Former Springwater Mayor to Provide Paid Counsel to Council

By Wayne Doyle, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Source: BarrieToday.com

April 5, 2024 – A former controversial local politician has been selected to provide counsel to Springwater Township council.

Coun. Anita Moore introduced a motion during Wednesday night’s council meeting to retain the consulting services of Tony Guergis, a former Springwater Township mayor and Simcoe County warden.

In her motion, Moore said she wanted to retain Guergis’s services  “to provide training and education in order to assist Council with relevant background information relating to the history of the Township, to be conducted in a closed session as permitted under Section 239(3.1) of the Municipal Act, 2006.”

She was also looking for council support to pay Guergis $10,000 for his services, which would be taken from the Tax Rate Stabilization Fund.

In 2009, Guergis was named the worst municipal councillor in Canada by the Mad River Institute for Political Studies.  A Feb. 3, 2010 article in the Barrie Advance newspaper noted Guergis picked up the dubious award “for flip-flopping on the issue, then ignoring overwhelming public sentiment and attempting to force the construction of a landfill, Site 41, on top of a watershed that supplies fresh drinking water for as many as four million people.”

As Moore was explaining why she brought the motion forward, a map appeared on the screens in council chambers. It was the City of Barrie’s boundary expansion map, showing the parts of Springwater and Oro-Medonte townships Barrie was interested in acquiring.

Council chamber visitors and some councillors were left to wonder what the map had to do with engaging a former mayor to give council a history lesson. There was nothing in Moore’s motion that referenced Barrie’s proposed boundary expansion so it was a confusing companion graphic to Moore’s talk track.

It soon became clear.

Moore was looking for council’s support to hire Geurgis to provide counsel to council on how best to deal with the City of Barrie and its boundary expansion plans.

“It’s not meant to be personal but meant to be helpful and encourage this council to present a real coordinated effort in navigating uncharted waters and a possible annexation,” she said. “Mr. Guergis  is a 30 year resident of Ward 4, a three-term warden of Simcoe County and past Springwater mayor, deputy mayor and councillor.

“I believe he has the experience, history and knowledge that can help get us started in the right direction,” she added.

Moore said she didn’t know Guergis very well but she was impressed with his credentials – extensive media and public relations experience, moderator on Rogers TV for municipal, provincial and federal election debates, hosted Political Speaking tv show, and his consulting business provides strategic advice in navigating the complex world of government policy and procedure.

Mayor Jennifer Coughlin was visibly upset with the direction Moore took the motion.

After providing council with a list of past mayors, deputy mayors and councillors who would be willing to give the current council a history lesson for free, Coughlin addressed Moore directly.

“Nowhere in this motion does it mention the City of Barrie,” Coughlin said. “As we said earlier, about making sure when we put something out on Facebook it holds truth and weight, when this council puts something forward in a resolution or notice of motion it should also speak truth.”

Moore said she reached out to Jeff Schmidt, the township’s chief administrative officer for advice when she wrote her motion.

“It was requested of me to rewrite it and make it simpler and that’s what I had to do,” Moore said. “If you have any questions about that, I would suggest you ask the CAO.”

That statement didn’t sit well with Coun. Matt Garwood. “I felt our residents have been misled,” Garwood said. “Regardless of who wrote it, your name is on it. “I see this motion as an attempt to say one thing publicly while using the curtain of a closed session meeting to disguise this delicate discussion,” he added.

Garwood said he is not in favour of bringing in a consultant who does not have the trust of the community or bringing in someone who was not elected to represent the community. He said the current council was elected to make those decisions and that’s what council should be doing.

“This is passing the buck to somebody else,” Garwood said. “We can have a conversation in closed and say whatever we want in closed and then we can’t say it out of closed to then get back to the table with the City of Barrie.

“When I make a mistake, I know I’ve made a mistake and I say it at this table that I’ve made a wrong turn and I correct myself. “Maybe that’s what we should be doing here,” Garwood added. Identified by Moore as a contributor to the motion, Schmidt clarified his role.

“I did not recommend,” he said. “This is not a staff recommendation to council so there is not a recommendation from myself or any member of my staff as it relates to this matter. “There was advice and guidance provided. It does not mean that we agree or we are recommending what’s in front of council tonight.

“I just want to clarify that as much as there was conversation with Coun. Moore regarding this, and there was clarification sought as to whether or not this was dealing with the City of Barrie, it is not my notice of motion,” he added.

Coughlin said she received a phone call from Guergis last week where he asked her if she would be open to listening to his advice. She said she would welcome any former member of council to give advice to the current council. According to Coughlin, Guergis said it would be more of a formal presentation to council and he would provide advice on negotiations with the City of Barrie. “I assured Mr. Guergis at that time, that under no circumstances could this council resolve into closed to discuss something that in open we have said we are not entertaining, we are not going to do.

“To have something where we have told the public we are not going to consider boundary adjustments, it is not a consideration, we are not going to negotiate it, it’s off the table and then resolve into close to discuss it. “Even talking about it is so wrong,” Coughlin added. Despite the mayor’s concerns, council soldiered on. Deputy Mayor George Cabral supported Moore’s motion. “To sit here and do nothing, that’s what we’ll get folks – nothing,” Cabral said.

Coun. Phil Fisher, who represents Ward 5 residents in Midhurst, said everyone in the township should be taking Barrie’s boundary expansion plans seriously.

“We’re the first domino that will fall but eventually all of the dominoes will fall and we won’t have a Springwater,” Fisher said. “This is putting our municipality on the butcher’s block.”

In the end, council voted four to three to support Moore’s motion in a recorded vote.

Deputy Mayor Cabral and councillors Moore, Fisher and Alexander voted in favour of the motion. Mayor Coughlin and councillors Thompson and Garwood voted against the motion.

It was further clarified that Guergis would be paid on an hourly basis up to a maximum of $10,000.

Moore said Guergis’ hourly rate is $300.


Springwater Councillors Take Another Route to Try to Rein in Library

By Wayne Doyle, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, BarrieToday.com
April 4, 2024 – Over the last few months, the Springwater Public Library has come under fire from some members of Springwater Township council.
Pretty much anything to do with the library, from replacing outdated lighting systems in the Elmvale branch to the competency of the library board, has been questioned, debated and discussed — at length. Wednesday night’s council meeting saw more of the same.
Ward 2 Coun. Danielle Alexander brought forth a notice of motion supporting a two-year-old County of Simcoe resolution that called on the province “to modify the Public Libraries Act (PLA) to provide greater accountability to library services by making library services a reporting department of the funding municipalities.”
Before explaining why she brought forth the motion, Alexander acknowledged the folks in the gallery, many of whom, she rightly noted, were there specifically to hear the library discussion.
“I want to point out that this is not a motion that I specifically wrote,” Alexander said. “What I am asking for is support of a resolution that was passed by the County of Simcoe in 2022. I want to make very clear my intent.
“In no way am I trying to close down branches of our library and in no way am I trying to have any employee lose their job. That is not the intent, 100 per cent, I can assure you,” she said.
“It’s about accountability to the taxpayer who funds the $1-million plus operating budget of the library. This is about bringing the library into the fold of the township,” she added.
Alan Sakach, press secretary for the minister of tourism, culture and sport, told BarrieToday in an email the government has no intentions of changing the PLA.
“In Ontario, public libraries are under the management and control of a board that is appointed by the municipal council,” Sakach wrote.   “Currently, there are no plans to open or amend the Public Libraries Act to change the governance structure.”
Sakach said the government recognizes the “important role” of public libraries in meeting their communities’ unique and evolving needs and noted the province is providing $27 million in annual funding for the public library sector.
“Investments in libraries help communities across the province access essential resources and services,” Sakach wrote.
Alexander’s motion came two weeks after the library board made a presentation to council in response to what library board chair Adrian Graham called “inaccurate comments made at the council meeting on Feb. 21, 2024, regarding a motion to contract out library services, replacing library management, which is the CEO, and the competence of current library board.”
At that presentation, Graham said under the PLA, township council has no legal authority to contract out library services for an existing library system. He said the PLA grants library boards the status of a completely independent corporation as soon as the library board is established by council bylaws.
“Our national award-winning library seems to be on the agenda pretty frequently in this council,” said Coun. Brad Thompson, council’s representative on the library board.
“I have two questions for Coun. Alexander. First, can you give me or the province specific examples of financial mismanagement that you are concerned about?
“And, second, you supported the motion last meeting to have a staff report to find language in the PLA that would allow you to contract out library services.
“Are you suggesting now that you replace last week’s motion with this week’s motion and recommend that we stop wasting staff time and taxpayers’ money on this report?”Alexander responded.
” In terms of financial mismanagement, I’ve never said that,” she said. “I’ve questioned things in the budget but I’ve never made the comment that there is financial mismanagement.”

She said there needs to be a different operating structure for the library and she’s open to exploring as many avenues as possible.
Coun. Phil Fisher said the motion “speaks for itself” — library services should be directly accountable to the municipalities and taxpayers that fund their operations.
“I’ve said this multiple times for those of you who do pay attention, and not on Facebook, actually pay attention to council,” he said.
“I’m in favour of the library, but it’s my job as a councillor to look at every single department, and, I’ve said this many times and it usually doesn’t make it into publication, but I’ve said this many times, when I take a look at their budget I have serious questions.”
Fisher said he’s never advocated for closing branches or cutting back staff.
“We just want the library to report, as the fire department does, as roads and fleet does, as any other department does,” he said. “This is not changing the library in any way. It’s simply bringing them under as a department.”
Two years ago, Springwater Mayor Jennifer Coughlin was part of the Simcoe County council that drafted the resolution Alexander wanted council to support.
Coughlin said she couldn’t support Alexander’s motion.
“This motion was before the County and I championed it at the County,” Coughlin said. “The difference here is, my concern is, that this is not about accountability; it’s about control.
“It’s difficult when you find yourself voting on something twice, and it’s the exact same words, and it’s an entirely different feeling. I will not support this,” she added.
Council passed Alexander’s motion. In a recorded vote, Coughlin and councillors Thompson and Garwood voted no. Deputy Mayor George Cabral and councilors Anita Moore, Alexander and Fisher voted yes to pass the motion.

Springwater Council Members Networking

April 7, 2024 – Members of Springwater staff and council participated in the County of Simcoe Municipal Challenge FunSpiel at the Stayner Curling Club earlier this month.

While they didn’t take home the trophy, they enjoyed a fun day of networking with staff and council colleagues from across the County.

Thank you to the County of Simcoe for planning the event.


Doug Shipley Update

Dear Neighbours,

On April 1st, the Liberal government hiked their costly carbon tax once again – this time by 23% – as part of a plan to quadruple it over the next 6 years. This means members of our community are paying more for the skyrocketing price of groceries, fuel, and home heating.

The cost-of-living crisis is getting worse by the day. But even as inflation has reached a 30-year high, the Liberal government has increased the carbon tax on Canadians, who are already struggling to make ends meet.

This inflationary carbon tax has a real impact on the livelihoods of Canadians and affects the entire supply chain from farm to plate. From the farmer who is taxed to grow the food, the trucker who transports it, the store that sells it, and the family that buys it. In fact, in 2024, a family of four will have to pay $700 more in groceries.

Meanwhile, Justin Trudeau and the Liberals continue to work against the Conservative bill, C-234, which would save our farmers a billion dollars in carbon taxes by removing the federal carbon tax from on-farm uses of natural gas and propane, such as grain drying and barn heating and provide relief to families at the grocery store.

Trudeau’s carbon tax has forced Canadians to choose between heating their home and putting food on the table. Yet, the carbon tax has done absolutely nothing to address climate change. Canada now ranks sixty-two out of sixty-seven countries, dropping four places from the previous year, according to the Climate Change Performance Index. That is because the carbon tax is not an environmental plan, it is a tax plan.

Only common-sense Conservatives will bring home lower prices by axing the tax on everything, for everyone. Rest assured, I will continue to hold this Liberal government to account and oppose all planned tax hikes.

As always, my constituency office is available to assist you with any matters related to the federal government. Please contact my office at Doug.Shipley@parl.gc.ca or 705-728-2596 for assistance.


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

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