BY E.A. KERR
This is the second part of a feature series focusing on local councillors in Peel Region, and their challenges and successes adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This week’s tour around Peel Region takes us to Ward 1 in Caledon — and a chat with local councillor Lynn Kiernan, a long time resident of Caledon who is serving her first term after a long career in finance, Caledon’s Ward 1 is perhaps the jewel in Peel’s crown, with a large land mass filled with nothing but amazing views. Add in the Niagara Escarpment and the Credit River, and dot that with historic villages, and a drive or tour through the area will take your breath away.
Kiernan spoke about the original farmlands and the settling of those villages, some over 150 years ago, and the discovery of Caledon by the Toronto who’s who that began building weekend getaways back in the 1950’s and 60’s. It’s the original families that still blanket the area even today that is so amazing, says Kiernan — and add in the many new young families that are now calling Caledon home, and you have one of the most unique communities here in Peel.
With all that beauty and being so close to Brampton, Mississauga and Toronto, these attributes were the Wards’ downfall during the pandemic. With factories and business closed, residents needed something to do, and taking a short drive to a nice place seemed to be the answer. Unfortunately, these large crowds — over 10-15,000 people visiting Caledon’s Ward 1, to note just one example — became too much for the existing infrastructure, and traffic, garbage and trespassing on properties were a lot for the residents to handle.
When the complaints started rolling into Kiernan’s office, it was clear that people understood the difficulties we were all going through with this pandemic. The positive clearly outweighed the negative, because the residents stepped up and made the best of the situation. Neighbours helping neighbours and businesses doing their part to make sure services were being supplied became a key focus of the past summer.
One story that stuck out was at Christmas, when one of the local post offices in Ward 1 was closed for Christmas, but parcels kept arriving late in the day. Staff members stayed and called residents so that they all had the chance to come and pick up their Christmas gifts… that was what being a rural community is all about.
In discussing the future for Ward 1, Kiernan had nothing but praise for the way her Ward has handled the pandemic and is looking forward to some sort of end to all this — and looking forward to celebrating many of the events that had to be postponed over the past year, including some bicentennial anniversaries for deserving residents.
This showcases how different a Ward in Caledon is from any Ward in Mississauga or Brampton — while Caledon is for the most part rural, its Peel partners are the sixth and ninth largest cities in Canada, respectively. Moving down the road to Brampton and speaking with Doug Whillans of Ward’s 2 and 6, he was quick to mentions some positive actions in his Ward.
Whillans cites the new electric buses now running in the city as the first partnership of its kind in Canada and will see big changes come to transit in Peel in the future. Another bright spot has been the city’s Backyard Community Garden program, which led to the donation of over 11,000 pounds of food to the local food banks. Whillans said that many local businesses lent their expertise to the community garden project.
Councillor Whillans went on to say that redevelopment of some of the Wards’ Parks have changed the area for the better, with some former cricket fields that were moved now becoming leash free dog parks. Another major project was at the Creditview Sports fields, which boasts a state of-the-art playground area and soccer fields for residents to enjoy.
One element that makes Whillans proud is the design of the playground, which supports inclusiveness for residents with autism. Speaking about the state of local business during the pandemic, Whillans said that although his areas have been hit hard, many residents adapted well to the new curbside way of doing business.
It was very frustrating for businesses that could not open earlier in the lockdown, though, he indicated. “I know my Wards are looking forward to coming out of lockdown and getting back to day to day business,” said Whillans. When it comes to Mississauga’s south end, three iconic places of mention are the drive down Mississauga Road, the Lorne Park / Clarkson areas and the Rattray Marsh Conservation area. Leading Ward 2 is Karen Ras, who is serving the area for her second term and is dealing with many positive and negative issues.
A big positive this year was the completion of the Nine Creek Trail in Ward 2, which travels from Winston Churchill all the way to Mississauga Road. She has never seen the trail so busy during the pandemic — and it was so well received that the City of Mississauga agreed to maintain it all through the winter.
The trail is quite unique, and the residents have embraced it with seasonal decorations along the path. One major project coming to Ward 2 is a long term care and hospice facility on Speakman Drive, which was unveiled by the province and Trillium Health Partners last year. When it come to business in the area, Clarkson is the hub in the south of Ward 2, and it’s been tough for most of the local business owners. Ras said she has been encouraging them to join in with the local BIA and the city to get involved with some of the programs that could help them in the future; mainly, the Digital Main Street program, which can help them move into the web retail end of business.
The residents of Ward 2 are keeping up the tradition of helping out neighbors, with everything from having their older children help with shopping and errands for elderly residents to raising money for local shelters and food banks. “It truly melted my heart when I heard those stories,” said Ras. What does the future hold for Ward 2 coming out of lockdown?
Just try to keep on doing business as usual, said Ras, with some additional facility renovations and some key waterfront developments coming down the line, due in part with funding raised through the city’s gas tax. Join us next week for the second part of the Wards of Peel series — and interviews with three councillors in Brampton, Mississauga and Caledon who will showcase their challenges and successes during the COVID-19 pandemic.