Tiny Council’s 3-Year performance report
By Frank Hughes and Patricia O’Driscoll
Many of us are unaware of Council activities in our other home away from Tiny such as Toronto, Kitchener, Oshawa or other parts of the province. Why? The simple answer seems to be that there are more eyes glued on activities of those Councils and more rigorous newspaper coverage of their decisions. But in cottage country, the story is different. Any development push from Toronto is now to the north to the open areas where our cottage communities are situated. Tiny is a large, sprawling municipality with 45 miles of shoreline fronting on Georgian Bay. Inland, above the top of the escarpment, there is abundant undeveloped farm land. To protect what we have and what we have paid for with hard earned, aftertax money, we must be vigilant.
As we review the three years of this Council’s term of office, we must ask how well this Council has represented the taxpayers who elected them in November 1991 – how well has this Council represented the taxpayers in the shoreline areas of Tiny who pay some 82% of the total municipal taxes?
Elected municipal councillors have a responsibility to protect their taxpayers and to protect the municipality’s assets. A municipal Council is given no authority by any statute to work against its taxpayers for the benefit of the nonresident, nontaxpaying public. Has this Council done a competent job?
1. The record of all members of this Council, with regard to Restructuring, speaks for itself. This Council made the transition of the land to Midland and Penetanguishene very smooth and easy for Midland and Penetanguishene. Why? (see Restructuring article)
2. By a 4-0 vote this Council spent our tax dollars to reactivate the Recreation Master Plan Study. It had been stopped by the former Council as the implications of two major issues, restructuring and the shoreline lawsuit, became clear. Subsequent events proved that the decision to reactivate was costly. Firstly, restructuring caused the loss of revenue from our commercial tax base; and, secondly, as a result of the court decision, the Township of Tiny’s recreational planning studies, which assumed provincial ownership of all beaches, will now have to be re-examined because the studies can have no application to private property. For whose benefit was the study reactivated? Obviously, one beneficiary was the consultant, who got paid handsomely with our tax dollars.
3. The majority of the members of this Council supported the Attorney General in its test case lawsuit against Rowntree. Council had an obligation to protect Township owned lands, its parks and road allowances, which were threatened by the government’s action. Council did not protect those lands. There are at least three miles of beaches which are owned by the municipality. These beaches, the heritage of Tiny residents, would have been taken from them if MNR had been successful. Council did not even remain neutral; the majority of Council actively supported the provincial government’s attempt to take over our waterfront parks. The majority of this Council voted to abandon the 2000 property owners whose properties and homes were at risk; the vote of this Council said the majority of the councillors did not care that Tiny would suffer an enormous loss of assessment if MNR won.
4. In April 1994, the Federation requested this Council to give them a listing of township owned properties along Tiny’s waterfront. Council advised the Federation that over its 150 year history, a registry of land deeded to it had never been kept – the township does not know the precise locations of some of its ownership; other ownership parcels it choses not to disclose.
The Township solicitors started to investigate Township ownership. Then Council decided to hire an additional lawyer, a shoreline property specialist lawyer, to give them more expert assistance. Prior to interviewing for such a shoreline property specialist lawyer, Mayor Ross Hastings stated at Council: “Ask solicitors if they have had involvement in this type of thing before. If they haven’t that’s not what we are looking for.” Two weeks later, by a 50 vote, Council hired a new lawyer. It was admitted by Council that the new lawyer had no experience dealing with property law along the shores of the Great Lakes.
And five months after the Federation’s request, Council still has not acknowledged any lands owned by the Township — not even the road allowances!!
5. On August 17, 1994 a public hearing was held regarding the proposed purchase of land (approximately 1 acre) adjacent to Jackson Park, conc. 8. In order to spend a large sum of public funds, a municipality must, according to the Municipal Act, hold a public hearing and state the purpose of the proposed land purchase. Yet, in the newspaper advertisement for the meeting, the Notice states: “The Township has no immediate plans for development of this property if the purchase does proceed.” It was also stated at the public meeting that Council had NOT decided what they would do with the land, if it was purchased. The purchase price is approximately $250,000. Some 70 people attended the August 17, 1994 meeting with the majority of those present speaking against the proposed purchase.
6. Cottagers receive very little in return for their tax dollars. The only significant service is garbage for which we all now pay extra. Studies have proven that poor garbage service encourages people to dump their garbage in improper places and not support the Blue Box recycling program which only hurts the environment. This Council has reduced our garbage pick-up to once a week and the Blue Box pick-up to every two weeks. Many cottagers say they are getting tired of carrying their garbage home to Toronto because the pick-up in Tiny is so unsatisfactory. Where does the thousands of tax dollars, per cottage, go.
7. Our roads budget is $1.9 million and the total income from assessment is $2.1 million. Throughout the township, comments are heard that the residents are getting fed up seeing yet another stretch of road resurfaced when they cannot remember any earlier problem with the road. Is it an election year?
8. It has been reported earlier how this Council meets in Committee of the Whole sessions in the afternoon. The afternoon sessions frequently run for five hours or more. The press and public rarely, if ever, attend. The regular evening meeting is often finished in 40 minutes as items discussed at some other time or place are rubber stamped.
Over the last three years, minutes of this Council meeting have become a recitation of motions, marked “Carried” or “Lost”. You don’t know who has said what and now you don’t know how the councillors voted or what the vote was.
Are these the actions of a Council which is open to the people of the Township?