Nine vying for Gananoque council seats

Nine people competing for the six councillor positions up for grabs in Gananoque in next Monday’s election.

Those in the running include David Osmond, Matt Harper, Colin Brown, Bruce Burt, Katherine Christensen, Patrick Kirby, Anne-Marie Koiner, Vicki Leakey, and Marion Sprenger.

Osmond and Harper are the only two seeking re-election.

One of Osmond’s priorities, if re-elected, is a focus on fiscal responsibility.

“We’re going to have to pay attention to what’s going on in the economy over the next couple of years and pay attention to spending,” said Osmond. “It’s going to be really hard to keep taxes from going up.”

Harper said that, due to the COVID-19 pandemic stopping and/or slowing multiple projects over the past few years, he feels he has more to accomplish as a councillor.

“I hope to see some senior programming in place, public transit is a hot (topic)," said Harper. “We also have a lot of projects on the go and I’d like to see us finish a bunch of (them) before we got other ones started, focusing on the must have instead of the nice have.”

Leakey is retired from 27 years working in public accounting as a senior manager for KPMG’s Kingston office.

“It’s important to me that we have to come with new solutions to carry on after (the COVID-19 pandemic), we have to get people working out of their homes,” said Leakey. “Sometimes working from home is acceptable, however, in a municipal setting we’re a service provider and our people need to have access to us, and we need to encourage staff to ensure that they are welcoming.”

Brown, meanwhile, is the nephew of the late Gord Brown, the longtime local MP who died while in office in 2018. Colin ran unsuccessfully for the Conservative Party nomination to succeed his uncle, a vote wone by current MP Michael Barrett.

“The parking situation downtown along the waterfront is an issue,” said Brown. “You have citizens, taxpayers who want to go down, have a walk by the waterfront with their coffee in the morning, but they have to pay to get there, so there’s some issues there.”

Burt, a first-time candidate in elections, said his top priority is a focus on affordable housing.

“Along with a dedicated senior centre for the seniors,” Burt added.

Christensen, who has sat on multiple boards including tourism, said one of her focuses is on bringing newcomers to the community.

“That would help with increasing the tax base so core services will be less expensive or much improved or a combination of the two,” said Christensen.

Kirby, a local elementary French teacher, as well as working part-time as first mate at City Cruises, said he stands for local business, supporting youth and being a voice for the residents of Gananoque.

Koiner, the former treasurer for the Village of Westport before retiring a year ago, said she sees this election as an opportunity to serve her community and work with the residents and town staff to bring positive solutions to some of the issues.

“The word on the street from the people I talk with is, everyone complains about property tax, and everyone complains about the water and sewer rates,” said Koiner. “For some it’s not affordable.”

Sprenger, a member of the Kinsmen Advisory panel, who has been a public voice in the council chambers for years, said she’d now like to have her voice heard at the decision-making table.

“I’ve been an advocate for accessibility for years now, along with energy and conservation, so I’m hoping to bring that lens to the council chambers,” said Sprenger. “This will save us money in the long run. The other big topic is the parking, as I’d like to see a holistic parking strategy, looking at other municipalities and what they do and look for solutions.”

(Keith Dempsey is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Brockville Recorder and Times. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.)