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Ward 1: Council candidates outline their visions

Bronte and beyond
Bronte Street life | People enjoying the summer patios | M Painchaud
Bronte Street life | People enjoying the summer patios | M Painchaud
Town of Oakville
Town of Oakville

Ward 1 – Oakville's westernmost ward – is often described as Bronte. And while that has been its political focus for decades, growth along Bronte Road has politicians beginning to look northward.

Running from the lake to Dundas Street, the ward is bounded on the west by Burloak Drive. Below the QEW, the ward's eastern boundary is Third Line. North of the highway, the boundary jogs westward to Bronte Road.

Each ward elects two councillors. One serves on town council only, in a $53,964 position considered part-time. The other sits on both town and Halton Region council, earning a total salary of about $114,000.

Growth and change have been undeniable features of Oakville in the last few decades, but the impact on Bronte has arrived more recently.

Designated as a growth hub in 2017, the former fishing village has started to see the impact of development. While the recently completed 10- and 14-storey Village apartments at Bronte Harbour are the most evident sign of change, incoming new developments will add hundreds of new residents and plenty of new storeys to the lakeside landscape.

Beyond the Bronte Village area, the ward will see an influx of new, dense development around the Bronte GO station as well as in the Palermo area around Dundas Street and Bronte Road.

Given that, it's hardly surprising that council hopefuls identify growth, development and green space as key priorities.

The candidates for both town council and town and regional council seats are presented in alphabetical order. All live in the ward unless otherwise noted.

Ward 1 Town council candidates

John Florio

Human resources and cyber security consultant who runs his own firm, John Florio, says effective communication skills, along with his ability to collaborate, negotiate, and influence, will make him a good ward councillor.

Over the last 20 years, he has been involved in the local soccer community as a referee and coach and as a director of the Peel Halton Soccer Association. He has also served as chair of the Teresina Florio Cancer Research Scholarship.

John Florio
John Florio

"The three most important issues to me are actively managing municipal growth, urban infrastructure and functional natural infrastructure, including green spaces.

The town of Oakville is growing, and it will continue to grow. Halton Region is expected to have 1.1 million people living within its borders by 2052. Urban infrastructure will have an impact and play a vital role in our roads, transit and the environment. Protecting our parks, natural areas, and historical/heritage areas has been a long-standing tradition and will continue to be.

It is these very issues that have been expressed to me by most of the residents in ward 1. Once elected, I hope to be not only an effective and results-oriented councillor but a highly visible, accessible, strong resident engagement officer for the ward."

Jonathan McNeice

An urban planner with a Bronte pedigree that dates back eight generations and includes well-known grocery owner Bill Hill, Jonathan McNeice says he has witnessed the decades of transition in the lakeside area and understands the issues facing Bronte and Palermo.

With master's degrees in urban planning and community development and 15 years of experience working on varied community projects, McNeice says he stands for limiting growth in Bronte Village to low and mid-rise and building a complete community in Palermo, including a community centre.

He also identifies parking, predatory towing issues and road safety among his key priorities.

"The current plans for Bronte were meant for a different time and now are out-of-date. They are delivering highrise development along our main street, which does not have the infrastructure to accommodate it.

In Palermo's growth area, let's not repeat the mistakes made in the already developed areas north of Dundas that lack transit and parking infrastructure and have a flawed new urbanist design.

New developments have not provided enough parking spaces and are commonly built on parking lots which put a strain on parking access. We need to use best practices to solve the parking crisis in Bronte once and for all, including immediate measures to get adequate town-controlled parking in the right places."

Beth Robertson

A retired high school teacher, Beth Robertson, won the Ward 1 town council seat in 2018 after veteran town councillor Ralph Robinson opted not to run for a 12th term.

While she lives just outside Ward 1 – "the width of Third Line is but a physical boundary that separates me from this wonderful ward," Robertson says she has spent decades teaching at St. Thomas Aquinas and worshipping, playing and shopping in Bronte.

She says she learned advocacy through her community and volunteer involvement with ALS Canada and other health organizations while helping her husband Tim navigate the healthcare system before his death in 2016.

She has also been a long-time sports volunteer, working as a coach and trainer with various local soccer and hockey teams.

Robertson says she will continue to advocate for traffic calming measures, seek to get the ward a community library and outdoor ice rink, and aim to see Palermo developed as a complete community with services, shopping and transit within walking distance.

"Making the Lakeshore Woods community part of the 40 km/hr residential pilot project was a key achievement, and I should like to see this throughout Oakville in the next term, as well as bringing in the Community Safety Zone Automated Speed Enforcement cameras.

Connectivity in cycling to schools, the GO station and into Bronte is a complex problem in the south of the ward, and I will continue to work with Active Oakville.

As the reality of more development and infill happens, I will ensure that the public has a voice and the Town's Official Plan sets the appropriate means of achieving growth, as was achieved in the settlement for the Podium development at East Street and Lakeshore Road.

With each new development, I will continue to push for net zero environmental builds and ensuring green space is a priority."

Oliver Vadas

Art and culture are among the local priorities for Oliver Vadas. The founder of West End Jazz, a dinner theatre-style event that sprang up after the cancellation of the Oakville Jazz Festival in 2016, Vadas says access to art is a key feature of liveable communities.

During the pandemic, he produced musical specials distributed to Oakville residents through cable TV and the internet. He also published an Oakville business directory for several years.

He says he's concerned with disappearing green space, increasing highrise construction and the town's management of Bronte assets.

Oliver Vadas
Oliver Vadas

"The main building in the Bronte Heritage Park was a beautiful landmark and hosted many social events for decades. It was the cultural center for Oakville residents. It was known for years in advance that in 2018 the building will change from a private owner to the town of Oakville.

Instead of having a renovation plan ready to implement it and get it up in running quickly again, the town shut it down. For the last four years – other than a few offices and the back rented during summer – it is empty. Instead of a lively cultural center, it was once; now it's more of an eyesore."

A building of this size at such a beautiful location, I believe, can bring a revenue of $500.000 annually. That loss of revenue is covered by our tax dollars."

Ward 1 town and regional council candidates

JD Meaney

A mortgage agent and restaurant consultant for Dine Palace advertising directory, JD Meaney also ran as a candidate for the People's Party of Canada in the last two federal elections.

He says roles as a business administrator at Oakville's downtown BIA and a student intern at the Kerr Street BIA between 2011 and 2014 gave him "invaluable experience" in understanding challenges faced by local businesses.

He adds that appropriate development, parking, predatory towing, and greenspace are his priorities for the ward.

JD Meaney
JD Meaney

"Without interrupting growth in Bronte, I believe we should be focused on low-density structures. Conversely, in Palermo, I believe new development should include more high-density structures.

Bronte is, unfortunately, home to predatory towing. I want to promote Bronte as a positive neighbourhood to visit and do business. I don't want visitors concerned that their car may be towed away for grabbing a latte and some groceries.

The northern part of Ward 1 could face some serious parking issues if trends continue. We do not want the challenges of Ward 7 to carry over into Ward 1. There must be enough adequate parking for the residents.

We must protect our greenspaces, parks and waterfront. I spent the last month travelling across Canada. I can see how special and beautiful Oakville is; it makes me appreciate our community. I think it is worth preserving and adding more green spaces to enjoy for generations to come."

Sean O'Meara

Sean O'Meara is seeking his third term as Ward 1 town and regional councillor.

A former assistant to Oakville MPP Kevin Flynn from 2009 to 2013, O'Meara says his master's degree in conflict resolution and international give him the skills to "drive consensus and cooperation through difficult issues."

Infrastructure issues are among his top priorities, including purchasing and refurbishing the Bronte Harbour building at the waterfront park.

Sean O
Sean O'Meara

"Once that is accomplished, we can have a permanent restaurant and conference facility overlooking the harbour.

(I) want to see the plans in place for the development of Palermo come to fruition. These plans include a recreation center, library, transit hub and shopping district to bring much-needed infrastructure to the north area of Ward 1.

(I also) would like to see the streetscape of Bronte Road south of Lakeshore redeveloped to include pedestrian-friendly sidewalks, flex streets for activation and a shopping and entertainment district that will rival any tourist area in the GTA. We have developed an incredible boardwalk to park pathway, and connecting those areas with our businesses is vitally important."