Peabody: Bruce County would be ‘fragmented’ by proposed riding change

·3 min read

BROCKTON – The word “gerrymandering” entered the conversation when Mayor Chris Peabody discussed proposed changes to federal ridings.

Gerrymandering is defined as “restructuring political boundaries to favour a party or group.”

Peabody said he’s going to ask for a staff report on the proposed restructuring when Bruce County council meets this week. “It’s never good when a county is fragmented,” he said, explaining that while Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound would remain relatively intact, losing Grey Highlands but gaining Brockton and South Bruce, the three coastal counties would be “mashed into one,” something Peabody called “disadvantageous.”

“Fragmenting a county” would make it less likely to produce a leader the calibre of Lisa Thompson, who has emerged as a driving force in Ontario, the mayor said.

While Brockton becoming part of the federal Grey riding would have both advantages and disadvantages, said Peabody, “it’s mostly bad news.”

The staff report would form the basis of a comment by Bruce County, and would have to be submitted by the Sept. 25 deadline.

Another point of interest at this week’s county council meeting will be a report on housing presented by Community Foundation Grey Bruce. It’s titled “Vital Focus on Housing” and discusses the various things affecting the local housing market. Among the findings: “The housing crisis is not just a problem for the economically-challenged. Working people who traditionally could be thought of as ‘middle-class’ are experiencing lack of housing options.”

Peabody also made note of another report he’s read that was just released by ROMA (Rural Ontario Municipal Association).

Titled “Addressing Barriers to Attainable Housing and Purpose-Built Rentals in Rural Ontario,” it focuses on rural Ontario with some recommendations that are specific “to my vision of more housing in hamlets.”

Peabody said the recommendations are practical, something that’s badly needed in a very complicated file – four levels of government plus the private sector. He mentioned the Town of the Blue Mountains, which is moving ahead with its own housing project on the former Foodland property.

The ROMA document stated it has “set out a bold plan… on addressing the full spectrum of housing needs in rural Ontario and re-imagining the Provincial Policy Statement in ways that facilitate local decision-making.”

The document stated that “good quality, reasonably priced rental accommodation has long been in short supply and remains so today. Economies of scale are harder to achieve for multi-unit projects and it is difficult to encourage developers to consider projects in rural Ontario.”

ROMA calls for amending provincial legislation to bring clarity to the planning process for governments as well as citizens, delegating authority and flexibility to municipal governments, accelerating the planning process, implementing targeted incentives and getting municipally approved housing projects “out of the gate” faster.

The other issue that’s high on the mayor’s priority list involves Westario. Peabody continues to stress that “Brockton has both a lawyer and an accountant, and I’m not going to override their advice.” Brockton has called for a “pause” on his municipality approving Westario’s plans until after the new council takes office in the fall.

Westario’s board of directors, on which Peabody sits, gave approval in principle to the proposed plans for diversifying the utility, but Brockton is seeking input from the municipality’s lawyer and accountant.

Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Walkerton Herald Times