Michael Prue

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.

Prue wants to put his experience to work for Amherstburg

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Michael Prue believes he can use his municipal and provincial experience to work for Amherstburg.

Prue – a former mayor of East York, Toronto city councillor and MPP for the riding of Beaches East York – wants to focus on Amherstburg and what he feels he can do for it. Both he and wife Shirley have owned a home in Amherstburg for eight years and full-time residents for four.

“I came to love the town and everything in it,” said Prue.

After watching town council and the developments around town, Prue decided he wanted back in the political arena and threw his hat into the ring for a councillor position.

“I came to the conclusion that I can help a lot,” he said. “I have read the Official Plan cover-to-cover and I had a number of people ask me to run. I gave it serious thought and I decided to do it.”

Prue said a combined 26 years in municipal and provincial politics has “taught me a great deal” and he believes he can put those lessons to use for the residents of Amherstburg. He was mayor in East York for five years until the amalgamation with Toronto and during those five years, they had five budgets with no tax increases.

“We had $8 million in debt. We had swathes of industrial and commercial areas that were vacant,” he said.

Prue indicated they turned it around and saw commercial and industrial areas be developed. It was also the first place in the Toronto area to be fully wired for cable, allowing for projects that employed hundreds of people.

“We brought in businesses we never had before,” he said. “I played a role in cementing the deals.”

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

The municipality also paid off its debt, Prue added.

Prue sees similarities in Amherstburg, believing “what the town needs is commercial and industrial rejuvenation.” He said it is an “entirely possible” proposal, particularly if a reworked North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) resembles what has previously been in place. If things take a different turn, alternative solutions would have to be developed.

“This is an ideal place for new business, better than Kitchener, better than Toronto,” Prue believes.

Housing development doesn’t provide sufficient revenue for municipalities, Prue stated.

“The way municipalities become more prosperous is through industrial and commercial assessment,” he said.

That is how East York paid its debt, Prue added, believing “the same can happen here.”

Amherstburg has a rejuvenated restaurant scene, he added, but further tourism enhancers like hotels are still needed. The town also has “wonderful festivals,” he stated, but there are ways to get people to walk around and see what is here.

“I have been a little disappointed with the stance of the town as it relates to environmental issues,” he continued.

Prue said this is “a very unique part of Canada” environmentally and wants to ensure that development doesn’t impact native species. He stated there are flora and fauna that is special to the area that needs to be protected.

Prue said he is also disappointed in the number of in-camera meetings the town has.

There should be more opportunities for residents to address council. He suggested that council meetings could be held in River Canard, McGregor, Malden and Anderdon to engage residents there.

The Duffy’s property “needs to be developed” and “I’m hoping people come forward much like they have at Belle Vue” with private donations. Prue is currently the treasurer for the Belle Vue Conservancy.

Plans for Duffy’s and Belle Vue have to be finalized as well, he said.

“Council is going to have to decide sooner rather than later, after receiving public input, to make it easier to raise funds,” said Prue.

 

Questions and tempers raised as fundraising expenditure discussed

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A question over an accounts payable to the Crown Park Corporation that was labelled for Belle Vue fundraising sparked a contentious debate Monday night.

Town council allowed Michael Prue, treasurer of the Belle Vue Conservancy, to speak and Prue questioned a few Belle Vue related expenses, with most of them being connected to the ongoing roof construction. When he got to the line about the Crown Park Corporation, he expressed curiosity and told council “we don’t pay for any fundraising.”

CAO John Miceli, after conferring with treasurer Justin Rousseau, said it was not actually for the Belle Vue fundraising but rather a planning study for the Amherstburg Community Foundation for fundraising efforts for all town initiatives.

Miceli said the study looks at raising money for town endeavors without having to rely on going to the taxpayers. A $6,000 payment was listed under the accounts payable section but the CAO indicated it was a $12,000 report.

“There are two payments of $6,000 to tell us how to fundraise?” asked Councillor Jason Lavigne, who also wanted to know who is on the foundation, when they meet and whether council can see minutes of their meetings.

Rousseau indicated the Amherstburg Community Foundation is a “holding account” and that money is reimbursed by the foundation for any cheques the town cuts. He said taxpayer money wasn’t used on the study.

“Who supported the $12,000 is the question,” Lavigne pressed. “Who paid the $12,000 for the study? I think we all want to know.”

Miceli said there are efforts being made to “accelerate” fundraising and that now “we have a study that will help us.” He said that funds raised by the foundation may be used for Belle Vue but research has shown that not all donors want to donate to Belle Vue and those donors may want to give funds to other projects.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said both himself and Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale sit on the foundation.

Councillor Diane Pouget wondered if Crown Park Corporation had been hired by the foundation and Miceli said the foundation hadn’t hired anyone. The study was done in order to raise more money for the foundation, with the CAO adding the Belle Vue Conservancy has done a “great job raising money” but other avenues wanted to be explored by the foundation.

Prue emphasized he spoke up because he didn’t understand the fundraising expenditure.

“We’re fundraising for nothing,” he said.

Councillor Rick Fryer said he recalled getting updates when the Libro Centre was being built on the fundraising process.

Pouget said she called earlier Monday and was told by Rousseau it was for Belle Vue, and was upset with the responses she was getting at the meeting.

“I expect the treasurer to tell us the truth,” she said. “I am asking on behalf of the constituents.”
Rousseau said he had yet to review the document, and gave Pouget the most accurate information he had when she called.

“I gave you the best information I had this morning,” he said during Monday’s meeting. “If that has fallen short, I apologize.”

Administration is expected to give council more details on the matter at an upcoming meeting.

Tender for new Belle Vue roof approved

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A new roof is coming to the historic Belle Vue house.

Town council approved a tender from Robertson Restoration to repair the roof on the 200-year-old Dalhousie St. mansion. It is the first in many steps to restore the home, with members of the Belle Vue Conservancy believing it will spur future fundraising.

“The Belle Vue Conservancy has spent a little over a year collecting funds,” said conservancy treasurer Michael Prue.

Prue said they collected – between what they have on hand and what has been promised – about “a third of a million (dollars).” By restoring the roof and having action at the site, Prue believed that will spark fundraising efforts as the public will see something is being done.

“It has been a little more difficult than in the beginning to raise funds,” Prue admitted. “People want to see action.”

Prue said the current roof continues to leak and that has led to additional water damage in the home. Such water damage can lead to even more “enormous” repairs, he believed, as he urged council to accept the tender. The tender is valued at $258,400 plus HST.

“This is not going to open Belle Vue,” Prue added, but he said roof repairs will show people in Amherstburg and beyond that the town is serious about preserving the historic property.

“There are some naysayers,” Prue noted, but believed seeing scaffolding go up will help silence doubters.

“People will say ‘look at Amherstburg’,” he said.

A look at Belle Vue, as seen July 2017. (Photo by Paul Hertel)

The Belle Vue Conservancy has applied for federal grants to assist in its fundraising efforts and is hopeful of positive results.

“When the building is complete, it will be a tourist draw,” Prue predicted.

Prue added he hopes Belle Vue will be used as a conference centre but that decision is up to town council.

“We think we can raise a lot more when council decides what purpose it is going to have,” added Prue.

CAO John Miceli added the next step will be to replace the windows.

“This is one of the greatest sites any small town will have,” Miceli said of Belle Vue.

In his written report to town council, Miceli stated: “The 2018 Capital Budget includes $325,000 for the Belle Vue Restoration project. Project funding is based on receipt of $250,000 from donations and the balance from the general tax levy.”

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo agreed that this was only the first step in restoring the building but was optimistic.

“This is a very important first step in stopping the deterioration,” said DiCarlo.

Prue also pointed out a pair of upcoming fundraisers, including the May 1 “Music for Belle Vue’s Renaissance” event held at Christ Anglican Church, in partnership with the Windsor Symphony Orchestra. There is also the May 27 “Amherstburg Rhododendron Garden Tea Party” to be held in King’s Navy Yard Park.

For more information on the Belle Vue Conservancy, including its upcoming events, visit www.bellevueconservancy.com. To donate, people can also visit www.amherstburg.ca/donate.

Belle Vue Conservancy “rocks” thanks to musical performance

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The Belle Vue Conservancy and musician Rick Rock teamed up for a fundraiser Friday night with the aim of restoring the 200-year-old Belle Vue home on Dalhousie St.

“Rockin’ for Belle Vue” was held at Royal Canadian Legion Br. 157 with Rock performing music from different eras following dinner. Michael Prue, treasurer with the conservancy, said the expectation is that the roof will be replaced later in the spring.

Following completion of the roof, the next phase of the restoration project will be the windows.

“One day, it is going to be open for all of us,” said Prue.

When it was built in 1816-19 by Robert Reynolds, the deputy assistant commissary general at Fort Malden, it was seen as a symbol of hope. The home, also occupied by Reynolds’ sisters when it first opened, is now seen as symbol of the town’s resurgence in the modern day as well, Prue indicated.

“It will be the pride and joy of the community,” he said.

The conservancy was pleased to team with Rock, with Prue stating that “Rick is a well-known fixture in the town.”

Rick Rock performs during “Rockin’ for Belle Vue” April 13 at Royal Canadian Legion Br. 157.

The next scheduled fundraising event for Belle Vue is “Music for Belle Vue’s Renaissance.” The May 1 event features the return of the Windsor Symphony Orchestra (WSO) and is being held at Christ Anglican Church, located at 317 Ramsay St., starting at 7 p.m.

Tickets for “Music for Belle Vue’s Renaissance” are $25 and available at the Gibson Gallery, Sobeys Amherstburg and the Gordon House. They are also available online by visiting www.bellevueconservancy.com and clicking on the “Events” tab.

The direct link for “Music for Belle Vue’s Renaissance” tickets is https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/music-for-belle-vues-renaissance-tickets-44196601224.

A reproduction of Peter Rindlisbacher’s painting of Belle Vue is displayed at Royal Canadian Legion Br. 157 during the “Rockin’ for Belle Vue” event. Rock performs in the background.

Following the WSO concert, the next fundraiser is planned for May 27. That will be the Amherstburg Rhododendron Garden Tea Party in King’s Navy Yard Park.

The Downton Abbey-themed event, run in partnership with the town’s tourism department, will feature 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. sittings in the park among the blooming rhododendron gardens.

The tea party portion will be a ticketed event and will feature a unique garden dress display. A Downton Abbey- inspired costume contest for women, men and children to denote the fascinating eras of Belle Vue, is one of the highlights of the program, the town stated in a recent press release.

For more information on the Amherstburg Rhododendron Garden Tea Party, visit www.amherstburg.ca/teaparty or www.facebook.com/amherstburgconnection. People can also phone 519-730-1309. Tickets are $30 and available at The Dalhousie Bistro, the Gordon House, Sobeys and Amherstburg town hall.