Two contend for South Stormont mayor’s chair

Phillip Blancher, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Two contend for South Stormont mayor’s chair
South Stormont Mayor Candidates, Bryan McGillis and David Smith

LONG SAULT – As the August 19 nomination deadline neared, it looked like incumbent South Stormont Mayor Bryan McGillis was going to remain unchallenged for another term at the top spot. Two days before the close of nominations, that changed when current Deputy Mayor David Smith refiled his nomination papers to challenge McGillis for mayor.

The Leader interviewed both candidates as the municipal campaign reaches its official mid-point.

Bryan McGillis – If re-elected this will be his fourth term on council, his third as mayor. He said he was surprised with the last-minute nomination change for the mayor’s position.

“That’s politics. What really took me by surprise with the change was he signed my nomination papers,” McGillis said of Smith refiling. “That’s the way it goes.”

He said that there are still things he wants to accomplish on council.

“Because of the challenging term with the pandemic there is a lot of things I wanted to do this term that took longer,” McGillis explained.

He said that among the biggest issues facing South Stormont is the Ingleside Wastewater Plant, which is at capacity.

“That will hold us back if we can’t get that expanded.”

South Stormont is seeing large-scale growth and leads the six municipalities in SDG Counties in residential and industrial growth.

“We’re going to create 1,500 to 2,000 new jobs with the logistics centre as it moves to fruition, we need to keep moving forward,” he said.

Low water levels on Lake St. Lawrence is another large issue that he is working on.

“We have to keep the pressure on the International Joint Commission to see that there are safety and use issues with the low water levels,” McGillis explained. “There are environmental impacts. The damage to the shoreline in South Stormont and to aquatic life is a lot.”

Among his priorities is continuing to address the doctor and nurse practitioner shortage in the region. McGillis served on the joint South Stormont/South Dundas Doctor Recruitment Committee.

“We were able to recruit two doctors but we still have a lot of work to do to attract more to the area,” he said.

Continuing to lobby for safety improvements to Highway 138 is also an important issue for McGillis.

“We’ve advocated for upgrades like passing lanes,” he said. “There will be a roundabout at Headline Road, but we’re not on the [Ministry of Transportation’s] five year plan for passing lanes. But the squeaky wheel gets the grease so we need to keep pushing for this.”

He said increased enforcement is also needed to deal with unsafe driving on the road.

“Things are moving along well and the township is in a good financial standing,” McGillis said. “I’ve dedicated my time to the municipality and I want to continue to do that. We have a lot of irons in the fire and I want to see things through.”

David Smith – Running for his third consecutive council term, South Stormont’s current deputy mayor was first elected in 2014 as a councillor.

“This will be my last chance to climb up the ladder,” he explained. “I started eight years ago as a councillor, then four years ago I ran for deputy mayor.”

He said running for mayor means Smith have more ability to help others, but that is not his sole motivation for seeking the mayor’s chair.

“Recently I started getting upset with the fact that we’re not moving forward as fast as we need to be,” he explained. “With all the municipalities reaching out to upper levels of government for grants and help for infrastructure – we’ve been asking for this help for years with the same approach – it’s not getting us anywhere.”

Smith said that a new approach or thinking is needed to address some of the issues in the municipality – especially infrastructure.

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different outcome. That’s what we’ve been doing.”

Smith said he believed he has a “more diplomatic” approach partnering with government, either in funding or land use.

He said while South Stormont is progressing in expanding use of its waterfront which is owned by the St. Lawrence Parks Commission, but more work needs to be done.

“We keep handing them the same things, and it’s not moving the ball forward.”

Smith explained that taking an incremental approach to expanding the Ingleside Wastewater Treatment Plant, instead of replacing it.

“If we’re going to wait until we get $45 million to get a new plant, then we’re going to have too much capacity for the growth we’re going to get. Why not look at adding on to it?”

Smith identified communication between staff, council, the current mayor, and the public is “poor” which he wants to improve on.

To attract new doctors, Smith explained he supported offering a five-year financial incentive to draw in young doctors to the community.

“If we offer them say $50,000 per year for five years to attract a doctor and after that time they don’t want to stay, that’s on us,” he said. “We have to do more to have things in the community for the families to stay.”

Taking an incremental approach is Smith’s plan for handling most issues that are top of mind for South Stormont residents.

“I think I can get more things done if I am mayor, and I want to see things move forward in steps. We can’t just start things and put them on the wood pile unfinished.”

Next week, The Leader profiles South Stormont’s Deputy Mayor and Councillor candidates.

This article was originally written for The Morrisburg Leader.

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