As one busy year draws to a close, we look toward a busy year to come.
Before looking toward the coming year however, I think we all deserve a bit of a break, and thankfully some days off are on the way.
The end of December is always a good time to take advantage of some statutory holidays, and recharge, even if only a little.
Council has held its final meeting of the year, so there's no need to darken the doorway of the council chamber for a couple of weeks, so for me at least, that's a bit of a holiday in itself – not that I don't love time spent in the council chamber, but after a long year that has included a municipal election, I'll be quite happy to forget about council for a little while.
In the new year, however, council will be extremely busy. With strategic priorities to finalize, a budget to debate and pass, and a mountain of roads and bridgework on the horizon, I hope all members of council will be using this festive downtime to enjoy some relaxation so they can return to the council chamber energized – they're going to need it.
Right out of the gate, at their first meeting in 2019, council will tackle the retail cannabis issue. Over the past month the municipality has been seeking public input through a survey in order to gauge the pulse of the community when it comes to cannabis retail outlets in this municipality. Hundreds of residents have completed the survey, so council will have plenty to work with as they consider their own decision, which must be made in January. By April Ontarians will begin to see cannabis retail outlets opening up, expanding availability beyond the government website. I suspect that Meaford will follow many Ontario municipalities by approving cannabis retail outlets; after all, we've got a beer store, and a liquor store, and tobacco is readily available at a number of retail locations in this municipality, cannabis is now legal in this country, so it only makes sense to allow entrepreneurs to set up shop to sell it.
The cannabis issue will be a minor, fleeting issue for council. Their primary focus early on will be on the 2019 budget, and we'll hear plenty of talk about roads and bridges, and then more talk about roads and bridges.
For those who have been frustrated about the state of their own roads, and who have been further frustrated by being told that their road is not part of the current ten-year plan that aims to 'keep the good roads good', while bad roads continue to deteriorate, there might be some hope in sight. There was some serious discussion among councillors at Monday's strategic priorities working session about the need to revisit the policy for roads, and perhaps find another way. As newly elected councillor Paul Vickers noted, the current policy deprives ratepayers of any hope that their crumbling roads will be addressed in the foreseeable future, and he wants to see that change. So I suspect that not far into the first year of this term of council we will see a new approach to roads and how they are prioritized.
Another major issue that will be in the forefront for very likely this entire council term will be the new library. The library project is highly anticipated by some, and dreaded by others. With the project being tendered next year, the energy around it will kick into high gear in 2019. The question is, will the fundraising follow suit? Meaford's treasurer is already warning council that the recent negotiation of the NAFTA deal is likely to result in increased prices for steel and aluminum, and he told council that while it's too early to tell, there is a chance the budget for the new library could be impacted.
Another issue that might hound our new council, particularly in the first few months of 2019 is the parks use bylaw. Orange snow fencing started going up around potential hazards in municipal parks over the past week, including playground equipment and potential toboggan hills, and the response has been absolute outrage by many both on social media and from folks I've bumped into on the sidewalk or at the grocery store. Residents are fuming, and they don't understand why they don't see the same fencing off of playground equipment in other municipalities. I suspect that a good number of them will be turning out to council in January to let council know they aren't thrilled.
So there will be a busy year ahead for council (and for those who report on council), so the upcoming days of rest will be most needed and appreciated.
Whatever you and your family and friends are celebrating in the coming days, I wish all the best. I hope your festivities are all you hope them to be, and that everybody stays safe on and off the roads.
So long 2018, before we know it, 2019 will be here.