What’s going on with the mayor’s expenses? By Kate Harries AWARE News Network
A hearing was held at Osgoode Hall just before Christmas, marking the latest chapter in the two-and-a-half-year saga of an audit launched by former Springwater deputy mayor Dan McLean of Springwater Mayor Bill French’s 2014 campaign expenses.
On December 18 2017, a panel of three judges heard the two men’s opposing applications for a judicial review of a decision by the township’s compliance audit committee to reject an audit and order a new one.
A decision should be released soon. This is an outline of some of the issues, who the players are, and what has happened so far.
Full disclosure: I am a member of the board of AWARE Simcoe, which endorsed French’s candidacy for mayor in 2014.
SOME OF THE PLAYERS
-Dan McLean, retired from Ontario Realty Corp., Springwater deputy mayor 2010-2014, defeated by Don Allen in the 2014 election. Earlier, a member of the Elmvale Village Council.
-Bill French, retired businessman, Springwater mayor since 2014 when he defeated incumbent Linda Collins. Had previously made an unsuccessful run for the mayoralty in 2010, to be defeated by Collins.
-Robert Barlow, Orillia lawyer, chair of the three-man compliance audit committee.
-George Wodoslawsky, principal of AFG Waters & Associates, described as a business management service; chair of the Oro-Medonte Chamber of Commerce; member of the compliance audit committee.
-Colin McLarty, accountant and member of the compliance audit committee. A Springwater resident in 2014, when he supported McLean in the municipal election. He’s listed as a principal on a website for a business consultancy, GOM360, along with former Springwater councillor Rick Webster.
-Jack Siegel, of Blaney McMurtry, McLean’s lawyer, acts for Premier Kathleen Wynne and the Ontario Liberal Party, chairs the federal Liberals’ green light committee, which decides which candidates may seek nomination. Specializes in worker’s compensation law, and election and political law. In a recent controversy involving Brampton Mayor Linda Jeffrey, charged $600 an hour.
-Renatta Austin, French’s lawyer, called to the bar in 2013, works in criminal, family and administrative law. On her website, she expresses her support for accessibility to justice and states she offers affordable fees to that end.
-Jody Johnson of Aird & Berlis, lawyer for the compliance audit committee.
-Melanie Dugard, a principal with accounting firm Grant Thornton.
-John Daly, Springwater Township clerk from February 2010 to March 2016. Now Simcoe County clerk. Provided administrative support and advice to the compliance audit committee, as well as to the mayor and the township.
Under the Municipal Elections Act, an auditor appointed by the compliance audit committee is required to “promptly” conduct an audit and “prepare a report outlining any apparent contravention by the candidate.” The committee shall consider the report and may decide whether to commence legal proceedings under the act.
A 2010 ruling in a case involving Vaughan Mayor Linda Jackson found that it is not up to the auditor to determine whether an apparent contravention is a real contravention. That determination is ultimately made by a court, after a committee’s decision has been filtered through a municipal council and a prosecutor.
Alleged NON-COMPLIANCES, JULY 20-21 2015
While the complaint filed by McLean in June contained a raft of accusations, at the July 20 hearing Siegel focused on five areas: office expenses; brochures; phone and internet charges; contributions; and signage. Committee chair Robert Barlow deemed these complaints unreasonable, and found no contraventions had occurred. But the two other committee members disagreed and voted to order an audit of French’s campaign expenses
APPARENT NON-COMPLIANCES, OCTOBER 23 2015
That led to the Grant Thornton audit in which five apparent non-compliances were identified. They were that:
-Various campaign expenses were paid by French’s wife Lorraine, not from the campaign account. However the amounts – totaling $5,700 in expenses, as well as $6,200 as spouse’s contribution – were disclosed on the candidate’s ‘Form 4’ declaration. The error was that she did not deposit the contribution in the campaign account prior to making the payments.
-Ten hours of website maintenance worth an estimated $500 were not included on Form 4.
-A web hosting expense of $300 was not recorded on Form 4.
-300 H-stakes were loaned to the campaign. Their replacement value of $375 was not recorded on Form 4.
- A gift of some signs and hats from a firm, Genesis 2 Inc., was incorrectly recorded as a contribution from an individual.
The legislation’s purpose is to prevent candidates from “buying” an election, by setting spending limits. French did not go over the limit; he spent some $5,000 under his $20,363.90 limit, to a total of $15,298.75, including the extra $1,175 identified in the audit. In a written submission to the committee in October 2015, French acknowledged error in three instances, and disputed the findings in relation to the web hosting and the H-stakes.
GRANT THORNTON AUDIT REJECTED OCTOBER 23 2015
However, the committee did not publicly consider these more specific issues, nor French’s submission regarding them - instead voting unanimously to reject the audit and to order a new one from Froese Forensic Partners Ltd.
For Barlow, it was a sea-change from his position three months earlier. What was new? For one thing, a suite of complaints in the days leading up to the hearing, amounting to a wholesale attack by Siegel on the conduct of auditor Melanie Dugard, and raising issues around the process and ambiguities in the legislation.
- Dugard, the Grant Thornton auditor, was said not to have understood her role, as evidenced by a letter of engagement that may be interpreted as showing prejudgment; by refusing to meet with McLean (on issues that included allegations of free advertising for French in the Springwater News); and by her insistence that the firm was retained by the township, not the compliance audit committee.
(Claims against Dugard/Grant Thornton were dismissed in January 2017 by Madam Justice Frances Kiteley as “devoid of merit.” Costs of $14,000 were awarded to the firm, and $1,500 to French, to be paid by McLean.).
-French as mayor signed the auditor’s letter of engagement (in an affidavit, he states that he did so at the request of then township clerk John Daly, to show that he would cooperate with the audit). Siegel claims that, as the candidate under scrutiny, his signing was improper.
-The committee retained a firm of auditors rather than an individual auditor as indicated by the wording of the legislation. (The committee actually repeated this error in naming Froese Forensic Partners as Grant Thornton’s replacement.)
The committee’s refusal to consider the audit was an astonishing outcome. French’s Renatta Austin protested at the prejudice to her client by the adjournment of the hearing, leaving him unable to speak to the merits of the audit.
JUDICIAL REVIEW DECEMBER 18 2017
Three judges heard the competing judicial review applications. In brief:
-Austin representing French argued that the committee acted unreasonably, and outside its jurisdiction, and having exceeded its 30-day limit to consider the auditor’s report and make a decision, has no further authority. However, Austin told the court, French is willing to compromise by going back to matters as they stood on October 23 2015, for the committee to consider the Grant Thornton audit report and decide whether or not to start legal proceedings.
-Siegel representing McLean asked for French’s application to be dismissed, and asked the court to “provide guidance” on issues such as whether the committee has the right to appoint a firm rather than an individual auditor, whether a forensic audit is a compliance audit, and whether the 30-day limit is “mandatory” or “directory.”
The judges reserved their decision.
-July 28 2014 The councils of Oro-Medonte and Springwater, headed by mayors Harry Hughes and Linda Collins, appoint a joint compliance committee consisting of Orillia lawyer Robert Barlow, Oro-Medonte businessman George Wodoslawsky and Springwater accountant Colin McLarty.
-October 27 2014 Municipal election: Mayoral candidate Bill French (3,426 votes) defeats incumbent Linda Collins (2,468) and former mayor Tony Guergis (581). For deputy mayor, Don Allen won (3,133), beating McLean (2,811).
-June 24 2015 McLean applies for an audit of French’s expenses, just one day ahead of the deadline.
-July 20 2015 Compliance audit committee’s first meeting. About 30 members of the public attend the day-long hearing. McLean is represented by Siegel, French represents himself.
-July 21 2015 The committee delivers a 2-1 decision appointing Grant Thornton to do the audit.
-September 25 2015 Grant Thornton delivers its audit report, identifying five instances of apparent non-compliance with the Municipal Elections Act in French’s financial statement.
-October 23 2015 The committee holds its second public hearing. Siegel objects to the audit report.
-November 11, 2015 The committee appoints a new auditor, Froese Forensic Partners Ltd.
-November 30, 2015 French applies for a judicial review of the committee’s decision, with McLean, the committee and Springwater Township as the respondents.
-July 18 2016 McLean also applies for a judicial review, with Grant Thornton, French, the compliance audit committee and Springwater Township as the respondents.
-January 5 2017 A hearing is held before Madam Justice Frances Kiteley at Osgoode Hall on an application to dismiss McLean’s application as it relates to Grant Thornton. Collingwood lawyer Harold Elston acts for Grant Thornton and the township.
-January 31 2017 Madam Justice Kiteley dismisses McLean’s application against Grant Thornton.
-November 13 2017 The most recent in 14 behind-closed-doors meetings of the compliance audit committee since November 30 2015. Almost all meetings have been attended by Jody Johnson, the lawyer retained by the committee.
-December 18 2017 A judicial review panel – consisting of Justices Sidney Lederman, Anne Molloy and Michael Quigley - hears the competing applications from Austin and Siegel, representing French and McLean.
Courtroom attendance was sparse.
Robert Barlow and Colin McLarty, two of the three-member compliance audit committee, were there with their lawyer Johnson, as well as Mayor Bill French and his wife Lorraine, French’s lawyer Renatta Austin, township lawyer Harold Elston, and this writer, for the Springwater News and AWARE News Network.
Not present while Siegel was presenting arguments on his behalf was the man in whose name all this is going forward: Dan McLean.
Tiny Mayor George Cornell
A review of 2017
Happy New Year! Bon Annee! Well it’s hard to believe that another year has come and gone. I remember my parents telling me how time flies, apparently as we get older…ooops!! Awh, but age is just a number – right!
I hope everyone enjoyed the Christmas and Holiday break, despite the weather challenges and managed to find some quality time with family and friends. For many of us it is a festive and joyful time of year but for others in our community it is a time of struggle and challenge. Thank you to all those that volunteer and reach out at this time of year to support those in need. A particular thank you to the staff in Tiny who supported families through our local Salvation Army, well done!!
I would be remiss not to send a shout out to our Public Works staff for doing their best to keep up with the weather this past week or so, wow what a challenge…a big thank you to all for a job well done!
With 2107 now in our rear view mirror, I think it’s important to remind ourselves of how the year went.
First let me say thank you to Council, staff and our residents it is an honour for me to serve as the Mayor of our beautiful Township. 2017 was again a very busy and productive year and below I have tried to capture some of the highlights as we continue to move forward with the implementation of our 2015-2020 Strategic Plan:
Governance and Service Improvements:
- Public Works began the implementation of the PW Organization Review designed to provide for better in-house efficiencies, service delivery, and reduced outsourcing costs. Through our 2018 budget deliberations Council was able to see early wins from the changes to date and we look forward to more in 2018.
- An internal Customer Care Committee was formed and tasked with the development of a Customer Service Policy.
- Council approved the formation of a Senior Advisory Committee. The committee with community input has completed a Local Aging Plan which will provide the guidance and direction for the committee to move forward and help ensure that Tiny becomes an even better place for our seniors to live, stay active and remain engaged.
- We completed a Master Fire Plan, recommendations have been prioritized by the Fire Chief and are being considered by Council.
- A new township wide Master Recreation Plan was launched and is well underway.
- In accordance with Section 17 of the Planning Act, Tiny has prepared a draft Official Plan that sets out where and how the Township will grow over the next 20 years. The first Public Open House was held and numerous comments were received and will be taken into consideration. We will have more public consultations in 2018 as we undertake the review and finalizing of The Official Plan.
- Tiny was the recipient of the Ontario Municipal Social Services Association (OMSSA) Municipal Accessibility Award in recognition of outstanding contributions to both OMSSA and our community; and for recognizing our commitment to plan, manage and deliver quality human services in Ontario.
- The Township and Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) entered into a Section 10 Contract for the provision of police services for the Township. A Police Services Board (PSB) is in the process of being set up. The new PSB will replace our existing OPP/Community Policing Advisory Committee.
- First year of our invasive species strategy implementation, including taking the lead on creating an Invasive Species Co-ordinator position through the Severn Sound Environmental Association (SSEA)
- In 2017, the community and sponsors supported 9 local charities through the Mayor’s Charity Golf Tournament and Dinner, raising over $60,000. Funds raised also provided for $5,000 in bursaries for Township of Tiny post-secondary students.
Improvements to Public Spaces:
- The ‘Protecting our Pollinators’ Project was launched in 2017 benefitting pollinators such as bees and butterflies by creating and enhancing pollinator gardens and meadows throughout the Township. The Pollinator team planted wildflowers to increase the biodiversity of flowers and creating more pollinator habitat. The program was partially funded through a Provincial grant and provided seasonal employment opportunities for the youth in our community.
- Our new Wyevale Park Soccer pitches were officially opened in 2017 being the first full season for soccer programming on the new pitches.
- Clean up and continued development of the LaFontaine Beach Park including the installation of the Township’s first fully accessible playground. A bocce court and a gazebo are planned for 2018.
- Installation of accessibility Mobi-Mats at Balm Beach and Jackson’s Park.
- Grand Opening of our Arboretum at CBO Park and extended tree planting at Wyevale Park.
- Full season of our new dog park at CBO.
- Our immemorial Tree and Bench Program had its first full year in operation.
Beach Enjoyment Strategy for Tiny (BEST):
- The Township acquired significant beach front properties at Balm Beach and Plan 691(South of Concession 11) in keeping with Council’s direction to improve public access to municipally owned beaches.
- 2017 was the first year of the township wide parking program. After the success of our pilot parking program in 2016, we expanded the program to include all of the township. While many of the changes we made worked very well there are a few areas that require further investigation. We solicited the public’s feedback and have begun our discussions to determine the changes required for 2018.
A busy and productive year indeed and in addition to the above we held numerous events to encourage community engagement – two town hall meetings, our community BBQ, National Health and Fitness Day, sponsorship of the Farm Fresh Food Fest and our annual Christmas tree lighting!!
From Patrick Brown - Ontario’s dirty little secret is the growing mental health care crisis in our province.
I’ve heard stories from across the province about families who have had the courage to step forward and seek treatment, only to be turned away because the resources and supports aren’t there.
Presently there are 6,000 children who have been waiting one year for treatment for mental health concerns, and in some regions of the province wait times for mental health services are up to 18 months.
When you go to the hospital with a broken leg, you receive immediate care. Why is it that if you go in for care with a mental health issue you’re asked to wait for a year and a half for treatment and how did we get here?
In 1979, 11 per cent of Ontario’s healthcare budget was spent on mental health. Today, after decades of talk, we spend only 6.7 per cent.
In the 2017 budget, the Wynne Liberals budgeted only $74 million over three years while knowing that the province is due to receive close to $400 million from the federal government for mental health during that same period.
Our province should be leaders when it comes to this important issue. The Wynne Liberals had the opportunity to show leadership in the 2017 budget, and they failed.
This is not the Ontario I grew up in, this is not the Ontario we should be striving for, and this is not the Ontario that I want to build.
This is why, should the Ontario PCs have the honour of forming government later this year, I have promised to invest $1.9 billion into mental health care services over a decade - the largest provincial investment in our country’s history.
This matches the commitment made by the federal government, which will bring the total Ontario commitment to $3.8 billion over the next decade.
This will include targeted investments to reduce wait times, funding for mental health supports on college and university campuses, topping up elementary and secondary school supports, services for Indigenous populations, and investing in the Alzheimer Society of Canada’s First Link program. This also includes funding for Simcoe County, and will help to address security issues at Waypoint Centre for Mental Healthcare.
No Ontario family should be left waiting for needed care. No one should be battling through Ontario’s chronically underfunded system.
The Ontario PCs aren’t going to settle for this. I’m not going to settle for this.
We’re going to fix this by showing the leadership our province desperately needs.
Canada Summer Jobs 2018
Canada Summer Jobs is an initiative begun by the previous Conservative government in 2007. It provides funding to not-for-profit organizations, public-sector employers and small businesses with 50 or fewer employees, to create summer job opportunities for young people aged 15 to 30 who are full-time students intending to return to their studies in the next school year.
If you are a not-for-profit employer and your application is approved, you can receive up to 100 percent of the provincial minimum hourly wage and mandatory employment-related costs. If you are a public sector employer or a small business employer with 50 or fewer employees, you can receive up to 50 percent of the provincial minimum hourly wage.
Since its inception, this program has been a great success, and has helped to strengthen local economies across Canada, offering new and meaningful opportunities for both students and employers. I encourage all employers and not-for-profit organizations in our community to take a look at the application online, which can be found at www.servicecanada.gc.ca/csj
This year, the government has introduced a new eligibility requirement for the Canada Summer Jobs Program, which both new and previous applicants will need to be aware of. Starting this year, applicants will be required to attest that “both the job and the organization’s core mandate respect individual human rights in Canada, including the values underlying the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as other rights. These include reproductive rights and the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of sex, religion, race, national or ethnic origin, colour, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.”
MPP Patrick Brown’s Free MP Alex Nuttall Family Day Events on February 19, 2018
Simcoe North MPP Patrick Brown will be hosting two free activities for the community and he invites you to join him to celebrate Family Day on February 19, 2018. "Take time to celebrate Family Day with those you love. Enjoy your time together and come out and build some community spirit" said Brown. "Everyone is invited! "Brown will be hosting a family skate at The Roller Skating Place located at ODAS Park, 4500 Fairgrounds Road in Orillia, for free roller skating from 1-4 PM.
In addition, Brown and Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte MP Alex Nuttall will host an afternoon of family ice skating from 1-3 PM at the Oro-Medonte Community Arena located at Hwy. 11& Line 4 N. The event runs from 1-3 PM with complimentary hot chocolate available. MP Alex Nuttall added, "A great way to spend some quality time with the family! I encourage everyone to come on out, start a new family tradition and make some wonderful memories," said MP Nuttall. "See you on the ice!"
I hope everyone has gotten 2018 off to a great start.
There are a couple of updates I wanted to make sure that you heard about, the first concerns the Canada Summer Jobs program, and the second relates to a recent announcement from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) about filing your 2017 taxes.
As you may have heard, the Canada Summer Jobs (CSJ) program is now open for applications, until February 2, 2018. The CSJ program provides wage subsidies to employers to create employment for secondary and post-secondary students. Again this year, CSJ welcomes applications from small businesses, not-for-profit employers, public sector and faith-based organizations that provide quality summer jobs for students.
CSJ has three objectives:
- providing work experiences for students
- supporting organizations, including those that provide important community services
- recognizing that local circumstances, community needs and priorities vary widely
I have heard from a number of local businesses and organizations about how helpful the CSJ program has been to them, and want to make sure as many as possible have an opportunity to benefit in 2018.
For more information on the CSJ program, or to obtain an application kit, please visit http://www.canada.ca/canada-summer-jobs
The second update concerns the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), which recently announced a new service they are rolling out called File my Return. This will allow Canadians with low income, or who are on a fixed income that is unchanged from year-to-year, to file their income tax and benefit return over the phone. The CRA estimates that approximately 950,000 Canadians will be eligible for File my Return, and if you are eligible, you will receive a personal letter inviting you to use this new service starting in February 2018.
File my Return uses information the CRA has on record plus answers the user gives during their automated phone call to complete and file income tax and benefit returns. It allows all the deductions, benefits and credits the user is eligible for. The File my Return service is available 21 hours a day, from 6 a.m. to 3 a.m., Eastern time, 7 days a week, throughout the tax-filing season.
I will post updates on the File My Return service as it becomes available on my website, www.brucestantonmp.ca
The Mayor’s Report Bill French
Wishing you a happy and prosperous 2018!
Master Recreation Plan
Council met this week to further discuss long term plans for recreation facilities and programs that will impact residents for the next 15 years. As many, know there are plans to build a multi purpose recreation facility in the south end in the Midhurst area. As Springwater grows and attracts new residents, newcomers who come from larger urban centres, have an expectation of these enhanced services such as more indoor rinks, gyms and pools. These all come with a significant cost and are dependent on Development Charges from new development to make them viable. Unfortunately the timing of development is unpredictable and impacts the short and long term debt of the Township. In an article a few weeks ago a resident noted the projected increase in the Township’s debt over the next 5 years growing from about $6M today to $45M which aside from general ongoing infrastructure improvements, will be mainly a result of the possible building of a new Multi Purpose Recreation facility and new library in Midhurst, based on projected growth. Much of that debt will be paid back by DC’s as development proceeds, but we do not control the timing of development nor the general state of the economy or changing government policies that impact growth. That is one of the reasons that, as we develop our long term financial plan, we need to find mechanisms to ensure monies are available to finance these DC funded growth projects. I appreciate having competitive services like Barrie, but duplicating facilities that are a five minute drive away in Barrie still does not make sense to me. I do like some of the projects that we as a Council approved over the last two years that will provide improved local recreation services in our local communities. A few examples are the new pavilion under construction in Midhurst, the addition of hockey boards in Hillsdale and plans for local tennis courts in Snow Valley. All these projects are reasonable in construction costs and the predictability of revenues to offset operating costs are virtually certain and do not add an undue burden on the taxpayer. We seem to forget that many move to Springwater because of a quieter, less hectic lifestyle and good old fashion open spaces and fresh air. I hope we never lose sight of how unique Springwater really is.
Changing Provincial Policies
For those that follow planning and provincial policies, the past year has seen a frenzy of changes that on the surface have many benefits, but are and will be challenging for the Township, creating a lot of uncertainty for the future plans for Springwater. We have expressed concern with designating authority to the County for population growth allocations, which seems to somewhat counter the claim that the Province is allowing the local municipality more control over future development. But of a greater concern to the agricultural community is the possible impact from new initiatives such as the new Agricultural and Natural Heritage Mapping along with the potential expansion of the Greenbelt. I support these policies in general but have expressed a caveat that these new policies must consider, and if necessary, offset whatever costs our farming community will encounter if and when incorporated. It is great to have grants to improve watercourses by planting trees and natural native vegetation, but little consideration has been given to the possible loss of expensive productive farmland. When it comes to the Greenbelt, our Council passed a resolution asking the province to host one of their consultation meetings in Springwater, as currently the Greenbelt expansion study area covers over half the Township. We do need to protect our natural environment, fresh water resources and mitigate the impacts of dramatic weather events, but the entire burden should not be borne by the agricultural community as without them we will all be eating a lot of food from sources where there is little control over its production. There must be a balance.
I do receive calls over the winter after a severe weather event with complaints that their road is not open and impacts their ability to get to work. The reality is that everyone in the Township would like the snowplow routes to start in front of their house at 5 a.m. We know that is not feasible, but we do continually review routes timing and try to maximize the use of the equipment in both an efficient and effective manner. But there are some things that we all can do to help the cause and allow roads to be cleaned faster and more effectively. Just a reminder that no one is allowed to deposit their snow from driveways, laneways, etc. on any public road or ditch. I was surprised recently, travelling home through Centre Vespra, that someone simply plowed their driveway snow into a 3 foot pile on the travelled section of Sunnidale Road. Aside from being against the law it created a potential hazard if a vehicle hit it unexpectedly, lost control and caused an accident. I can guarantee the homeowner would be sued. Plowing heavy, ice laden snow into area ditches can cause unexpected flow backups and again could become a potential liability for the offending party. Please use common sense when cleaning driveways and deposit the snow on your own property and don’t blow it onto the neighbour’s property unless you have their permission.
Residential Development in Springwater
Springwater Township has experienced a healthy average residential growth rate of about 3% annually for about a decade. The good news is that this rate of growth is manageable, and costs are predicable, avoiding erratic tax rate changes, which I know everyone appreciates. Homes continue to be built in Elmvale and Centre Vespra along with some smaller developments throughout the Township. Hillsdale has plans for some development in the future which means that the Township can retain its enviable financial status and grow responsibly. I do believe as we move forward we need more multi unit buildings in both the north and south to allow some of those retiring and moving off the farm to move into low maintenance, low operating cost residential units close to where they spent their lives.
Road Safety Concerns-Grenfel-Sunnidale Road
Many are aware that with the redesign of Sunnidale Road from Pinegrove and CR90, more commuters to Base Borden and Alliston, use this route. There has been a concern about speed through the Grenfel Community Area from Grenfel Road to Pinegrove as there are over 15 access points from roads and driveways, along with the fact that the route in this area has a variety of topography and multiple curves. There have been a number of accidents over the years including a fatal collision. Councillor McConkey and I toured the route with senior County staff, had Council support a motion to reduce speed in this area and met last week with senior management at the County. The bad news is that the County only changes speeds based on guidelines from the government which are called warrants and at this time they state the area does not warrant a reduction in speed. I am very disappointed that the desires of most residents in the area to reduce the speed are being ignored.
Mayors Open Visiting Hours
If you would like to meet with me on any matter you can always arrange an appointment or if in the neighbourhood of the Administrative Centre you can drop by any Thursday afternoons from 1 to 4:00 p.m. and no appointment is required. I invite you to bring your complaints, concerns or even appreciation for what is happening in Springwater. I have had numerous people come by and in some cases we have resolved some simple issues. If nothing else I promise that you will be heard. The door is open. If you can’t make it and want to keep up to date, you can listen to my thoughts on matters of interest on our local Kool FM or Rock 95 or go to their website as they have a feature with a monthly interview with me hosted by Dan Blakely.
Keep informed and involved with Springwater by checking out our website www.springwwater.ca and especially our calendar of meetings. Tune into our live streaming of the Council Meetings at www.springwater.ca/live . Stay close to the action and read this excellent local paper, the Springwater News, and check out our regular Springwater Link and Council Corner columns. Be part of the solution and have your say.
A reminder these articles are my thoughts and perspectives on issues and I am but one voice on Council. These opinions may not reflect the position of other Councillors.
Ward One Report Councillor Katy Austin
Apparently there was a sign at Homer Barrett Park last week saying that the tobogganing hill was closed off for safety reasons. When I contacted Ron Belcourt, the Director of Parks and Recreation, he said that the sign had been put up last spring when the conditions made the hill unsafe to use and it was not removed once the hill was useable again this winter. It was brought to his attention and he instructed staff to remove it. So, it’s safe to use the hill again. With all this cold weather, I noticed that the ice on the outdoor rink at the park was in beautiful condition last Friday.
Council had another session this past Monday to review the recommendations of the Recreation Master Plan document. I brought up the idea of considering off-leash dog parks in the Township, but Council will need to hear from more than just a few dog-owners that there is a demand for such facilities. Also, there is a plan to add accessible playground equipment somewhere in the Township, but we are not sure where; I am open to suggestions as to the best location for such equipment.
From 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., prior to its regular meeting on January 17th, David Phillips of Environment Canada will provide a presentation to Council on the effects of Climate Change. Interested residents are welcome to attend.
The Springwater Indoor Market returns for the month of January every Friday from 10am - 2pm at the Elmvale Community Hall.
Because of extreme weather conditions and larger volumes of holiday waste, the County of Simcoe Waste Collection services have experienced significant delays lately. The severe cold negatively impacts the first generation compressed natural gas engines, limiting the number of trucks able to make collections and impacts the health and safety of collection crews operating in these extreme cold temperatures. Residents are asked to be patient and to continue to place their waste materials out for collection on their scheduled day and leave out until 7:00 p.m. as crews are working late in an effort to catch up. For those missed last week there will be leniency on garbage bag limits.
A female, mastiff cross was picked up on Hwy 27 just south of Elmvale. If she belongs to you, please contact the Barrie OSPCA at 705-728-7311.
Deputy Don’s Update - by Don Allen
Happy New Year All.
New Skating/Snowshoeing Trails
We had a great time over the holidays using the Simcoe County Museum Skating Trail and Snowshoe Trail. Located at the Simcoe Museum grounds at 1151 Highway 26 - facilities are open Tuesday 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Thursday, Friday 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday/Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Great hot chocolate after you finish!
We have all witnessed the problems with garbage pickup over the holiday season. Waste collection is run by Simcoe County, including recycling and organics. County Council this week reviewed the problems as follows: Waste collection services were not able to be completed in some areas over the holidays despite crews working late into the evenings, working on Sunday December 31st and the addition of resources from another contracted service provider to assist with the backlog. Crews have been reaching the maximum number of hours that they are legally able to operate a vehicle and the maximum number of days in a row they are legally able to work. The blowing snow and frigid temperatures experienced of late resulted in days when equipment simply would not function, staff must take numerous breaks to warm-up and the extremely high holiday waste volumes and buried materials slows collection efforts substantially. Just 10 seconds extra at each collection location results in an extra 2.5 hours of additional time per route. Extra volumes also mean extra trips to discharge full vehicles, which reduces the amount of time spent on-route collecting. Extra trucks were brought in to provide service from other districts and another service provider’s resources; staff has stayed very late each night and worked on Sunday in an effort to catch-up. These significant extra costs are not passed on to the County.
It is an extremely difficult, thankless and at times dangerous job which our waste collectors perform. We sincerely appreciate the challenges faced by collection crews and hope for your patience as we work to catch-up. Extra equipment and staff are on duty for this week in order to assist in the collection effort. There will continue to be double up collection in the garbage limit for those areas missed. Alternatively, residents may bring household waste to a County waste facility during regular operating hours for free up until Saturday January 13th. For updates on waste collection impacts, please visit www.simcoe.ca or call the County of Simcoe at 705-735-6901.
Sunnidale Road Speed Limit
County Road 40 / Sunnidale Road was recently re-aligned with Pinegrove Road in conjunction with the reconstruction of County Road 90. During the construction the speed limit was temporarily lowered to 60 km/h. The construction has since been completed and the speed limit was raised back to the original posted 80 km/h. Springwater Council requested that the County permanently reduce the speed limit from 80 km/h to 60 km/h on a portion of Sunnidale Road from Grenfel Road to County Road 90. County monitored the speeds along Sunnidale during and after construction. To determine appropriate speed limits on County roadways the Transportation and Engineering Department uses the Transportation Association of Canada’s Canadian Guidelines for Establishing Posted Speed Limits. Many risk factors were taken into account, including average lane width, horizontal and vertical geometry, pedestrian and cyclist exposure, number of intersections with public roads as well as number of private access driveways. Based on this, County staff recommended that the existing speed limit of 80 km/h be maintained. Mayor French and Councillor McConkey have brought forward additional more current information to staff and Council voted this week to defer this decision until this is presented to Council to review and consider.
Snow Valley Road Bike Lanes and Paved Shoulders
The Ontario Municipal Commuter Cycling Program (OMCCP) was established by the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) to provide dedicated funding to municipalities to support the construction and improvement of commuter cycling infrastructure. The program receives proceeds from Ontario’s cap and trade program. The aim of the program is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles by encouraging people to cycle as part of their daily commute. The OMCCP funds up to 80% eligible project costs, with the County contributing the remaining 20%. One of the approved projects projected to be completed in 2018 involves paved shoulders and bike lanes on Snow Valley Road from Bayfield to Anne Street, costing a total of $410,000, to be funded 100% by the OMCCP and County funding. A fair bit of the proposed bike lanes will be off road, connecting to the existing trail off road in Snow Valley. Potential ridership is estimated to be approximately 5,000 persons within a 5km radius.
These are my thoughts and interpretations of these topics and not necessarily those of Council.
Dick’s Tiny Corner by Dick Wesselo.
2018 has arrived! Happy belated New Year to all! Sandy and I survived the Holidays, albeit with a few unscheduled and impromptu adjustments. As some of you will recall, we lost our dog Angus just before Christmas a year ago. Sandy has been looking for another pup during the last few months and low and behold, Friday before Christmas, we received the word that one had become available. Training a pup when the weather is as cold as it has been over the last few weeks, creates challenges. I am glad to report though that life with the new pup is improving and that occasionally we manage to get three hours of undisturbed sleep. So glad that life goes on!
This week’s column is a bit shorter than usual as the past weeks were filled with time spent enjoying family and friends and looking after Bear the pup! Even though last Monday saw a Committee of the Whole meeting for Tiny, the preparation and the timeline for the submission of the column is unfortunately such that the recommendations from Tiny’s Jan. 8/2018 CoW meeting cannot be included in this edition.
My hat goes off to those folks who braved the Balm Beach Polar Dip this year and those residents and others who came along for support. Many swims were cancelled this year in Ontario because of the extremely cold weather, but not in Tiny. I have to admit, in spite of good intentions, puppy induced lack of sleep motivated me to stay home.
The cold weather and the Holidays have caused havoc within the County’s Waste Collection processes. Many residents were not aware of the change in pickup dates during the holidays. Combine this confusion with the larger than normal volumes of waste resulting from Christmas gifts and dinner parties, the recent snow storms and extreme cold temperatures. The cold weather also negatively impacts the operation of the garbage trucks and the safety of collection crews. In addition, Holiday volumes and snow-covered materials increase the pick-up time required for collectors. County statistics remind us that just an extra 10 seconds at each pick-up location can add up to 2.5 extra hours of collection time to each route. Increased garbage volume also increases the number of trips to the transfer stations for the trucks to unload the collected material. This further reduces the available en-route collection time. The County asks us all for patience and consideration. In turn they promise us some leniency on the bag limits during the next week’s pickup.
Snow removal has generally gone well in the Township thus far this season. However, the Township’s December overtime bill will no doubt be significant. The Roads Department managed to keep the roads passable which allowed us all to move about. There were the usual local area trouble spots this time around as well and they did not let us down. Crossland Road south of the 3rd Concession and County Road 6 between the 12th and the 13th Concession were two noteworthy such areas.
Residents are reminded that it is an offence under the Highway Traffic Act (section 181) to blow snow onto and across the road. Common courtesy and consideration for your neighbours should tell us that one does not move or blow snow onto and/or across the road, into Municipal ditches or onto neighboring properties, whether private or publicly owned. There are Bylaws in Tiny and in most other Municipalities that address and govern this issue. As residents we know these rules, so please adhere to them! And if you are not sure about what you can or cannot do with the snow from your property, please call Tiny’s Bylaw Office for advice.
Several readers have expressed their concerns to me about the ongoing (almost 400k!), Villageois tax-arrears issue. Like me, everyone wants a solution to the issue. One reader felt I was very unfair to the entity in my reporting on the issue.
I would like that reader to know that I fully recognize the complications of this matter. Regardless of mitigating circumstances, if any, there are mechanisms in place for property owners to deal with their property tax assessments if a disagreement arises over the assessed value. Rightly or wrongly, agreements were made in the past for the parties to adhere to. Trying to sweep the issue under the rug does not resolve it. We all should be aware as well that the Township must pay the School and County components of the property tax bill when due. Neither entity cares if the money is collected by the Township or not. Prior to penalties and interest, 2/3rds of the 400k owing comes to roughly $225,000, a significant amount in my books and a direct amount we, as Tiny residents, are collectively already out of pocket. The Township could have done a lot with that money. To put the amount in perspective, $225K works out to approximately $240.00 per property/household. Contrary to the allegations made in the referred to email, I am acutely aware of the sensitivities surrounding the issue. I am also very aware of the fact that no other Tiny resident who incurred tax arrears during the last 10 years has received the patience from the various Councils that the Villageois has received. Several Tiny residents will be able to attest to the double standard the matter has created. That is my primary concern.
Should the Township decide to forget (and I don’t think they will) about the property taxes affecting the seniors residing in the Villageois, what will they do for the many other seniors in the Township who have or may face financial hardship? The right and fairest solution for everyone in the Township will be for the Villageois Board to asap make a reasonable proposal to the Township that will resolve the issue to everyone’s satisfaction.
I also received some inquiries regarding a letter to the Editor of the Springwater News in the December 28th Edition. The opening line in the letter reads that “In the last three years, Tiny Township Council has raised the Tiny budget by 15% (that’s approximately 5% per year).” Among various items, the letter calls for a 0% increase in MPAC assessment and questions the number of Tiny Staff Members that have found a spot for themselves on the sunshine list.
First, MPAC operates under a provincial mandate with the fruits of their labour going to the Municipalities. An individual Municipality does not (and cannot!) control the value of Residential assessment. The total value of Real Estate in a Municipality is after all determined by the forces of supply and demand. Based on sales data, MPAC has employed a “formula” to determine an assumed market value for every property in a Municipality. An appeal process is in place. Whether that appeal process is fair and equitable is another story. The entire Federal/Provincial/County & Municipal taxation process is questionable in the minds of a lot of people and yours truly is one of them. Personally, I believe the much hated HST is still the most generic and fairest of all. It’s based on consumption. You keep what you earn and the more you consume and spend, the more you pay. However, I digress.
It is ultimately up to the property owner to stir the MPAC pot, if he or she disagrees with the assessment for their property. If we all go along with the assessment that we are provided with, there is no incentive for MPAC to suggest to the Province that its operating methodology changes. So, it is back to us as individuals to collectively drive a change by complaining loudly. Are we collectively prepared to do that?
The Township does set a Municipal tax rate and this rate has the potential of actually going down. The odds are slim, but it has happened. As reported in this last column, Tiny’s 2018 rate will be just under 2%. Compare this to Tay and Springwater Townships. Residents in these Townships will see their municipal taxes rise by just under 3% in 2018. Like the author of the referred to letter, I would have preferred a 0% increase or less as well. Unfortunately, there are many demands placed on the Township to provide services and/or upgrade/improve local infrastructure. From my vantage point, I think Tiny’s Council and Staff have done a very reasonable job managing the processes. Regardless, there is always room for improvement!
The remuneration of the Public Service Staff is a sensitive issue. Always remember that you get what you pay for when it comes to paying Staff. As an employer, one would be silly to not properly compensate capable Staff. If the skills and the demands of the job are easily transferable to another Municipality or Township, the employer walks a bit of a tight rope. Collectively, all of us taxpayers are the employer with the elected Council being the manager of the business. Every Resident in the Township can apply to the taxpayers to be part of the Management Team. That opportunity arises after all once every 4 years during election time. The next opportunity is coming up on Monday, October 27, 2018.
For the record, I believe in merit increases for staff rather than an automatic raise policy for everyone. A Staff member’s annual salary should be individually reviewed and based on the individual’s documented performance. Key in the equation are written performance appraisals. I am unsure how this works exactly works in Tiny but do hope to find out some day.
- 2017-2018 Senior Speaker series. FREE workshops scheduled between November 2017 and March 2018. Visit www.tiny.ca for locations and other details.
- January 15 - Budgeting, Banking & Estate Planning
- January 22 - Senior Safety & Self Defense
- Feb. 4 - In-Home Services; Opening Minds & Doors
- January 29 - Township of Tiny Regular Meeting of Council and Committee of the Whole (9:00AM)
- January 30 - “Our Health” Speaker Series - “Intervention – A Look at the Reality of Addiction” – MCC, Midland
- February 10, 2018 - Winter Carnaval D’Hiver, 11am – 2pm, Perkinsfield Park
- June 7 – Provincial Elections
- Monday, October 27 – Municipal Election Day
- Candidate packages for those interested in running for Municipal Council in 2018 will be available from the Clerk in early spring. Nominations start May 1st and July 27th, 2PM, is the deadline.
One final though. There are just less than 70 days left until Spring. Are you ready?