Our Town, Our Vision

The election of a new Council inspires me to reflect on what has been and what might be. We elect a municipal Council to set policy and priorities, and to direct town staff in its implementation.

This should occupy our attention a lot more because we have to live with the consequences for years, even decades, to come. Yet, only a shameful 32.5% of eligible voters bothered to cast their ballot. But I’m sure the other 57% will still feel free to loudly complain about municipal politics over the next four years.

Is the poor turnout because many new residents are unfamiliar with local candidates and issues? Were they intimidated or confused by the online voting procedure? Does our increasingly urbanized, and socially fragmented electorate have less and less connection to their community? Did candidates just fail to inspire and motivate voters? Do promises to ‘limit taxes’ or improve ‘efficiency’ or ‘listen to the voters’ sound like the same tired and discredited ‘slogan’ politics that we’ve been hearing for years?

So what’s next? Beyond the vague pledges, what should our priorities be for the next four years? The broad outlines are still in the Official Plan: preservation of a rural atmosphere; preservation of agriculture; enhancement of distinctive neighbourhoods; development of a better business/commercial tax base; better transit; better connections between neighbourhoods; protection of Lake Simcoe; diversification into tourism.

A lot of Innisfil is still being built or is in the planning stages. In December 2015 there were 15 “draft approved plans” of subdivision involving a proposed total of 5,399 new residential units, of which 57% were single detached homes. So time may be running out to shape the kind of town we want. Continue reading

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Democracy is Process

Consideration of all other pressing issues facing residents of Ontario has ground to a halt while the Ontario government pursues an abrupt campaign to reduce the size of Toronto’s city council from 47 to 25 – an action on which he and his party never campaigned.

I wasn’t going to write about it if it was a ‘Toronto’ issue simply concerning the composition of council. In the past I have, myself, speculated about the possibility of reducing the size of Toronto’s city council. But that was in the context of the idea having at least some local advocates, ample public debate, formal examination and then conventional legislative processes.

But it has become a provincial issue of concern to everyone in Ontario because of the premier’s appallingly ignorant comments about elections, democracy, the judiciary and the constitution. It’s clear the premier doesn’t understand at all the concept of a “first minister” in a parliamentary system of government.

He is deluded to think that 40% of the popular vote is a mandate to enact whatever notion enters his head, rather than a limited mandate simply to form a government. Beyond that, he has questioned not just the appropriateness of a judicial decision, but challenged the legitimacy of the entire court system. To top it off, he threatens to repeatedly abuse the constitution by violating the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as a ‘tool’ to advance his agenda – one that we, so far, know very little about beyond empty slogans.

Among the many eminent political voices condemning his unprecedented offensive behavior are Jean Chretien, Roy Romanow, and Roy McMurtry:

“We condemn his actions and call on those in his cabinet and caucus to stand up to him. History will judge them by their silence.”

Here in the riding of Barrie-Innisfil, history will judge Andrea Khanjin, MPP and a local enabler of the premier’s wrecklessness. Just months into the role of Member of Provincial Parliament she has already failed to defend and protect democracy as a process of consultation, review, debate and measured deliberation.

Failure to recognize that democracy is a process, not a dictate, has ensured that virtually every measure of this government is being referred to the courts – at our expense. It will all likely end badly, perhaps more so for the governors than the governed.

Shame & Disappointment

Aftermath (Sep. 6, 2018):

Council voted to accept the Integrity Commissioners’s finding that Mayor Wauchope and Councillor Bill Lougheed violated the Town’s Code of Conduct. Both will forfeit 45 days pay. In a tie vote, Council decided that Councillor Doug Lougheed did not violate the Code of Conduct. He subsequently resigned from Council saying, “I have no interest in serving on a council where people don’t believe me.”  He also deflected blame to senior Town staff: “Certain senior management seem to disregard council’s direction, in attempts to undermine things, and fail to keep council properly informed of important issues.”

Integrity Commissioner’s Report

It hasn’t taken long for news of the Integrity Commissioner’s Report, (from which I am quoting extensively in this article), to spread through town as fast as a wild fire. This is the result of an “Integrity Commissioner investigation into allegations that there had been improper sharing of information from closed meetings of Council, contrary to the Town of Innisfil’s Code of Conduct for Members of Council …”. The investigation was requested by unanimous vote of Council and resolution dated April 18, 2018 following a notice of motion by Councillor Rob Nichol on April 4.

The Leaks

“On the morning of April 4, 2018, Town staff circulated a confidential memo to members of Council with details of the negotiations. Later that day and prior to the closed meeting to discuss the matter, Councillor Loughead advised a Town staff member that he had spoken with an agent for the developer who said that the developer had obtained a copy of the confidential memo.

The Town staff-member called the agent for the developer who talked about the developer’s offer to Town staff. The agent for the developer told the Town staff member that the Town had a “serious leaking problem.” … During the investigation, agents for the developer denied having confidential information and denied being interested in obtaining this information. Given the prior volume of calls between the agents for the developer and elected members, this assertion seemed implausible.”

Summary Finding

Council will review the findings of the Integrity Commissioner on Wednesday, September 5.

“The report concludes that three members of Council fell below the standards set out in the Code of Conduct in their communications with a developer about closed meeting matters.”

“Between January and April of 2018, Council delegated to Town staff the role of negotiating an agreement with a developer in the context of a significant application to the Town. Council’s role was to provide oversight and direction to staff for that purpose. Due to the sensitivity and scope of the matter, Council met a number of times in closed session to provide direction to staff and receive updates. The developer pursued its application through the proper channels with the community and Town staff; however it also cultivated “back channels” of communication with some elected officials in what I [the Integrity Commissioner] concluded was a sustained effort to discover confidential information to assist in its negotiating strategy with the Town.”

“This report makes no findings as to the merits of the development application that was involved. Many felt it was a positive development for the community and this may have been a factor in the willingness of some to help the process along via private communication channels.”

[On May 16, 2018, Council approved an application from Friday Harbour resort to add 1,000 more condo units to the development in addition to the previously approved 1,600 units and 400 hotel rooms. Simcoe County added its approval in July, 2018.] Continue reading

Meet Your Candidates

The municipal election takes place on October 22 and campaigning for the positions of Mayor, Deputy Mayor and Councillors will probably begin in earnest in September.

The first thing you should know is that there will be no paper ballots this year. All voting will take place electronically. Votes can be cast either online through the internet or by telephone. Voting begins on October 12 at 10:00 a.m. and continues through to 8:00 p.m. on October 22.

To vote, residents should check first that they are on the voters list by going to: www.voterlookup.ca. This list is managed by MPAC, the group that compiles Ontario property assessment values for municipalities. Next you’ll want to identify candidates running in your Council ward. Innisfil has 7 wards. Go to: www.getinvolvedinnisfil.ca/innisfilvotes2018 to view a map with Innisfil’s ward boundaries.

Now, meet your candidates …

For Mayor

  • Barb Baguley
  • Stan Daurio
  • Lynn Dollin

For Deputy Mayor

  • Paul Best
  • Dan Davidson
  • Steven Fishman
  • Angela Gravelle
  • Henry Kooistra

Candidates & profiles, (Innisfil Votes)

Ward 2 is not being contested and Bill Van Berkel has been acclaimed as Councillor. Candidates for all other wards are on the Official List of Certified Candidates.

What do you think are the most important municipal issues?

Regrets? Eventually

I purposely sat out the provincial election period. Regular readers would have a sense of where I stand. It was interesting to watch it all unfold but I think the “record” voter turnout of 58% is still a disgrace.

We got a party and new government that deliberately failed to present a full and honest accounting of its platform and deliberately avoided press and public scrutiny. With people voting ‘against’ instead of ‘for’, they didn’t have to. Still weeks away from being sworn in, I wonder now how long it will be before regret sets in over this government. These are some of the things that might concern us sooner or later:  Continue reading

Anger vs. Answers

So far, our provincial election campaign is a tiring affair already. The Conservative candidate, and presumptive premier, has been flinging outrage and empty slogans into the air. One of the more bizarre, and distressing pronouncements is that, “I don’t govern through the government”. Wow! It sounds like the radical right south of the border who want to gut their institutions. Has no one told Doug Ford that there is no “I” in government? Does he realize we still have a parliamentary democracy made up of elected representatives? – the “people” he is supposed to be listening to?

His idea to open a “big chunk” of the greenbelt to development revealed not only that he was woefully uninformed about this critical issue but also politically out of touch with the popular consensus. The fact that he modestly credited the idea to the “biggest developers in the country” marks him as a loose cannon and an easy mark for powerful lobbyists. Worse, his party establishment tried, initially, to back this off-the-cuff proposal showing that it is a hostage to his rambling ideas, not unlike a certain circus situation elsewhere.

Never mind that “opening” the greenbelt would accomplish nothing. A whole network of water and sewage pipes would have to be built first. And that would have to be paid for by you through your property tax, dear reader, as a resident of your municipality, long before any “affordable” housing was built in those pristine fields far from any amenities. The money is theoretically recovered later through development charges and the property taxes of new residents.

For decades Innisfil has wanted to build an industrial park west of hwy 400. An original plan proposed including hundreds of new houses and thousands of new residents to justify putting in the necessary pipes. The Places to Grow plan eliminated that sprawl option. The 50 or so businesses that would occupy an industrial park alone could not support the millions of dollars required to install services. Innisfil then approached developers about having them chip in up-front for the cost of services but they declined. So, an Innisfil industrial park remains a ‘pipe’ dream.

So, we’re back to raging at Ontario Hydro. Fire the bums! Replace the Board! Sure. But what’s the policy principle? Why not tackle all corporate greed? What’s good for Ontario Hydro is, I assume, good for the rest of them. We’re long on anger, short on answers.

Is it a good idea to cancel all future generating contracts? Will eliminating time-of-use metering help? Should we go all-in on renewable energy, or conservation? Should Hydro One be brought back into public ownership?

No one proposes lowering your taxes, but the conservative mantra is to lower corporate tax rate to create jobs. How’s that working? Canadian banks, for example, are flush with cash but what are they doing with it? “… the most likely use for the Big Six’s estimated combined $14 billion in excess capital will be share buybacks to appease investors disappointed with the performance of Canadian bank stocks versus their U.S. peers.” (Will Big 6 Banks Flush with Cash Buy US Banks?, April 16, 2018) So far, personal income tax provides 21.8% of provincial revenue while less than half of that, 10.6%, comes from corporations (2017).

If people are angry, it’s with the financial and political imbalance of power. People are fed up with corporations telling us what taxes they will pay (the least), what wages they will pay (the minimum), and where they will locate businesses (where governments buckle under). “People” have a right to organize their societies as they wish through their democratic governments. And we have some tough decisions to make.