"Communication is so important"
COLIN MCCANN QUICK FACTS
Running for: Pelham Town Council, Ward 2, vs. incumbent John Wink, and other challengers Carla Baxter and Brian Eckhardt
Occupation: Retired from career in law enforcement and investigations (federal and provincial)
Resides: Has lived in Fonthill since 2017
Family: Spouse Virginia, two grown sons
Managing growth in Pelham, and listening to the concerns of residents, are the top priorities for Town Council Ward 2 candidate Colin McCann. Building financial reserves, and passing a responsible budget, is a big part of that equation.
He is also keen on promoting local business, preserving green-spaces, and open and transparent government.
McCann grew up in New Brunswick, where he served as a volunteer with the RCMP auxiliary, before moving to Toronto in 1986. He and his family settled in Pelham in 2017.
“I was never a big city guy,” he said. “I was raised in a small town in the Maritimes, where you would describe where you lived in relation to the one flashing traffic light. When I retired, I knew I wanted to get out of Toronto. We looked all over Southern Ontario. One day we drove through Pelham, and really liked the area. Thereafter, we found a gorgeous house in a great neighbourhood.”
McCann spent his career in law enforcement and investigations with the federal Ministry of the Solicitor General, the Ontario Securities Commission, and the provincial Ombudsman’s Office.
When he landed in Pelham, he offered his services to the volunteer fire department.
“I was retired, I wanted to do something worthwhile,” he said. “I noticed a sign on Highway 20 that said they were looking for applicants, so I signed up, at 59. My age raised some eyebrows, but I came through the aptitude testing and training program successfully, and have enjoyed the work. I turn 65 in April of 2023, though, and that’s the mandatory retirement age from the fire department. So I’ll be moving on to the next stage of my life.”
He’s hoping that this next stage will involve serving the community as a town councillor.
“My sons will tell you that I am the world’s worst spectator. I can’t stand back and watch,” he said. “I’m not the kind of guy who drives by a car accident…I have to do something. When my kids were into sports, I had to coach, not just stand on the sidelines.”
My sons will tell you that I am the world’s worst spectator
Asked about the varied performances of previous Pelham councils as the catalyst for his political interest, McCann measured his words carefully.
“I’ve been watching,” he said. “But I’m not going to go negative. I’ve tracked many council meetings on Zoom, and my views reflect the many conversations I have had with Pelham residents recently. There is a lot of concern that the town is growing too big, too fast.”
McCann notes that many people don’t realize that urban intensification is being driven by a provincial edict.
“In the next 30 years, Pelham’s population is predicted to swell from 18,000 to 29,000, a 60 percent increase,” he said. “All this development will increase traffic and hydro-electric brownouts, which begs the question of what’s going on with the infrastructure? I’ve been knocking on doors, and people are asking where our sense of community will be in five years. The tax base is going to grow. But if we need future recreational facilities, where are we going to build, if developers have taken all the land? In sensitive greenspace areas?”
It is critical to plan and budget for infrastructure ten years down the road, said McCann, and that is an area where his experience would be valuable.
“Currently, we have built stormwater ponds with subdivisions, and playgrounds for kids, abutting them, which is a potential hazard. You can construct fences around the stormwater ponds, but they become an eyesore. And come hockey season, you know that kids are going to want to hop the fence and go for a skate.”
McCann said that he has been hearing from a lot of residents about preserving greenspaces.
“That to me is kind of a line in the sand,” he said. “I’ve lived in Mississauga, and for the past 30 years, they’ve had a tree protection bylaw. Long before I thought about running for council, over on Summersides, the developer clear-cut all the mature trees. A bylaw would set boundaries and limitations for development.”
As far as his election campaign is concerned, McCann is eschewing an emphasis on social media, and taking an old-school approach, with a basic brochure and door-to-door campaign in Ward 2.
“I’m trying to knock on every door and speak to residents face-to-face,” he said. “I tell people that I’m an amateur politician. This is my first shot at any sort of elected office. I’m out there listening to people. It’s a fabulous learning experience.”
The South Niagara Chambers of Commerce as well as the Fonthill Kinsmen have planned candidate debates in early and mid October. Thursday, October 6 is the date set for Pelham’s Town Council, school board, and Regional Council candidates to debate, starting at 6 PM at E. L. Crossley Secondary School.
Unfortunately, McCann and his wife will be on a Mediterranean cruise. But that doesn’t mean he won’t be represented at the event.
“My 25-year-old son is going to be there for me. I wrote up some remarks for him. He’s happy to do it,” said McCann.
“Communication is so important. I learned that during my career in government. I’m not the type who turns off his cellphone at five o’clock. People hate bureaucracy that doesn’t acknowledge their concerns. Providing feedback to citizens is the responsible route.”