Progressive Conservative candidate Brian Saunderson continues to be motivated by the findings of the Collingwood Judicial Inquiry with a goal to bring them to Queen’s Park for Ontario-wide implementation.
Saunderson, currently on leave from his role as mayor of Collingwood, announced his bid for the Simcoe-Grey Conservative candidacy in January 2021 after long-time MPP Jim Wilson announced his retirement. Though a race was underway in the riding to choose a PC candidate, then-Premier Doug Ford announced in June he had chosen Saunderson and there wouldn’t be a party vote on the matter.
“It was the Premier’s decision and I respect that decision,” said Saunderson, who noted he was just as surprised as the other candidates to hear of his appointment. “I appreciate that it was a change in direction … I was not involved in any discussion and had no warning about it.”
Saunderson, a lawyer prior to his election as mayor, said running for provincial office felt like a natural progression after his term as deputy mayor and then a term as mayor in Collingwood.
“We have a wonderful community throughout the riding … the opportunity to represent them at Queen’s Park is very important,” said Saunderson.
He acknowledged Wilson’s 32 years as MPP and the work Wilson did to get funding for hospital redevelopments in Collingwood and Alliston, and said he would like to continue on with that work.
Another goal of Saunderson’s is to get a provincial standard code of conduct that can be used in all Ontario municipalities as a base to build on.
Saunderson said he continues to be motivated by the Collingwood Judicial Inquiry, which resulted in more than 300 recommendations from the commissioner that centred around procurement, code of conduct, and town staff/council boundaries.
“I’d like to see some changes in how codes of conduct are dealt with in the municipal sector … I think there is a role for the province to play in stepping up to do that so we don’t have different codes of conduct between municipalities,” said Saunderson. “I think there should be a basic, uniform code of conduct and then municipalities can add to it.”
He said of the 444 municipalities in Ontario, he’s not aware of any two codes of conduct that are the same.
“The danger is that, depending on the individual code of a specific municipality … your expectations of four council members would depend on where you live,” said Saunderson. “I don’t think that’s a good way to do business and I don’t think it leads to the best outcomes for municipalities.”
On a separate, but related issue, Saunderson would also like to see Municipal Act reforms to install “checks and balances” into the judicial inquiry process.
“I think there can be changes … to allow the municipality to monitor the cost as the inquiry is in progress and further limit the inquiry so they can stay within the budget,” said Saunderson. “The [Collingwood] inquiry grew from being two months of hearings to eight months of hearings, so the cost became much more significant than we anticipated.”
Saunderson is one of seven candidates in the Simcoe-Grey riding including:
- Ted Crysler for the Liberal Party of Ontario
- Allan Kuhn for the Green Party of Ontario
- Keith Nunn for the Ontario NDP
- David Ghobrial for New Blue
- Billy Gordon for None of the Above Direct Democracy Party
- Rodney Sacrey for the Ontario Party
Election day is June 2. Visit collingwoodtoday.ca/2022-ontario-votes for local campaign coverage.