Candidates face one another down during forum
by Roger Varley
With only a handful of people in attendance at the arena, the four candidates standing for election in Pickering-Uxbridge riding made their pitches to a viewing audience last Wednesday at an all candidates forum, coordinated and presented by the Uxbridge Cosmos.
The meeting was live-streamed on YouTube and Facebook and over 130 people tuned in at some point during the two-hour event. Several hundred more have watched the recording since.
During the candidates’ opening statements, PPC candidate Corneliu Chisu said the he feels the most important issue is freedom of the individual, which he claimed is “under siege” by other parties who want to force Canadians to have COVID-19 vaccinations. Eileen Higdon of the NDP said immediate action is needed on climate change, noting the previous night’s heavy rainstorm was part of a new normal. Liberal Jennifer O’Connell said there are lots of issues to deal with “but we have to get through the pandemic first,” and Conservative Jacob Mantle pointed to the “big and small things” he had accomplished as a member of Uxbridge council.
The major issue that dominated the evening was the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccinations. After moderator Ted Barris asked candidates whether they thought everybody should have to be vaccinated, Higdon noted that it had been difficult to bring in No Smoking legislation, but it finally came about, despite objections from many. Mantle said he didn’t believe vaccinations should be mandatory but there should be a program to education people about the benefits of vaccination. O’Connell, while eschewing forced vaccinations, said no-one has the right to infect others. She defended the Liberal government’s mandate that all federally regulated employees must be vaccinated and claimed Conservatives are pandering to conspiracy theorists. Chisu said vaccination passports infringe on the rights of people who choose not to be vaccinated.
“You’re creating a two-tier citizenry,” he said. “Vaccination passports don’t stop you getting the virus.”
With three of the candidates having municipal council experience, a question was posed about how the federal government could help first-time buyers and low-income people obtain affordable housing, while making it profitable for developers to build higher-density and smaller homes. Higdon said the NDP would work with various partners to have more subsidized and low-rent housing built. Mantle said he and his friends can’t afford to buy a house “and that dream is getting pushed further and further out of reach.” He said the Conservative party has committed to building one million homes in three years by allocating 15 per cent of all federally-owned lands in the country to housing and making it easier for municipalities to build high-density housing near to transit hubs. Chisu claimed part of the housing problem is caused by “foreign” buyers who use real estate investments for money laundering. O’Connell said the Liberals would introduce a tax-free home savings account, and that they also have a plan for a rent-to-own program. She noted there is no definition in Canada for affordable housing.
The next issue discussed was the controversial topic of abortion and medical assistance in death (MAID). The candidates were asked what their personal stances were on the subject. Chisu said freedom of choice is paramount and people have the right to decide what to do with their bodies.
“There is no place for the government to tell them what to do,” he said.
However, he went on to say the medical profession is bound by oath to save lives, so it is up to the medical profession to decide if they want to participate.
Higdon said she was in favour of allowing MAID, and that abortion should be available to every woman who wants it. O’Connell said she would “fight ’til the day I die” for women to have the right to make decisions about their own bodies. As for MAID, she said it is a compassionate issue and although some doctors might not want to participate in medically-assisted death, they should be required to refer people to other doctors.
Mantle was blunt.
“I’m pro-life and I do not support expanding medical assistance in dying beyond the guard rails
established by the courts,” he said. “We need to balance the rights of medical professionals and those seeking medical procedures.” He added that he would vote on any proposed legislation dealing with the issue based on his pro-life beliefs.
On climate change, the candidates were asked if they would support “a just and fair” phase-out of fossil fuels. Chisu said there should be more emphasis on nuclear energy. He said there would be a”natural phase-out” of fossil fuels, but it shouldn’t happen now because of oil and gas’s importance to the economy. Higdon said there should be more investment in renewable energy, electric vehicles and lower emissions but that this would require an electrical grid across the country.
O’Connell said the Liberals support the phase-out of fossil fuels but there has to be a transition, and workers in the oil and gas sector must not be left behind. Mantle said he doesn’t think it is realistic to phase out fossil fuels in the near or medium term, noting that a large part of the western economy is based on fossil fuels.
Given the limited time for the meeting, there were other questions posed by Cosmos readers that were not addressed, such as Indigenous peoples issues and racism. As has been the case with all the candidate meetings hosted by the Cosmos, this meeting remained civil throughout. Indeed, O’Connell said during the meeting that she did not view her opponents as enemies and, at one point, Mantle thanked O’Connell for giving him “straight” answer to a question he asked her.
Still undecided? The full video of the all candidates forum is available here: https://youtu.be/R0Y187QAf1c
Proposed apartment building to be lowered
by Roger Varley
At a public planning meeting held Monday night, Evendale Developments told councillors the proposed apartment building at Brock and Herrema will be four storeys tall, not six storeys.
Scott Waterhouse, representing the developer, said that, based on comments and concerns expressed at a planning meeting earlier this year, the developer has reduced the height to four storeys from six and the number of units to 59 from 86. In addition, access to the building’s parking will be from Herrema Boulevard, not Low Boulevard as originally proposed.
Waterhouse said that, apart from the height and the access point, the layout of the building will generally be the same as the original proposal.
The units in the building will be condominiums, with the target market being empty-nesters and first-time home buyers. However, developer David Sud said he could not say how much the units will sell for, adding the price will depend on the market at the time.
The units in the building would range from one-bedroom with a den to three bedrooms. Waterhouse said the average size of units would be about 900 square feet.
When asked about accessibility, Waterhouse said the design includes accessible parking spaces, but details of accessibility inside the building will be provided later. With the revised plan, there would be 94 parking spaces, with 33 spaces outdoors and the rest underground. There would be about 15 spaces allocated for visitors.
Bike clinic okayed for Quaker Common
by Roger Varley
Suzanne Kershaw of the Uxbridge Active Transportation Committee received the okay from council Monday to hold a bike maintenance clinic on Quaker Common at the end of the month.
The clinic, aimed at youngsters from Junior Kindergarten to Grade 8, is scheduled to take place at the south end of the common on Sept. 28 from 2:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.
In a letter, Kershaw said volunteers from the committee will teach youngsters how to check their helmets and do tire, brakes and chain checks on their own bikes. She said the event will follow all necessary COVID-19 protocols.
The Fantasy returns
by Roger Varley
In a letter to council, the Optimists said the Fantasy was included last year in a Reader’s Digest list of the top 10 drive-through light displays in Canada. The event was limited to drive-through last year because of COVID-19 protocols which restricted pedestrian traffic through the park. The Optimists said that, despite that change and the fact that last year’s event was cut short by 10 days because of COVID-19, it was the best year yet for the event.
“The good news is the increase in money we raised benefitted many more youth in our community, including 10 extra scholarships at the high school,” the letter said.
It noted that, given the increase in vehicular traffic, the event cannot go back to pedestrian traffic due to the limitations on parking.
The Fantasy is scheduled to run from Dec. 4 to Jan. 1.
Revitalization Team to start “streeters”
Between Sept. 18 and Sept. 25, the Township of Uxbridge Downtown Revitalization Committee will be conducting surveys on Brock Str. between Victoria St. and Main St. The surveys are very short, seeking insight about why people are coming into the downtown, where they are from (by postal code) and what they would like to see downtown. The interviews, or “streeters”, will be conducted with residents and visitors alike.
The team says the goal is to capture information about the types of businesses, events, services or amenities that draw people to the downtown, where people who visit the downtown are from, and what those people would like to see implemented in the future. Volunteers conducting the surveys on behalf of the Downtown Revitalization Project Committee will be masked and following COVID protocols.
Residents and visitors who see a survey team while in the downtown core are invited to “stop and say hello and share your opinions with the team.”
For more information about the surveys or the project, please visit www.uxbridge.ca/myuxbridgedowntown
Fair goes ahead without spectators
by Roger Varley
Cows, horses, sheep, goats – the animals outnumbered the humans at Uxbridge’s Fall Fair in Elgin Park on the weekend as the abbreviated version of the annual event went ahead without any members of the general public allowed on the site.
Because of COVID-19 restrictions, only exhibitors and volunteers were allowed on the grounds. There was no midway, no tractor pull, no demolition derby. But that did not mean the fair was not a success, said president Bev Latva. If the exhibitors and volunteers had a good time, that would equal success, she said. She also noted that, from a financial perspective, “we’ll be fine,” thanks to sponsors, grants and Ontario Agriculture Association funding.
Asked why the fair went ahead despite all the restrictions, Latva said the fair board did not want to send any more negative messages to the public.
“People are dragged down,” she said.
It was also important to preserve the agricultural component of the fair, she said, and for the livestock exhibitors who use the event to qualify for other shows.
“There’s a lot of networking and it gives them a chance to look at other breeding stock,” Latva said.
The homecraft component of the fair was held virtually, with some of the entries being displayed in some stores such as The Bridge Social, although entries were down this year because of the virtual nature.
Dave Walker, head of the Uxbridge Horsemen’s Association, said entries were also down for the horse shows, which included schooling shows, a gymkhana on Saturday and a Western extravaganza on Sunday. He said the shows were “extremely important” for younger riders competing, but also to provide continuity for the fall fair “to save it from extinction.”
Martha Henshaw, beef club leader with 4H, was of the same mind. She explained that 4H members begin working with the animals in the spring “and this show is for all the marbles.”
“If there’s no fair, there’s no credits for their projects and all their work has been for nothing,” she said.
Latva said everyone on the grounds was screened and subject to contact tracing. She said the fair board worked extensively with Durham Health on its COVID-19 safety plan and had no problems.
Henshaw had the last word on that subject: “I vaccinate all my cattle,” she said. “Why wouldn’t I vaccinate myself?”
Studio Tour brings art to life in more ways than one
by Justyne Edgell
This weekend’s studio tour promises to be a little different this year. Not because of COVID precautions, but because it features art that is both inanimate and quite alive.
Artist and Uxbridge Studio Tour chair, Colin Whitebread, says that this year they are back with all the traditional sites open.
“We have no appointments this year, unlike last year, when you needed to book a time,” says Whitebread, who also notes that certain locations will have capacity limits. “A lot of us have outside guests as well, so visitors will be encouraged to walk about the gardens as they wait for their turn inside the studio.”
This year there are 23 sites and 52 artists on the tour, along with special live performances by local aerialist Diana Lopez and her team. The performance “Otros Rostros” is an award-winning “multidisciplinary project that brings together contemporary Indigenous dance, aerial dance, mask work, storytelling and installation art.” The performance will take place rigged up in the trees of Elgin Park. To get a close glimpse at this unique tour addition you need to book a viewing time through the Uxbridge Studio Tour website.
Whitebread says that, because sites won’t be providing snacks or goodies this year, he encourages visitors to check out the local restaurants, breweries and shops who sponsor the tour.
“I also want to say a big thank you to the township for being so accommodating with the new installation in Elgin Park, .”says Whitebread.
For more information on the 2021 Uxbridge Studio Tour and a map of the locations, visit uxbridgestudiotour.com
Things that flutter in the night – a webinar
Did you know that, of the roughly 5,300 known species of moths and butterflies in Canada, moths represent 90 per cent of this insect group? Not only are moths diverse, they show spectacular patterns and colours when one takes a closer look.
North Durham Nature presents a webinar entitled “Moths: Butterflies of the Night” on Sept. 21, 7 p.m., that explores life histories, how to find moths, the main families and fun facts about them.
Local ecologist James Kamstra is familiar with, and has studied many facets of natural history. Insects are a particular passion. He started collecting insects more than 50 years ago, but now uses a camera to record his findings.
To take part in this informative webinar, simply become a member of North Durham Nature at northdurhamnature.com. The cost is only $10 and you will be able to participate in the remaining 2021 presentations.