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County looks to move forward in 2018

Story and photos by Olivia Timm
Prince Edward County Mayor Robert Quaiff said 2017 was a year to be celebrated despite two water emergencies and looks forward to progress in this new year.

During what might be Robert Quaiff’s final year as Prince Edward County mayor, he, with council and staff, hosted the annual New Year’s Levee at the historic Macaulay Church on Sunday to reflect on the successes of 2017, and what is in store for 2018.

“Early in the year, we were challenged by two major incidents: the water emergency in March and spring flooding a few weeks later due to the high water levels on the Bay of Quinte and Lake Ontario,” said Quaiff, thanking the community, County staff,  agencies, service groups and volunteers who stepped in to help during those times of crisis.

“With the flooding, many property owners, farmers and tourism operators were negatively impacted. The recovery was slow, but the resiliency of our community made me incredibly proud to call Prince Edward County home.”

Mayor Robert Quaiff with Susan Quaiff.

A host of dignitaries, including Bay of Quinte MP Neil Ellis, MPP Todd Smith, Quinte West Mayor Jim Harrison and Belleville Mayor Taso Christopher greeted Quaiff and his wife Susan, as well as PEC Fire Chief Scott Manlow, municpal staff and council members.

“While most municipality groups hold their levees on January 1st, I’ve always enjoyed hosting our levee a few days into the new year. For one, it gives me a chance to attend other levee’s in the area, and express some different ideas and opinions with those leaders,” Quaiff said as he began his speech.

Quaiff touched on two significant areas of improvement that council will undertake in 2018: long-term care and affordable housing.

“I am encouraged by the progress we have made, guided by our corporate strategic plan. Council and staff remain committed to encouraging stable employment and affordable housing in the County. We want to make sure residents continue to access healthcare services in our community.”

Quaiff outlined two reports that show the professional and health-care sectors of the community are growing, and 83 per cent of businesses surveyed said that they expect their sales to increase in 2018.  However, he said council has heard from business owners that attracting and keeping talented staff is a “major issue in the County.”

“In the spirit of co-operation, organizations and municipal staff have come together to tackle this complex issue,” Quaiff said. “I attended a workshop in October hosted by the County Workforce Partnership and I was encouraged to see different employers coming together to support the County-wide effort to build a better local workforce. While strengthening our local workforce is a complex issue, the availability of diverse housing options is a major contributing factor. We know that businesses are struggling to attract or retain employees because they can’t find a place to live in the County.”

Though this issue will not be solved anytime soon, Quaiff said that won’t detract council and staff from doing their best.

“Throwing our arms up in frustration is not an option for us. This issue is too important to ignore. Council, staff and the community economic development commission are working to identify unique ideas, solutions and approaches to address the affordable housing.”

The council set aside $250,000 in the 2018 budget dedicated to move forward on affordable housing. “We won’t solve this issue overnight, but it is crucial that we make some progress in 2018.”

Another accomplishment that council saw in 2017 relates to a priority of long-term care.

“Around this time last year, the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care approved a pre-capital project submission for the redevelopment of Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital. I can honestly say that day was the major highlight of my term as mayor.”

The stage one proposal is now before the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.”

“We will continue to be a strong voice to upper levels of government in advocating for healthcare facilities and services in our community.”

MPP Todd Smith agreed that long-term care in Prince Edward County is vital for this, and coming years.

“We look forward to having that new hospital eventually here in Prince Edward County. There is significant need for long-term care. The population is getting older and there is certainly a need for more home-care services as well,” said Smith. “I think we can do a lot more to make sure people are getting the health-care they need in Prince Edward County.”

Quaiff identified a problem with lack of long-term beds in facilities around the community noting several councillors and staff met with Dr. Eric Hoskins, Minister of health and long-term care, at a conference in Ottawa this past August to emphasized the importance of moving the hospital project forward. Another key element of their meeting with Hoskins was the necessity to acquire more long-term beds to the County.

“Additional beds would support the re-development of H.J. McFarland Memorial Home to meet the new long-term care standards required by 2025,” Quaiff said, noting council has already started to plan for the re-development of the home as part of the municipal budget of 2018. The short-term goal of the senior administration of the County-run home is to relay, in early 2018, its vision for the long-term care facility over the next two years.

The home currently has around 85 beds and the financial analysis shows there needs to be at least 125 to make it financially sustainable. Upon the closure of the Picton Manor nursing home on Hill Street, the community lost 75 beds, and Quaiff said H.J. McFarland deserves to have those beds back.

Quaiff says he hopes that H.J. McFarland will have 125 beds by the end of 2018.

Highlights for the municipality over Quaiff over the past year include the ‘Walk to Province House’ that saw 37 residents sign up to walk the distance from the Wellington Community Centre to Province House in Charlottetown, PEI – in celebration of Canada 150. At a distance of 1,530 kilometres, it took walkers a total of 7,463 laps of the community centre’s indoor track to complete. A second challenge will be taking place this year.

A momentous occasion was the Royal Visit by Prince Charles and Camilla last summer to Prince Edward County.

“One of the highlights for me personally, and I’m sure many residents, was the visit by their royal highnesses, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall in late June. It was amazing to welcome them to our community as we celebrated Canada’s 150th anniversary, and the County’s 225th.”

The mayor’s personally was honoured to serve as chair of the Eastern Ontario Warden’s Caucus in 2017, noting he had the privilege of playing a leading role in the EOWC’s advocacy work on behalf of 750,000 residents from across 13 upper and single-tier municipalities and 90 local municipalities.
The EOWC is set to elect its new chair and Quaiff says he looks forward to working with that individual to advance several key priorities.

Prince Edward County council will also undertake approximately nine million dollars in roads and bridges projects in 2018, including rehabilitation of County roads 1 and14, the second phase of Wilson Road and Talbot St. reconstruction, various road surface-treatment work and the Black River bridge rehabilitation. There will also be a road analysis done for County Rd. 49 – named the worst road in Ontario in 2016 – to evaluate the road’s condition and outline rehabilitation options for this major access route.

Quaiff also commended the community for its strong tourism sector and the success the County saw in 2017.

While this year’s provincial election is on the mayor’s mind as he is the Liberal candidate for the new Bay of Quinte riding, he encourages County residents to make their voice heard in October in the municipality.

“I would argue that municipal government has the greatest potential to impact your life on a day-to-day basis,” said Quaiff. “Your chance to have a say in who represents you on County council comes along every four years. 2018 is your chance, please don’t waste it.”

MPP Todd Smith and Mayor Robert Quaiff share a laugh at the levee.

He and MPP Smith both indicated the provincial election is not so much about them competing, as it is about the leaders Kathleen Wynne and Patrick Brown.

“It’s been 15 long years,” said Smith. “I think most people would agree that there are many many challenges that are facing rural Ontario in particular and many of those challenges haven’t been dealt with, they’ve only been made worse as a result of some of the policies that Kathleen Wynne and Dalton McGuinty and their liberal governments passed over the past 15 years. Robert will have a tough time defending the record of the Liberals, and we put a very positive campaign platform out there and there is still more to come.”

Where the two men agree is on the success of municipalities in the Quinte region

“We’re very interested in all municipalities making sure that we thrive as a region. However, there is a hint of competitiveness out there as well. I think the common goal is to make sure that the Bay of Quinte is a very successful region, and that includes Prince Edward County, Quinte West and Belleville working together,” Smith said.

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