Letter to my Fellow Residents,

I hear from many people who are concerned about the future of Wasaga Beach.

We are emerging from a disruptive and devastating public health crisis that has taken a significant toll on our local beachfront economy, and we are facing significant new challenges.

With rising inflation, Wasaga Beach has an affordability crisis. With unreliable roads and sidewalks, it's becoming more difficult to get around the city. And many people are concerned about the lack of accountable decision making at Town Council.

I am running for Mayor of Wasaga Beach to bring new leadership that is focused on accountable decision making, PUTTING RESIDENTS FIRST, and working together to make Wasaga Beach safe, reliable, and affordable for everyone.

As Mayor, I will work tirelessly to deliver results for Wasaga Beach and PUT RESIDENTS FIRST. 

Leslie

A Three-Point Plan Designed To PUT RESIDENTS FIRST

The following is a detailed three-point plan which can easily be accomplished in the next term of Council designed to put residents first, and move Wasaga Beach Forward Together!

“Together we will have a government of the community, by the community, and most importantly for the community!” 

 

1. Increase Community Input: ­“Our Voice Matters!” Residents Deserve to Be Heard

  • Remove pre-registration and maximum time limits on Comment period (maintaining current 3-minute max per person limitation)- Everybody who shows up to a Council meeting deserves the respect of being heard.
  • Use monthly mailouts to get public opinion on upcoming council decisions before council votes.
  • Use social media/website to poll residents on upcoming council decisions before council votes.
  • Move Council meetings back to 7 pm to allow for greater attendance by residents and business owners.
  • Host a public town hall one week before every council meeting to allow residents to voice concerns or share opinions on upcoming issues before the council vote, in a less formal way, more resident-friendly way.  
  • Our people are our best resource: Create new advisory committees (ie Family Advisory Committee, Crime and Neighbourhood safety Committee, Affordable Housing Advisory Committee, Sector Specific Business Advisory Committees, Racial and Gender equality advisory committee, Environmental and Climate Advisory Committee, etc…) to help assist and keep council aware of the changing needs of our community. One of our greatest resources is the people of our community and their many talents. Residents who volunteer their time and expertise to help advise the Town at little to no cost taxpayers, truly help make our community a better place and help make our municipal tax dollars go much further.

 

2. Increase Transparency: It’s Our Money, We Deserve To Know!”

  • Open the doors because at present, under the municipal act, policy allows for broad use of closed sessions on many topics. Many of which do not legally require secrecy. It’s time we raise the bar on public transparency and let the residents see how our money is being spent!
  • Open the windows and eliminate the need for freedom of information requests. Adopt a 'You Ask – You Get' policy regarding information classified as public.
  • Explain Why and adopt a ‘Show your Work Policy’ for council decisions. If elected officials are going to vote against the will of the people, don’t we have a right to know why? Politicians would be required to write a report outlining their reasoning for decisions (pertinent information considered, regulations, and more). This type of commitment from our elected officials would create both true transparency and true accountability! The decision is important, but we deserve to know why!

 

3. Support Local: “Make Shop Local” a true commitment.

  • Support from town hall: Introduce a local bias into the evaluation matrix for all Town contracts, to ensure when all things are equal, local companies win.  When local businesses win, money stays in our community and we all win!
  • Listen to the business owners: Create sector-specific Business Advisory Committees to advise Council on the needs of the entire business community.
  • Provide relief: Eliminate annual business license fees. While surrounding communities may have a business registration fee, at present Wasaga Beach is the only community around us charging an annual business license fee. I feel it is also important to highlight, this fee has been increased over 200% during the Pandemic, adding unneeded additional stress to the small business owners of our community. 
  • A pound of prevention: Offer proper education to business owners regarding regulations and Town Bylaws. This can easily be accomplished through either an in-person course, online course, or a multitude of other means. It has been proven to save money by both creating less conflict and also by lessening violations and man hours required to deal with them – thus saving the taxpayer money!
  • Streamline: Increased ease of process for businesses. The less time it takes them to properly register, the fewer man hours it costs the taxpayers.
  • Work together: Encourage synergy with surrounding communities and events. We can generate more income through working together with our neighbouring communities. Collaborative events will surely have larger resources and a much bigger draw.

 

On the Issues

History and Heritage

Wasaga Beach has some very involved and far-reaching history and heritage, including the sinking of the H.S.S Nancy in the war of 1812 and incredible indigenous history dating back many hundreds of years. All this history, including more recent historical additions such as the great Dardanella, that have become such a big piece of our history and identity as a community, deserve to be commemorated and remembered. Something as simple as including a piece of a historical building (beam, sign, and more) or an artifact in the design of new ones to acknowledge the importance of what came before, can have such a profound impact on community identity and pride. A healthy acknowledgement of a communities’ history is a key component to healthy growth and all-around appeal!

“Our history is a big part of who we are, as such deserves respect and acknowledgement in the future.”- Leslie Farkas

Culture and the Arts

The Arts are extremely prominent in our great community, there is truly no shortage of artists in Wasaga Beach. With the proper support, as seen in surrounding communities, our artists can continue to flourish and become an even bigger part of our overall draw as a community. A very interesting note in regard to the often-overlooked impact of the Arts, for every child registered to a sport, there are 8 that are registered in some form of the Arts. In addition, it must be added that the medical and emotional benefits of Arts and Culture to people of all ages have been clearly identified time and time again in many highly revered studies. All this being said, our community benefits financially and socially with a proper focus on the Arts and the opportunities it brings.

“The Arts also provide a great opportunity to apply for many Provincial and Federal grants, making our municipal tax dollars go further!” - Leslie Farkas

“In terms of return on investment, with all the provincial and federal funding available, the Arts are a great way to make our municipal tax dollars go much further.”- Leslie Farkas

The Arena Library

I am extremely excited about the addition of our new Arena Library, it represents a much-needed addition to our community, and I am in full support of its creation. That being said, I would have preferred to see a larger art and cultural component incorporated into the design. While there are currently multi-use rooms, a site-specific approach to creating more specialized environments has been widely acknowledged by professionals as being a far more effective use of space. This approach would accomplish many things, including; more closely aligning us with the priorities of the federal and provincial governments (allowing for a much greater chance of receiving financial assistance when applying for grants), many arts and culture-based businesses tend to locate close to such facilities as they contain a large amount of resource for them (talent, facilities, infrastructure, and more.) It would create a much-needed sub-industry in our community, it would provide a larger draw from surrounding communities (especially considering that for every child registered to a sport, there are 8 registered to some form of the Arts), and last but certainly not least a cultural component was identified through public consultation process as being the largest “want” of our community in regard to the Arena Library.  

One very important note, the current design, does not properly incorporate future environmental considerations. The large focus on environmental initiatives from the federal government creates one of the largest financial opportunities available for us to make our municipal tax dollars go further. This information makes decisions such as removing the pre-wiring for future solar panels, appear very counter-intuitive.” – Leslie Farkas

“We need more pro-active thinking at Town Hall, and we will get it with your support!”- Leslie Farkas

Tourism

Tourism has been part of the economic engine that drives our community since its creation. A community that was created out of the need for soldiers to have a place to have fun, that’s right, Wasaga Beach was created as a place where the soldiers from Base Borden could come and enjoy some R&R. The Dardanella was created to house this incredible spirit, and so much musical and social history has occurred within (and outside) its walls since. Our history as Wasaga Beach is rich with stories of people who have visited the World’s Longest Freshwater Beach enjoying our natural as well as man-made assets.

Considering job creation, economic impact and benefits, there is no question of the importance of tourism to our community, it should without a doubt be a focus, but one that PUTS RESIDENTS FIRST. PUTTING RESIDENTS FIRST in regards to tourism involves, identifying our tourist area to encourage tourist-based activities to occur in a pre-planned location, allowing for local activities to occur without the added pressures of tourists and allowing residents to access the services they need without crawling over thousands of tourists to get to them. Tourism generates around 2 Billion dollars a year in revenue for the Georgian Bay Area, and we could have a much bigger piece of the pie with a little organization and vision. Tourism is a big winner for our community, if we properly manage the flow, we can have an engine that benefits all of us by PUTTING RESIDENTS FIRST.

Lastly, it must be said, turning our beloved Beach Town into a four-season destination has been a discussion since the seventies, it is long past time it becomes more than just a conversation, more than just words, it has to be a concerted effort, it has to be a true priority!

“We must acknowledge and nurture our main industry, and it will pay back dividends to our entire community.”- Leslie Farkas

Education

Education is so important to our community as a whole it must be broken down into multiple sections.

High School and Grade Schools and other such infrastructure

The need for a high school(s) in our community cannot be overstated. High schools provide much more than just a place for children to learn, they bring communities together! Wasaga Beach currently has over 24,000 residents and the need for high school is absolutely no longer deniable. I have and will continue to keep friendly pressure on those tasked with the decision of where the next schools are built, to ensure that our community is not overlooked any longer.

“It must be said that education is not a “one and done” type of process, ideally, it is an ongoing process by which we make ourselves better each day.” – Leslie Farkas

Educating the Residents and Businesses on Procedure and Regulations

Education should be a focus of our administration for many reasons, the insurance of success and financial return on investment is undeniable. For example, a business that is well educated in the regulations which govern it, is far less likely to violate the regulation, thus costing far less to the taxpayer to enforce the regulations or worse, go into the expensive prosecution of offenders.  

Providing education for our residents and businesses in Town Bylaws will help them navigate their way to success.  

Educating Council on Procedures and Regulations

Providing additional education to the council on Bylaws and procedures to ensure they can more effectively represent the people, would provide reinforcement that we the people are truly being represented by someone the has the knowledge to do so effectively. While many on Council may have higher education, the currency of the education is highly important, as things tend to change over time, as is the specific area of knowledge. For those that steer the ship to properly plan the route, they must have a solid understanding of the current system in its many intricacies.

“It has been proven time and time again, education is an investment that comes back tenfold.”– Leslie Farkas

Accountability and Transparency 

Is accountability in government important to you?  

Have you ever wondered why out of the three branches of government, only elected officials do not provide written reports identifying the logic and information used to come to any given decision?  

For others it is not enough to just give an answer, they must also provide how they arrived at their decisions, including all relevant factors, in a written report.  

One expectation of our elected officials is that they read all staff reports provided on any given subject, so they can properly represent the people and make an educated decision. How do we know they have read them if they merely provide a yes or no answer? Providing a written report on the reasoning for any given decision would provide true transparency and accountability to the public. It would provide a clear and traceable path of reasoning, allow for proper identification of root cause issues, ultimately allowing for correction of process and proper resolution of those issues. It would strongly encourage elected officials to consider all relevant information when making decisions.  

I submit that we hold our elected officials to a higher standard, and make them show their work. Just like back in grade 10 math class, if you don’t show your work you fail, and in this case, don’t get re-elected. Let's stand together and demand better for ourselves, demand that politicians show their work, and truly earn their paychecks with complete transparency and accountability by providing written reports supporting their logic for any given decision, especially those decisions that go against the will of the public which they serve.

“Will this add extra workload to our elected officials? Yes, indeed it will, but I know I am certainly willing to do it with or without regulations, because we deserve better and we deserve to know why!” – Leslie Farkas

Town Staff Morale

THE BETTER THEY FEEL, THE BETTER THEY PERFORM!

Did you know that in this term of Council over 60 members of town staff have left or have been released, not including retirees?  

Town staff should never feel the political pressures of any council member, these types of pressures create an environment that is not healthy for the town employees or the taxpayers, as that kind of pressure decreases productivity and increases personal stress.

Whistle Blower Policy- It's Time to Enable our Town Staff to do their jobs free of political pressure, and give them a means of defending themselves against such pressure. When town staff are pressured by politics, even the taxpayers suffer in the long run! 

“Great leadership involves empowerment, and with the right leadership, our town employees perform better and make our municipal tax dollars go much further!”- Leslie Farkas

Crime and Illegal drugs

Our entire country is facing increased crime and drug problems, and our community is no different, with one huge exception, it's our community! With Wasaga Beach growing at such a pace, we have a big responsibility to ensure the safety and security of our residents, it is time we increase the focus on ensuring our residents have a safe secure place to call home. This has to be done on many levels, the first of which is acceptance. We must first accept we have an issue and dedicate some resources to resolving the issues. Problems like drugs don’t just go away by simple policing, they require a much more involved response that includes treatment and above all education. I propose we start putting some additional effort into the safety and security of our residents, before the population growth makes that much more difficult. Together we will get a grip on crime, and make Wasaga Beach even more enjoyable for all!

“Our residents deserve a focus on a safe and secure community!”- Leslie Farkas

Environment

Wasaga Beach is absolutely beautiful, with all the natural splendour around us it is our responsibility to ensure that proactive steps are taken to ensure that for generations to come Wasaga Beach will be known for it natural beauty. With a province-wide push to build new homes, we must take proactive steps to be sure we find the proper balance between healthy development and over-development, we owe it to our children and grandchildren!

“Wasaga Beach is and should continue to be known for its connection to nature , it is our greatest asset.”- Leslie Farkas

Long Term Care 

Wasaga Beach has again been overlooked by the province for funding in respect to Long Term Care needs, this is a very clear indication of the fundamental need to advocate for our residents at all levels of government. Everyone knows, that the squeaky wheel gets the oil, and without a single provincially funded Long-Term Care bed in Wasaga Beach, the wheels are more than squeaking! It’s time our residents' needs are recognized by all levels of government, and with years of successful experience dealing with all three levels of government, our residents deserve to know that their interests are well represented by someone who can get things done!

“Our residents deserve advocacy at all levels of government, anything less is unacceptable.”- Leslie Farkas

Affordable Housing

Today the word affordable and housing do not go together. Although it is a county's responsibility to address the needs of affordable housing, a more supportive role can be taken by the municipality through the creation of an affordable housing advisory committee, that can express the needs of our community to the council and even research possible options in which the municipality can help support the county in its efforts to address this issue that is becoming increasingly larger each year.  

The need to address this issue is unquestionable, as it affects all aspects of our community, including the people and businesses of our community.

“While it may indeed be officially a county issue, OUR residents are the ones suffering. It is time to stop passing the buck and be part of the solution.”- Leslie Farkas

Politics and Social Media

It has become very clear that social media and all forms of the internet are here to stay. Social media can be a great way to keep the residents informed, help them share experiences, and even help educate. However, I feel the information stream needs to be reversed. We should be using this practically free form of public feedback to ensure the public is heard before all items are voted on. With such an involved population Wasaga Beach can easily become a leader in inclusive government, and an example for those around us!

“Public polling is a multibillion-dollar industry, and thanks to technology we can now do it for practically free. There really is no longer any excuse for the public not to be heard before things are voted on.”- Leslie Farkas

My Priorities