NORTH PERTH – A report updating North Perth council on the progress the municipality has made working on recommendations from the Mayor’s Task Forces and the COVID Recovery Action Groups (CRAG) was presented by CAO Kriss Snell on June 21.
In December 2018, council established four task forces, each focused on a local policy issue; youth retention, labour attraction, mental health and affordable housing. The task forces were comprised of council members, a municipal staff person and community members.
North Perth council received the final report and recommendations from each of the task forces between September and December 2019.
The lifespan of the task forces ran concurrently with the development of the 2019-2022 North Perth Corporate Strategic Plan.
“Many of the task force recommendations closely align with the North Perth strategic plan,” said Snell. “Certainly COVID has impacted the implementation of the strategic plan. However, in 2021 council did approve the department business plans and we began to implement year one of the strategic plan of North Perth.”
Perth County is currently developing a new Official Plan that will replace official plans for certain urban areas within the county such as Listowel. North Perth staff anticipate that the new plan will be an important tool to address affordable and attainable housing in North Perth.
In addition, the strategic plan focuses on the provision of diverse housing options and improved housing density in the municipality through the promotion and encouragement of a range of housing options in new developments, the establishment of policies that encourage and incentivise the development of attainable housing and will lead in the development of desired housing options through the development of municipal lands.
In May 2020, as recommended by the North Perth Emergency Control Group, North Perth established CRAG to assist in pandemic recovery efforts. CRAG was comprised of an umbrella committee and three sub-groups; agriculture, community services and economy. The groups were comprised of community members, organizations, municipal staff and council representatives. Each CRAG established short and long-term goals and needs to investigate and implement recommended actions.
North Perth council received an update on the CRAG progress on Aug. 17. In this update, the goals of each group were shared with council and municipal funding requests were approved to support marketing initiatives of the agriculture and economy groups.
“This (report) was a follow up from a comment Police Chief (Greg) Skinner from Stratford pointed out about the importance of when you do have members of the community involved in making recommendations from various committees, you keep them informed regarding progress and I think this report tries to do that,” said Coun. Allan Rothwell. “One suggestion I would have is that perhaps this information could be circulated out to some of the committees or at least their members so they can understand that the work they have done is proceeding.”
He mentioned that the community services CRAG had a presentation by Leith Deacon, an associate professor at the University of Guelph, who surveyed the impact of COVID-19 on Huron and Perth counties.
“My understanding was we were going to have that presentation to this council so that our community here in North Perth could hear that as well,” said Rothwell. “Is there any action being taken on that?”
Snell said he is not aware that Deacon is scheduled to attend any upcoming meetings but it could be scheduled.
“I certainly agree with Coun. Rothwell’s recommendations,” he said. “We could distribute this report to task force members or CRAG members for their information.”
The report is available publicly in the agenda for the June 21 regular North Perth council meeting.
Mayor Todd Kasenberg said he sees items listed in the report when progress has been made but also pointed out that there are areas where effort will be needed.
“I guess if I’m going to commend anything it’s to appreciate the staff and committees that have done this work for beginning and taking action on several of these items,” he said. “But, also let’s have a look at some of these things that need to get started. There is a reference certainly to supporting the attraction of new Canadians into our labour market. That’s something we should get cracking on.”
He said that as COVID begins to alleviate itself an employer forum could now be looked at to discuss this issue.
“I did notice my title certainly implicated in that action and I’m happy to begin to take leadership actions to assimilate a forum for our employers to discuss that,” said Kasenberg. “I think we should target October for doing that.”
He also said there were some interesting ideas around youth retention that he is hoping can be worked on during the fall and winter months of 2021.
“The youth council, that was an exciting idea I know we’ve been kicking around for a while,” said Kasenberg. “Some of our neighbours have done it with reasonable success so I’m looking forward to seeing it moving forward. Certainly the socialization lounge for youth, that’s remarkable even though COVID has kind of put the kibosh on it in Monkton.
“Where else can we do this? Should we do this somewhere else?”
Kasenberg thinks some very promising recommendations have been brought forward and he said “some spectacular work” has already been done by staff.
“I look forward to doing my part as I can in trying to push forward some of these items that are on the agenda,” he said.
Colin Burrowes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Listowel Banner