Mayor’s Forum – A Platform for Discontent?

The Mayor’s Forum, an annual event hosted by the Owen Sound Chamber of Commerce was promoted as an opportunity to hear the Mayors of Owen Sound, Georgian Bluffs, Meaford and Chatsworth talk about “ways to cooperate” and to “create common efficiencies” among their municipalities. It did more to highlight the dysfunctional relationship between Owen Sound and the neighboring municipalities.

Mayors on Panel

Debra Haswell    Owen Sound

Francis Richardson    Meaford

Al Barfoot     Georgian Bluffs

Bob Pringle   Chatsworth








Although outside the mandate of the meeting, cost sharing for the new recreation centre, city run minor sports programs and day camps took centre stage for discussion.  Owen Sound Mayor Debra Haswell stated there was no “free lunch” and that surrounding municipalities needed to pay their fair share of the cost of shared services.

Igniting a contentious exchange between Mayors, a Meaford Councillor, stridently reprimanded the Mayors, demanding that they “act like adults” and learn to work together. She described councillor behaviour at municipal meetings as rude and confrontational. This set the tone for a meeting that was closer to reality TV than an opportunity for public discussion on important issues.

To the positive, some important issues were given discussion time.

The Mayors did agree on the need for hi-speed Internet throughout Grey Bruce stating that it would provide economic benefits.  They believe it would attract start-up businesses and existing businesses looking for a new home. Although this service would provide Grey-Bruce parity with other communities with high-speed communications, no Mayors offered any proof that this would be a solution to the region’s economic woes. Despite this, they appear to have a collective “Field of Dreams” mentality – “build it and they will come”.

The Mayors were asked about their five-year vision for the municipalities and were in agreement about the need to create an economic strategy, retaining and expanding existing business and attracting new business. They also agreed on the need to encourage young adults to remain in the area, maintain road infrastructure, and focus on health and education as high growth sectors.

Although all valid concerns, it sounded more like a “to-do list” rather than a strategy and failed to state specific actions to be taken, timelines and expected outcomes.

Meetings such as this are an opportunity for elected officials to speak to the local business community and build the relationships necessary to stimulate a regional economy currently facing many challenges. This is the type of information local business owners need. Instead, they witnessed disagreement, wishful thinking disguised as planning, and a restatement of problems without solutions.

Peter Reesor
red/white innovative marketing

One Response

I support the arguments put forth ‘. . . for many of us in the business community, complacency can be our downfall. The challenge (as always) is to put change into action’.

Steven Coffey, President, Owen Sound Chamber of Commerce

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