McNamara new Essex County warden, Santos acclaimed as deputy warden



By Ron Giofu


Essex County council held its inaugural meeting for the 2018-22 term last week and selected a new warden to lead them.

Tecumseh Mayor Gary McNamara was chosen as the warden, which is the head of county council, for this term. Kingsville Mayor Nelson Santos also sought the position, but he didn’t leave without a new title either, as Santos would be acclaimed as deputy warden.

“I’m honoured,” said McNamara. “It’s always a privilege to be recognized by your peers around the table.”

McNamara said he first joined Essex County council about 20 years ago and served as deputy warden from 2000-03 and 2010-14. It was his third time seeking the warden’s position.

“I would say the third time is a charm,” he remarked.

Newly-elected Essex County Warden Gary McNamara (right) accepts the gavel from former warden Tom Bain. Bain served as warden from 2010-18 with McNamara being elected by his colleagues to be the new head of county council at the inaugural meeting Dec. 12.

McNamara said he hopes to continue the work done by his predecessors, two of which remain on county council. Santos was warden from 2006-10 and Lakeshore Mayor Tom Bain was warden from 2010-18.

“The county is in a tremendous place. It’s because of the leadership we’ve had in the past,” he said.

With questions hanging overhead about how the Progressive Conservative government will deal with the province’s debt, McNamara said the county and lower-tier municipalities have to work collectively and deal with any potential impacts.

“We are going to have to be vigilant that they don’t balance the books on the backs of municipalities,” he said.

Working with all seven Essex County municipalities is important, McNamara indicated, but so too is working with the City of Windsor. He added that they have to continue to promote the fact that Essex County “is a great place to do business and raise a family.”

Investing into infrastructure was cited as a priority, including dealing with busy roads in Tecumseh, LaSalle and Lakeshore as well as roads in the southern half of the county as well. Continuing to work on the County Wide Active Transportation System (CWATS) is important, he added, as is completion of a roads needs study.

Members of Essex County council for the 2018-22 term were sworn in last Wednesday night. Top row (from left): Essex Mayor Larry Snively, Amherstburg Deputy Mayor Leo Meloche, Tecumseh Deputy Mayor Joe Bachetti, LaSalle Mayor Marc Bondy, Essex Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche, Kingsville Deputy Mayor Gord Queen and Lakeshore Mayor Tom Bain. Bottom row (from left): LaSalle Deputy Mayor Crystal Meloche, Deputy Warden and Kingsville Mayor Nelson Santos, Warden and Tecumseh Mayor Gary McNamara, Lakeshore Deputy Mayor Tracey Bailey, Leamington Mayor Hilda MacDonald and Leamington Deputy Mayor Larry Verbeke. Amherstburg Mayor Aldo DiCarlo was absent.

The mega-hospital that the County of Essex is committing about $100 million towards has to be completed, with the site for that being the corner of Concession 9 and County Road 42, near Windsor Airport.

“It has to come to fruition,” added McNamara.

McNamara, recently retired from Hiram Walker, is also a former president of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO). He hopes those contacts will help him in his new role as warden.

“It’s given me an opportunity to connect with the upper levels of government,” he said.

Santos said “it’s great to start a new term of Essex County council” and that “I’m really excited to be a part of the team.”

The Kingsville mayor stated continuing to reduce EMS wait times at hospitals is another priority, noting that while they have gotten better, there is still room for improvement. Santos also noted there is a strategic plan for Essex County being developed and that will “lay out a game plan” for the future. He added that will map out what the county can strengthen.

Santos said that “it will be a good one-two punch” with McNamara as the warden and himself as deputy warden, noting they both have a lot of experience and can help the new members.

“I think it’s a positive for the region,” he said.

County council decided also decided its striking committee that will help determine which members sit on what committees. Bain, Santos, Leamington Mayor Hilda MacDonald and LaSalle Mayor Marc Bondy were elected to that committee.

Essex County council is comprised of the seven mayors and seven deputy mayors from around the county.

Bain cites teamwork and collaboration as successes for county in final warden’s luncheon



By Ron Giofu


Essex County Warden Tom Bain championed teamwork, collaboration and the region’s successes during his annual “Warden’s Luncheon” address.

The 11th annual “Warden’s Luncheon” was held last Friday afternoon at the Ciociaro Club with Bain noting there is “a new sense of vitality” in Essex County. Bain said that the area is known for its creativity, innovation, ingenuity and perseverance, and that shows in the unemployment figures. The unemployment rate in the area was 9.4 per cent in early 2015 and said it is now at 4.9 per cent, “one of the lowest in the province.”

The warden pointed out his belief that municipalities don’t create jobs but can create the conditions where economic improvement is possible.

One of the issues Bain addressed was the expansion of energy capacity in the region and “thankfully, this is finally getting addressed.” One issue that is not getting addressed is the expansion of Highway 3 from Essex to Leamington. Bain stated that it is a vital gateway for the shipment of agricultural products and called the widening of the highway “a priority for county council.”

There are also safety concerns with Highway 3 as Bain referenced the volume of traffic that uses that roadway.

“This leads to a number of accidents and, sadly, fatalities,” said Bain.

The county is in solid financial shape, he continued, noting Standard and Poor’s has given the county a AA+ credit rating, the highest possible for a municipality in Ontario.

Warden Tom Bain gestures during his address at the Windsor-Essex Chamber of Commerce’s “Warden’s Luncheon” last Friday. It was Bain’s final luncheon as Essex County warden.

“This long-term financial vision is credited to county council and administration,” said Bain.

Essex County has also been able to control tax increases, he added.

“Over the past 15 years, the CPI (Consumer Price Index) has increased on average 1.8 per cent per year,” said Bain. “Over the same period of time, our county tax rate has increased on average 1.3 per cent per year.”

Those increases come despite $440 million in roadway expansion, $171 million in new trail projects and $100 million committed for the county’s share of the new mega-hospital. The hospital, he added, went through a “fair and thorough” site selection process.

The mega-hospital was one of the examples listed by Bain of Essex County’s willingness to collaborate. He said the SWIFT project, which aims to bring fibre optic high-speed internet to the region, is another example while also noting environmental gains by working with ERCA and economic gains by working with the Windsor-Essex Economic Development Commission (WEEDC).

Essex County is also bidding to jointly host Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) conferences with Windsor up to four times between 2021-24, something Bain said could bring 2,600 and $3 million in spinoff revenue to the region.

Municipalities can’t ignore change and have to work together, he believed, but can control how they react to change.

“In today’s day and age, the way we have been doing business is no longer feasible or reasonable,” he said, touting the benefits of teamwork and collaboration between municipalities.

Bain said he is proud of the work that has been done around the county council table and of the work still to come.

“We have such a good team here,” he said. “The team has worked together on so many things. The results are there and I’m so proud of that and proud of our team.”

In this municipal election year, he advised candidates to avoid the trappings of short-term gains and look long-term.

Bain indicated that while he is not running for another term as warden, he is looking at running for re-election as mayor in Lakeshore. He is the longest serving warden in Ontario, having been in the position since 2010. He was also warden in 1993. Bain has been a municipal politician since 1978, when he was first elected as a councillor in the former Rochester Township.

The luncheon was presented by the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce with Libro Credit Union being the main sponsor.

Warden, Windsor mayor to join EWSWA budget talks this week



By Ron Giofu


The Essex-Windsor Solid Waste Authority (EWSWA) is still without a 2017 budget but that could change this week.

Essex County Warden Tom Bain and Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkins will meet this week and try and finalize a new budget. The county rejected a proposed 2017 budget last December, one that called for a zero per cent increase. County officials believed that budget was short-sighted and would simply defer costs down the road as the landfill could not be realistically operated with a rate freeze.

A 4.11 per cent increase had been recommended but by passing it with a zero per cent increase, it meant a dip into the EWSWA’s rate stabilization reserve thus bringing it down from $13.2 million to $12.2 million. A 2018 budget had also been passed, as Windsor had the majority of members on the EWSWA board at the time.


Bain said the two CAO’s – Brian Gregg from the County of Essex and Onorio Colucci of Windsor – have been meeting to try and hash out a new budget with the results to be brought to himself and Dilkins this week.

“Should the proposal look appropriate, it will be brought back to the councils,” said Bain.

Bain believed a resolution had been reached, but noted he couldn’t go into details. He said last Wednesday night that he hadn’t seen all of the details at that point but was confident the two CAO’s ironed out a solution.

If the meeting yields a new budget, it will be a relief, the warden added.

“Unfortunately, it’s dragged on a long time,” he said.

Essex County warden promotes region, collaboration with Windsor



By Ron Giofu


The warden of Essex County took centre stage Friday afternoon and used his “Warden’s Luncheon” to promote the area and to call for even further collaboration with Windsor.

Essex County Warden Tom Bain (seated) accepts best wishes from Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkins  during the March 4 Warden’s Luncheon.

Essex County Warden Tom Bain (seated) accepts best wishes from Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkins
during the March 4 Warden’s Luncheon.

Tom Bain’s address was the featured attraction in front of a packed house at the Ciociaro Club with political figures, local leaders and interested business owners on hand. The luncheon was presented by the Windsor-Essex District Chamber of Commerce and Libro Credit Union.

Bain said he is generally an optimistic person but admitted his optimism is tested by the region’s 9.6 per cent unemployment rate, a rate that is higher than Ontario (6.7 per cent) and national (7.2 per cent) averages. He said the way out of that situation is to promote what this area does best and create the environment where job creators will want to locate here.

“Municipalities rarely create jobs,” Bain stated. “Our focus as municipal leaders is to create the conditions that will provide economic growth.”
Essex County has its “financial house in order,” the warden stated, touting its AA credit rating, a budget that calls for regular upgrades and maintenance to the county’s $440 million road network and CWATS plan, and tax increases that are typically lower than the rate of inflation. Bain believes the county meets today’s challenges while also being ready for the future.

Both Essex County and Windsor have committed to funding the $200 million local share for the proposed new Windsor-Essex Hospital System, the focal point of which is the new mega-hospital proposed for County Road 42 and Concession 9.

“Make no mistake, our region is in competition with five other regions across the province,” said Bain. “There are only so many $2 billion cheques that will be issued across the province.”

Bain encouraged the community to support the plan, one that will give Windsor-Essex County a more modern health care infrastructure.

Warden Tom Bain addresses the sold out room at the Ciociaro Club during his Warden's Luncheon March 4.

Warden Tom Bain addresses the sold out room at the Ciociaro Club during his Warden’s Luncheon March 4.

“Do not allow the province to use local friction as an excuse to bypass us,” Bain urged. “The province needs to hear one strong collective voice from Essex County and Windsor.”

The warden called for greater communication in the region, believing some of the “buzz” has been lost since the area made the top seven in the Intelligent Communities Forum’s 2011 list of smartest communities. He said the “momentum has started to fade” and “we must do better.”

The region must be prepared to compete globally, he added.

“We can’t escape that the world is going less local and more global,” said Bain. “Municipalities can’t be isolated onto ourselves. We need to know what others are thinking. We need better communication.”

The gateway to Canada is through Windsor-Essex County, the warden added.

“Those rumours of our demise are greatly exaggerated,” said Bain. “Collectively, we will prove the naysayers wrong. Ontario does not end in London.”

Also exaggerated were reports of friction between Essex County and Windsor, stated Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkins. Dilkins said there is good leadership in the city and the county and they work together well.

“The warden and I are in contact on a frequent basis,” said Dilkins.

Essex County warden looks to future, promotes regional collaboration


Essex County Warden Tom Bain addresses the crowd at the “Warden’s Luncheon” held last Friday. The luncheon was presented by the Windsor-Essex District Chamber of Commerce.

Essex County Warden Tom Bain addresses the crowd at the “Warden’s Luncheon” held last Friday. The luncheon was presented by the Windsor-Essex District Chamber of Commerce.

By Ron Giofu


Essex County Warden Tom Bain acknowledged the area has its challenges but also sees opportunity.

Bain’s message was delivered Friday afternoon during the annual “Warden’s Luncheon,” presented at the Ciociaro Club by the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Re-elected to lead county council last December, Bain said there are six new members around the table and believes county council has “the makings of a great team” that will “gel soon and hit our stride.” Over the next four years, Bain said he wants to see the county continue “to get the fundamentals right” and to focus on community development.

“They must be intertwined,” said Bain, who is also the mayor of Lakeshore.

While efforts have been made to diversify the economy and to work with agri-food businesses, Bain said there is still work to be done.

“The economic turbulence remains all around us,” he said. “Locally, our rate is stubbornly high at 9.4 per cent.”

Essex County is the “best place to live, work, play and visit,” he stated, and that the county will not shy away from its challenges.

“The county cannot or will not be timid and we will be bold,” said Bain. “We will be deliberate, not reckless, and will do things for the right reasons.”

Stating that municipalities have to create the conditions for investment, Bain touted the county’s “pay as you go” financial practices, pointing out there is no long term debt, yet are spending millions in maintaining its infrastructure. He praised the work of the Essex-Windsor EMS as well as pointing out the significant investments being made in the Essex County library system.

Essex County Warden Tom Bain delivers his speech at the Warden's Luncheon March 13.

Essex County Warden Tom Bain delivers his speech at the Warden’s Luncheon March 13.

The area is known for having skilled workers but the warden believed the time is now to convert that asset into something more tangible.

“The time is upon us to convert all of that knowledge into action,” he said.

Expanding and improving high-speed internet across the county is being planned for, he continued, with the use of fibreoptic technology. The western wardens’ caucus is trying to bring such technology to the entire western section of the province.

“This will connect points from Amherstburg to Owen Sound and every point in between,” Bain stated.

The site for the new mega-hospital could be announced by the summer and Bain said regardless of which site is chosen, Windsor-Essex County residents should rally behind that choice so that there won’t be any risk of having the province invest elsewhere.

“We need a new hospital. We deserve a new hospital. We deserve better health care,” said Bain.

There also will be a requirement to fund the hospital to the tune of ten per cent and the county has started to budget for that cost.

Improving health care in the area also means the province should provide more funding for the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit, with Bain noting the local health unit is the lowest funded health unit per capita in Ontario.

Essex County is continuing to invest in the County-Wide Active Transportation System (CWATS), an effort which will see trails and bike lanes across the region when complete.

The county and other municipalities face “infrastructure gaps” meaning local governments need to press for higher and more sustainable levels of funding from senior levels of government, he said.

Bain rounded out his address by promoting regional co-operation. He noted he has already met with new Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkins and said he is confident there will continue to be a strong, collaborative relationship with the city. Bain added the area’s “cupboard is by no means bare” and that success will be achieved through “collaboration, collaboration, (and) collaboration.”