• Protecting Water and Farmland in Simcoe County

After two tied votes, Bifolchi wins NVCA chair in draw from hat

In Agencies
Jan 13th, 2014

Each year at the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority AGM, the chair is elected for the coming year. This year, at the meeting held January 10, Darren White, Deputy Mayor of Melanchthon Township (Dufferin County) challenged incumbent chair Wasaga Beach Councillor Nina Bifolchi for the position. White was nominated by Dan Davidson (Innisfil) and Percy Way (Amaranth).

Bifolchi was nominated by Earl Hawkins (Mulmur) and Gail Ardiel (Blue Mountains). Following short statements by the two candidates, a vote by secret ballot was taken.

The result was a tie.

So a second vote was taken which also resulted in a tie, not exactly a ringing endorsement of Chair Bifolchi’s record. In accordance with the NVCA policy to break a tie both names were put into a hat and the winner drawn. Bifolchi’s name was drawn. Gail Ardiel was then acclaimed as vice-chair.

I have to take issue with the secret ballot voting the position of chair. Members are elected officials representing constituents. The people they represent have a right to know how their representatives voted. The same holds true for the election of the Warden at County Council. It’s obvious that the secret ballot was brought in to avoid hard feelings between committee members but the need for transparency trumps the need to avoid hurt feelings.

On a positive note, the board unanimously passed the 2014 budget. While the budget increase is 3.25%, CAO Wayne Wilson explained that 1.9% of that is growth related. Is the growth within the municipalities paying for the cost it generates? I seriously doubt it. It never has in the past.

Following a presentation by Dufferin Wind Power in which the presenters basically threatened the board with a law suit if they were not issued permits for four sites, the board went in camera with their legal counsel for discussion. After the in camera discussion the board passed a motion which basically told Dufferin Wind Power to get lost, once again unanimously.

This gives me cause for optimism. Following several years of what can only be described as pure unadulterated bullying of the NVCA staff, perhaps the pro-development members of the board are beginning to see there might be value to the work of the NVCA after all. Perhaps Darren White’s pre-election remarks influenced a few.

In his speech White said “I also strongly believe that we have to set an atmosphere where our professional staff can feel comfortable enough to do their jobs.  It is our job to give them the tools they need to do their work, and to stand behind them as they do it.  There has been some second guessing and in some cases the board has overruled staff.  With all due respect to all of us, myself included, while we are able to question and expect some sober second thought, none of us have the technical training to overrule some of the decisions as we have. We need to give our staff proper tools and trust in their judgement.  If we can’t do that then what are we doing here?” For Deputy Mayor White’s complete remarks, click here.

In any case, the conservation-supportive members have served notice that they are not going to be cowed by bully tactics from the development industry. That will bode well for the environment.

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