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Collective opinions of the community

A Message from Doug Shipley, MP

Why can’t I get reliable internet service? That is a key concern that has been expressed by you, your families and your neighbours day after day.  It began when I was canvassing, seeking the opportunity to represent the residents of Barrie Springwater Oro-Medonte.   It has become a more pressing need as more of our residents have shifted to learning and working from home in past months.  Our community has a concern with access to reliable high-speed internet. There is no question that Springwater Township and Oro-Medonte are both beautiful places to live and underserviced communities when it comes to internet access.

In March of 2019 the Liberal Government announced the Universal Broadband Fund and promised to bring digital equality to rural Canadians.  We all rejoiced as there was finally a solution in sight.  In June of 2020 they advised all Canadians that the application portal for the Universal Broadband Fund would be opening in days.  One hundred and fifty days passed before they finally announced that the portal was open. While we are now closer to achieving digital equality with our urban neighbors around the province, we have been waiting since March 2019 for action on this announcement.  Why is the current Liberal Government not prioritizing the needs of rural Canadians?  Why did it take so long to open applications for these funds?  I will continue asking these questions until we get answers.

In the coming weeks I will be meeting virtually with representatives of various internet service providers and learning about any planned service expansions in our area in the next 6-12 months.  I will work to encourage projects that improve service for the thousands of residents of Barrie Springwater Oro-Medonte that currently don’t have access to reliable internet. And I will continue to ask the tough questions in Ottawa to hold the Liberals to account for the promises they have made.

Sincerely,  Doug Shipley, Member of Parliament, Barrie Springwater Oro-Medonte

 

Moving Family Justice Forward by Doug Downey

On Friday, November 20th, 2020, I attended the Lieutenant Governor’s signing of the Moving Ontario’s Family Law Forward Act. This legislation has now received Royal Assent and become law in Ontario.

Recently introduced by the Attorney General, this legislation will make it easier, faster and more affordable for families to resolve legal matters. The Moving Ontario Family Law Forward Act includes common-sense changes to simplify Ontario’s family law system, allowing parents and guardians to spend less time on paperwork and court appearances and more time making plans to support and care for their children. People encounter the family law system during some of life’s most difficult moments, and we are committed to supporting Ontario children and families when they need our help most.

The Moving Ontario’s Family Law Forward Act will:

 Make the family law appeals process clearer and easier to navigate by clarifying when and how to appeal family law cases, help families reach final decisions faster in rather difficult cases, and make the appeals process more consistent no matter where their trial is heard.

 Allow parents and caregivers to obtain certified copies of child support notices from the online child support service so service amounts can be more easily managed or enforced outside of the province.

These common-sense changes will make the world of difference to improve the system and make things easier for parents and families who find themselves in some of life’s most difficult circumstances. In addition, Ontario is making changes to remove the requirement for family arbitrators to file arbitration awards results with the ministry, saving time and money. These changes to the family law system follow extensive consultations with parents, child protection advocates, family lawyers, arbitrators and mediators.

Ontario is also working with the courts to expand the Dispute Resolution Officer program to Kitchener and Welland. Dispute Resolution Officers are senior family lawyers appointed by the Superior Court of Justice to work with families and guardians to determine their issues and help work towards a settlement. Dispute Resolution Officer programs are already available in Toronto, Brampton, Milton, Newmarket, Barrie, Durham, London, St. Catharines and Hamilton.

These changes follow improvements that the Ministry of the Attorney General has already made to expand access to justice this year. Since August, Ontarians have been able to use the province’s expanded online filing service to submit up to 150 court documents in any new or existing family proceeding in the Superior Court of Justice or Ontario Court of Justice.

Additionally, since April 2016, there has been an easy-to-use online service which allows the parents to set up or change straightforward child support payments without having to go to court. These changes are focused on helping families, who are facing some of life’s most difficult moments. By simplifying and streamlining these processes, Ontario will help remove stress and fear from the process and return the focus to the children who are at the heart of these court cases.

 

Council approves 2021 County of Simcoe Budget

Midhurst / November 24, 2020 – On November 24, 2020, County of Simcoe Council approved a $572 million budget for 2021, which focuses on the resources necessary to maintain existing services and address the ongoing needs of the COVID-19 pandemic on our communities. The budget also includes strategic allocations that enables the County to continue to invest in services and assets such as infrastructure, Lake Simcoe Regional Airport, Transit, Paramedic Services, Roads and Engineering, Long-term Care, Children’s Services and Social Housing. At the direction and approval of County Council, residents will see a 0 per cent increase on the County portion of their municipal property taxes in 2021. The overall budget expenditures increased from 2020 to 2021. The expenses increased due to COVID-19 pressures and areas of growth and initiatives directed by Council to enhance service levels, increase efficiencies and plan for future growth. To maintain a 0 per cent increase on municipal property taxes for 2021, the County will be utilizing some reserves. “2020 has been a challenging year for our residents, while most health experts believe that the impacts from the pandemic will continue throughout 2021,” said Warden George Cornell. “County Council is committed to supporting residents by maintaining a 0 per cent increase on our County taxes. We also recognize that many County services are essential services, and the demands for our programs have increased during the pandemic. We commend our staff for identifying innovative and responsible ways to address growth and urgent COVID-19 needs, while ensuring that residents don’t face any additional tax increases from the County level.”  The County maintains a strong financial position having received, for the seventh year in a row, an AA long-term issuer credit rating from S&P Global Ratings, a provider of high-quality market intelligence in the form of credit ratings and research. The 2021 budget ensures the County continues along this path of long-term fiscal stability and contains items that address areas of growth, as well as initiatives directed by Council to enhance and maintain service levels for the region, support infrastructure, increase efficiencies, and prepare for the future of our region.

2021 Budget Highlights include:                                                                                        

Total County Expenditures for 2021: $572 million:

LTC – Homes and Seniors Services $78 million

Paramedic Services $56 million

Children Services $49 million

Social Housing $69 million

Ontario Works $79 million

Transportation and Engineering $48 million

Solid Waste Management $94 million

Attached to this news release is the 2021 County of Simcoe Budget Overview. County of Simcoe is composed of sixteen member municipalities and provides crucial public services to County residents in addition to providing paramedic and social services to the separated cities of Barrie and Orillia. Visit our website at simcoe.ca.

 

My View – Bill French COVID-19

I am intrigued when everyone emphasizes using science as we fight this Pandemic. Unfortunately for the most part the science argument is used to support the view of the day based on political positions. The panacea of the cure all vaccine actually frightens me more. Vaccines typically take about 10 years to scientifically prove their efficacy and side effects. But it appears many are ready to be first in line when it is released in early 2021. I hope the lines are long as I will keep moving to the end of the line for my shot, as something tells me that 10 years from now we will have front page news on the horrors of this rushed remedy. I believe it makes more sense to find treatment for the infected to minimize the health impacts and not just focus on a cure all vaccine, as there really is no such thing. Most people don’t realize that the Spanish Flu ran is full natural course and the only focus was prevention such as hygiene, disinfectants and improved sanitary conditions. It was not until 1942 that there was ever any type of vaccines for the flu and of course every year we seem to get it wrong and I question whether it reduces rather than improves our natural immune system. But if you watch the media, the large pharmaceutical companies and their high paid henchmen with multiple degrees behind their name will tell you differently. Like the Spanish Flu, it will take herd immunity and the human bodies natural ability to develop immunities to this current COVID-19. And yes, many will still die! I think we all need to get past the “I am God” syndrome and realize nature takes its course.

In the meantime let’s focus on wearing masks, physical distancing and personal hygiene as over a 100 years ago that was the solution that ended the pandemic over a two year span without the science of today which seems to be losing the battle regardless of what we spend. Closing down the economy simply means we will have no money in the near future to create the resources we need to fight this silent and deadly disease. Let’s face it, Canada effectively closed its economy at the start of the Pandemic and what did it do? It simply delayed the inevitable which is happening now. In a short while, we will be at the same percentage rate of infection as all other major countries in the world but much worse off. Under the Trudeau hand-out mentality we will double the national debt and have gained little. It’s time to stop watching CNN!

Springwater Budget

In the last term of Council, instead of having a few long budget meetings, we initiated a program where the budget would be segmented and dealt with in chunks. As the old expression goes, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time”. Believe me the township budget is an elephant in its own way. This year there are 5 sessions and two of them occurred this week. I encourage you to watch them live and send in your comments. Springwater has had ideal growth for over 20 years, with annual residential growth when averaged, of about 2% which is manageable and sustainable. The focus has been on “need to have” first and then “nice to have” which keeps a municipality an attractive place to live. There must be a balance. Currently without any program enhancements the proposed tax increase would be just under 2%, which doesn’t sound too bad, but it would be an additional 3% if the requested enhancements are approved, which in these pandemic times, shows a disconnect from reality. The County is planning a zero increase and even though I think we have an out of control education system, our local boards are also planning a zero increase.

It begs the question, “What is going on in Springwater?” Most businesses, that grow, increase efficiency and do more for each dollar. In the last two years, in Springwater, we have had much new tax assessment come on board from the Stonemanor Woods development in Centre Vespra and growth in Elmvale and Snow Valley, which will continue for another few years. These are not small dollars by any means. In simple terms, it appears we are spending more money than coming in. To be frank, with the dramatic growth Springwater will encounter over the next 10 years, I believe there should be no actual tax rate increases as the new assessment and annual assessment increases will add at least 5% revenue to the coffers annually. If we cannot manage our business with revenues increasing at that rate, something is wrong with the leadership.

I know we have good management at Springwater, as I had the pleasure to work with them for four years. If Council provide direction to staff requesting a zero tax rate increase, I know they can do it, but there has to be some leadership to make that happen. The upcoming meetings which are live streamed are on  Mon Nov 30 from 1 to 4 p.m.; Mon Dec 7 from 6 to 9 p.m. and Weds Dec 9 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Remember it is our money they are spending and you need to have a say. This year, if for no other reason, Springwater Council has to show leadership and approve a zero tax rate increase.

Again, please remember these are my thoughts and I am not asking you to agree. I respect your freedom of expression and encourage you to SPEAK UP, before that freedom is taken from us!!

Bill French is a seasoned business leader with over 40 years experience and served in senior positions of International Enterprises. Bill served as Mayor of Springwater and a County of Simcoe Councillor from 2014 to 2018 and has taught business at the college level for over 15 years. You can also read these articles on line at http://springwatercitizens.blogspot.com/

 

Springwater Council Highlights – November 18, 2020

2021 Budget Tabled

Staff presented the 2021 Draft Budget for Council’s consideration. The draft 2021 base budget proposes a 1.8% property tax increase over 2020 rates for the Township portion. When combined with the County of Simcoe and education rates – which are assumed to remain neutral, the blended tax increase is estimated at 0.87%. There are twelve program changes being proposed, which would have an additional net tax levy impact of $473,585 or 3.03%. The budget will be deliberated at Special Budget Meetings scheduled for November 23, 25 and 30, as well as December 7 and 9. It is anticipated that the final budget will be approved at the Council meeting on December 16. The meetings will be live streamed online at www.springwater.ca/live. For additional information on the 2021 budget visit www.springwater.ca/budget

Tender Awards

Council awarded the tender for upgrades to the hoist at Yard One to Garage Supply Contracting Inc. at a cost of $56,763 plus HST.

Zoning By-law Amendment – Western Mechanical          

A zoning by-law amendment was approved at 2145 Flos Road Four East in Hillsdale to permit industrial uses and outside storage at the property. Western Mechanical plans to construct a 19,600 square metre industrial building, creating approximately 20 jobs and set the remainder of the property aside for future industrial development.

Appointment of Integrity Commissioner re: Inquiry into Code of Conduct Complaint           

Following legal advice received at a special Council meeting on November 4, Council for the Township of Springwater reconsidered their original three month remuneration sanctions against Mayor Allen following an alleged breach of the code of conduct at the 2019 Warden’s Golf Tournament. Council then passed a resolution requesting that Harold Elston be retained to provide Integrity Commissioner services for the purpose of an inquiry into the original Code of Conduct complaint. At the November 18 regular meeting of Council, Council approved a by-law to appoint Harold Elston for these purposes. 

Backyard Chickens Licensing By-law

The backyard chicken’s pilot project has passed the final hurdle and is now active following Council’s approval of the licensing by-law. All properties within the Township of Springwater now have the ability to keep a maximum of four (4) hens in accordance with the Licensing and Temporary Use By-laws.

To be approved to keep backyard chickens, residents must submit a complete application form with the required supporting documents to the Clerk’s Department for approval. Applicants are required to renew their license annually. For further information visit: www.springwater.ca/backyardchickens  

This summary is not a full representation of the meeting. For the official record, please refer to the minutes in the next Council Agenda.

 

Mayor Don’s Update: November 26, 2020  –  COVID-19 Update

This last Monday, 8 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in Springwater – we are not immune to COVID-19.  Springwater now has 34 confirmed cases of which 21 have recovered, one death has occurred, and 12 cases are under investigation. Also as of Monday, November 23, all in the Simcoe-Muskoka District Health Unit area are now in the orange category of the provincial COVID-19 framework. Moving from yellow to orange means some new restrictions for our area, including:

Restaurants and bars

Limited to 50 person indoor seated capacity

Must be closed by 10 p.m. and liquor may only be served between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m.

All patrons must be screened

Limit of four people may be seated together

Elmvale Arena / Local sports teams

Limit of 90 minutes except if engaging in sports

Screening of all patrons

Limit volume of music to conversation level

Retails stores

Screening of patrons entering stores and malls

Capacity limits at all stores and in malls

All previous restrictions remain in effect, including gathering limits of 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors. For a full list of restrictions please visit Ontario.ca/covid19. To prevent us moving to the red zone, and incurring further restrictions, we all must do our part. Please refrain from gathering with anyone from outside of your household, only go out for essentials, wear a mask, and wash your hands often. Together we can bring the numbers down and return to a new normal.

Elmvale & District Food Bank Opening

Congratulations to the Elmvale & District Food Bank on the opening of their new location at 62 Yonge St. N. This new facility was constructed to address some of the challenges experienced at their previous location in the Elmvale Community Hall. This new location has ample parking, is close to the Simcoe County LINX transit system, has a private interview room and plenty of storage space. The Township of Springwater is pleased to support the important work the Food Bank does in our municipality. The volunteers work tirelessly to ensure that no one in our community goes hungry. The Elmvale & District Food Bank operates Wednesdays from 4:00-6:00 p.m. and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 12 noon. Anyone experiencing food insecurity is urged to contact them for a helping hand.

Backyard Chickens Approved

The backyard chicken’s pilot project has passed the final hurdle and is now active, following Council’s approval of the licensing by-law. All properties, which meet the setback requirements, within the Township of Springwater now can keep a maximum of four (4) hens, in accordance with the Licensing and Temporary Use By-laws. To be approved to keep backyard chickens, residents must submit a complete application form with the required supporting documents to the Clerk’s Department for approval. Applicants are required to renew their license annually. For further information visit: www.springwater.ca/backyardchickens

Budget 2021

Staff has presented the Preliminary 2021 Draft Budget for Council’s consideration. The budget is being  deliberated at Special Budget Meetings scheduled for November 23, 25 and 30, as well as December 7 and 9. These meetings will be live streamed online at www.springwater.ca/live. For additional information on the 2021 budget visit www.springwater.ca/budget

Western Mechanical Development

A zoning by-law amendment was approved by Council for property owned by Western Mechanical at 2145 Flos Road Four East in Hillsdale to permit industrial uses and outside storage on the property. Western Mechanical plans to construct a 19,600 square metre industrial facility, creating initially approximately 20 jobs and more in future. There is the potential for further future industrial development on the property as well.

Cannabis Actions to Assist Municipalities

Licenses for Cannabis production facilities are regulated and issued by Health Canada. In addition to the licencing responsibilities, promotions, packaging, labelling and display are also within the federal jurisdiction. The Province, via the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), has provided a written opinion that growing cannabis is an agricultural use. Local municipalities are responsible for Building Code compliance, zoning emission/restrictions, site plan control, and local enforcement. The main issues that are reoccurring throughout the lower-tier municipalities are: medical cannabis licenses, odour, noise, drainage, and responding to public inquiries. Simcoe County Council approved sending a letter to Health Canada and the Provincial Ministry of Health requesting the following three improvements to promote appropriate land use planning regarding cannabis:

  1. Preparation and implementation of Provincial Planning Guidelines.

It is recommended that policies like those contained in the Ontario Provincial  Policy Statement be implemented federally. Health Canada needs to prepare guidelines which consider the noise and odour impacts of cannabis production facilities on surrounding sensitive land uses, like the current minimum distance separation formula that is in place for other agricultural uses.

  1. Additional Enforcement Tools

Health Canada needs to amend the existing Cannabis Act and Cannabis Regulations to provide for a stronger and more effective legislation to ensure proper location criteria. It should be made clear that local policy and zoning by-laws at the municipal level do have the authority to regulate where and how cannabis facilities can operate. Health Canada should provide education and training to law enforcement persons and take a more active role in the enforcement of both legal and illegal agricultural cultivation operations.

  1. Improved Communication with Health Canada.

Local municipalities have little to no involvement in the licencing process and therefore face challenges responding to the public regarding permissions. Health Canada needs to amend the existing licencing process to include local municipal approvals earlier in the process. Health Canada needs to provide a point of contact to assist with public inquiries as a direct result of the licences issued. The lack of information is leading to a perception of untoward actions being taken by cannabis companies and/or individuals, in cooperation with the government, including local and regional municipalities.

Christmas Events

Although COVID-19 is preventing us from hosting our traditional Christmas events or public gatherings, organizations throughout the Township want to make this year as magical as ever and have come up with creative ways to celebrate the holiday season. There will be virtual tree lightings, festive displays, Christmas light tours and more. The details are still being finalized but be sure to visit the Township website at springwater.ca/LightUpSpringwater for updates as they become available. Make the extra push and take the right steps to stay safe out there!!!

 

Role of mayor, role of lobbyists addressed in Marrocco report

Recommendations include expansion of definition of family under conflict of interest act – By Kate Harries AWARE News Network

The Collingwood judicial inquiry into the sale of the town’s electrical utility and procurement of a new recreation complex wasn’t only about Collingwood. As Justice Frank Marrocco makes clear in his report, the issues he examined and the conclusions he reached are applicable to municipalities across Ontario.

Marrocco has organized his 306 recommendations into topics, addressing key municipal positions and specific municipal functions in turn, stating: “This structure permits a comprehensive discussion of the considerations that underlie the ethical exercise of each role and the resulting responsible municipal action,” he states.

There are 10 categories:

-Mayor

-Council members

-Chief Administrative Officer 

-Staff 

-Procurement 

-Lobbying 

-Municipally Owned Corporations

-Integrity Commissioner

-Municipal Solicitor 

-Professional Consultants

Marrocco finds that much of the cause of the Collingwood fiascoes are the result of a misunderstanding of the role of the mayor. Sandra Cooper, the mayor of the time, made many key decisions without the knowledge or approval of council. The misunderstanding flows in part from the Municipal Act, 2001, and its description of the head of council as “the chief executive officer” of the municipality Unlike a corporate CEO, the head of council does not have the power to commit the municipality to anything unilaterally, Marrocco notes, but the title led to “the erroneous belief… that the mayor had the power to provide unilateral direction on behalf of council.” This in turn “underpinned the lack of transparency around the origins of the Collus share sale, where directions from the mayor were treated as if they had the weight of directions issued by council.”

Marrocco’s Recommendation #1 is that the Ontario government change the Municipal Act to “remove the inaccurate description of the head of council as the chief executive officer of the municipality. The head of council of a municipality is responsible to council and does not have the authority to bind council.”

Recommendations #228-264 deal with the need for rules to make lobbying an open process at the municipal level. “Although a lobbyist is in the business of seeking to influence council members and staff, this activity is not necessarily against the public interest,” Marrocco states in his report. “What is against the public interest is lobbying that occurs in secret and that is not transparent.” He recommends a Lobbyist Registry to include all those who are paid or represent a business or financial interest whose objective is to influence elected officials or staff, with information on:

  1. the name of the lobbyist, the name of the company or partnership represented, and “the names of all principals in the company or partnership”;
  2. the lobbyist’s contact information;
  3. “the subject matter of the lobbying activity;”
  4. detailed disclosure of the lobbyist’s client, its business activities, or its organizational interests. This disclosure includes information on anyone who, to the knowledge of the lobbyist, controls or directs the client or otherwise has significant control of the client, the client’s business activities, or its organizational interests.
  5. identification by the lobbyist of who at the municipality is the subject of the lobbying. This information should be detailed and include, for example, the name and title of the staff being lobbied, as well as the staff’s department;
  6. the “amount paid to the lobbyist for the lobbying activity;”
  7. the date, hour, and location where the lobbying took place, as  well as details of the lobbying activity.

Other recommendations laid out in Volume 4 of the Marrocco report include

A gift registry, on which both council members and staff should disclose publicly all gifts they receive from persons doing business with the municipality.

The municipality’s code of conduct should prohibit council members from accepting gifts, favours, entertainment, meals, trips, or benefits of any kind from

lobbyists. Staff should be trained in writing clear, accurate, objective and comprehensive reports.

Information disclosed by management to a member of council should be disclosed to all members of council.

Former council members and former staff should be prohibited from lobbying on matters on which they were involved during their tenure at the

municipality. With respect to other activities, former council members should be prohibited from lobbying staff or elected public office holders for a

minimum of one year after they leave office.

The group of family members covered by the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act be expanded to include, at the minimum, a spouse, common-law partner, or

any person with whom the person is living with as a spouse outside marriage, a parent, including stepparent, and legal guardian, a child, including stepchild,

a grandchild, siblings, aunt, uncle, nephew, niece, first cousins; and in-laws, including mother- and father-in-law, sister- and brother-in-law, and daughter-

and son-in-law. Presently only parent, spouse and child are included.

The municipality’s Integrity Commissioner is given a leading role in many of Marrocco’s recommendations. Experience in some municipalities has led observers to regard those appointed to this god-like position with a somewhat jaundiced eye.

Experience in Springwater

The fact that Springwater Township recently appointed a third Integrity Commissioner is an indication of the sensitivity of the issues that are addressed. The first was the firm Principles Integrity of Vaughan, who were let go, but came back to complete an investigation of Springwater Mayor Don Allen’s behaviour following a charity event which led to (subsequently withdrawn) criminal charges of impaired and dangerous driving.

The second is the current occupier of the position, Robert Swayze of Caledon, who advised council they could not impose a penalty because Principles Integrity had not found that he had violated the township’s code of conduct. The Principles Integrity report lacked clarity on that point, but principals Janice Atwood-Petkovski and Jeff Abrams refused to provide further explanation.

Council went ahead and docked the mayor’s pay, and then in a November 4 2020 closed meeting, deferred that action and appointed a third Integrity Commissioner, Harold Elston of Collingwood, not as a new IC, but to provide another opinion on the one issue. A report by Elston was the subject of controversy in Adjala-Tosorontio during the last municipal term for an investigation of then deputy mayor (now Mayor) Floyd Pinto. A code of conduct can be weaponized against members of council who have a minority view. An Integrity Commissioner has the power to cause considerable anguish and expense. Those are issues that did not fall under Marrocco’s purview – but deserve attention from the provincial government. Springwater Councillor Jack Allen announced at the November 18 council meeting that he will move that the township call on the province to create a standard code of conduct for all municipalities and establish ethical standards for Integrity Commissioners. Clarification: An article in the October 29 edition mentioned that Mayor Allen intervened in a matter in which he had a pecuniary interest, namely suspension of his remuneration for 90 days. This was correct, but the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act does permit a council member who is the subject of such proposed action to take part in the discussion (which he did), but not to vote on the matter (which he did not).