Clear divide among Springwater incumbents, challengers
By Kate Harries AWARE News Network
Improved health services, an expansion of the high school and how to revitalize the township’s only main street were high on the list of concerns at an all-candidates’ meeting sponsored by Focus Elmvale Tuesday night, the first of three to be held in Springwater.
But the massive Midhurst development at the south end overshadowed all other matters. This report will focus on that issue.
Incumbents and challengers were all heard and applauded politely each time they answered written questions read out by former Oro-Medonte mayor Neil Craig.
Mayor Linda Collins and deputy mayor Dan McLean – who have spent the last term lobbying the province to ease the way for the MSP – insisted that there will be no adverse financial or environmental impacts.
Bill French, running for mayor, and Don Allen and Les Stewart. who are vying for deputy mayor, all decried the disregard of the public will that has led to the Midhurst approval and warned of dire consequences if the plan goes ahead.
And then there was Tony Guergis, the third mayoral candidate, who seemed to have moved into some third dimension in which he didn’t lead the council that adopted the MSP, in which he didn’t break his 2006 election promise to fight Dump Site 41, in which he didn’t lose in 2010 in the wake of the reversal of the dump decision.
Some of what was said:
Ramifications for other wards of Midhurst expansion
Stewart Fundamentally the Midhurst Secondary Plan is a way of being able to totally change the dynamics within our township in a way that is electorally and financially out of our control. So that if this goes ahead in substantially the way that is envisioned now, what we would see is a council in the future with perhaps four out 10 councillors from Ward 5 and one or two from Ward 1. This is just the way that representation by population goes… This has significant financial implications for 18,500 people and perhaos up to 45,000 people.
McLean When I look at the systems that we’re under now, the ward systems that we work under now, I don’t see it as being a large effect on how votes are going to go in Springwater. I heard the same argument that, because we’re going to have an amalgamation in this area, that people in Wards 1 and 2 won’t have a voice. That never happened, and I don’t think it’s going to happen again. I think we’re looking at, until 2031 an increase of about 11,000 people in the south end of this municipality. That’s going to change the ward slightly. But with a ward system, and if we elect the right people, it won’t affect voting, it won’t affect anything. It’s the way that democracy works. I think it’s fear-mongering when you say that everybody at the south end – there’s 100 municipalities in the province of Ontario where they have loaded areas at one end and they’re not experiencing areas where people are being mistreated in one end as opposed to the other.
Allen I think the potential for property tax increases exists. Development fees will pay for a certainportion but any planning that’s involved, expansions at this level has resulted in Barrie, and Oakville, and Mississauga, has resulted in long-term property tax increases that will otherwise not be the case.
Controlling the growth
Collins We are in control, there are 150 conditions… Nothing will go forward without ministry approval. So, the controls, the oversights, the NVCA (Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority) are in place, and that’s what we’re going to continue to do, to maintain township control.
French That’s kind of like a fly controlling an elephant. It’s very clear. My position is that in this document here (holds up the Places to Grow legislation) Schedule 7 says that our township was supposed to grow by 6,500 people to 2031. I think deputy mayor McLean has his numbers wrong because the first 5,300 home will be 12,000 to 15,000 people. My objective is – our council cannot stop the train that the last two councils have started – but with the will of the council, I will ask the minister to revoke the Special Rule because the Midhurst Secondary Plan in its current form is only permitted because the minister said okay, our rules say it’s only going to be 6,500 but since the last two councils want this huge populace, we’ll allow it. So it’s quite simple. Council’s not going to do it, the minister’s going to do it, and I’m the only candidate who will ask him. (Loud applause)
Guergis The issue of reducing the growth in Midhurst is a very complex discussion and it needs to take place, and it needs to take place with all parties at the table. If we get into a them-against-us discussion I think the difficulty’s going to be that we can’t afford to hire the amount of lawyers it’s going to take, a small municipality like ours… Getting people back to the table and expressing to them the concerns we have about education, transportation, about our environment and making sure they understand completely the concerns about the Minesing Wetlands and what we want to see… and making sure we have controls in place. In the last four years council lost control of this plan and the minister stepped in and made a special exemption. Prior to that we were discussing, I asked the minister on a dozen occasions at least if the number was going to stay at 667,000 for the region and they said yes. I don’t know what made them change their mind.
Allen – After he and his wife moved to Midhurst for its rural setting and rural values “We learned to our horror of the MSP debacle. We went to some council meetings and it became evident that council was broken. It’s not acting and serving as an effective board of directors. There has been a lack of communication and cohesiveness, and infighting has existed… The leaders have not accomplished what the previous platforms promised to do, I am told, nor what the voters want them to do. Now we (inaudible) we are best suited to let them lead for another four years and monitor what’s going on. That’s putting the fox in the hen house as far as I am concerned (applause). This is the right time to get things working right or live with the consequences long-term, which could be very negative. This is not fear-mongering, it is reality. Some people say I do not have a long history in the area or council experience yet it is the actions of those people who have this history and experience that have caused the present situation.”