Ferguson exemplified leadership during flooding crisis and COVID pandemic

Steve Ferguson

I have the honour and privilege of being the Mayor of Prince Edward County.

For over 30 years, this extraordinary community has been a critical part of my life.

In 2014 I was elected to council representing South Marysburgh, and four years ago, as mayor, I dedicated myself to make Prince Edward County even stronger for the future. I am running for re-election because I believe in finishing what I start.

I am sure leading up to the election many ideas about how to deal with serious issues confronting our community will be proposed, but I would like to explain some of what HAS been accomplished under my leadership during a four-year term marked by flooding in 2019 and the COVID-19 pandemic that began in 2020, – two unprecedented events that demanded leadership, stamina and empathy from elected officials and municipal staff.

Those characteristics are essential for anyone running for the mayor’’s office. Despite the urgency of those situations, and with the help of councillors and municipal staff, we have started and are now in the middle of several initiatives that have taken time to get going. Completing them will require long term vision and drive and will depend on the strong relationships we have developed with our federal and provincial partners, neighbouring municipalities and the private sector.

Under my leadership we made major changes to our municipal operations, hired new senior staff and realigned their tasks so we could get more things done more efficiently. To confront the affordable housing crisis, we have brought forward changes to bylaws including reducing the minimum size of a rental unit; allowing tiny homes, staff ‘bunkhouses’, garden suites and modular units in certain zoning classifications; we’’ve streamlined  zoning and site plan approval processes to expedite development of affordable housing in The County; and we have approved the introduction of a Capital Facilities By-Law that would allow property tax exemptions for up to 20 years to private developers and non-profit housing providers. Our Housing Corporation is in discussion with developers and not-for-profit organizations to create several hundred affordable housing units; the former Wellington Arena property is being redeveloped into affordable housing ready for occupancy in mid-2024; and council agreed to begin preliminary work necessary to secure the former Queen Elizabeth School property in Picton for affordable housing – something that will be pursued with vigour.

Roads, infrastructure and internet speed are always top of mind. With 1,100 KM of roads, we are doing the best we can with limited financial resources, including using new techniques to improve major routes and investing in more heavy equipment to improve secondary roads. In addition, we have taken all the steps necessary to be “shovel ready” when funding from our provincial and federal partners becomes available to rebuild County Road 49, and construction of a roundabout at Hwy 62 and CR1 is being actively pursued. We expect 1,100 KM of fibreoptic cable to be installed over the next two years to improve internet connectivity, and water and wastewater system improvements are underway in Wellington.

In fact, just last month Prince Edward County won the prestigious PJ Marshall Award for the creative financing arrangements we have struck with developers to build infrastructure without burdening taxpayers.

Access to health care is important to everyone in our community – and it is a problem right across the country.We have invested in a dedicated physician recruiter, and we have provided financing and other incentives to attract new doctors, one of whom will be taking over a practice in May 2023. The significant support we have provided over the past four years for the rebuilding of our hospital will assist in those recruitment efforts.

Also, I’m pleased to have facilitated conversations between Loyalist College and the owners of Base 31 I am hopeful will lead to post-secondary programs in The County for our youth and young adults.

On both a personal and a professional level, I am committed to the principle of inclusion. I believe we can collaborate to make sure  everyone feels welcome here, no matter their identity or place of origin, and diversity makes us stronger together. This takes time and work – and I am committed to this journey.

Finally, we have put in place a new official plan to protect our environment, agricultural and natural assets – all focused on ensuring a positive future for our children and our grandchildren.

Not all this work is complete, but it is all well underway. With voter support, whether voting online or at the polling stations, as mayor I will focus on housing, roads, healthcare, education, diversity and the environment and provide the leadership to get these projects completed and help our community thrive.