Letter to MNRF Minister Des Rosiers Exposing Janice Jackson’s Slight-Of-Hand Deceit, Shoddy Research, and Unsupportable Claims Regarding Maintenance of the Beach at Sauble

March 15, 2018
Hon. Nathalie Des Rosiers
Whitney Block 6th Flr Rm 6630,
99 Wellesley St W, Toronto, ON M7A 1W3
minister.mnrf@ontario.ca

Dear Minister Des Rosiers:

Because of recovery programs and statutes like the Ontario Endangered Species Act (“ESA”), populations of Piping Plovers, tiny birds on the endangered species list, are slowly recovering. Protection of plovers and their habitat at Sauble Beach, where the birds have been nesting for about the past 11 years, is a key component of the recovery plan.

A recent email campaign directed to you, and a March 6, 2018 letter to you from MPP Bill Walker encourage you to allow serious grooming of plover habitat at Sauble Beach, in effect encouraging you to reduce the protection.

The emails and the letter from Mr. Walker are the result of requests for support made by Town of South Bruce Peninsula (“TSBP”) mayor Janice Jackson, who is leading the drive to what I submit is damage or destruction of habitat.

I am of the belief that any backing off of recovery programs or dilution of the statutes or reduction in enforcement of the statues could result in the recovery faltering or even failing. The little birds are still in peril and need all the protection they can get from the MNRF and the ESA (and anyone else).

I urge you to say no to Ms. Jackson’s proposal to groom habitat in a way that is in my view and in the view of many others damaging.

My specific concerns about Ms. Jackson’s letter to MPP Bill Walker and about Mr. Walker’s March 6th letter to you and about Ms. Jackson’s facebook request that residents email you include:

1. Fraudulent portray of Ms. Jackson’s position as the town position
2. Ms. Jackson’s great deceit – the Jackson definition of plover “habitat”
3. Ms. Jackson’s second deceit – “scientific research”
4. Impact of plover protection on economy
5. The inappropriate political ultimatum

These I discuss in turn:

1. Fraudulent portrayal of Ms. Jackson’s position as the town position.

Ms. Jackson’s March 5th letter to Mr. Walker appears to be a position of the Town of South Bruce Peninsula. It is not. The Mayor has no authority to take a position on behalf of the town or the council or to present such position on town letterhead unless that specific position is formally authorized by by-law by council. The March 5th letter to Bill Walker was not approved by council. The publication on town letterhead is contrary to the towns bylaws. The letter to Mr. Walker is Ms. Jackson’s personal view, and sending it on town letterhead is fraudulent.

The town position, which is the council position, is in its beach Maintenance policy PW 12.1, adopted by by-law 62-2015, which very clearly does not allow raking, tilling, bulldozing or any other mechanical alteration of plover habitat, without the clear consent of the MNRF. Such consent has been requested every year since 2011, and has been consistently denied on the basis that the proposed alteration would in the view of MNRF staff be a contravention of the ESA.

2. the first great deceit – Janice Jackson’s definition of plover “habitat”

Habitat is defined by the ESA, abridged for context, as:

“habitat” means,
(a) …….., or
(b) with respect to any other species of animal, plant or other organism, an area on which the species depends, directly or indirectly, to carry on its life processes, including life processes such as reproduction, rearing, hibernation, migration or feeding, and includes places in the area described in clause (a) or (b), whichever is applicable, that are used by members of the species as dens, nests, hibernacula or other residences;

MNR staff have more specifically defined Piping Plover habitat at Sauble Beach as 500 meters north and south of any spot where there has been a nest in the last five years.

The ESA section 10 prohibits damage or destruction of habitat as so defined.

TSBP policy since 2012 is even tighter and prohibits mechanical grooming of habitat without consent, whether or not it is has been demonstrated or argued to be damaging.

Over the past several years someone has directed maintenance of plover habitat (as defined in the ESR) at the beach at Sauble, which has included raking, harrowing, and even bulldozing. It is clear that Ms. Jackson directed the grooming in 2017. In no case did the town or council alter, damage or destroy habitat or direct, coordinate or acquiesce to such activity. Ms. Jackson has vocally promised to groom what is clearly habitat again in 2018. The press has carried pictures of her on the beach observing (or even directing) the bulldozing.

Incredibly, Ms. Jackson keeps saying “we” have not raked habitat and “we” will not rake habitat.

But Ms. Jackson’s claim is a lie and a deliberate deceit.

Here’s how the deceit works.

Ms. Jackson conveniently uses a definition of plover “habitat” that is much narrower than the ESA definition. She implicitly claims that an area is habitat only while the birds are present and actually using a nest, and she uses a habitat criterion far lower than the 500 meter radius used by the MNRF.

When Ms. Jackson says “I have not raked, disked or groomed or bulldozed habitat” (or “we have not raked etc. habitat”), she mean that she has not altered habitat as she defines habitat. She is not saying that habitat as defined by the ESA and MNRF has not been altered.

Similarly when Ms. Jackson says she will not damage habitat, she means that she will not damage habitat as she defines habitat. She is not saying that she will not damage habitat as the ESA and MNRF define habitat.

Similarly, when Ms. Jackson says “I (or we) will not breach the TSBP Policy”, she means she will not breach policy according to her definition of “habitat”.

She has deceived many people into believing that she just wants to and only intends to rake, disc, and bulldoze those parts of the beach that are not plover habitat. And she encouraged those so deceived to write to you imploring you to support, condone, or permit her illegal grooming.

She also appears to have deceived MPP Bill Walker (see March 5, 2018 letter to Bill Walker) into believing that she only wanted to groom what is not habitat, and I understand that Mr. Walker has jumped on her bandwagon and has encouraged, (albeit inadvertently) a program and plan that would include grooming of and damage to habitat as defined by the ESA and MNRF.

Mr. Walker in his March 6, 2018 letter to you, indicated:

[The community’s] plan is to rake the weeds outside the piping plover habitat before the piping plovers return and establish nests for the season, as this would ensure. ]

As indicated above, it is Ms. Jackson’s plan that Mr. Walker is pushing, not the “community’s” plan.

More important, contrary to Mr. Walker, Ms. Jackson’s plan is not to rake outside the piping plover habitat, but is in contrast to rake (and harrow, and bulldoze) actual piping plover habitat.

Contrary to Mr. Walker, Ms. Jackson’s plan will not ensure that “the Town stays in compliance with the endangered Species act”, but will instead ensure that the ESA (and the town policy) is contravened.

The passage in Mr. Walker’s March 6, 2018 letter demonstrates how effectively Ms. Jackson has pulled off the habitat definition deception.

It is indeed a clever and interesting deceit that Ms. Jackson has visited upon everyone she could reach, but so that the recovery program at Sauble does not falter, the deceit must fail.

3. Janice Jackson’s 2nd great deceit – “scientific research”

In her letter of March 5, 2018 to Bill Walker, Ms. Jackson claimed:

“we believe our efforts are supported by scientific literature which supports our position that the piping plover prefer sand flats with little or no vegetation”

Ms. Jackson doesn’t say what the preference is referred to, but from her other documents I assume she means that her “scientific research” shows that the plovers prefer pristine sand flats with little or no vegetation over a natural beach.

Seven of the eight citations that Ms. Jackson uses to support her claim that Plovers prefer “sand flats with little or no vegetation” over natural beach are not even close to scientific research. They are fact sheets.

In my view none of the seven citations (the fact sheets) supports Ms. Jackson’s claim.

Ms. Jackson’s eighth reference is improperly cited, the citation website clearly unusable, but I believe it is Environment Canada’s 2012 published recovery strategy, or an excerpt from the same. If I am correct, it too is not actual scientific research, but it is a real review of actual scientific research, and as such is of value.

The Environment Canada report says:

Plovers rarely nest in areas of pure sand, but instead select sandy areas with sparse vegetation or sufficient gravel, pebble, cobble, shell fragments, wrack (dry algae normally deposited by storms or by tidal or wave action above the mean high tide mark), or other debris to provide camouflage for incubating birds and to enable nests to be hidden from predators (Flemming et al. 1992).

The cited paper (Flemming et al. 1992) is abstracted as:

We examined piping plover (Charadrius melodus) nest site selection in eastern New Brunswick (1988-89) and northern and southern Nova Scotia (1983, 1987) because little quantitative information on nest site selection was available. Nest site characteristics varied among the 3 study areas with respect to the number of shoots of beach grass (Ammophila breviligulata), pebbles, stones, and shells in the vicinity of nests (P = 0.001-0.003). Compared with randomly chosen sites, piping plover nest sites in eastern New Brunswick had more (P = 0.001-0.003) pebbles, stones, rocks, and shells; whereas, in northern Nova Scotia, nest sites had more (P = 0.054-0.001) shoots of beach grass, pebbles, stones, rocks, and sticks. Nests in southern Nova Scotia had a greater (P = 0.001) number of beach grass shoots than random sites. Despite these differences, all study areas had gravel, grass, and mixed gravel and grass nest types.. Management to improve or create nesting habitat must anticipate geographical variation in the choice of nest site characteristics and should be designed and implemented based on data from the population of birds under consideration.

I have not yet reviewed the Flemming paper, so I base my analysis on the abstract. The Flemming abstract does not support Ms. Jackson’s claim. In fact it could be argued that the Flemming et.al. statement: “Grass nesting in southern Nova Scotia may have been a response to increased avian predation on plover eggs” directly refutes Ms. Jackson’s claim.

Further, Flemming et.al. are clear that data and conclusions from their study may not be applicable in other areas.

Ms. Jackson’s so-called “scientific research” was conducted by someone with little or no competence to conduct scientific research or to conduct a review of actual scientific research. Ms. Jackson’s “research” is amateurish and shoddy. Ms. Jackson’s conclusions do not follow from her research. No weight should be given to Ms. Jackson’s “scientific research” or to her conclusions.

4. Impact of plover protection on economy

Mr. Walker’s March 6 letter to you incorporates Ms. Jackson’s comments to Mr. Walker in her March 5th letter, and also Ms. Jackson’s oral comments to Mr. Walker’s office, and also comments that have been made by Ms. Jackson in the press and on facebook.

I consider some of Ms. Jackson’s claims.

On facebook Ms. Jackson said the economy of Sauble is 100% tourism. That is simply false.

Ms. Jackson has indicated that the economy will suffer appreciably if the beached is not made flat and sterile except for “little or no vegetation”. This is false and unsupportable, and is fear mongering.

Ms. Jackson said (March 5th): “the local economy is 100% driven by the attraction of Sauble Beach as a recreational beach.” Even that is false. Much of the economy of Sauble Beach is not dependent on how extensively the beach is groomed. The fall, winter, and spring economies are almost entirely independent of how extensively the beach is groomed.

I note that Janice Jackson has no credentials or expertise in economics.

5. political threat

Mr. Walker, in his March 6th letter indicated:

I am aware that the note about 3000 cottage owners came from Ms. Jackson.

Contrary to Ms. Jackson (and Mr. Walker) there are not 3000 GTA residents owning properties at Sauble beach. I believe the number is less than a third of that, possible a lot less.

Furthermore, where Sauble cottage owners have their permanent residence is irrelevant to whether they support or should support beach grooming.

I must conclude, as have others, that by throwing around the 3000 GTA residents statistic Ms. Jackson is making a political ultimatum in the run up to both municipal (October 2018) and provincial (July 2018) elections. There is in my view no other plausible purpose in the “3000” comment.

Because Ms. Jackson is such a clever rewriter of the facts I do not fault those reportedly hundreds of people that failed to see through Ms. Janice’s slight-of-hand deceit, shoddy research, and unsupported claims.

Minister I plead for you to respond to the hundreds of deceived emailers and anyone who even inadvertently supports Ms. Jackson’s planned breach of the law and breach of the TSBP beach maintenance policy, indicating that:

1) whether they realize it or not, Mr. Walker and those hundreds who emailed you have been duped into proposing that plover habitat be damaged, contrary to the ESA, contrary to TSBP policy, and contrary to common sense;

2) Ms. Jackson is really proposing to damage plover habitat, contrary to the act and contrary to TSBP policy;

3) The MNRF is already investigating whether Ms. Jackson or someone has already damaged habitat;

4) any habitat damaging actions will not be tolerated.

Craig Gammie
Sauble Beach
cgammie@rogers.com
519 422 3599

Janice Jackson March 5 2018 to MPP Bill Walker re beach maintenance

MPP Walker to Des Rosiers March 6 2018 re beach maintenance

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Yet another allegation against councillor Gammie (practicing law without a licence) exposed as a vexatious, malicious, baseless lie

At an August 2016 Ontario Municipal Board hearing I helped some residents who had been treated unfairly by the TSBP committee of adjustment (“COA”).  I acted as their advisor, advocate, and representative.  The COA decision was successfully appealed.

Clerk Angie Cathrea and Mayor Janice Jackson immediately went after me.

Without council approval, and without legitimate authority, they commissioned lawyer Steven O’Melia, using taxpayer’s money, to write to me (Attachment 1), accusing me of breaching section 26.1 of the law society Act (practicing law without a licence).

In the September 20, 2016 council meeting there was a heated discussion of the letter and its allegations.  Also allegations of conflict of interest, and harassment (of clerk Cathrae), and improper use of confidential documents were made against me.

The discussion was well documented in a September 26, 2016 Wiarton Echo article (Attachment 2).  Also at http://www.wiartonecho.com/2016/09/26/accusations-fly-at-sbp-council-meeting .

I challenged Cathrea and Jackson to put their allegations before a court or tribunal with the authority to judge.  But of course their baseless allegations would then have constituted mischief, which is a serious offence carrying serious penalties, so they chose not to.

Instead of taking me before a competent court, Cathrea and Jackson again hired O’Melia, again at taxpayers’ expense, to file a complaint with the Law Society of Upper Canada, again accusing me of practicing law without a licence in contravention of the Law Society Act.

The Cathrae/ Jackson objective was clearly to use taxpayers’ dollars to get me charged and convicted.

In my May 3, 2017 submission (Attachment 3) to the Law Society, I showed how the lawyer Stephen O’Melia, a lawyer of at least 20 years, had deliberately and with improper purpose misquoted the law to try to make it look like I had breached the Act, when in fact it was crystal clear that I had not.

Apparently the Law Society caught on to O’Melia’s  attempt to deceive.  The Law Society rejected Omelia’s argument and complaint as lacking.

O’Melia is a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada –  the very organization investigating his complaint against me.   I expected that the Society would soften the dismissal of his complaint, and I submit that they did soften it.  Still the dismissal of the complaint was a clear rebuke.

In findings released August 31, 2017 (attachment 4), Law society investigator Alan Grant said:

 “The investigation revealed insufficient evidence to support the allegation that Craig Gammie breached the Law Society Act (“the Act”).”

In my submission that was soft-speak for:

The complaint made by Clerk Cathrae and Janice Jackson against Mr.  Gammie and submitted by O’Melia was absolutely devoid of merit.

Note that the Law Society has no jurisdiction to enforce the law, so its findings must be considered in that context.

The meritless complaint against me cost taxpayers a lot of money.

The meritless complaint against me was another in a long string of baseless, malicious allegations, all of which cost the taxpayers money, and none of which have been found by any competent court to have any merit.  None.  ….   Not one.

What we have had for several years is one staff member and some council members waging their private wars against me and using the taxpayers’ treasury as their war chest.

Taxpayers should be outraged.

It could happen to you.

 

Craig

 


Attachments 1 through 4 are here:

attachments-commentary-7-11

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Mayor Jackson Breaches Code of Conduct – Deputy Kirkland Interferes With Sanctions Process

We have a code of conduct for council members.  It is a breach of the code of conduct to abuse, bully or intimidate a member of the public.  It is a breach of the code of conduct to maliciously or falsely injure the reputation of a member of public.  It is a breach of the code of conduct to treat a member of the public inappropriately.  The code of conduct is at:

https://southbrucepeninsula.civicweb.net/filepro/documents?expanded=33329&preview=33335

There is a very clear process in Ontario law for dealing with allegations of contravention of the code of conduct.  The Municipal Act allows for a municipality to hire or contract an integrity commissioner whose duty, once hired, is to investigate the allegation, and to make a finding of whether the code was breached, and to report the finding to council.  Council cannot investigate or judge.   But it is council’s duty to decide and apply sanctions.

I am confident that Janice Jackson has breached the code of conduct with very negative and damaging comments made on her facebook page, and in council debates, and elsewhere, about the members of a group called Friends of Sauble Beach.

At the urging of many residents who were offended by Ms. Jackson’s malicious comments, I submitted a report to council (attachment 1), in which:  1) I gave examples of Ms. Jackson’s abuse of members of the group,  2) I alleged that Ms. Jackson’s comments constituted a clear breach of our code of conduct, and, 3) I recommended that council, by resolution,  contract a qualified integrity commissioner to investigate and report.

Ms. Jackson and Mr. Kirkland have found a way to completely obstruct the Municipal Act process, and to avoid consequences for even the most serious and malicious of code breaches.

Here’s how the obstruction worked:

Ms. Jackson declared a conflict, leaving it to deputy Kirkland to decide whether my August 30th report got on the September 5th agenda. Mr. Kirkland decided that my report was contrary to our code of conduct and refused to allow it on the September 5th agenda.  When I phoned Mr. Kirkland and asked him to defend his decision (by providing a reason for his refusal to put my report on the agenda) he simply repeated that it was contrary to the code of conduct, and refused to provide anything further.

I probed, asking him to specify: 1) what passages in my report that he found offended the code,  2) what specific provisions (or sections) of the code were offended, and 3), how the passages constituted an offence on my part.

Mr. Kirkland, like a broken record, just kept repeating that my report was against the code and so it could not go on the agenda.   Four times I asked for his justification;  four times he refused to provide justification.

Because there was no valid justification.  My August 30th report does not contravene the code.  His refusal was nonsensical.

Mr. Kirkland’s decision was a clear and blatant abuse of process, and a clear obstruction of the intent of the Municipal Act section 223.4 .  Mr. Kirkland’s interference was to protect the mayor from sanctions, and to make sure that the mayor could continue to malign the members of the group Friends of Sauble Beach with impunity.

The mayor or one of her sycophantic supporters (Jay Kirkland, Matt Jackson) can breach the code with impunity just by making sure that any complaint against them about a breach of the code of conduct does not go into any agenda for the residents to see and does not go before council and does not get investigated by an integrity commissioner.

The Ontario Legislature has recognized the flaw in the Municipal Act that allows this type of abuse and has amended the law to stop the abuse.  The law as amended says that a municipality must either have an Integrity commissioner to administer the code of conduct (among other duties) or use the services of an integrity commissioner from another municipality to administer the code.  The problem is that this amendment has not yet been put into effect by the Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell.

It is unfortunate that until the Municipal Act amendment does go into effect, Ms. Jackson can go on slamming those who do not agree with her, and can go on breaching the code of conduct, with complete impunity.

I have written to the Lieutenant Governor asking her to immediately put the Municipal Act amendment into force so that Ms. Jackson’s malicious attacks can be stopped.  If anyone has any other idea how to stop this blatant abuse of power while we are waiting for the Municipal Act amendment to come into force, I would love to hear it.

Craig

————————————————————————————————————————-

Attachment 1

Report Re:  Council, September 5, 2017

Report No: GAMMIE 05-2017

Subject:        Mayor breach of code sections 5.2, 5.4

Recommendation:             That an Integrity Commissioner be hired per Municipal Act section 223.3 (1) to investigate alleged J. Jackson breaches of council code of conduct sections 5.2 and 5.4 and to recommend penalties as warranted.

Link to Strategic Planning:  Goal 1: Supportive and Accountable Municipal Operations and Governance.

BackgroundCode of conduct section 5.2 and 5.4, abridged for relevance, are:

5.2       No member will maliciously or falsely injure or impugn the professional or

ethical reputation of any member of ….., the public or ……

5.4       Every member has the duty and responsibility to treat members of the

public, ……… without abuse, bullying [or] intimidation and ….:

Mayor Jackson has made many public attacks on the members of the group Friends of Sauble Beach. Some examples are in Attachment “A”.

These attacks in my view maliciously and falsely impugn and injure the reputations of all members of Friends.  The attacks in my view are also inappropriate and abusive and bullying and intimidation.  The attacks in my view were made for an improper purpose.

The attacks are in my view clearly contrary to our code of conduct sections 5.2 and 5.4.

Options

 As recommended.

 Other.

Inter-departmental Impact:  none

Budget Implications:                    □ Approval of Manager of Financial Services

none

 

Expected Date of Completion:  NA

 

Respectfully submitted,

 

____________________________                                 ____________________________

Craig Gammie                                                          Department Head

Councillor

 

Date:  August 30,  2017                                          Date:   ______________________

——————————————————————————————————————————-

Attachment “A”

 From J. Jackson Facebook page:

The Friends of Sauble simply need to step aside and allow our community to enjoy their beach once again.

You are totally right….it was always the loud minority who ruled the roost. .But the “Friends” have now gone too far and the community is starting to react. I really appreciate your support and that of everyone who has spoken out against this mess. It’s much easier to fight a battle with a large army. If the “Friends” suffered from unpopularity prior to this week, I think they completely sunk themselves with their latest actions.

You aren’t alone George. All the good people [in Friends] left a long time ago.

At one time the town supported The Friends of Sauble Beach. The town no longer supports them. They were once a great benefit to our community, now they are simply a misguided political machine that over steps their bounds. They once had a membership of over 100 people but the early members who did great work have long since resigned. The Friends of Sauble have messed with Mother Nature by planting vegetation on the beach as well as an abundance of snow fencing which created the unnantural and unnecessary “fore-dunes” as they call them. The mess we’re trying to clean up is all man made.

 

 

 

 

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Driftwood, Dunes, and Little Birds in Peril – Let’s Conform to the Endangered Species Act

There is much buzz about who better understands the beach ecological processes, about who understand the biology, about who knows which is better – natural versus fully groomed – , etc.  But it seems that we may have lost sight of a very important issue, namely what degree of grooming can we do and still comfortably comply with the Endangered Species Act?

The act prohibits damage to plover habitat.   The act clearly defines habitat to include areas where the plovers are conducting or have conducted their life processes.   An MNR document suggests that plover habitat is 500 meters along the shore in both directions from a nest and from the dunes to the water’s edge, and in some cases part of the dunes.  That means a significant part of the Sauble sand beach and maybe part of the dunes is plover habitat.  And the Act is clear that if it is habitat while they are here, it  is still habitat after they leave and it is still habitat before they return in the spring.

TSBP staff have worked closely with the Ministry of Natural Resources over the past several years to come to a common understanding of what would be considered plover habit. That understanding is reflected in our beach maintenance policy.

In April 2017 the beach was extensively groomed.   That grooming had to have included plover habitat.

In August 2017, starting about August 20th, after the plovers had left, the beach was groomed again, even more extensively, and dunes were bulldozed.    That too had to have included plover habitat.

Both actions violated our policy.  In my view both actions contravened the Act.

Council was not even made aware of the grooming actions.   We found out by word of mouth.   Council certainly did not authorize either of the grooming actions.   But somebody did.

Over the summer Ms. Jackson has implicitly claimed that “we” (presumably meaning council) had ordered the April grooming.  She also very explicitly indicated, in July and early August, that “we” were going to groom as soon as  the plovers left.  She even dared the MNR to try to stop “us”.   The claims were false.  Council was not involved.  There was no “we” and there was no “us”.

Then recently on her facebook page Ms. Jackson changed and clarified her story.

She said:

“During one of my first interviews after the election, I listed many town projects I wanted to complete before my term was up. Bringing our beautiful beach back to its glory days was on that list. I am simply carrying out an election promise. Staying true to my word means everything to me.”

That’s a pretty clear admission (and a boast) that “she”, (not “we”) ordered the grooming.

In a way that’s a good clarification as it should transfer the focus of the MNR investigation or investigations to Ms. Jackson, and let the town and the taxpayers off the hook.

MNR got a complaint about the April grooming and is investigating.

I am told that there have already been further complaints to the MNR regarding the August grooming and bulldozing.

I trust that the MNR will confirm that it was not council that ordered the grooming and it was not the town that ordered the grooming.   And I trust that the MNR will find out who did give the orders and proceed accordingly and not pursue the town or innocent staff members or council members.

We need to get back to following our policy and we need to conform to the law, (both of which allow some grooming).

A related matter is that Ms. Jackson has, on the taxpayers’ dime, and again without council approval, hired a lawyer, ostensibly to defend the town.  But if the town lawyer is really defending Ms. Jackson, then she needs to pay her own expenses.

Craig

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The Sauble Town Square Fiasco – Why the Rush?

March of this year architects were hired to come up with a design for a town square for Sauble Beach.  On July 18, 2017 their proposal was presented to council.

The proposal was not really for a town square at all.  It was for a rock concert venue for the almost exclusive benefit of tourists and the tourist trade.

At the July 18 meeting it became clear that the idea was controversial.

A council meeting was set for August 5th to get public input.

A July 27th Wiarton Echo article noted the controversy over the project and announced the August 5th meeting.

Residents came to the August 5th meeting expecting an opportunity to voice their concerns or support in front of their peers.   Instead they arrived to find that there was no room on the agenda for residents to comment.

Councillor Vukovic  indicated to the mayor that we would leave the meeting (which would end it for lack of council quorum) if the residents were not allowed to voice their concerns publically at the meeting.

The Mayor reluctantly agreed to allow each resident to ask one question at the meeting, after the architect’s presentation.

https://southbrucepeninsula.civicweb.net/FileStorage/1C559D8D74594F44862F5C5B06137D8E-Sauble%20Beach%20Town%20Square%20Presentation.pdf

Residents were not permitted to make comments, and the architects and council members were not permitted to respond to the residents’ questions.

It was a sham – not a real public meeting at all.

Residents were invited to submit comments, in writing, as long as they did so by 4:30 Tuesday the 7th (3 days later).   Many complained that the timeline was far too short.

Then on August 8th the mayor called a special meeting of council for Friday August 11th for the purpose of making a decision regarding the town square.

This fast schedule is shutting out the residents to a large degree.   But worse it is pushing council to make a fast decision rather than slowing down and doing it right.

Mayor Jackson said in council July 18, and is quoted in the echo as saying: “My only concern is that it’s up and running by Canada Day next year”.

The fast special August 11th meeting is clearly to try to meet Janice Jackson’s desired schedule.

But there is no justification for such a fast track.   We have managed fine without a town square forever.   The sky is not going to fall if we don’t have a town square completed by Canada day 2018.  The sky is not going to fall if we slow down and do this right, even if that means not meeting Janice Jackson’s schedule.

The August 11th meeting was called to try to ram through a decision.    This in my view is the wrong strategy.

Many concerns have been raised on facebook pages, on blogs, in the August 5th meeting, and elsewhere.   Concerns include the high cost to taxpayers for the structures, potentially very high maintenance and operating costs, feasibility of the composting toilets, noise, liablity, safety, poor suitability for Sauble, and others.   These are valid concerns that need to be addressed in a transparent and deliberate way.

I encourage all residents to email council and suggest that the Sauble Town Square decision process be slowed down and modified to include residents in a more meaningful way.

If you decide to come to the council meeting on the 10th (tomorrow), be aware that residents will not likely be permitted to speak.

Lastly I could not help but wonder why the Mayor is so bent on completing her $900,000 plus town square by July 1, 2018 (less than eleven months away).   Then I recalled that we have an election about October 28, 2018, and campaigning starts in earnest about Canada Day (July 1) 2018.

Welcome to the world of politics.

 

Craig

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The Sauble Town Square Fiasco (7-6)

There is a special public meeting of Council on August 5, 2017 at 11:00 am at the Sauble School to get reaction to the latest Sauble town square proposal.   I encourage all residents to attend.

It started out as a sound enough idea.  The town owns land near lakeshore and main street.  Someone said let’s have a town square there where residents could gather on special occasions.

The cost at the early stage was estimated by some as no more than $200,000.

Then somehow the idea morphed into something completely different.

Instead of having a low cost community town square for the residents, the plan is to build an ugly million dollar rock concert venue monstrosity for the enjoyment of tourists and for the benefit of the tourism trade.

The ugly monstrosity was revealed in the July 18 council agenda at:

https://southbrucepeninsula.civicweb.net/FileStorage/FE43421BCA224AEAA5FB2A42A5D647E2-Delegation%20Presentation%20-%20MJ%20Architecture.pdf

In the presentation it was made crystal clear that the town square was not at all a place for residents, but was rather a “bold gesture to reinvigorate tourism”.

The number of times “branding” and encouraging “tourism” was mentioned in the presentation?  – ten!.  Number of times residents mentioned – zero!

What concerns me most is that taxes keep going up and town roads keep falling further and further into disrepair, yet taxpayers’ money is being gobbled up by the ugly and  noisy “town square” fiasco as taxpayers are once again being forced to subsidize the tourism trade.

Proponents are saying that the increased tourism from the square will bring revenues into the treasury.  Don’t buy it.   Tourists pay parking fees, but the cost burden of tourism is far larger than those revenues, and as a result tourists are a net cost to the municipality.

Proponents are saying there will not be much noise impact because the amphitheatre will be pointed toward the lake.

Don’t buy it.  The sound of very loud rock bands will carry for many kilometers in all directions, not just toward the lake.   And the current council, a majority of which has total disregard for the rights of residents to quiet enjoyment of their properties and the commons,  is geared up to exempt the town square from the TSBP noise by-law.  We could have the noise every night of the summer. Confiscation of one million dollars from taxpayers and what you get for it is to be driven out of your quiet home.

Some, including mayor Janice Jackson, have invited tourists to come to the August 5th meeting and have their say.

Do you want tourists to decide how much taxes you pay?   Do you want tourists to decide how your scarce tax dollars are spent.   Of course many of the tourists will favour a noisy rock concert venue.   It costs them nothing.  But it will cost the taxpayers a million dollars.

The meeting should only recognize taxpayers.  After all the million dollars is your money.

The concept as presented to council July 18th is a monstrosity.     It is a cross between 5 storey industrial scaffolding and a scene from Mad Max From Thunderdome.

Is that really what the residents want for Sauble Beach?

Please come to the August 5th meeting.  Please say no to the confiscation of a million dollars of your money for subsidization of the tourism trade.  Please say no to the confiscation of a million dollars of your money for this inappropriate monstrosity.

Please insist on a low cost town square designed for the residents who appreciate the special quiet rural ambience of Sauble Beach.

 

Craig Gammie

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The 2017 Town of South Bruce Peninsula Budget 6-8

This is my personal viewpoint.  I do not speak for council.

Council and staff have been working on the 2017 budget for several weeks.  The budget is getting very close to being finalized.

At this stage the budget includes a tax increase of about 3.3 percent for the average residence.

But the 3.3 percent tax increase is very misleading.

Because to get the tax increase down to 3.3 percent the plan is to:

 1) siphon cash from our working capital reserve to pay for expenditures and ,

2) underfund and run down our reserves for future capital projects like roads, fleet replacement, a new landfill site, etc.)

If we were to keep these reserves at a proper level, the tax increase could be more like five or six percent.   That is the real increase at this point.  The 3.3 per cent increase is an illusion.

Here are some opportunities to get the increase down:

Clubs should pay property taxes

Currently there are four clubs that do not pay property taxes, even though the municipal act requires that we tax them, and even though the former treasurer said that we had to tax them.  By giving the clubs a property tax break, all other residents and businesses have to pay more tax.  This is unfair to the rest of the residents and to businesses.

Tourism operators should not be subsidized by residential property taxes

There are several budget items that take money out of the pockets of residents and give the money directly to tourism businesses, or spend the money indirectly to assist tourist businesses.  This is unfair to all residents who do not have tourism businesses, and is especially unfair to residents who have businesses or occupations that are not tourism.

Some claim that taxing property owners and using the money to assist tourism businesses helps the economy and makes residents more prosperous.  But that claim does not stand up to scrutiny.   Taking money out of residents’ pockets through taxes reduces their spending on goods and services, and reduces investment (through savings) in the generation of gods and services.  That diminishes the economy.  When this economic drain is compared to any benefit from subsidizing businesses, the net impact on the economy will in my estimate be negative.

In addition to being unfair, subsidizing tourism with property tax dollars is discouraged by the  municipal act section 106, which reads:

Assistance prohibited

  1. (1) Despite any Act, a municipality shall not assist directly or indirectly any manufacturing business or other industrial or commercial enterprise through the granting of bonuses for that purpose.  2001, c. 25, s. 106 (1).

I am not against economic development or growth.  I only oppose forced taxpayer subsidies to businesses.

Sauble town square

At this point there is $400,000 of capital costs in this year’s budget and another $800,000 slated for the 2018 budget for a “town square” at Sauble Beach.   The reason it is so costly is that it is not a town square at all, but is instead a concert venue for loud bands for the purpose of attracting tourists for the benefit of the tourist industry.   The town square design even has dressing rooms for the bands.   Residents will pay dearly through property taxes and in return will lose the quiet ambience that brought them to Sauble Beach in the first place.  And there will be significant ongoing operating costs too.

I would prefer to have a simple town square, a real town square, which could be made for less than $100,000.

Extra school taxes

About a third of your property tax bill is education taxes.   Education tax rates are set by the province. Neither the school board nor the town has any jurisdiction or right to levy extra taxes.  Yet that is exactly what the Town of South Bruce Peninsula does.  It collects an extra school tax and pays it to the Bluewater School board.   You pay huge education taxes and then you pay an extra hidden education tax.   That is unfair and of questionable legality.

I support keeping all of our schools operating.  But we should be getting the funds to keep the schools operating from legitimate education taxes, not from extra municipal property taxes.

Funding doctors

Provision of Health Care services is the sole jurisdiction of the province.   Yet the town collects extra property taxes from the residents to pay doctors to practice here.   While this benefits some, it costs all and is beyond the jurisdiction of the town.

I support a concerted effort to get the province to get doctors to practice in TSBP.  But I cannot support increasing property taxes to pay doctors.

Payments to charities

The budget contains some significant donations to charities.   Donations to charities should be voluntary, private decisions.   The town should not be making your charity-donation decisions for you, without your consent, through property taxes.

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There are also opportunities to better serve the residents.  Here’s one:

Noise and fireworks by-law enforcement

We have good fireworks and noise bylaws.  We use to have good enforcement of fireworks and noise bylaws.  But now there is no enforcement outside 9-5 Monday to Friday.  This leaves the residents vulnerable to harassment by inconsiderate hooligans all summer long.  A majority of council members have contemptuously decided that residents are not entitled to enjoyment of their properties.  These members do not seem to care about the residents and make disparaging remarks about any resident who asks for enforcement.  One council member has even openly encouraged violation of the bylaws by publically indicating that there will be no by-law enforcement outside of 9-5 Monday to Friday.  This is totally disrespectful of the residents, especially when you consider that the revenue generated from after-hours enforcement may well exceed the extra costs.

After much discussion, however, council members have agreed, some very reluctantly, to add by-law enforcement on weekends for the summer.  But enforcement is needed after hours during the week too.

Public Meeting

There will be a public meeting regarding the budget.  The current date is March 30th at 7:00 pm in council chambers at town hall.

An announcement is at:

http://www.southbrucepeninsula.com/en/townhall/publicnotices.asp

Also in the announcement is information on how you can send comments in or make comments at the public meeting.

 

 

Craig

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