked to the health and well-being of our residents, to education and skills training, as well as to our social development. This is the real path to keeping taxes to a reasonable level, by strengthening our ability to welcome new investment and increase the vitality of existing businesses.
Community Development includes continuing to revitalize our Downtown and Le Village areas to further promote local enterprises, working effectively with not-for-profit groups to assist with facilitating entrepreneurship, enforcing property standards so that our homes and neighbourhoods are safe and secure, and grasping exciting opportunities for tourism attractions.
The Cornwall and Area Chamber of Commerce presented a Policy Report to City Council in the fall of 2016, “Small Business: Too Big to Ignore”. It included a survey of local businesses which outlined challenges such as the lack of access to skilled workers and an infrastructure gap in S.D.G. such as the serious need for an upgrade to Highway 138. Many of the issues raised the point to a need to work more closely together as a region when dealing with the provincial and federal governments. The City should also work more closely with the School Boards and with St Lawrence College to assist in highlighting those issues and working together towards solutions and new ideas. The City can and should help with many of those recommendations.
3 – What is your vision for arts and culture? How should an Arts and Culture Centre in Cornwall be paid for?
My mother taught me to always be an arts appreciator and over the years I have attended countless local concerts, plays and art exhibits because it is fun and healthy for me to do so and because it brings heart and soul to the work that I do in our community. And so I have always believed in the crucial importance of the Arts to our community and as a City Councillor, I participated in taking concrete steps to move our hope for an Arts Centre forward. The Arts are a vital part of our community’s health, of our tourism development and of our economic and social development.
The Arts community has been roaring into action for these last many years and they have been fundraising. As Mayor, I would lead the search for sources of government and community funding, to leverage that energy, including tourism investment to make the Arts Centre a true gem.
All of our work in this direction MUST fully involve the arts community. We need to consult effectively and make sure that we move forward in the right direction.
4 – Do you support keeping tax increases to a bare minimum? If so, where would the savings come from, and would you support reducing some services? If you do not support keeping tax increases to a minimum, explain why.
Because of my 12 years on Council, I have learned a lot about what makes sense and what does not, from a financial perspective.
We need to look beyond just the short-term especially as we deal with the infrastructure that makes our city work daily, such as the roads that carry us to work, to medical care and that brings us to places where we enjoy our city, such as the pipes and water mains that carry our fresh water and the sewers that help to keep our community clean and safe.
Short-term budget solutions must not be the way of the future and only end up costing us more in the long run. We now have a long-term financial plan that provides a roadmap to help the City keep up with crucial infrastructure and maintain tax levels that are appropriate and affordable.
We should also be talking to residents about the various tax relief programs that exist for disabled persons and seniors.
Residents need to feel confident in the value that they are receiving for their tax dollars and that has to be further addressed in the coming term.
True budget sense, true economic sense, always means keeping a balance. It means maintaining a level of services which can protect and serve our residents and attract new residents, industry, and commerce so that we can become stronger economically as a community.
5 – What has been the biggest accomplishment at City Hall over the past four years OR what has been the biggest issue of concern at City Hall over the past four years?
I want us to look to the future. We now have a long-term financial plan that supports an asset management plan. It provides a roadmap to proper infrastructure investment and continued affordability for city residents, over the long run. We have a real Art Centre project that we should factor into that plan.
And as we see the jewel which is our Waterfront, we are aware of the important challenges that we face in living up to the great possibilities of the future.
During this last term, the federal government expressed great confidence in us when it supported our historic agreement with Akwesasne, concerning the Port Lands in the East end of Cornwall. We now need to show what we can do in this region when we work together.
As Mayor, I want to approach the appropriate federal political leadership so that we are given special consideration in acquiring federal waterfront lands.
I simply cannot accept that as part of an area which has already paid dearly for the Seaway construction, that we be asked to pay top dollar for waterfront lands on an open market.
We need to unfold the great possibilities of our Waterfront, to encourage progress in developing the large spaces within our city such as the former industrial lands to the West of Brookdale.
I believe in dialogue and I intend to maintain this dialogue with our own city staff. Our community is well served by a loyal and devoted staff and they deserve to be treated with fairness and respect. Ongoing dialogue can avoid having to endure bruising struggles.
In preparing for the future, we can learn from our history. We have a right to be inspired by it and by the courage and wisdom which laid our foundations, now over 230 years ago, as one of the oldest communities in Ontario.
Firmly believing in our possibilities as a community, open to new ideas and approaches, respectful of one another, ready to listen to and to learn from both older and newer voices, we can make this, our shared home, an even better place in which to live.
For a complete list of nominees for Mayor, Councillors, and School Board Trustees, visit the City website.