Mortgage agent Corinna Smith-Gatcke is the new mayor of Leeds and the Thousand Islands, and she already has her hands full.
Earlier this week, Mayor Smith-Gatcke and council voted to permit cannabis retail stores to operate in Leeds and the Thousand Islands, primarily because foregoing taxes and revenues would be wasteful for a town of 9,600.
“The provincial government backed us into a corner on that one,” said Smith-Gatcke, who was sworn in last week by the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark. “They said we have to either opt in or opt out by Jan. 22, so the problem is if you opt out, you can’t opt back in. About 80% of places in Ontario are allowing it because it’s legal. If you try to base your decision morality, then it’s not good for anybody. It’s legal everywhere else, so people will just drive elsewhere to buy the product, in which case we’d lose tax dollars and revenue.”
Smith-Gatcke isn’t the least bit daunted by her new duties because she already has experience working in politics. Her first job out of college was at Queen’s Park in Toronto, where she worked as an assistant to the Solicitor General of Ontario, but she says the provenance of her interest goes back even further.
“My family was always involved in political campaigns,” she said. “As a kid, I was always involved with putting up signs.”
After her stint at Queen’s Park, Smith-Gatcke became a mortgage agent. Having previously worked under Vince Gaetano at First Bank Direct, Bank of Montreal’s erstwhile mortgage arm, during a college work placement program, he lured her back into the mortgage world.
Smith-Gatcke has been living in Leeds and the Thousand Islands since 2001, and while she’s delved into politics, she intends on remaining an agent.
“I’m still a mortgage agent. The beauty of municipal governance is that there’s no money in it, so I cannot afford to give up my day job.”
Not that she’s complaining.
“Really, municipal politics is funny,” she continued, “in that most people wouldn’t be interested in it, but it’s where you can affect the most changed locally because you have the ability to change policies and bylaws, which affect planning.”
With big plans for Leeds and the Thousand Islands, expect the new mayor to leave her mark.