Minus one of the three candidates, two current members of Gravenhurst council argued why they are the best person to serve as the municipality’s next mayor.
Heidi Lorenz and Terry Pilger took part in Your Vote on YourTV hosted by James Bowler on Sept. 28. Marc Mantha was unable to attend the debate.
In her opening statement, Lorenz said that communication, leadership, and fiscal responsibility are “more than just talking points.” She cited her 12 years of experience around the council table, including time spent as deputy mayor, as why she’s right for the job. Lorenz pointed to the town purchasing a new ariel ladder fire truck for the fire department as one of her greatest accomplishments during her time in office. If elected, she pledged to create an innovation portal allowing residents to share their ideas, tackle misinformation, and host a mayor’s roundtable.
Pilger also boasted about his experience, pointing out that he’s served municipally for 26 years, including as acting mayor and deputy mayor. He said that choosing one of the other candidates would be a step in the wrong direction. “We need the right kind of leadership from the mayor’s office,” he continued. Pilger said, if elected, he would work with businesses and embrace new economic opportunities like improving broadband services and bringing better transportation options to town.
One question posed to the candidates was about whether Gravenhurst is getting too big, too fast.
Lorenz believes the development happening in town is exciting. She specifically pointed to the Skyline Developments project near the Sobeys grocery store as one project that she is eager to see finished. She said that it could have a trickle-down effect on housing. If someone is looking to sell their home, they could rent one of the units which, in turn, would open a home, potentially, for a young family.
Pilger said more development is needed, but whatever is done – including current projects – needs to be done with the environment in mind. He said that no shortcuts can be taken. He noted that a review of the town’s water and sewer capacity needs to be done. He reiterated an earlier pledge to improve broadband infrastructure as part of the town’s rapid growth.
The candidates were also asked about their visions for the future of the Muskoka Wharf.
Lorenz said the wharf’s future is one of the reasons why she wanted to join council. “I don’t think that when people are wanting to go to a tourist area they can also stop into a drug store or get their hearing tested,” she said, adding that while she’s happy to hear many of the businesses on the wharf are doing well, not all of them are suited for the area. She said those buildings should be filled with tourist-related buildings. Lorenz proposed creating a local art display and said, if elected, she will continue to reevaluate the parking situation.
Pilger pointed out that he was on the original committee when the wharf was being developed in 2005. “It was some mess when we first took over,” he said but adds now is the time to revitalize it. He said there should be more retail spaces but council will need to make sure it doesn’t get more crowded than it already is. Pilger said that the community will need to be involved in whatever decisions are made.
In her closing statement, Lorenz said she has an optimistic look for the future of Gravenhurst. She said that she wants to build on the strong community that always comes together during tragic events to support each other. In the last term of council, she says council was divided. Lorenz said she was one of the five councillors who “got a lot of stuff done.”
Pilger said he is the right person to lead Gravenhurst forward, pointing out that Mantha has no experience and Lorenz would raise taxes. He said he will keep taxes low but make sure the town is poised for economic growth so they’re in a good position to emerge from a potential recession. Throughout it all, Pilger said the community needs to be involved around the council table.