Monday, October 19, 2009

The Young and the Restless

TBL Mayoral Candidates Face Young Families

By Frank Nixon
The Sherbrooke Record
Thursday, October 15, 2009

Brome Lake mayoral candidates Michel Ayotte, Stanley Neil, Pierre Marchand and Gilles Decelles debated family and youth issues, for over two hours Tuesday night, before an audience of 25, at Centre Lac Brome.

Unlike the speakers’ night event, organized by the Brome Lake Chamber of Commerce on Oct. 7, the mayoral candidates spent most of their time focused on family issues, in a flexible and relaxed format.

The main topics debated were the need for affordable housing for young families, the necessity for high-speed Internet throughout TBL and the need for better playground facilities. The debate, often lively at times, was organized by ‘Brome County Families’ – a TBL advocacy group formed in August.

“One thing is clear – people are fed up of talking to town hall and not getting answers or any action,’” said Ayotte. “I have being proposing, from the beginning, a more pro-active administration. The time for studies and reports is over. It is high time that we move our tails out of the kitchen and form committee and action groups. If I am elected – and I mean this – the door is coming off my office!”

“The Internet has to be pushed at the MRC,” Ayotte continued. “All of the population will have to sign a petition to get the ball rolling. The money is there in Ottawa and in Quebec. We must go after the MRC, and if we do this, I assure you, they will move!

“As for housing, we will see what cheaper lots are available and what housing could be built at a cost that will entice young couples to move here. The present incentive plan is not what we need. If I am elected, we will get it overhauled and we will make it adaptable to our needs.”

Ayotte concluded: “We will not be able to do everything in the first weeks or months but if people give me their trust, I will lead a dynamic town hall – and if the entire population puts their shoulder to the wheel, we can achieve great things.”

Neil made a plea for young families to get involved in their community to achieve concrete results. “It would seem that a lot of parents expect the schools and the towns to be able to provide facilities and activities to keep their children occupied,” said Neil. “The schools and the towns can only help provide these services when they have parents that are willing to help by their getting involved.”

“In the mid 80s, when I was a councillor, I worked very closely with the councillor in charge of recreation to make sure that Knowlton got a community centre and that TBL took over the Fulford building, from the Davis estate, for community activities,” added Neil.

“Community services were created to make sure that if and when parents get actively involved, results can be achieved,” continued Neil. “We were able to get a lot accomplished, because we were involved. It proves that if you get involved and you can make it happen.”

As for high speed Internet, Neil said that it was vital that the town work with the MRC so that it is made available to all TBL residents. “It would help to encourage young business minded entrepreneurs to move and settle in the area,” he said.

Marchand touted his leadership credentials, as his main selling point, to young families.My 20 years successful business experience, my experience working as a community organizer, my knowledge as a lawyer, my communication skills, my experience in managing human resources, my strong sense of community, and my full-time commitment to serve the needs of the people are what I’m offering to you as well as the rest of the population,” said Marchand. “A truck full of responsibilities has been devoted to the municipalities, making municipal politics a completely different world than it was 20 years ago.”

“For the last five years, I accepted to be engaged in the life of a small boy, born from a single mother, as a constant masculine figure and as a good father,” continued Marchand. “This, of course, has changed my life completely. My concerns as a parent are actual and not theoretical; I’m side-by-side with you and share completely your concerns.”

Marchand then turned negative and openly criticized former mayor and councillor, Gilles Decelles. “As you all know, I’m not a person searching for a retirement project,” said Marchand. “I am dynamic and I have the energy and the wish to participate full-time and actively to allow our community to adapt to the realities of today. This requires a leader that will devote his full time in this function – and not be a part-time mayor reachable by cell phone, as Mr. Decelles is offering.

Decelles chose to ignore Marchand’s criticism and proceeded to lay out his plan to attract young families to TBL.

Decelles promised that town hall would work toward making high speed Internet available to all TBL residents. “High-speed Internet is as essential as clean water,” he said.

“The town also needs to be a better place for families to live in Knowlton,” Decelles added. “People are very mobile to get a job but the rest of the environment has to be attractive.”

To make Knowlton more attractive to young families, Decelles proposed a path around Mill Pond “with swings and a playground.” He would also replace the beach house at Douglass Beach and make it the centre for a “linear path network” connecting all the districts within TBL.

As for parks, Decelles said that they need to be accessible to parents, by being “within walking distance.” He also saw the need to “validate the mission of the community centre” to maximize the use of resources, so that the needs of youth and families are met.

As for the “affordable” housing program, launched by town hall in June, Decelles said: “This program is not well thought out. The budget should only be for young families.”

Alex Roslin, a spokesperson for ‘Brome County Families’, said one the group’s initial concerns was the lack of public playgrounds in Knowlton, especially for preschoolers. “This became a bigger concern after Knowlton’s only public playground, at Lions Park, was dismantled last year,” he said.

Roslin added: “More generally, parents are also concerned about the seven per cent decline in the number of households with kids in Lac Brome, according to the last census. While the town has implemented a family policy to try to reverse that, many parents feel that the needs of families often still aren't heard.”

The debate was moderated by West Bolton resident Albert Nerenberg.

No comments: