—- Municipal Candidate Survey —- DEBBIE VERNON

Bracebridge — Councillor — Bracebridge Ward / Ward 1  

1.     What actions have you personally taken to support a greener, more sustainable climate?

In 1995 I helped organise and led a group of concerned citizens in Brackenrig to stop a granite company- El Tigre Mines from establishing a granite quarry on what was known locally as Stewart’s rocks which consists of 100 acres of crownland which is public land for all of us to enjoy. This mining company wanted to blast and extract pink granite to sell to Taiwan for cladding for their skyscrapers. It is part of the pink granite rock cut that can be seen on Hwy. 118 West. The President of this company boasted they were about to create another lake for Muskoka. Granite was going to be trucked to Manitoba for processing then shipped overseas. It was astonishing to learn from the Mining Act how easy it was to stake claim to any land in Ontario for mining purposes with only a $800 repatriation fee to return the land back to it “natural” state. We were successful at stopping this careless proposal but there may still be a claim on that land located off of Falkenburg Road in the Muskoka Lakes Township. The mining company left irreparable damage to the landscape there. Our efforts collectively were successful by meeting with our local MPP while lobbying both municipal and provincial government and reporting our progress to the media.

I am a founding Director of Friends of the Muskoka Watershed 2013-2020 whose mandate is to turn science into community-wide action to protect the Muskoka watershed by proactively identifying environmental threats and propose solutions. I was also a member of the Muskoka Watershed Council for several years while I served as a Director for my real estate board.

I own an e-bike and I try to use it instead of my vehicle for in-town commutes. I am saving up for an EV which I hope to purchase sometime in the next couple of years.

Several years ago when government rebates were offered to make homes more energy efficient I converted from fuel oil heat to gas. I also converted my oil fired hot water tank to hot water on demand. When my furnace wears out, I plan to convert again to a heat pump.

I sold my inboard/outboard motor boat a few years ago and bought a pack canoe, light enough for loading onto my roof racks and big enough for me and my dog to explore the waterways in Muskoka. I am an avid outdoor enthusiast who respects the natural environment.

I am planting trees on my property and maintaining old growth pines I have growing down my ravine. I keep a buffer zone between the riverfront and my shore on the Muskoka River to help prevent erosion.

I reuse and recycle whenever possible and try to limit the use of my vehicle.

2.     What opportunities for climate leadership at the municipal level (e.g. greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs)) would you champion in one or more of these areas: Buildings | Housing | Land use (sprawl) | Transportation | Other

All of the above! Protecting the environment and assessing how it will be affected when decisions are made when it relates to all of these issues must be factored in at every council meeting table. We have the know-how, we have leaders in our communities, we have the resources but there needs to be the will to do this collectively.

There needs to be stronger by-laws and closer scrutiny on who the developers are, where they come from and where the money comes from when land in Muskoka is purchased for development. There needs to be a limit on urban sprawl. The practice of clear cutting needs to end with more control on the number of trees and vegetation to be cleared for a build.

There is a desperate need for affordable housing and the Town has done great work with a practical roadmap to building a livable and affordable community where everyone has a great place to live. I would like to help bring those issues into action to address the housing crisis, especially for first time home buyers. If each new housing or condo development included 20% affordable units, municipalities need to be allowed to offer incentives to developers to build affordable units. We need to support tiny homes, secondary suites, laneway housing, co-housing, co-ops and other innovative approaches to housing especially for our ageing population.

If elected, I would like to propose the town replace their vehicles with electric vehicles when their fleet needs to be renewed.  Hammonds Transportation is leading the way by purchasing ten new electric powered school buses. Many Scandinavian countries are light years ahead of us when it comes to the use of electric powered vehicles such as trains, ships, buses, cars and trucks. We can look to them as an example of how to get started in this direction.

3.     A long-term problem requires a long-term solution. What is your 100-year plan? If elected, what would be your first action?

I hope we have a 100 years!

My first action is to find out why the Town of Bracebridge Environmental Committee was disbanded in 2019 and to review the 2018-2028 Community Based Strategic Plan for the Town of Bracebridge. It is a guide to determine where it wants to go and what type of community Bracebridge will be in the future. Strategic themes include a modern and prosperous economy, environmental stewardship, creative and considerate planning, community wellness and cultural vitality, governance and civic engagement. I need to determine if as a council we are truly considering the environmental stewardship with every decision made at the council table.  

There are a couple of examples why I question this, with the recent approval for expansion of a large quarry on Bonnie Lake Road granted, with no limiting conditions for unlimited extraction, blasting and transport of aggregate by double axle tandem trucks navigating through a residential neighbourhood. Concerns were raised by citizens about the safety of their children while walking or biking on the road, air and noise pollution and blasting close to homes in the area and environmental protections for the wetlands, species and habitat. 

The other example is Bird Grove where the Woodchester Villa sits on 10 acres of serene property overlooking the Muskoka River in the middle of Bracebridge.  A proposal was recently approved for a viewing platform to be  installed for a view of the river. Several old growth trees and habitat for birds and other wildlife will be affected by this decision and citizens are upset by this decision. 

My conviction is I believe we can make better decisions in the future with environmental stewardship at top of mind! I would like to be at the council table to help make that happen!