2022 City Election



- Jan Chamberlain and Michael Craig
Co-chairs, Rebound Owen Sound

Owen Sound is a marvelous city, surrounded by forests and farms, a great place to live. We all love the hiking and biking, the music and art. Thousands of people volunteer with dozens of excellent organizations proving that they care deeply for their neighbors, including members of our City Council.

However, a majority on City Council have not demonstrated a willingness to take a leadership role and tackle serious problems. It’s past time to act on poverty and homelessness; the housing crisis and skyrocketing rental costs; a downtown retail area with dozens of vacant stores; and climate change that’s causing floods, fires and life-threatening high temperatures across Canada.

Rebound Owen Sound is a new citizens’ group dedicated to raising awareness about tough issues, offering solutions, and pushing all candidates to act. Come join us to make our fair city better than ever!

A More Open, Collaborative Council

Central to the challenge of Owen Sound’s new city council will be bringing citizens together so we can create a more vibrant, healthy, and equitable community. Currently, Owen Sound has fewer committees, task forces and opportunities for engagement than any small city in Ontario. City council and senior staff decision-makers must be committed to community feedback. Without internal buy-in, public engagement efforts will be nothing more than token gestures.

To scale up how we bring people together, Owen Sound must build its capacity to:

Set and meet ambitious targets for engaging new, diverse, and underrepresented groups in our community.
Learn some tried and tested techniques for empowering citizens – such as 880 Cities - in the decision-making process.
Build a coalition of supporters and momentum for economic development and public space improvement projects.

Effective public engagement requires skilled staff, along with tools and planning, one that combines big-picture goals and step-by-actions. For example, cities that successfully set goals of addressing homelessness start with citizen-councilor committees that include representation from all social, racial and religious communities; then seek advice from the best practices of other Canadian municipalities.

In the past, Owen Sound City Council has responded to problems by passing them on as county, provincial or federal responsibilities, saying there is little they can do. They legitimately point out that property taxes here are among the highest in the province, and their hands are tied by fiscal realities. But the real problem is not so much lack of dollars as lack of imagination and the need for a change in attitudes.

Housing Action

We don’t have all the answers to pervasive housing problems, but here are a few potential solutions. First, the lack of housing is especially dire for low-income families and individuals, so building modest, low-cost homes for purchase or rental should be a priority.

In dealing with developers, Council’s levers include development fees that are levied to fund the infrastructure that new developments require. But in recent cases, Council has given multi-million-dollar developers a 100% tax break from those fees. Owen Sound needs a tougher stance in negotiations with developers, waiving fees only on affordable rental units, as opposed to all units.

Much of the city’s rental housing is old and in need of repairs. Renters are reluctant to complain because they might be evicted, so essential repairs don’t get done. A system of licenses for landlords would give the City and tenants more control on ensuring rental housing is safe and livable.

Poverty, Homelessness, Addictions

The difficult challenges of poverty, homelessness or inadequate housing, and the impacts of addictions and mental health problems, are felt increasingly in Owen Sound. Owen Sound’s recent mayor, deputy mayor and most city councillors have been vocal about not wanting the municipality to engage on the homelessness file, preferring to leave it to the County and other levels of governments. As the rising numbers of homeless people and encampments outside City Hall and in the downtown core has made clear, this is an ineffective and costly approach.

The mayor, deputy mayor, city councillors, and their staff must embrace a can-do attitude about homelessness. When doing so, they should be clear to advocate for robust public engagement as well as adequate investment from federal and provincial governments as well.

Strengthen Capacity for Social Planning

Owen Sound is well served by the Bruce-Grey Poverty Task Force that has presented many impressive reports in conjunction with 52 community agencies and groups. In the past, excellent recommendations with a proven track record elsewhere have been politely received then shelved. The City must recognize and enhance the role of the Poverty Task Force by assigning both staff and Council members to participate. The City must invest in and recruit Social Planning capacity for staff, including seeking government support at all levels for this effort. By combining political will and community engagement, the City will have the staff, political support and good ideas to vigorously tackle social problems.

Economic Development

Of the three orders of government, municipalities have the greatest opportunity and ability to promote economic development. Owen Sound city council must scale up work with local businesses, institutions, and citizen champions, bringing in provincial and federal governments to complement their work. They must better understand what our community wants and needs to support ongoing business expansion and investment attraction activities.

Attractive business environments include a skilled labour force, attainable housing, healthcare services, transportation to markets. Retaining existing businesses and attracting new investment to our community requires more investments in our downtown core, in transit, attracting family doctors and nurses, attracting attainable housing, arts and culture, and more.

Our citizens recognize that our municipality requires greater financial resources to invest in the infrastructure and services that underpin successful economic development and innovation policy. We need a city council that aggressively leads on this all-of-government approach.

The Climate Crisis

In our oasis of relative environmental stability in Grey-Bruce, we can’t afford to be complacent about the climate crisis. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that the world needs "transformational changes - everything from our food to our energy to transportation, but also our politics and our society”. Every entity on this planet needs to take action!

Let’s be specific: We would like Council to create a Climate Action Committee or task force to develop a Climate Action Plan and Strategies; one that includes citizens, councillors and staff, with input from experts and environmental organizations; that works with the Province, local conservation authorities, regional health units and social services to integrate planning across sectors. We should hire a Climate Action Coordinator, a position Council approved in December 2020, only to cancel it a month later. We must take action to reduce our municipal carbon footprint and mitigate the impacts of climate change - our homes and lives and livelihoods depend on it.

Moving Forward Together

Rebound Owen Sound encourages all candidates to consider the issues and recommendations for change outlined here and develop your election platform with a sense of urgency to respond. We encourage voters to ask what your candidates will do if elected to reduce homelessness, increase attainable housing, address the climate crisis, help recruit essential workers and attract new economic development.

Most importantly - we urge you to vote this October 24th to help make Owen Sound the best place to live in Canada!

See more at ReboundOwenSound.ca
Public Meeting on September 7: “Three Crises that are holding back Owen Sound” panel discussion
7 pm at the Harmony Centre





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