New County Warden targets need for economic development

December 14, 2016   ·   0 Comments

A distinct effort to improve regional economic development appears to be the chief priority of Dufferin County Council in the new year, with the municipality’s new Warden, Melancthon Mayor  Darren White, saying he’d like to see the County do more to encourage increased commercial investment in Orangeville and Shelburne.

Acclaimed as the 140th Warden of Dufferin last Thursday (Dec. 8), Mr. White spoke at length about his vision for the County and promised to build on the “fine work” of his predecessors – most notably former warden Laura Ryan, mayor of Mono.

“It is a great honour to be selected as the new warden of Dufferin County and I’m excited to take on this new challenge,” Mr. White told the Citizen. “This is a busy part of the province and we have a lot going on right now. There are

a lot of issues we have to address and tackle together as a council. I pledge to be a vocal champion for the great people of this great county.”

After nominating Mr. White to become the new County warden, Mrs. Ryan said she believed Mr. White was a “great fit” for the position and she looked forward to working alongside him to help build a better Dufferin County heading into 2017.

“In all the years that I’ve known Darren in the political field, he’s carried himself in such a professional and dignified manner and so when he expressed an interest in taking on the position I encouraged him to continue on and completely supported him,” Mayor Ryan said. “He has tremendous vision and he’s so passionate about the health and wellness of our communities and its residents. He has a lot of projects he’s interested in pursuing…

I’m confident he’s going to do a fantastic job as warden.”

Of those projects, the most pressing Mr. White would like to see the county moving forward on is the development and adoption of a thorough economic strategy and action plan in an attempt to give the local job market the shot in the arm it so greatly needs.

“Economic development is far and away the biggest issue we face here in Dufferin County. We’ve just hired a consulting firm to come in and formulate a real economic plan for us, so we’re excited about that,” Mr. White said. “The bottom line is we need to bring some new jobs to this region, we need get more companies investing here. Tax rates are skyrocketing in our larger urban areas such as Orangeville and Shelburne, one way to address that is to bring industry in to try and help offset those increases.”

Mr. White also brought attention to something of an overlooked issue in Dufferin County – poverty. In a study released by the Canadian Payroll Association earlier this year, it was reported that 48 per cent of surveyed Canadians would struggle to make ends meet if their pay cheque were to be delayed by even a single week. More than 60 per cent would be in “dire straits” if they missed a full month’s pay.

A study conducted by Dufferin County’s community services department highlighted  a similar pattern forming in this region, with a rising number of local residents struggling to balance their books and pay an ever-increasing array of bills.

“There are more people in need here in Dufferin County than we thought. Finding solutions is key to addressing the problem,” Mr. White said. “We need to build a better Dufferin County, one where people can stay here and afford to live here. We don’t want to lose our best and brightest to other communities, so the onus is on us and the time is now. We need to work together to improve our economic development for all of Dufferin County.”

Elsewhere, Mr. White said he’d like to see the municipality continue to chip away at its growing infrastructure deficit, while also bringing up the possibility of adding three additional members to county council. He said he’d like to see “equal representation” amongst council, with two representatives from each municipality. The current setup of Dufferin County sees two members from Amaranth (Mayor Don MacIver and Deputy Mayor Jane Aultman), Shelburne (Mayor Ken Bennington and Deputy Mayor Geoff Dunlop), Mulmur (Mayor Paul Mills and Deputy Mayor Earl Hawkins), Mono (Mayor  Ryan and Deputy Mayor Ken McGhee) and Orangeville (Mayor Jeremy Williams and Deputy Mayor Warren Maycock) but just one from East Garafraxa (Mayor Guy Gardhouse), Grand Valley (Mayor Steve Soloman) and Melancthon (Mayor White).

“Three regions in our municipality only has one representative on county council. That means those municipalities would have nobody to pass vote or represent them if there was an unexpected absence,” Mr. White said. “I think the county would benefit from having more people on board.”

With a supportive council at his back, Mr. White said the time is now for the county to make the necessary changes to improve the way of life for all regional residents.

“Much has been done, but there’s still an awful lot to do. We’ve taken some positives steps over the past couple of years, but they’ve been small ones,” Mr. White said. “We need to investigate more ways to provide essential services to our residents. It’s time to sit down and have these discussions, no matter how uncomfortable or challenging they may be… We’re here to represent the people as best we can and that’s exactly what I intend for us to do over the next year.”

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