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 The public works building in Centerton is very outdated.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.