Owen Sound Election 2018


Carol Merton

1. Please share any relevant employment or volunteer experience you have in the arts and culture sector.
I recently authored and published two children’s Christmas-themed storybooks which have been sold in local bookstores. I have been a volunteer in adult community choirs and previously a parent volunteer with two children in the Georgian Bay Children’s Choir and the Sheila Milne School of Dance.

2. What concrete actions would you recommend/support for improving the atmosphere and aesthetic of the downtown Owen Sound community?
Let’s celebrate the downtown as a distinct neighbourhood, a mixed community to gather together for living, learning, shopping and dining. I believe in establishing Community Action Groups such as “Friends of Downtown” to develop and implement concrete ideas, themes and branding for the downtown. In addition, drawing on the ideas of other communities we need to creatively develop streetscapes similar to the San Antonio River Walk and the Nakusp BC Waterfront Walk.

3. What specific actions do you recommend for preventing another situation such as that with the Tom Thomson Gallery, where drastic cuts have had to be made?
The role and responsibility of City Council is oversight and ensuring that best practices for strong governance are consistently followed. This includes accountability of all committees and bodies, regular financial monitoring, staff evaluation and reporting of status and variances. This business practice and auditing ensures that any matters of concern can be dealt with in a timely and effective manner.

4. Where do you feel Owen Sound’s greatest opportunities lie for promoting our arts, community and cultural assets?
I believe our greatest opportunities lie in our strategic partnerships and both the formal and informal networks we have with other organizations and groups in the community and beyond. In addition, we can expand and draw on partnerships with artisan groups, Georgian College, travel and tourism bodies and our indigenous community to promote and support our heritage, arts, community and cultural assets to celebrate and grow events.

5. In your own words, what is a City councillor or school board trustee's role in protecting, promoting and growing healthy communities?
City councillors and the council are first and foremost stewards of city resources. As stewards they are responsible for ensuring they Owen Sound is a healthy community where all the social determinants of health are present, nurtured and developed. I support a “health in every policy” framework and approach to the decision making and future direction of our city.

Bill Twaddle

My work experience includes 30 years as a journalist, writer and editor, and 16 years as a fundraiser for the Alzheimer Society of Grey-Bruce. My volunteer experience has been in the social service sector, including Big Brothers, and in supporting my children’s activities, primarily swimming and equestrian competition.

The future of the downtown lies is in creating an environment that draws more people downtown. The River Precinct project which has been in the works for at least eight years is one very positive step. Reinvigorating the Community Improvement Plan to encourage property owners to create more or improve the quality of residential space downtown would be a significant step towards this goal.

The Tom is a priceless asset for Owen Sound. It must be preserved. The Gallery has a long standing reputation for financial responsibility. A short-term failure cannot be ignored, and must be dealt with, but it should not inn the long-term detract from the cultural professionalism and growth that has been the hallmark for most of its history. The Gallery must continue to move forward, but with a new sense of fiscal responsibility and oversight.

The city has a long and respected history of creating and presenting cultural events. The most viable, successful and attractive of these events are those which are organized by private business, or by independent volunteer organizations. The city’s responsibility should be to support and encourage these events and perhaps to seed new events.

Owen Sound’s natural environment, especially the escarpment and the waterfront, go a long way to promoting a healthy, liveable community. Planning and development policies MUST incorporate preservation of and access to these natural assets by encouraging active transportation trail networks; safe bike lanes and walking routes; the development of venues that bring people to the waterfront, and an overall sense of community pride. City Council must look farther into the future and create policies and plans that will create opportunities for lifestyle growth on into the future.

Jacquie Furtner

1. Please share any relevant employment or volunteer experience you have in the arts and culture sector.
I have a diploma in Interior Design and have spent 6 years operating barebirch, a home décor business. We have supported local artists in our store whenever the opportunity arises. Our built environment impacts our ability to be active and connect with our community and I will continue to advocate for art in public spaces.

2. What concrete actions would you recommend/support to improve the atmosphere & aesthetic of the downtown?
Negative perceptions and lack of connection are barriers we have to overcome. Aesthetically, making small incremental improvements that build on each other to create a more appealing space is the best way to go. It is financially sustainable and can include initiatives to work around landmarks as well as improve the streetscape, such as: working with building owners and businesses to improve their facades, programmed public spaces, public washrooms, outdoor cafés and inviting gateway signage.

3. What specific actions do you recommend for preventing another situation such as that with the Tom Thomson Gallery?
I have been advocating for more collaboration amongst the city, its committees and the public. If we are all working together, there are more opportunities for catching potential problems.

4. Where do you feel Owen Sound’s greatest opportunities lie for promoting our arts, community and cultural assets?
We should start by creating an arts and culture development policy followed by an action plan. Once we compile a list of our current art and culture assets as well as define what our values are moving forward, we can determine what we can build on and what the priorities are. We can then initiate a cultural tourism strategy. As the vice chair of the OSDIA, I have recommended a rebrand of downtown. I truly believe leveraging the arts and culture in our community is our best option to provide a higher quality of life for our population as well as to attract tourism. We need to support and work with our artists, galleries, music venues, festivals, the Roxy and more. Arts and culture bring people together, are available to all socioeconomic individuals and permit participation by all.

5. In your own words, what is a City councillor’s role in protecting, promoting and growing healthy communities?
Listen to what the community needs, build connections, create policies that support everyone and promote a healthy and safe community. This can include encouraging affordable housing, accessible transportation, accessible recreation and a socially cohesive atmosphere.

John Tamming
Background in the Arts

I have zero employment background in the arts and culture sector of this city. I have been pleased to act as a small time philanthropist of sorts and have tried to apply meaningful donations to everything from the classical concerts of the Ostertags, to the exhibitions at the gallery to the recently acquired print making press of the artists’ coop. In addition, I have for years been a board member of the Front Porch Republic, a small organization which seeks to celebrate and enhance small scale living. (Think Smart Towns with an academic twist).

What will it take to improve the aesthetics of this community?

Dostoevsky declared that art shall set us free. He meant not words, not ideology and not the technocratic manner in which we have come to organize our daily lives. It is the allusiveness of art, the other directedness of all creative mediums which points us beyond the mundane and is capable of raising both individual spirits and that of an entire community. I want that for Owen Sound. I am having a coffee in Walkerton this week and someone held up the Mosaic. He’s a businessman with no interest in the arts per se but he told me he loves the little journal and asked me why our town seems so packed with talent. The anecdote is instructive. Painters can improve an alleyway here or there, a sidewalk musician can do her part as well. But for a sustained downtown aesthetic you have to begin with the architectural bones of the place. We can say of too much of our downtown that it looks like no one cares. And if we don’t care, why would anyone else? Why would a tourist care or a university grad think of returning some day? I urge everyone to read James Kunstler’s Geography of Nowhere. It is an extended jeremiad against the horrors of so much of our urban design. Think of our strip malls on the east end, the product not of sterile 1960’s planning but of the most modern of planning departments. (Really, why bother have a planning department if such bleakness is what its talent delivers to the citizens?) The riverside enhancement can be a start, provided we actually do see shovels in the ground. But we need to do more. Hear me out. The millennials have an expression – fail quickly and move on. It is time to take some risks. The core has slid over the last ten years. Less and less people want to be downtown. I refuse to accept the decline as inevitable. We have many excellent people on staff but I am convinced that for this particular project, we need fresh eyes. We cannot do the same things and expect anything other than the same results. We need to look outside of this area to hire talent with a proven track record of facing down urban blight. Recruit a dynamic Downtown Director. Tell her to re-imagine our city core. Defer to her vision and give her full run of the place for five years. If she fails in some things, let her fail quickly and move onto the next idea. Empower her with the toughest property standards bylaw in the province. Identify ten buildings a month in need of immediate attention and don’t take dithering as an answer. Let her liaise with the arts community and leverage their talents to improve streetscapes. Designate part of the downtown as a test area for the city to experiment upon: If we have excess retail, convert a block to residential; with private partners buy and renovate a derelict building or two, create upscale apartments and throw them on the air b&b market. Buy a centre block building, knock it over, create an expansive outdoor patio and punch a walkway to the riverfront improvement area. A splash pad at Jervis Bay Park? Why not? We need to try whatever keeps foot traffic coming, whatever makes a Toronto or Kitchener day tripper say that this place has buzz.

Avoiding another Tom Thomson That was of course a budgeting fiasco. No one denies that, not even the past Director, I suspect. The gallery got ahead of its skis. It made some grant assumptions that did not materialize. Until confidence is rebuilt, the city manager’s office will likely have to scrutinize contracts and expenditures. But every crisis has the seeds within it of opportunity and that is what is happening right now. Just talk to a community curator or Willy Waterton about his upcoming exhibition.

Promoting our Arts I was never in favour of moving the gallery across town. I favour a large addition at its current location. Include a small performing arts venue. Think visual artists along the riverside with performing artists and poets from time to time. Think sculpture along the riverbanks, generated by our own citizenry.

The City Council’s Role and the Arts The arts needs the protective arm of a vigilant council. There is often not an obvious, clear cut case for funding the arts. It is the role of a councillor to encourage the populace to see beyond pot holes and sewers. It is his or her role to promote culture as both that which enhances our lives and which can serve as an economic driver. As such it is worthy of seed money, it is worthy of risk.


  1. Please share any relevant employment or volunteer experience you have in the arts and culture sector.

Although I have not been employed in the arts and culture sector, I have a keen interest in this area. I currently serve on the Tom Thomson Art Gallery Board as a member of Council and am excited about being a Community Curator. Culturally, I volunteer at Grey Roots Museum and Archives in the 1853 Log Cabin as an interpreter, an area which I find most rewarding and enjoyable. My artistic abilities include sewing, knitting, crocheting, and scrapbooking. In the past I taught various short courses through the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs with the Women’s Institute, such as rug braiding, sewing, and other life skills courses.

  1. What concrete actions would you recommend/support for improving the atmosphere and aesthetic of the downtown?

I would support the DIA contracting a Marketing and Promotions Manager to assist in making aesthetic improvements to the downtown Owen Sound community and help with filling our vacant storefronts. There are many programs out there that other municipalities have found to be very successful and we need to build upon those programs and work more closely with the City and Grey County Economic Development Committees to come up with ideas and improvements for our downtown. The legislated mandate of the DIA is beautification and promotion and this needs to be followed through.

  1. What specific actions do you recommend for preventing another situation such as that with the Tom Thomson Gallery, where drastic cuts have had to be made?

Budgets, such as that at the TOM, need to be reviewed by City administration and Council in order to ensure financial needs and services that are to be provided are being met. The gallery and it’s collection are owned by the City and the service is one that is paid for by the taxpayers so Council should at least be reviewing this budget in detail.

  1. Where do you feel our greatest opportunities lie for promoting our arts, community and cultural assets?

I would like to see more artisans along the harbour area. I am thrilled to see the Artists Co-Op opening their workshop area which I feel will encourage more artisan activity and I am also pleased to see the artisans now locating along 1 st Avenue East during the time the market is on, although this is probably the same group that located in the Percy England Parkette beside City Hall on those days. I think there should be a display of artists and their wares at every event the City undertakes. This is an opportunity to showcase the talent we have in this area and what they have to offer.

  1. In your own words, what is a City councillor’s role in protecting, promoting and growing healthy communities?

I believe a healthy community is made up of both physical and social environments and expanded resources to support those needs. It is important for Council to assist the County of Grey and Non-Profit Housing sector in providing affordable housing initiatives for our residents and to promote affordable housing in new larger private development areas. We need to ensure that there are programs available in our municipality so that people in need have access to affordable food and meals to support their families. Council also needs to provide affordable physical programs for its residents, particularly youth and seniors, to ensure a healthy lifestyle is maintained in this City where quality of life is one of our attributes.


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