Collingwood council candidate Christopher Baines would like to bring his career experience as a mediator, and some advice from a Canadian hockey legend to the council table.
He’s running for a councillor seat in the 2022 municipal election this month.
Baines has lived in the Collingwood area since 1962, and now resides on Birch Street. He is currently a member of the Collingwood Committee of Adjustment, the Blue Mountain Watershed Trust, and the Collingwood Optimist Club. He’s also a past member of the Collingwood Police Services Board, the town’s poet laureate selection committee and the Simcoe County Solid Waste Infrastructure Committee.
This is Baines' second election run for the Collingwood councillor seat.
In the 2018 election, he campaigned for a ward system in Collingwood, which would split the town into sections and have councillors elected to represent a specific ward, instead of the current system of seven councillors representing Collingwood in an at-large system.
“Perhaps I was a little premature before when I spoke about wards. I don’t think the time has come yet for that,” said Baines.
Instead, he’s grounded his campaign on the ground we walk, drive, and ride on.
“There are certain issues that are front burner for me, and that is the integrity of the communities themselves, the neighbourhoods, concerned about traffic, the road conditions, and a lot of general pothole issues,” said Baines.
He said issues like road repairs, adding police presence and traffic calming to slow down cars are the “meat and potatoes” of a council’s role.
“Those aren’t the big issues, but they are the important issues as to the quality of life: bike lanes, the trails, all this sort of stuff that contributes, which Collingwood does so well, and has done so well, but we need more,” said Baines.
Adding bike lanes, said Baines, should be one of the simpler decisions next term.
“That’s one of my visions is to see a walkable, bikeable, healthy community that respects all different communities,” he said.
Alternatively, one of the toughest issues facing council next term will be affordable housing.
“I think we need it, it’s going to involve the federal government and the province. I think we need a dedicated two per cent tax on the sale of real estate which would go back to the community,” said Baines. He suggested it could be allocated like gas tax, based on postal codes.
“Then you form … either a housing co-op or a charity of some sort … that would control the funds.”
Admittedly, it’s a long-term plan that will not produce housing in the short term.
“In the short term? I don’t know what the answer is unless the feds open up their chequebook,” he said. “And I don’t see that necessarily happening.”
He said the town should have short-, mid-, and long-term solutions with different options, such as temporary container housing.
“I mean, this is a crisis quite frankly. I wish I had the answer to this one,” said Baines.
The housing crisis is one of the major issues facing council, at least of the ones that are already known, but there are many important decisions to come that will require difficult decisions and work to understand.
The official plan update/ overhaul will be on council’s agenda for approval early in the next term. Baines would like to see the maximum building height limited to 10 storeys instead of the proposed 12 storeys, and he’d like to see more recognition of the provincial significance of the Silver Creek Wetland added.
He also wants to re-visit the plan for Third Street, which is identified as a collector road and earmarked for more cross-town vehicular traffic depending on development at the High Street end.
“I have particular positions that I want to advance, but the only way those are going to be advanced is if you can convince a majority of other councillors of the benefits of your position,” said Baines.
He comes from, and still works in the field of mediation.
“The job of being a mediator itself is: nothing is black and white, there are always different sides to it,” said Baines, drawing parallels to the work of a councillor. “The challenge for a councillor, is to work with council to try and move an agenda, which by its very nature … has to be by consensus. That has been my profession … for the last 23 years, is attempting to find some common ground.”
Wayne Gretzky’s famous “skate to where the puck will be, not where it has been” philosophy has become a mantra for Baines.
“We are supposedly one of the fastest growing communities in Canada … if that’s the case … so much of what will be voted on in the next four years will be affecting the town in … four to ten years,” said Baines. “I think a councillor should have a short-term and a long-term perspective. Short term in the sense of potholes and infrastructure and ensuring that it’s all up to snuff. The long term is: ‘where will this town be in 10, 20, and 30 years?”
Ultimately, a councillor has to move forward with what is right, according to Baines, just as voters have to select the candidates they think are right.
The “right” choice, said Baines, depends on the circumstances, but he asks himself some of the same basic questions when he’s about to make a decision.
“Can we afford it? Is it good for the community? Will it benefit the majority of citizens in the long term?”
Baines is currently the president of the Collingwood Optimist Club. He enjoys sailing, snowboarding, and skiing.
There are 12 candidates running for the seven available councillor seats for Collingwood in the 2022 municipal election taking place Oct. 24. The candidates include: Chris Baines, Steve Berman, Ian Chadwick, George Dickenson, Deb Doherty, Cam Ecclestone, Brandon Houston, Kathy Jeffery, Steve Johns, Steve Perry, Chris Potts, and Rob Ring.
You can find out if you’re on the voter list by visiting the town website here.
Advance voting starts Oct. 8 with internet or paper ballot voting options available. You can vote at the library in-person starting Oct. 8, or online anytime after Oct. 8 at 10 a.m. Library voting will take place Saturday and Wednesday, Oct. 8-22 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and on Oct. 24 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Voting will close on election day, Oct. 24, at 8 p.m.