It’s election season in northwestern Ontario!

Q104, KenoraOnline and DrydenNow asked each Council and Mayor candidate for their thoughts on a variety of issues in the community, and we’ll be running a series of articles with candidates’ responses.

With Canada’s inflation rate, municipal taxes and bills continuing to rise – how would you plan to ease the financial burden on residents who are already struggling to make ends meet?

- Shayne MacKinnon
“The influence of financial circumstances outside of municipal control is sending the cost of living and inflation to rarely seen levels. The worry for many residents, especially seniors and low-income families is real and substantial.

During the peak days of COVID, our municipal council voted on a zero budget increase in anticipation of dire financial trouble. I believe this is a similar crisis and we need to strive to achieve either a zero tax increase or a very modest increase.

We have a very capable, creative and responsive finance department which will advise Council on their best course of action given these parameters.”

- Jack B. Harrison
“Recent inflation is hurting us all. A recent news report said that the cost of food has risen 10% since May, 3 out 4 Canadians have changed how they shop and 1 out of 4 have had to reduce the amount of food they purchase.

I volunteer at the Food Bank once a week and we’ve seen a drop in donations as many folks don’t have the food to spare to donate. I wish I had an answer for this dilemma!

As Mayor, I will try to control the costs in the city, such as taxes and permits that are within our responsibility to manage. We need to make wise use of the tax dollars that come to us and provide the best service possible and make our dollars stretch as far as they can go. I will commit to not burden our citizens with extra costs so they can work to put food on their table.”

- Martin MacKinnon
“As a councillor, I would like to see the City continue to get the maximum bang for the buck from the taxes already being collected.

Tax increases should be avoided unless there is simply no other solution. We are an older and fragile community with many social needs – more taxes only takes more food off the tables of the most vulnerable.”

- Catherine Kiewning
“This question really asks, how do we make sure people on fixed incomes can continue to pay their property tax? Keeping taxes the same is important to do that.

Advocating for a universal basic income to the provincial government is something that we need to do to ensure that everyone has enough money to meet their basic needs and contribute to the local economy.

We could also more closely inspect our current and future budgets to see if we can save on certain costs. Making sure that we are getting the best bang for our buck so to speak with staff and programs will make sure that if we need to cut anything it is fair and reasonable to so.

Applying for as many grants as possible to help the municipality pay for upgrades and services so that those costs don't need to come from taxpayers directly.”

- Bill Latham
“Council and Senior management will need to work together to look at a plan to ease the financial burden on residents. Also looking to work with the Provincial and Federal for Tax relief.”

- Bryan Tardiff
“As a municipality, we can only address the taxes and services we provide. We must remember that every time we request additional federal or provincial funding, that money comes from our tax dollars as well, so we must ensure that spending is justified.

We must be continually vigilant of our internal operations and maintain every efficiency. We must be open to all cost-saving opportunities, even the unpopular ones and welcoming of new business/industry opportunities.

High-paid consultant-led 'studies' are, in my opinion, a waste of resident tax dollars. They are generally nothing more than expensive, rubber stamp documents, providing mostly irrelevant information, written by someone who knew nothing more of our area at the end of their study than they did at the beginning.

It is more beneficial to support the ideas and initiatives brought forth by the people and business' here that are taking a risk and making investments here.”

- Brad Pareis
“Because any reduction in taxes would have to mean a corresponding reduction in services, which no one desires, I would endeavour to deliver the same level of services without increasing taxes. This might necessitate supporting projects that add to the tax base.”

- Ritch Noel
“The inflation rate and taxes, in general, are going to be a struggle for years I believe post-COVID. Municipal governments are going to have to work closely with their Provincial and Federal counterparts to ensure our citizens are able to do more than just get by day to day.”

- David Burch (added afterwards)
"If I were elected to the Dryden City Council, I would ease the financial burden on Dryden residents by making sure there were no tax increases during my term. With responsible fiscal management and cost-saving strategies, we will keep our taxes under control.

We will come up with new and creative funding ideas to help the city get the additional services it needs. I plan on bringing several new businesses and streams of revenue to Dryden. We need new jobs and a robust economy. Poverty is the real issue of many social problems. We can prosper as a city if we work together on Housing Shortage."

Every candidate was asked for their responses to five questions related to issues in the community. As of the time of publishing, we did not receive responses from Michelle Price.

Advanced voting is underway in Kenora and voting begins in Dryden on October 14. The Municipal election will wrap up on October 24.