Libby Keenan

CANDIDATE Q&A – Libby Keenan

 

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

 I would define Amherstburg as a unique community comprised of a diverse population, a large rural component, a stunning waterfront, great historical significance and many top restaurants offering several types of cuisine. I believe Amherstburg should be promoted as a community with something for everyone including businesses, home buyers, retirees, industry. For successful promotion we need to offer overnight accommodation, more organized activities for our youth and seniors and highlight the fact that we offer both a skilled and an educated work force.

 

Libby Keenan is seeking a position as a town 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?

I believe the best way to invest in our infrastructure is to fix the roads properly and not settle continually for patch jobs which only hold up a couple of years. This may seem an expensive approach but the doing the job properly the first time saves huge amounts of money down the road as improvements hold up much longer. We need better flooding control, spillways etc. Due to the naturally flat terrain drainage has always been and will likely always be an issue but much can be done with erosion control i.e. tree planting etc. to maintain sufficient top soil. I’m not sure tax increases can be avoided but if they are added per major project as a surcharge with the reasons clearly costed and fully explained to the public.
One of the best ways to keep taxation as low as possible is by aggressively marketing Amherstburg to industry and business thereby increasing the tax base much faster.

 

 

“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?

I would keep in camera meetings to as absolute a minimum as possible. I would press for fast and widespread notice of all public information sessions, special council meetings, regular meetings etc. I would like to see live feed taping of council meetings for residents unable to attend.
I would actively work to engage the public on a regular basis on matters of concern to residents. I would not hesitate to hold a public referendum regarding large Town purchases i.e. “real property etc.” I would like to see those real property purchases drastically reduced. I am very much in favour of the youth council plan that was put before council.

 

 

 

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

I would hire an economic development officer to market the town to travel agencies, hoteliers, industries, tech start-ups and businesses.
I would encourage them to approach the University of Windsor and St. Clair College to offer classes in Amherstburg, possibly using part of the Libro Centre leased out as campus space. An economic development officer is to my mind an absolute necessity to facilitate the numerous forms of growth we should be enjoying but simply are not due to frankly insufficient marketing of our town as much other than a fun stop on a weekend. I believe we can be very much more.

 

 

 

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?

If we go to policing by the City of Windsor it must have value added for us. It must ensure our officers remain in our community if they want to and are not replaced by Windsor officers. Morale concerns me as there are problems regarding that in the Windsor Police Force.

 

 

 

Keenan encourages public involvement, less divisiveness

 

By Ron Giofu

 

After fighting for fairer hydro costs and even meeting with then-Premier Kathleen Wynne, Libby Keenan is now looking to get into provincial politics.

Keenan is one of the 14 candidates for councillor in the Oct. 22 municipal election. She gained prominence due to her online posts about hydro, with that eventually resulting in a meeting with Wynne. Keenan notes she is an administrator of a “Take Back Your Power” Facebook page.

“I think I ended up with substantial influence over the dismissal of Ms. Wynne,” she said.

Keenan said she was asked by some to seek an MPP position but said Essex MPP Taras Natyshak and Windsor West MPP Lisa Gretzky are “pretty entrenched.” She found no reason to do it anyway. She said she gets along with Natyshak, though she was involved with PC candidate Chris Lewis’ campaign.

Keenan stated she likes that municipal politics is less partisan and more “grassroots.”

“I’m from Brampton but I love Amherstburg. This is home now and it has been for 30 years,” she said.

The issue of rebranding is one that Keenan hopes many people get involved with. She believes it is more than just image, but a matter of what people want the town to be. Citing Brampton as an example, it used to be a small municipality but now has “miles and miles of urban sprawl.” Keenan prefers Amherstburg to remain a mix of rural and urban.

“I think we have to decide what it is we want,” she said. “Yes, you want development but not at the cost of the natural environment around you.”

Libby Keenan is seeking a position as a town councillor in the Oct. 22
municipal election.

Amherstburg should be marketed better, Keenan believes, as the town is not known well enough across the province. She believes someone should be appointed or hired to better market the town and attend travel conventions, events and form stronger partnerships with other municipalities.

“It needs to be marketed,” said Keenan. “It’s here but it’s a bit of a secret, even now, after all this time.”

Belle Vue, Keenan stated, could be a “huge money pit” or a great benefit, depending on how it is used. She said a historic building in Brampton is popular for weddings, dances and similar events and she thinks Belle Vue could be too.

“It has to be very clearly defined what the goals are,” she said of Belle Vue. “There has to be very close oversight on the business plan for Belle Vue.”

The development of the Duffy’s site was another issue she addressed, and Keenan wonders if it will require a customs office to accommodate U.S. boaters.

Issues in the rural areas of Amherstburg need addressing, said Keenan, and not just the urban area. She is an advocate of putting a pool at the Libro Centre.

With the OCPC rendering its decision on the police issue, Keenan said “we have to give it a chance” though she also believes policing “could be the first domino.

“I’m not fear-mongering,” she said. “I’ve seen it happen.”

Keenan said, if elected, she would rely on the expertise of administration and wants to form a good relationship with them. She said they know what can be done and what can’t be done and that money and time could be saved by pursuing initiatives recommended by administration.

Keenan, a local horse farmer with a degree in social work from York University, said “there is so much to offer here” and that people should not be afraid to brainstorm ideas.

“It’s not a matter of mowing down the other point of view,” she said. “That’s no way to live.”

Local farm holds Sunhall Harvestfest Dressage show

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A local horse farm held its recent Sunhall Harvestfest Dressage Show.

Farm owner Libby Keenan said the show, located on her farm on Concession 5 North, featured about 30 riders from around Essex County. Maddy Dronfield of Barrie was the novice level judge with Suzanne Marsh from Blue Fox Farm on Walker Road in Harrow being the advanced judge.

“There were roughly 25 classes in six divisions ranging from Leadline, (very young beginners being led by handlers on the ground) to Fourth Level, which are the tests immediately before the International level,” said Keenan.

Kara Kopacz rides her horse Andante
during the recent Sunhall Harvestfest Dressage show at Libby Keenan’s horse farm on Concession 5 North.

There was a good turnout of spectators including coaches, friends, parents and proud grandparents and a number of general public onlookers, Keenan reported.

“The weather was terrific and there was a strong demand for Jeff Kopacz’s tasty grilled burgers and hot dogs complimented by lovely home made pies crafted by one of the coaches’ grandfathers,” said Keenan. “The weather was cool and breezy but kind with just a crisp of fall in the air. Based on the turnout and the good time enjoyed by all I expect to hold it again next year.”

Keenan added they had “several wonderful prize donations” that came from local retailers including Harrow Feed, Megan Wye of Kingsville, Jeff Kopacz, Purina and many others.

Amherstburg horse farmer plans to march in Toronto to keep Hydro One public

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

First, Libby Keenan got a meeting with Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne about hydro rates.

Now, Keenan is looking to head back to Toronto as the organizer of a march to try and keep Hydro One public.

Keenan said the march is tentatively scheduled for April 8 with current plans calling for it to start at Hydro One headquarters and eventually end with a rally at Queen’s Park. The Amherstburg horse farmer said she is gaining support and interest from unions like CUPE and OPSEU and other groups interested in keeping the utility in public hands.

“Basically, everyone wants to block the privatization of Hydro One,” said Keenan.

Fearing there will be little say for consumers if the utility is no longer public, she is hopeful that there will be a reversal of the plans to privatize the utility.

In private hands, Hydro One will be “a total profit-making organization and we are going to fall by the wayside,” she believes.

Libby Keenan gives one of her horses a treat March 1. Keenan is organizing a march in Toronto for early April to object to the sale of Hydro One.

Libby Keenan gives one of her horses a treat March 1. Keenan is organizing a march in Toronto for early April to object to the sale of Hydro One.

Getting some of the anti-privatization groups together despite some differences between them is an accomplishment in itself, with Keenan calling herself “a clearing house” for the groups. She noted they all have the common goal of keeping Hydro One public.

“For the cause, everyone is uniting which is kind of special,” said Keenan.

As many as 1,000 people may attend the #KeepOurPower march with Keenan stating Windsor West MPP Lisa Gretzky has offered her executive assistant in Queen’s Park to help with the paperwork in getting it off the ground.

Keenan met with Wynne Jan. 18 in Toronto, a meeting that saw Wynne questioned over salaries of hydro executives and rates. Keenan said the conversation was steered away from the selling of Hydro One and Keenan now believes, after speaking with other Liberal officials, that they believe it’s a done deal.

“I just want reasonable bills,” said Keenan. “I think our chances are better for that if (Hydro One) remains public.”

All of Ontario has to be considered when making such decisions, she added, and said people outside of the GTA have to “make a fuss” and oppose such privatization.

“I’m not looking for a free ride,” she said, “but I believe the government has to look at every demographic.”

The meeting with Wynne went well, she said, but the idea for the rally started after that.

“I didn’t dislike her,” said Keenan. “She was very pleasant. She met with me for an hour-and-a-half.”

Keenan said she can’t just walk away from people who contact her with similar concerns over hydro rates that she has.

“People are writing me every day,” she said. “I will stick with it until something finally happens.”

Hydro rates need to become more reasonable as people are choosing whether to pay rent or invest into RRSP’s or pay their hydro bills.

“It’s not just a few whiny farmers,” said Keenan. “It’s a lot of people from every avenue of life. They are just fed up.”

Keenan was happy with the 25 per cent reduction in bills but hopes Ontarians aren’t hit in other areas. She said it is a start but added on her Facebook page that she “will continue fight for the larger ramifications of the whole Hydro One fiasco!”

The reduction is another 17 per cent on top of the eight per cent already announced earlier this year.

Wynne issued a statement on what the Ontario government is calling the “Fair Hydro Plan.” In the statement, released Thursday, Wynne stated “electricity is not a frill – it’s an essential part of our daily lives. And everywhere I go, I hear from people worried about the price they are asked to pay for hydro and the impact it has on their household budgets. It’s not just some people, and it’s not just in some places. It’s everyone and in every corner of the province. In the north and the south. In rural Ontario and downtown Toronto. For the past couple of months I’ve made a point of connecting with people who have written to me about this issue. I’ve called them up or gone to visit. I’ve sat and talked and listened.”

Wynne continued: “Last September, I committed to reduce electricity bills by eight per cent across the board, equivalent to the provincial portion of HST. But it hasn’t been enough. It’s made too small a dent. For that reason, we are taking further action. We are tripling the size of the cut we’re making to people’s hydro bills from eight per cent to an average of 25 per cent. Electricity rates in Ontario will come down significantly, they’re going to stay down and everyone will benefit.”

Wynne said once bills are reduced 25 per cent, the government will hold them there with rates rising only with inflation – roughly two per cent – for at least four years.

“Let me also address the elephant in the room — didn’t it take me too long to come to grips with this? Why am I only acting now? Those are fair questions. It has taken a long time. But it’s not as if I’ve been unaware of the challenge. I have seen the rising rates. My family and I get a bill like anyone else. And we did take action — with targeted relief, the eight per cent cut, the Hydro-Québec deal. These were worthwhile initiatives. But, ultimately they were too narrow in scope — too limited when the kind of fix required was more fundamental,” Wynne’s statement also read. “Beginning last year, I started to ask tougher questions about how we got to this point. And what could be done. For decades, bad choices have been made. Those governments, including ours, who for decades pushed off the price of reinvesting in the system? That was a mistake. Putting too much of the burden on a single generation of ratepayers? That was a mistake. And asking hydro users alone to pay for policies that ought to be paid for by all taxpayers? That was a mistake too. The policy was wrong. That made the pocketbook pressures impossible. And as Premier, I have an obligation to set the policy right. To put in place a fix that will work. And a fix that will last.

Bringing down rates by 25 per cent and fixing the system’s structure – that’s the approach that I believe in. I think it’s better for Ontario. And I know it’s fairer on families.”

For further information on the march, Keenan said people can follow her Facebook page or e-mail her at sunhall72@gmail.com.

Local horse farmer meets with Ontario premier over hydro rates

 

By Jonathan Martin

A local horse farmer’s meeting with Premier Kathleen Wynne has spurred discussions about Ontario’s hydro rates.

After posting an open letter to Wynne on her Facebook page, Libby Keenan’s criticisms of Ontarians’ rising electricity costs were shared (at the time of writing) almost 22,000 times. The post earned her an invitation to Queen’s Park, where she got a chance to voice her concerns in-person.

“It was a frank and productive conversation,” Wynne posted on her own Facebook page, along with a photo of the meeting. “An essential part of my job is listening to the people of Ontario and taking action to make changes based on your experiences.”

Keenan said she feels she has set a precedent and started the conversation, but it’s up to Ontarians to keep it going.

She said she believes that once the cogs and gears of governmental processes have started rolling along, they’re very hard to stop. Each concession, she thinks, is likely to be hard-won.

Amherstburg resident Libby Keenan (right) chats with Premier Kathleen Wynne last Wednesday in Queen’s Park. (Photo courtesy of the Office of the Premier)

Amherstburg resident Libby Keenan (right) chats with Premier Kathleen Wynne last Wednesday in Queen’s Park. (Photo courtesy of the Office of the Premier)

“One of the things I noticed when I went to Queen’s Park was the ponderously slow pace of the place,” she said. “They, too, are simply working 9-5 office jobs, caught in the inertia of the whole, monolithic thing. I don’t think we can demonize Premier Kathleen Wynne.”

Following the meeting, Wynne promised that Ontarians would see additional relief before the Spring budget. As of Jan. 1, the government brought in an eight per cent rebate on hydro bills to make up for the provincial portion of HST.

“As I said to Libby, we are going to take concrete action in the coming months to lower the cost of hydro in Ontario,” Wynne wrote. “And to address and keep her apprised of other issues she raised as well.”

In addition to Ontario’s hydro prices, Keenan criticized the privatization of Hydro One and the P3 (Public-Private Partnership) model of infrastructure development adopted by the Canadian government.

Wynne plans to sell 60 per cent of Hydro One to help fund infrastructure expansion and pay down debt. To date, 30 per cent has been sold off.

The P3 model sees the public sector partnered with the private sector in order to develop infrastructure. In theory, it results in fewer missed deadlines and fewer surprise costs, though critics argue that it may be less effective than advertised and result in higher costs overall.

“The bottom line here,” Keenan said. “Is that we need to reclaim our ownership of Ontario rather than sell it off to private corporations. Ontario changed right under our noses and we weren’t paying close enough attention to see it.”

Keenan said she doesn’t see herself as a political activist. She invites people to continue on with their discussions in the comments section of her Facebook page, but it’s up to them to take action if they come across a government initiative with which they are unhappy.

She said she would much rather simply return to her horses.