Municipal Elections are taking place in October. As one of the main media outlets in the City of Cornwall, The Seeker is always eager to getting to know the candidates. The mayoral candidates have a special importance as they will get to lead council for the next four years. We asked them to give their position on the most pressing issues near and dear to you, our readers. Every candidate was sent 11 questions, penned by our own, Jason Setnyk. They can chose to answer as many as they want. We will post them online as they come in. Here are Justin Towndale’s Questions and Answers. Click on any question to reveal the answer.
1 – Please give us a brief biography / tell the readers about yourself.
I’m 39 years old and was raised in Cornwall. I attended university in Toronto and worked at Queen’s Park for about five years before moving back home. I am fortunate to be currently finishing my second term as one of your City Councillors. Since moving home I have invested in a couple of local businesses and have sat on a number of local boards, including a number of non profits. I am also an Infantry Officer with the SD&G Highlanders. I am proud to be a Cornwallite and love my city and want to see it, and our residents, succeed.
2 – If you were on Council the previous term, tell us about your accomplishments during the past four years. If you were not on City Council this last term, please tell us why you are running and what you hope to accomplish.
During this last term I attempted to bring some progressive, and positive, change. A couple of examples: I put forward motions to reduce the size of Council and to look at adopting a ward system. Both were deferred for public consultation. For the 2021 budget I moved a motion to have both the Summer Playground program and Arts in the park readded. I also put forward a motion to develop a remote work strategy prior to the pandemic and the rise of remote work. As well, I managed to get the ban on arcades rescinded.
3 – With rents skyrocketing, what can City Council in Cornwall do to prevent renovictions like those at Cumberland Gardens that have impacted many in our community?
We need to lobby the province to make changes to the provincial legislation which currently allow renovictions. We can also do this with other municipalities. Aside from this, the City can directly contact property owners who are looking to pursue this route and attempt to convince them to not go down this route. We also need to focus on housing supports, like a shelter and more social housing. These are both priorities for me.
4 – In 2018, the City of Cornwall purchased the old Bank of Montreal building in our downtown for $450,000 as the future home of Cornwall’s Art Centre. In 2019, Council heard a report that renovations would cost an additional $4 to $6 million dollars. In addition to the fundraising already being done, will you support some public tax dollars going towards a Cornwall Art Centre, or should the municipality pause any additional financial support?
I do support tax dollars supporting the Arts Centre. We also need to bring the other two levels of government to the table as well. I do not believe that we can pursue this project without their help. The Arts Centre will be a positive addition to the community and put us on par with our peers, like Brockville, and Belleville. As a city we need places like this or we cannot move forward and grow.
5 – Post-pandemic, what can Council do to improve Economic Development for the city and support existing businesses?
We need to take a serious look at the red tape which is causing issues. This involves the time it can take for permits, and moving applications and forms online to the City website. We also need to be open to expanding funding and promotional programs across the City and not just in specific neighbourhoods. I would like to work more closely with the Chamber of Commerce and neighbourhood BIAs to discuss the actual needs of our businesses.
6 – What are your thoughts on the McConnell Medical Clinic closure? Although health care is a provincial issue, is there anything Council can do to attract more doctors and nurses to our city?
Like many residents, I am currently without a family doctor. My former doctor was reducing his patient load, and I was dropped as a patient. The closure of the McConnell Medical Clinic was a huge blow to our community. I recently put forward a motion to strike a task force to look at changing our medical scholarship program to capture more applicants and more doctors. This motion was defeated at Council. I think its long overdue to change the program criteria to attract specialists and foreign trained doctors to Cornwall.
7 – While climate change is a global issue, what can the City do locally to keep our neighborhoods cool and protect natural resources like the St. Lawrence River?
The City does currently have a climate change plan and has declared a climate emergency. There are a number of green initiatives that we can undertake as a city. We should be looking at electric vehicles for the city fleet where applicable, and using the roofs of large buildings for solar panels. Both will reduce overall city costs, while simultaneously reducing our carbon footprint.
8 – Many City businesses are open on Sundays, and many events happen on Sundays. Do you support Sunday service for Cornwall Transit?
Yes. It is time for Sunday Service for transit. There are a number of businesses, especially in the hospitality sector, that rely on employees being able to work on Sunday. However, in speaking with business owners it can be difficult to schedule staff when there is no bus service to help them get to work. There is also a gap in service for our residents who use electric wheelchairs. Without accessible taxis, or Sunday Service, it becomes difficult to move about the city.
9 – What can we do to improve social services in Cornwall? Examples include but are not limited to Cornwall Transit, childcare spaces, or LTR spaces.
Right now, there is a need for social housing in the City. We need to look at increasing this stock. While we are building spaces ourselves, we can also look at willing private sector partners to assist. We will need some assistance in this area from the province as we are the service provider, funded by the province.
10 – Do you support keeping tax increases to a bare minimum? If yes, 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 your reasoning why.
I support reasonable tax increases. I do not believe that zero percent is achievable or realistic. Despite this, I also believe that the City needs to budget accordingly. We cannot increase spending every year and expect the residential sector to absorb the majority of the increase. Some projects may have to be put off, or spread out over a number of years to achieve this. I also believe that it is incumbent on Council to undertake a detailed budget process and not simply rubber stamp what is presented to us.
11 – How can candidates contact you? Please provide a phone number and/or email and/or one website (or one social media link).
I can be reached anytime at 343-288-1199 or at [email protected]. My website is currently under construction and will contain my detailed platform once finished: www.justintowndale.ca.