About me

A little about me

Born and raised in Toronto, I spent every summer at the cottage until the age of 16.  While at the cottage, water skiing became my passion which at the age of 12 allowed me to ski in the ski show at Clevelands House and in Bala.

At 16, I started skiing at the Canadian National Exhibition (the CNE) followed by a 4 month stint a couple years later (1984) water skiing at Six Flags Great Adventure theme park in New Jersey.  Throughout the 80's I continued to ski and in 1985 became the youngest Show Director in the history of the CNE water ski show.  In 1986, with work commitments ever increasing, I evolved my skiing career to become more coaching focused, running the Canadian Water Ski Instructors Course as Director and Chairman for a decade.

Post Secondary for myself was all Business Focused at Seneca college in Toronto where I emerged in my chosen career of Advertising Marketing working with MacLaren Advertising on some exceptional clients like General Motors, Levis, Sharp Electronics and Suzuki. Strategic focus and client management following strict operating budgets made up the bulk of my work environment/ experiences and allowed me to excel quickly to account director.  A few agency jobs later, after getting married in 1988, my son Coby was born in the spring of 1994 and in an effort to balance life and focus on my family, I opened my own consulting company Straightline Communications.

In 1995, my Muskoka Roots surfaced once again as I conceptualized and created what became Canada's largest water sports company - Summer Water Sports (SWS).  In 1997, my daughter Alyssa was born and in 2000 my family and business were on track with SWS operating a dozen resort waterfronts across Ontario and Quebec with 65 plus employees, taking 25,000 people water skiing annually and operating Snowmobile Tours and Rentals at many Muskoka resorts during the winter months.

I was fortunate to grow up enjoying a family cottage on Lake Rosseau since the summer of 1966.  In 1997 I purchased a home off the water, just outside of Port Carling.  In 2013 , after the passing of my mother, I purchased the family cottage from my brothers which allows me both a seasonal and permanent resident perspective with equal understanding.  

In an effort to give back, in 2008 I joined the Board of the Muskoka Lakes Association and have thankfully been able to leave my mark so to speak, with a more user friendly website (mla.on.ca), the more cottager focused Marine Team, the MLA Advantage Card and most recently helping "keep the locks open" in Port Carling.  For MLA members - adding the tiered family memberships was integral to understand the needs of the next generation of cottagers and support them in their Muskoka experiences.

In 2017, I joined Forest Hill Real Estate and moved full time to Port Carling, combining my love of Muskoka with customer service to be able to help people both buy and sell their Muskoka Properties. 

My children (now 3rd generation residents) also share a passion for Muskoka.  My daughter 21 is finishing her fourth year at Dalhousie University and spends as much time at the cottage as possible balancing time with her mom in the city, while my son 24 moved here in 2016 and works in the construction industry.   With Muskoka as their choice and their future it is my goal and commitment for their generation and the next generation to protect Muskoka and ensure we respect both water quality and the environment in everything we do.

In the future, should I continue to serve the taxpayers across Muskoka as your Mayor, my promise remains to ensure accountability and management of your tax dollars (as if they were my own) while preserving and enhancing the unique Muskoka environment.

Phil Harding