Skip to content

Residents look for development answers from Ward 5 council candidates

Ward 5 Debate | Town of Oakville
Ward 5 Debate | Town of Oakville

Despite the chaotic format of a Ward 5 all-candidates meeting on Monday night, residents got their point across.

They are concerned about development, about tall buildings and particularly, about a proposal to replace a neighbourhood plaza with a nine-storey residential building.

River Oaks resident Ray Donaldson said he came to the meeting to get a better sense of what is happening in his community, and particularly with the plaza redevelopment.

He says he wants to see his neighbourhood stay the same.

“One of the reasons I bought here was that it was all preset. I would hate to see my pharmacy, my doctor’s office and the little store that I work in part-time disappear.”

The meeting, organized by the River Oaks Association of Residents (ROAR), attracted about 40 people.

Billed as a meet-and-greet rather than a formal debate, the evening offered candidates a chance to introduce themselves and outline their platforms.

A follow-up question session, dominated by residents expressing their frustration with development issues, eventually dissolved into a room-wide debate, followed by a COVID-related shouting match between candidates.

Oct. 24 is election day

Each ward elects two councillors. One sits only on town council while the other sits on both town and Halton regional councils.

In Ward 5, four candidates – Marc Grant, Michael Reid, Pierre Sauvageot and Angela Parsons are seeking the town council seat.

Two candidates – Alicia Bedford and Jeff Knoll – are running for the town and regional council seat.

Knoll, who has represented the ward since 2002, didn’t attend the meeting.

A statement read by his wife Michelle Knoll explained that the all-candidate meeting conflicted with another previously scheduled meeting related to Knoll’s role as chair of the Oakville Public Library board.

That left Marc Grant, Ward 5’s other incumbent councillor, to take the public heat for residents’ unhappiness with development issues – and particularly buildings that exceed the town’s height limits.

“Why do you just keep letting them do it?” asked one man.

“I think councillors must have the guts to say this is against the bylaw or this is against the official plan,” added another resident, to applause from the crowd.

Grant offered a series of vaguely incoherent responses to the development question, starting with the argument that no single councillor is able to stop development.

“That’s not something that one person can do on council. Again, you need to have a consensus of all the councillors with you and then working with the province to make sure that can be stopped. But that doesn’t mean we can’t try to stop things that aren’t appropriate.”

He said the town sometimes loses the battle when developers appeal applications to the provincial Ontario Land Tribunal, although he repeatedly called it the Ontario Municipal Board – a body that was dissolved in 2018.

He suggested the losses are a result of developers being able to outspend the town to fight before the provincial appeal board.

But he also said that residents need to be more active in signing petitions and lobbying town council.

He then noted that tall buildings in certain areas, including at Trafalgar and Dundas, protect neighbourhoods from development and protect greenspaces from sprawl.

I think councillors must have the guts to say this is against the bylaw or this is against the official plan

Other candidates also weighed in on the development issue.

Pierre Sauvageot argued that the town spent lots of money fighting development of Glen Abbey golf course and could put the same focus into fighting strategic developments.

“It’s ridiculous. We have an Official Plan. (Developers) need to follow it,” he said.

Michael Reid said he has reviewed the application for the plaza redevelopment and that the reports are inconsistent and incomplete, particularly in regard to flood water management issues.

“I think there are ways to stop development,” he said.

In his statement, Knoll said the application to redevelop the M&M plaza at Sixth Line and Rivers Oak Boulevard into a 247-unit building with ground floor retail is “a terrible proposal.”

“I have been opposed to this development since it was brought to me and I will fight it tooth and nail, every step of the way.”

He added that Oakville has issues to address but is in a good position to manage challenges. “When you vote, please consider where we are as a community and the leaders who got us here.”

COVID-related anger still simmers

Bedford responded saying, “If you’re really happy with how everything’s been going for the last 22 years, then I’m really happy for you.

But if you want a change and more accountability and there actually be an independent audit for how they’re spending millions and millions of our taxpayer dollars – our hard-earned taxpayer dollars – then you might want a change here in Oakville.”

A River Oaks resident, Bedford ran for the right-wing Ontario Party in the last provincial election.

She offered little in comment on development issues, aside from suggesting that overdevelopment and setbacks are a problem.

But she did suggest there should be term limits for town councillors. She also added that she is concerned with federal government monetary policy, town taxes and the possibility that people will lose their homes.

But Bedford's most repeated theme was that the town overstepped by imposing more stringent than provincially required COVID restrictions, including a ban on unvaccinated people in town facilities and recreation centres.

Those comments landed her in a shouting match with candidate Pierre Sauvageot, who told the audience that he was immunocompromised.

But it also resonated with at least one member of the audience, who said he had been denied entry into Town Hall because of his unvaccinated status.

“I think residents are very, very frustrated and I think they are ready for a change,” concluded Reid, at the end of the meeting.

But that’s not how Grant heard it.

“The format for the first hour and a half was unfortunately chaotic – a proper debate format would have been more informative,” he said. “Later, thankfully, I was approached by many who live in my ward, and found they were generally happy, willing to discuss excellent suggestions for our community.”

Angela Parsons did not attend the meeting.

Watch the entire meeting.