« We can solve two very big issues with the same solution, » said Tsourounakis during a phone interview. « We need to build more housing. All kinds of housing. »
Tsourounakis noted that Hawkesbury has « a critical lack of housing » at a time when the town is trying to attract more skilled and unskilled labour to help support its business sector. The housing shortage includes both houses available for sale to prospective homeowners and those available for rent. The lack of housing is also contributing to rising rental rates for both houses and apartments.
Tsourounakis argued that the next town council needs to « greenlight » more residential development projects, whether they involve actual new homes or apartment buildings. More housing choices available makes Hawkesbury a more attractive place to live for people with the skills that local businesses need. Tsourounakis noted one other benefit from increasing the amount of housing available in Hawkesbury.
« We’ll be able to lower our tax rates if we can lure a sizeable number of people to Hawkesbury, » he said. « That can only be done with more housing. »
Tsourounakis is seeking a second term on council. His first term was a learning process for him on how the municipality works, including how things get done. The biggest lesson the local businessman learned from the past four years he spent as a rookie councillor is that the decision-making process involved in running a municipality is very different from how he manages his own business.
« It’s a slower process, » he said. « So now I want to use the next four years to get more things done for the citizens of Hawkesbury. »
Tsourounakis observed that next four years are « a critical juncture » for Hawkesbury. The town is getting some attention from potential new commercial and industrial investors and he wants to help ensure that the municipality remains attractive for new investment.
« We are a natural location for Québec-based businesses that want to break into the Ontario market, » he said, noting the town’s assets of being located on highway routes close to both Toronto and Montréal, and a large French-speaking or bilingual population base.
But Tsourounakis warned that Hawkesbury must avoid complacency and the temptation to assume that kind of business investment will come without any effort from the municipality. He said the town needs to develop and promote a positive image of itself. That was one of the reasons during the present council hired a communications director, to help promote Hawkesbury as « a good place to live. »
Tsourounakis also thinks Hawkesbury needs to look at negotiating « mutual investment » agreements between itself and its neighbours, Champlain Township and East Hawkesbury Township. They have lots of space available for new commercial and industrial developments near the boundaries of Hawkesbury while Hawkesbury has a municipal water and sewer system and its own hydro service system that could support the projects on those lands.
Tsourounakis wants to be part of those mutual development talks between Hawkesbury and its municipal neigbours. First he has to win a seat on the next council.
This is his third municipal election campaign. He first tried to get on council in 2014 and missed winning a seat on council by one vote at the ballot box.
« That raised my profile, » he said, adding that it formed the basis for his 2018 campaign. « I stressed that every vote does count, and I outpolled everyone on council in the end. »
Tsourounakis noted that this year’s municipal election is not an electronic vote set-up. Voters cannot stay at home and cast their ballots. He urged all eligible voters to either go to the poll October 24 or check with the municipal office about advance poll dates.
« Municipal government affects us all, » said Tsourounakis, « and on a more personal level than the provincial or federal governments. »