Hewitt hopes to bring ‘steady hand’ if elected to fourth term

Hewitt hopes to bring ‘steady hand’ if elected to fourth term
Ken Hewitt

By Mike Renzella

The Haldimand Press

HALDIMAND—After 12 years and three terms as mayor of Haldimand County, Ken Hewitt is focusing his fourth campaign on four main pillars: keeping taxes steady in an uneven economy, recreational strategy, physician recruitment, and a revitalized housing strategy supporting the varied needs of Haldimand’s growing population.

His platform is based on one question: “What can I control, and what can I deliver on?”

Rising Costs

While canvassing, Hewitt said the biggest concern he’s heard is fear of keeping up with rising expenses. 

“It’s causing a lot of concern for people…. Our number one priority as a Council should be similar, providing stability and predictability in their taxes,” he explained. “The cost of bread or the cost of eggs may double … but I think I have demonstrated in the past that I can ensure the public tax increases will fall well below inflation.”

Hewitt said achieving this may require reduced capital spending.

Recreational Strategy

“We’ve spent time doing surveys, we’ve met with the public, we now have a guiding document,” said Hewitt. “We have the funds, and we have the people that want it to happen.”

Hewitt said to promote recreational growth, he is planning to propose a temporary change in the County contribution to new recreational facilities from the current 35% “to a 50/50 split.… It’s time to put some shovels in the ground.”

Physician Recruitment 

Hewitt hopes to leverage the private sector to bring in new doctors.

“I’ve demonstrated that I can bring private money into this community…. We need to take an active role in recruiting physicians, nurses, and PSWs for our healthcare centres. I can leverage the private sector, and we can use private sector money to help incentivize them to come to Haldimand County.”

Hewitt added, “There’s no legal way for us to use public dollars to be able to pay off a student loan or pay the interest on a mortgage … but what we can do is work with our private sector and we can set up an endowment policy.”

Housing

On addressing the country-wide housing crisis locally, Hewitt said, “We’ve been waiting for the government to come up with a housing strategy to bring prices down, but that’s not the only solution. In our planning processes, we can look at strategies where a portion of these site plans are specifically designed for our retirement market, or our affordable market, or a geared-to-income market.”

Hewitt also spoke about the County’s role in the recent Nanticoke development proposal, noting the Minister’s Zoning Order request is not an endorsement by himself or the County, but rather an opportunity to take an active role in figuring out the proposal’s feasibility: “The public sometimes doesn’t understand that a yellow sign going up on a telephone poll is not the end of the process – it’s the beginning.”

He said the County will explore the proposal like any other: “The public want people in this position to have an open mind and explore all options. Ultimately, outside of our Official Plan, the public has the final say on land use and zoning and that’s something we’ve always adhered to.”

“I certainly remember my roots and would love to see the Caledonia that existed in the 70s,” he added. “We all know change has to happen and will continue to happen. It’s incumbent upon us to embrace it, to ensure that it fits within our current neighbourhoods.”

He said a financial reality of any municipality is that growth pays for infrastructure, not the other way around, but that any large-scale developments would be far off in the future: “When people see an application for 1,000 homes, it’s not happening tomorrow. It’s happening over a very lengthy period of time.”

He concluded, “People want to know what we stand for, not what we stand against. It’s too easy to simply stand against. People want to believe in who they’re voting for and believe they can actually make things happen. I have demonstrated that experience.”