Raymond Benns

Raymond Benns was born and raised in Alnwick Haldimand Township, and graduated by Cobourg Collegiate Institute East with honors, then went on to complete a 3 year program at the Kempville College of Agricultural Technology. Following this, he was a retail field man for the United Coop Company, before returning to his father’s farm in 1967 and marrying his wife Margaret. They have two sons and 4 grandchildren.

After phasing out his sow herd operation in 1997, he started what became a 20 year career on Township council, winning five elections and being acclaimed once. He was Deputy Mayor for two terms, and was being encouraged to run for Mayor in this election, but felt that he needs to back off just a little bit. He has served on several conservation authority boards, the Centerton Community Center, the Safe Communities Committee, and an Agricultural Advisory Committee to name only a few.

With those many years on council, what were the major accomplishments? He cited the new water treatment plant in Grafton as a major achievement, and the new emergency center in Roseneath, which is still under construction. However, these large projects are an increasing challenge, because the amount of provincial and federal support has dropped dramatically. He was not comfortable with some previous decisions taken, however, including the failure to build up reserves for future infrastructure projects and road rebuilding.

While a new municipal building is needed in Grafton, he wonders if it will be financially possible without more help from provincial and federal governments. The proposal includes a library, community center, ice rink and seniors center, at an estimated cost of $21 Million. But he also questions if another indoor ice surface is needed, with new rinks having been built in Colborne, Cobourg, and Baltimore (where one of the two rinks has already been closed down). The public works building in Centerton is very outdated. New council will have some tough decisions.

Raymond does say that re-amalgamation of Alnwick and Haldimand townships was the right thing to do, although he was disappointed that others did not join in to help achieve economies of scale. And he was in favor of eliminating the two wards, and reducing council from 7 to 5.

He has real concerns about a number provincial jurisdiction issues, including the size of the deficit (which may further reduce provincial support for municipalities). Legislation regarding the Oak Ridges Moraine, and Greenbelt has “sanitized” 50% of the townships, unnecessarily restricting any re-zoning, new road building. Cannabis legislation leaves so much uncertainty for rural municipalities, and the Insurance Act of Ontario unfairly burdens municipalities with an unfairly high shared liability provision. With all of these concerns, should he not have run for provincial office? No, that’s more than he wants to take on at his age.

Raymond describes himself as a fair minded, honest, accessible person, who adds a “bit of common sense” to his decision making, and he knows the constituents and municipality well. However, he is not taking his re-election for granted, but is out knocking on doors and campaigning hard.


Ron Farrow

Ron Farrow was born and raised in Newcastle, and moved to Port Hope after his first marriage. For the past 18 years, and now remarried, he has lived at 189 Whitney Road in Alnwick/ Haldimand. Many people may know him only as an auctioneer, but he is also a master electrician, raised show horses on his acreage, is a champion moose caller, TV celebrity thanks to his commercials for Lotto 649, and past director of the Roseneath Agricultural Society, and served on the police board.

He and his wife both ran for council in 2014, because they did not like the direction being taken by council. Looking back, he thinks that it was a mistake not to do more door knocking, something he is determined to correct this time around. However, it’s only him running this time, although he did encourage his wife to run again as well.

Among his many concerns is the lack of transparency. Too many council sessions are held behind closed doors, and many issues dealt with in open sessions are not well explained to the public gallery. Public spending he says, is too high. There was no need to purchase a $400,000 new fire truck, when the old one could have been refurbished, and similarly with the arena Zamboni. Council also hire too many consultants, and the Parks and Recreation study is a good example. He wants to see tax increases kept to the Cost of Living increase, or less.

Another important issue is the dumping of land fill (which may be toxic) in an abandoned gravel pit. While the Ministry of Natural Resources has now put a stop order on this, the ministry is not policing it. Now, council are considering removal of a road easement, to allow expansion of the gravel pit onto the Gilcrest Farm. He believes the road allowance should be kept as is.

He is strongly opposed to the use of good agricultural land for solar panel farms. In his view, there is plenty of both developed and untapped hydro power in the province. And he would like to see more public support given for small business in the township, and as an example, he cites the boat ramp at Wicklow needing improvement, and then advertised to fisherman and the boating community. Much more could be done with the Roseneath Fairgrounds, and council could be a major sponsor of some events which would promote more tourism in the area. The old fire hall in Roseneath could, he thinks, be turned to good use as a food bank location, and perhaps the community center in Fenella should be sold. Another idea he has is for the start of bus service to Cobourg from Roseneath and Grafton.

Regarding the election, he is very disappointed that only he and Jim Fell are running from the Roseneath area. While there is a strong perception that Grafton residents are given priority treatment, he does point out that in the last election, he ran in the old Ward 1 (Grafton area), and that he would be deputy major for all residents, and that he would not dodge issues.


Jim Fell

Jim Fell left the UK in 1977 to come to Toronto, and then spent 10 years as marine engineer on the Great Lakes. After he married, it was time to stay on shore, and he opened up an indoor soccer arena in Whitby which he ran for several years. Then in 2002, he and his wife moved to a 70 acre farm in Roseneath, where he got involved in building log homes, when not doing renovations and additions to his own home.

He’s always been interested in politics, but started his active involvement with the Roseneath Fair Board, and in 2010, put his name in for council and was acclaimed. While he did not win an elected position in 2014, people have been asking him to run, but he also has a lot of concerns about the past four years, so it was an easy decision to put his name forward.

His biggest concern has to do with taxes and spending. Prior to his term in office, taxes had not changed in 8 years. Then from 2010 to 2014 (during his first term), they were increased by a total of about 5% over the four years. Last year, they were increased by 10%. He states that this increase was not necessary. The fire chief for Alnwick Haldimand, with its population of about 6,000, makes the same amount as the Cobourg chief. The new fire hall in Roseneath, while badly needed, is going to cost over $4M, well over budget. In contrast, he worked in favor of building it during his term in office at a cost of $1.5M. The new arena in Grafton is expected to cost about $13M, and will incorporate township offices. What alternatives were looked at, he asks, and why were renovations not done 10-12 years ago rather than rebuilding? Salaries for public employees, who have received increases of about 40% over the last 4 years, are out of line with pay in the private sector. Currently, there are five town halls - some of them he thinks could better be converted into retirement homes.

Subdivision development in Grafton (Grafton Heights) is another concern. He is in favor of more housing, but it has to be beneficial to the community, and include affordable housing. A proposal by Lakeport has been in limbo for 8 years. As an aside, Jim pointed out that he is in favor of the provincial government’s intention to repeal the Clean Energy Act of 2009, giving local government responsibility for approving wind and solar projects in their communities.

He disagrees strongly with last council’s decision to do away with wards in Alnwick Haldimand, because it does not assure fair representation on council. And he also does not agree that only the 7 mayors can attend County Council - deputy mayors should be allowed to fill in when illness or circumstances arise.

There is also a groundswell of public opinion regarding the lack of enforcement over dumping of garbage, coming from outside the Township, into abandoned gravel pits. By-laws are in place, but are not being enforced. He thinks current council has washed its hands on this issue, but also allowed an easement to allow building of a better access road to the pit, and why?

While he describes himself as being opinionated, he does say that he listens to all 3 sides, and he can be swayed. Public opinion and open communication is important, and he would try to have regular town hall meetings, less closed council meetings, and more open question sessions at council. But his closing comment was: Vote, even if it’s not for him.


Mike Filip

Mike Filip has a farming background, starting in Rawdon Twp. and later in Cramahe Township, raising ewes, later chickens and turkeys. He also bought a former tobacco farm, but after doing soil samples, discovered that the soil had been badly depleted, so he undertook a huge 72,000 tree planting project, which will be a legacy for his four children. But he has also had a career in education in the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board, and later became principal in Colborne. After retiring, he took his wife and youngest son with him to India after agreeing to a 2 year term as principal at a Canadian International School in Bangalore, India, an experience he remembers with great pride and interest. His wife Charlotte is about as active as he is, and is a System Principal with KPRDSB.

He ran for school board trustee after getting back to Canada, but was not elected. Then he volunteered to help out as principal facilitator in the development of a strategic plan for Alnwick Haldimand. When a vacancy occurred on council, he applied and was appointed to the position last October. The past year has been a very good experience, he says, and there was no question he wanted to run again.

Some of the main achievements of the past council for him were the completion of an 5 year economic development plan for the municipality, and a parks and management plan for the next 20. Included in the plan is a new arena, but better described as a new community center for Grafton, to include a library, municipal offices and other facilities. Alnwick Haldimand is a growing area, and schools are filling up, so the community needs this new facility, which in turn will help spur growth, due to its easy access from the 401.

Mike Filip also described how he spearheaded the solution to the traffic congestion and public safely issue at the Grafton Public School. The Township has now sold a 4 acre land portion to the School Board, for construction of a safe drop off and pick up area, but also an expanded playground area and easy access to the new subdivision.

He was also very supportive of the new Emergency Services Building being constructed in Roseneath, the purchase of a new fire truck, and hiring of a fire chief, and also a new CEO. While the tax increase last year caused some concern (at 4.9% over the prior year), he believes that local tax rates are still among the lowest in Ontario.

Going forward, and one of his slogans is “moving forward with the past in mind”, he is concerned about the abandoned gravel pit north of County Road 9, and more Hydro Vac Fill from Toronto being dumped there. He would like to see council pass a by-law putting a moratorium on more fill, but recognizes that the pit owners have an out, and that provincial regulations over-rule municipal by-laws. He will be asking for a report from both the Ministry of the Environment, and Ministry of Natural Resources, as as well as the 10 year plan by the pit owners, and then determining how to go forward.

As part of the regional economic development plan, he has a vision of establishing an “agricultural hub and learning center” in the greater Roseneath area, perhaps in conjunction with Loyalist and Fleming colleges. He has already approached Provincial Agricultural Experts, and after the election, plans to complete a feasibility study for it.

As a person, Mike describes himself as a open-minded, responsive, collaborative team player, quite willing to change his mind when necessary, and with enough experience to be able to make a difference in the community. Its a wonderful place to live, and he’d like to help make it an even more attractive place in the future.


Sherry Gibson

Sherry grew up in Courtice Ontario, a small agricultural community, and her parents owned their own manufacturing business so she is well aware of challenges small business owners face. Her first job was with was Ministry of Correctional Services, then joined the family business. However, after husband Mike came into the picture, the couple moved to “beautiful” Northumberland County, where she became a long term employee with Community Care Northumberland. She is currently project lead for fund raising and building the new hospice care facility just north of Cobourg. After retiring from General Motors, Mike has become the volunteer lead driver for Community Care. They have four children, one a teacher in Cobourg, a son who is a civil engineer in Toronto, a daughter working with Northumberland County, and their youngest son is at the U. of Ottawa, studying communication and business. Rounding out the family are two sons-in-law and one grandson.

Sherry first served on Alnwick Township council from 1997-2000, before amalgamation with Haldimand, and then was elected again in 2014. She feels the the current council has had challenges, but also accomplishments, including the new emergency center under construction in Roseneath. (It will serve as fire station for the Roseneath area, but also will house the county’s Paramedics). A new full time fire chief had to be hired, not so much because of the population in the area,but because of the large territory of responsibility and provincial mandate. The completion of a Parks and Recreation Master Plan was another milestone, and the new council will have a well laid foundation for future growth.

She acknowledges that there was a tax increase last year, but points out that it was necessary in order to continue building reserves for future capital expenditures and infrastructure. What are her priorities going forward if elected? She would like to focus on service levels in the Townships, including proper maintenance of roads and bridges, possibly increasing library hours, and upgrading recreational facilities such as playgrounds, boat launches, and expanding programs for seniors at community centers. She believes in one ward system, so that the focus is on all residents in the Township. There is also a need to work closely with all levels of government on issues under municipal jurisdiction.

Sherry Gibson also feels that population growth is important, to increase the tax base and allow more services to be provided. Its important to maintain a strategic plan, and for council to be open and transparent with the public. Without newspapers, the latter is a challenge, but may be handled with more communication on a Facebook page, or a redesigned web page.

Sherry is not actively campaigning in this election. Rather, she hopes she is well known (even more so since moving to their new home on Baxter Road north of Roseneath), and happy to run on her record, and as a person with strong morals, values and commitment to the well-being of her community.

Gail Latchford

Due to her busy schedule, Gail declined to participate in this project.