Candidate for North Stormont Coucillor
Name: Steve Densham
56 years old
Occupation: Recently retired Senior Manager – Business Intelligence at Bell Canada
1. What prompted your decision to run for council this time?
I have been quite active in our community for the 22 years my family has resided in Avonmore. I have volunteered for day to day activities like coaching sports, supporting local events like fairs and fun runs, helping with notable celebrations like town anniversaries, etc. I’ve also helped or spearheaded a number of the bigger undertakings of our community. Items like establishing French Immersion in our local school to avoid closure of our local public and high schools, helping set a world record with our greater community for most scarecrows in one venue, and helping raise funds for a new community centre. The last 22 years have helped me understand the unique values of North Stormont and build a life in harmony with those values. Having recently retired I see this as an opportunity to continue to give into my community in a bigger way and to help keep North Stormont a progressive rural community where people will want to live, do business and grow.
2. What are the key strengths you would bring to the job if elected?
- I enjoy problem solving, especially big issues. My 25 year career at Bell Canada was spent in the area of business intelligence, pioneering new business opportunities for Bell. This meant delving into new and often ambiguous challenges, structuring input from a variety of sources and building winning business cases that would direct decisions at the executive level. I was quite good at my job, winning multiple president awards along the way. These skills are generally transferable to virtually all forms of problem solving and are good for cutting through bureaucracy to arrive at sound quality decisions.
- I’ve managed P&Ls, been accountable for annual budgets ranging from $1M to $3M, and was held accountable for every decision and every dollar spent. I was also often referred to as Bell’s ‘customer advocate’ meaning I consistently recognized and advocated for the good of the customer as a primary deliverable of my projects. Beyond Bell, I am the volunteer Executive Director for ‘You Feed Them’, a charitable organization that helps to bring impoverished communities overseas to a better level of sustained thriving. I know how to get to the root of issues and make recommendations that drive real change for the better.
- Lastly, I am not a career politician and I have no political agenda. I am a citizen of North Stormont whose goal is to help ensure North Stormont continues to be a strong and healthy community, the place me and my family have grown to love over the last 22 years.
3. What are the top few issues that you see facing the Township?
I see five top issues critical for North Stormont.
- We are a rural community based on agriculture. We need to ensure that agriculture continues to be profitable and vibrant. In a rural community when agriculture suffers, everyone suffers. I hesitate to focus on any one issue as I’m sure there will be many new issues that will need addressing over the next four years . Suffice it to say we need to ensure our municipality works with farmers and all organizations that support agriculture in our area, allowing them to speak into our municipal strategic plan to ensure we keep our rural foundation strong.
- Internet coverage is an issue for North Stormont as well. 5G is a new technology with promise, but it is still years away from practical implementation in our area. Therefore our short term focus needs to be on fortifying the network in our area. Even when new wireless technologies become reality, it requires a backbone of fibre to fully achieve its potential. Recent implementations of fibre-to-the-home in urban areas is freeing up equipment that could significantly improve rural internet. Having worked for Bell, I know the technology and I can speak the telecom language, so my hope is to accelerate the implementation of a stronger network in this area that in turn will support better wired and wireless solutions, as well as future technologies. The internet is today’s mode of communication and if we can’t communicate effectively we can’t do business and compete effectively. We need the internet, the great equalizer in business, working more effectively for North Stormont.
- The general population in Canada is aging so we need to be sure our local services reflect this. Just as important we need to invest in the next generation of leaders that will come behind us, engaging them sooner rather than later to ensure our community can keep pace with advances in science, technology and business. Beyond improved internet we need to help young entrepreneurs establish new and creative business ideas here in North Stormont. With tight budgets we need to locate and surface outside sources of funding , like CIP and trillium funds, and encourage and support the creation of new ideas and new businesses. We also need these new entrepreneurs to give input into the decisions the municipality makes to ensure these decisions reflect today’s issues and tomorrow’s ideas. I would love to see the Moose Creek Chamber of Commerce expanded across all of North Stormont, led by our next generation leaders, and our municipal council hearing their priorities when council makes forward looking decisions on business related issues.
- Schools are a critical dimension of rural life. This is why I served for many years on parent council and helped to successfully prevent the closures of Roxmore and Tagwi schools in my community. Schools are managed by the boards of education but the entire community, including the municipality, must be in regular communication with our boards and the trustees. I made it part of my campaign process to speak with trustee candidates to ensure I vote for someone who feels the same way. We need trustees who recognize how rural schools are different than city schools, and who will ensure that communities are consulted BEFORE important decisions are made about schools. Moreover there needs to be regular quarterly discussions between council and school boards to ensure we are aligned on the matters that will keep schools open and vibrant in our rural communities.
- Lastly, the repeal of the Green Energy Act is allowing municipalities to regain their voice regarding green energy, which is very welcomed. The previous provincial government put people in a lose/lose situation and fractured friendships and our social well being. People are paying significantly higher electricity costs and taxes due to projects supported by the act. To offset these costs, some are compelled to participate in a program that results in far more waste than good for our country and the environment. If wind turbines do come to North Stormont, our council must ensure we are ready, ensuring our roads and other services adequately support this endeavour. And we must have solid contracts in place with EDP to minimize any long term financial risk. However, my hope is that we can halt the introduction of wind turbines in North Stormont, in line with our council’s ‘unwilling participant’ stance from day one. This will allow our country to invest this time, energy and money into real environmental solutions, and we can get on with stimulating a more positive approach to environmental protection in our community.
4. Is there anything you hope to change in the Township?
Currently our township is operating with an ‘Acting’ Chief Administrative Officer. Across my career I have hired and managed hundreds employees. If the CAO position is not filled by the time I am elected, hiring a permanent CAO needs to get completed right away. Leveraging my experience, I’m optimistic that we can hire a well qualified CAO with skills that will serve North Stormont well into the future.
Additionally, I would like to see Municipal Government become more visible and engaging to the average person in North Stormont. Like most governing bodies the day to day can appear dry and bureaucratic, however the decisions made by our municipality affect our daily lives. Since putting my name forward I have made it a priority to attend the regular biweekly municipal meetings, which are open to the public. I was surprised how few of the public attend and sadly how few of the new councillor candidates attended these meetings as well. We need to find a way to raise the visibility of the decisions that are being made for our municipality and make this information more accessible and less dry in order to encourage greater public participation. Some of you have followed and commented on my Facebook posts ‘Scenes from the Campaign Trail’. If elected I hope to turn this into ‘Community Connections’. It won’t replace participating in public meetings, but hopefully it will raise awareness and create an additional level of engagement and cause more people to input into the decision making process, which in my estimation is a very good thing.
5. How is your message being received during this campaign?
Extremely well. Each group and individual I meet have their own specific priorities, but all seem to align with my priorities and clearly share a passion for our community. I chose to limit the number of election signs as not to litter the landscape, opting instead for a mail out where I could share more tangible information about myself. I regularly get asked for lawn signs and am humbled by people’s vote of support.
6) Voting begins on Oct. 17 — ironically the day of marijuana legalization. The new council will have to decide soon if your municipality will permit storefront cannabis sales, or opt out altogether. Should your municipality allow pot shops or ‘just say no’?
If there is time for meaningful public consultation, then I would support whatever the majority of constituents request. However, polls held in other rural areas and general feedback seem to lean toward opting in.
The federal government is making marijuana legal on October 17. The general public will be able to buy marijuana online, so opting out will not slow or stop the sale or use of marijuana. I personally have never used marijuana and don’t intend to, but it will be legal and therefore will be consumed.
The business people in North Stormont are intelligent people who don’t need governing bodies interfering with their decisions. They are able to weigh the pros and cons and research the potential risks. If they choose to take on the responsibility to sell this product then I support their decision to do so. By forcing them to put off their decision they may also risk missing the opportunity to engage the support tools that the federal government has promised to make available during the early days of change, potentially having to figure out how to solve these issues in the future without assistance. I see little value wasting time and money putting off the inevitable.
Whether retailers ultimately sell this product in our municipality or not, our municipal government, along with our school board and other public institutions, need to keep close watch to ensure potential issues rise to the surface quickly and get resolved quickly. I have great confidence in our local retailers who understand their rural clientele, and in the public to surface issues so they can be quickly addressed in a responsible fashion.