According to the 2011 Census, Tecumseh has lost 2.5% of its population over the last 5 years.
I will concede that even for me, the world seemed to be a lot bigger than Tecumseh when I was 18 years old. You can drive places, sure, but absent a car, the kind of exciting urban lifestyle that seemed to be the backdrop for most characters in novels and TV shows might as well be from another planet.
Tecumseh alone cannot escape the reality of today. Youth unemployment remains stubbornly high. Career path after career path may leave you waiting for a decade or more for an employment opportunity unless you move away. As a consequence of this, many younger people are deciding to postpone starting families until their economic condition improves. Many who do often seek out more urban environments, leading to the explosive growth of the GTA but the continuing lag in growth in outlying areas.
We have fewer parents and therefore fewer kids. Fewer kids means fewer schools. And fewer schools, sadly, has meant fewer occupied homes in Ward 1. I've been saddened to see a couple of homes shuttered and boarded up as I've been doorknocking.
One of the most endangered age groups is my own - the 30 to 34 crowd. The challenges that our Town is facing with respect to declining population and keeping schools open and thriving are in effect a microcosm of the kinds of opportunities that the Town of Tecumseh can provide for our younger adults.
Municipal rebound and population growth are contingent on success in economic development, in providing the tools to develop innovative and exciting career prospects and quality of life improvements. There are some exciting proposals in Oldcastle coming forward for new industries where a market demand exists with minimal supply. Two I've heard of in recent months has been the pet crematorium as well as a medicinal controlled substance facility. In an era of centralization and consolidation, I tip my hat to these entrepreneurs who are repatriating career opportunities back to Tecumseh, and it is these sorts of endeavours that ensure stability and growth in our community.
Indeed, repatriating former Tecumseh and Essex County residents who had to leave for career opportunities is our best opportunity for creating growth and keeping both our housing and commercial stock in use and thriving. We need to be cautious when we create new supply, as without the presence of jobs necessary to increase our permanent regional population, we are likely to hollow out older areas leaving properties vacant and derelict. The net cost to the town, with visual blight, opportunity for crime, and property standards issues, can be substantial. Few want to live next to vacant buildings given these outcomes and as neighbours move out, new neighbours may not move back in.
What is saddening to witness is that our region actually has many ingredients for success and a sound, profitable business decision as a headquarters or major hub. Our region's cost of living is among the lowest in North America. There are local champions who yearn to come home and raise their families here, needing only that one career opportunity. If there is a means to harness these expatriates, Tecumseh has an opportunity to really shine and bring our families back.
You can count on me to support the Provincial Planning Policy Statement in our decision-making, and that Ward 1 intensification, reuse and growth will be encouraged in tandem with efforts to increase our permanent local population. Municipal government has a role to play as a regulator and service provider. Tecumseh has performed admirably and innovatively when companies such as Bonduelle have needed help with respect to a rethink of past practices.
I would love to know of your thoughts regarding services or investments that you would like to see to keep our young families in town and the ways that you too believe Tecumseh can thrive.
I've been asked a few times as I've been doorknocking as to what my position is on sidewalks. My answer is this: I believe in a complete collector/arterial sidewalk network so that there isn't a mix of turning vehicles, parked cars and pedestrians trying to access a given destination. The last thing I want to see happen is someone get hit at a busy intersection because walkers are put on the road.
In my professional career, I work to implement active and sustainable transportation measures. I wouldn't leave a road for cars unfinished for the last block to a destination so I would not do so for a sidewalk either.
Sidewalks are a love 'em/hate 'em dichotomy. They're among the last features of a subdivision to be installed, even after you may have planted landscaping in their corridor. Many streets that don't have sidewalks have always been that way and residents like it that way. Many fear loss of yard, driveway space, privacy, or having to clear them in the winter.
However, when there are no sidewalks but there's a destination to be reached, often a path of some sort creeps up anyway. A nice, worn dirt path is created on front lawns. I recall one street that had several 90 degree bends with poor sightlines in another municipality, where the local councillor asked what the holdup was for installing sidewalks because there was a clear and demonstrated need. It turned out that the Council of the day vetoed its installation.
Sidewalks are now mandated for new subdivisions. The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit championed the cause in the mid-90s and the end result is that such decisions have been made so no new gaps will be created. I have no intention of reversing this policy or revisiting it. In fact, you can expect that I will be a champion for filling in gaps in our pedestrian network so that your walk to the park doesn't have to be a game of dodgeball on the way.