All options open to address housing crisis, says acclaimed Cornwall mayor

There were no challengers for Minerva McCourt's job, but she was still out campaigning. (Submitted - image credit)
There were no challengers for Minerva McCourt's job, but she was still out campaigning. (Submitted - image credit)

Minerva McCourt is moving into a third term as the mayor of Cornwall, P.E.I.'s fastest growing community.

With no challengers stepping forward, McCourt was acclaimed in advance of the Nov. 7 election. McCourt said even without a race to win, she had been out campaigning.

"I've been out. I was out quite a bit before I was acclaimed, and then I'm still out. I'm always out and about," she said.

"I'm the kind of mayor that, you know, if you go to the Save Easy you could be there two hours, because people, we meet, we talk, and I hear it everywhere. That's why I like it."

Lowest vacancy rate

The 2021 census showed that Cornwall had displaced Stratford as the fastest growing community in the province.

And that rapid growth has brought with it a housing crisis, which is currently afflicting the whole province. Cornwall had the lowest vacancy rate in the province in 2021, at just 0.5 per cent.

Cody MacKay/CBC
Cody MacKay/CBC

The town is open to discussing a variety of solutions for the housing crisis, said McCourt, including creating co-op housing or even potentially building and operating public housing. Recent discussions with provincial and federal officials have opened possibilities, she said.

"It's opened up more doors to what can be done. Co-op housing is very much on the mind of the councillors," said McCourt.

"Working together with the various government levels you never know what we can do. The drive is there."

7 candidates for 6 seats

In addition to having an acclaimed mayor, there are just seven candidates running for the six seats on Cornwall council.

It has been an issue across the provinces with this round of municipal elections, with some communities extending nomination periods to drum up more candidates.

But McCourt said she does not expect the relatively easy road to town council to lead to complacency. The town's councillors are all deeply involved in the community, she said.

"They're engaged, some in sport, some in a business in the town, so they hear it all," said McCourt.

"I don't think there can be complacency when you go to the residents, as you do when you're going to be elected, and you hear at the doorstep what the residents want."

More staff, more services

With more people settling in Cornwall, the town administration also has to grow, said McCourt.

"You need more staff, you need more services, expansion of what we have already in recreational services, expansion to our infrastructure," she said.

Some of that is already underway, she noted, with the building of an active transportation lane that will connect to lanes through Charlottetown and into Stratford. More commercial development is being planned, with land set aside on the Cornwall Road.

She is pleased and humbled to find herself in the position to lead Cornwall through another four years, she said.

"I love it. I love the people, I love living in Cornwall, and there's still work to be done."