CANDIDATE Q&A – Michael Prue

 

 

The town is going through a re-branding process. How would you define what Amherstburg is and how it should be promoted?

My wife and I chose Amherstburg as our home eight years ago out of all the communities in Ontario. For us it was an ideal place in which to start our new life. We have felt welcomed by all.

Amherstburg is renowned for its lake and riverside scenery, its history, its ambiance, the wonderful restaurants, wildlife, leisure opportunities, safety and most of all its warm and caring people.

This must remain part of our branding.

In the future, we should add that we are a dynamic and growing economy which is open for business; our proximity to a giant US market- especially when NAFTA is renegotiated; and the skilled and entrepreneurial people who live here.

We should dream big: tourism, hotels, restaurants, a conference centre at Belle Vue, a waterfront full of people, boating opportunities and preservation of our rare and endangered flora and fauna.

Tying in our obvious charm with the dynamism of where we want to go and thus highlighting our aspirations will truly brand Amherstburg as the “go-to” place in Essex County.

Michael Prue is seeking the position of councillor in the Oct. 22 municipal election.

 

Taxes and spending will always be election issues. What is the best way to spend money on roads and infrastructure while, at the same time, keeping taxes at a reasonable level?

The first duty of any council is to determine the monies available to carry out the many programs for which the town is responsible.

We need to grow. We need to prosper. We need new sources of revenue which will only be available through enhanced commercial/industrial development. The residential taxpayer needs assurances that taxes will not be wasted.

Amherstburg has many laudable goals – fixing our aging infrastructure, enhancing our historic downtown, building new schools and senior centres. But first we must find new revenues.

This past council set aside $1.41 million to renew our roadways. This is clearly insufficient. Our rural roads especially are in need of much attention. Many neighbourhoods suffer from potholes, roads heaving and roads which at a minimum need resurfacing. Council should adopt a more rigorous agenda for repair and renewal. This is equally true of our bridges. A solid transportation network is a vital precondition for enticing new business to locate here.

The only real way to make those improvements is through an expanded non-residential tax base.

 

 

Transparency” and “accountability” are words often heard during election campaigns. What specific measures would you undertake to ensure town council lives up to those words?

Transparency and accountability are not just buzzwords at election time. They are part of our heritage as Canadians. They are what we must demand of our elected representatives.

When the people speak, they must be heard. Their collective voice should be given first priority over consultants hired from afar.

As a Councillor I will work to ensure a more transparent and accountable Council by:

  • Changing our procedural By Law to encourage more deputations to Council
  • Holding non-Council meetings -especially planning meetings- throughout Amherstburg- Malden, Anderdon, River Canard and McGregor etc to encourage citizen participation and input
  • Assisting residents to receive written information and documents without forcing them to go through the long, tedious and expensive process of a freedom of information application
  • Limiting in-camera meetings in line with the rule set out in past Ombudsman’s decisions
  • Making myself visible and reachable on line, by phone and in person.
  • Listening always to the sage advice of the people who live here

This is what accountability and transparency mean to me.

 

 

How would you encourage economic development for the Town of Amherstburg over the next four years (and beyond)?

This is the key issue of this election.

We face a stagnant industrial area, rising residential taxes and insufficient monies to effect all the necessary repairs.

I addressed a similar set of problems as Mayor of East York through streamlining our planning application process for business, bringing in new technology and reducing development fees. In five years, we filled our factories, built new industries, capped property tax at zero per cent and paid off all our debts.

The same can happen here. I propose:

  • Shortening the timelines for industrial/commercial planning applications
  • Hiring a qualified economic development officer
  • Marketing our large brown field Allied Chemical site which has riverside port potential
  • Streamlining and reducing red tape
  • Ensuring consistent policy support for waterfront heritage and tourism
  • Developing Belle Vue as a regional conference centre which in turn will bring hotels and business people to see what we have to offer

If we do this our residential property tax rate will be stable and there will be money enough for growth.

 

 

The policing issue is still top-of-mind for some of the electorate. Is providing services on a regional level a good way to save money, a detriment to the town and its identity or would you view it on a case-by-case basis?

The present council set out to save tax dollars. The council adopted – and relied upon consultants’ reports which they believed would save money in the long term by contracting out the Amherstburg Police to the City of Windsor.

During a series of public meetings, virtually every person spoke against the proposal and wanted to keep our own police force.

I spoke at one of those meetings and asked council to consider the public sentiment which clearly opposed the proposal. Amherstburg Police represent a very visible sign of the town’s identity and engenders much civic pride.

I reminded council that amalgamations across Ontario were supposed to save tax dollars; unfortunately there is not one single case where that occurred.

However, council had other views. The contract has been signed. It’s reviewable in five years. To get out now would be a breach of contract costing millions of dollars.

The incoming council has a four-year mandate and thus will have limited powers to effect any change. It will fall to the council of 2022 to undertake the review.

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