In a strongly-worded letter to his “constituents and the people of Ontario”, Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston MPP, Randy Hillier, made a series of accusations against the 9 month-old Doug Ford government on Monday.
The letter came about in response to the announcement on Friday that Hillier has been permanently ousted from the Conservative Party Caucus at Queen’s Park.
In his trademark style, Hillier came out swinging, and the main focus of his attention were two members of Premier Doug Ford’s inner circle. One is Ford’s Chief of Staff, Dean French, and the other is Chris Froggatt, who chaired Ford’s transition committee. In September, Froggatt became a founding partner in a firm called Loyalist Public Affairs, which describes itself as a “boutique government relations and strategic communications firm based in Ottawa and Toronto.”
In his letter, Hillier talks about how the Ford government seems to have quickly lost its way.
“The PC Caucus was blessed with the election of many new and fresh faces in the June General Election. However, it has become clear that the backroom operatives took advantage of many of the newly elected members who, not being as well informed of parliamentary practices, rights, privileges, or conventions, were taken advantage of by Dean French and Chris Froggatt.
“Like many people, I had high hopes and expectations with the election of a PC government after 15 years of Liberal mismanagement, scandals, and harmful policies. I could not stand by and tolerate operatives engaging in similar and more egregious acts.”
He said that the very first time he met Dean French, at the Ford family BBQ last August, French indicated that he wanted Hillier out of the party caucus.
Hillier then cited ten reasons why he was expelled. Some of them refer to issues that he raised last week, before his expulsion became permanent, insisting on the right to debate public policy within caucus, not cheerleading enough in the house or on social media. But he also made an allegation that piqued the interest of the Toronto media establishment and prompted a quick response from the Premier’s office.
“For raising concerns of possible illegal and unregistered lobbying by close friends and advisors employed by Premier Ford”
In response, Simon Jefferies, Communications Director for the Ford government, released a written response refuting all ten of Hillier’s allegations point by point, calling them “absurd and categorically false.” He called the allegation of “possible illegal and unregistered lobbying “an outright lie”.
The matter was raised in the legislature on Monday, and Minister of Municipal Affairs, Steve Clark, who represents the Leeds Grenville riding which neighbours Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston, said that the illegal lobbying allegations were false.
Opposition parties asked for the matter to be looked into further, and the NDP urged Hillier to bring the matter to the attention of the Parliamentary Integrity Commissioner for vetting.
For his part, Hillier reiterated his commitment to serving the interests of his constituents at Queen’s Park as an independent MPP:
“I want to assure all of my constituents, regardless of political affiliation, that my removal from the PC Party Caucus will neither prevent nor impede my ability to represent each one of you to the best of my ability. I have never put the party line ahead of my constituents, and my removal from caucus will permit me greater freedom to speak publicly on government policy.
“Having conviction is more important than playing politics, that representation of my constituents is more important than being buddies with backroom operatives whose only mission is unrestrained power and control that always leads to corruption. I am now your conservative, independent Member for Lanark, Frontenac, Kingston, and I continue to be proud to represent you.”
As of this riding, it is unclear whether Hillier is still a member of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario.
Given the tenor of these latest statements, on both sides, it would be a real surprise for him to seek the party nomination, should he decide to run again in 2022, and even more unlikely that the party would let him seek the nomination.
What do Jody-Wilson Raybold and Randy Hillier have in common?
They are both Canadians and they are both politicians. That’s where their apparent similarities end.
Wilson Raybould is an indigenous lawyer from BC. Hillier is an electrician from Lanark County. Wilson Raybould is a Liberal, Hillier is not. Wilson Raybould is dedicated to Indigenous rights, Hillier is dedicated to landowners rights. Wilson-Raybould was embraced by her party leader as soon as she was elected for the first time and ushered into a prestigious cabinet position as Minister of Justice for Canada. Hillier was one of the longest serving Ontario Progressive Conservative MPP’s when his party finally took power after 12 years in opposition, and he was not chosen for a cabinet post.
But the two do share something else in common aside from being Canadians politicians. Over the past few month, they both found themselves at odds with their leaders, or more to the point, the people in positions of power within the offices of their leaders.
And they are both now on the outside looking in. Again, there are differences. Raybold left cabinet of her own accord and for the moment she is still a Liberal MP, whereas Hillier was summarily booted out of his party caucus on a slim pretext.
Wilson-Raybold was removed from her post as Justice Minister because she would yield to the will of the Prime Ministers Office. While she has not said that explicitly, the fact that she has not been offered the chance to confirm or deny that makes it all the more apparent that it is indeed the case. Hillier was removed from Caucus because he did not show the right amount of deference to the Premier’s office.
This is the common denominator in these cases, and it reflects the reality of politics all over Canada. Although we elect individual MP’s and MPP’s, the governments that emerge from those elections centralise all the power within the Prime Minister or the Premier’s office.
The role of MP or MPP is certainly relevant as far as local advocacy is concerned, and perhaps in terms of grants for the riding, but in terms of decision-making, members and even cabinet ministers have to defer to the unelected officials who are in place because they are appointed by the leader.
There are two ways to make this system more fair. The first would be for the party’s in power to change that reality. That is not going to happen.
We have been headed down this path ever since Trudeau senior was in power in Ottawa, and under Prime Ministers Mulroney, Chretien, and Harper it became more and more entrenched. And the same is true in Ontario.
In our system, when there is a majority government, the Premier or the Prime Minister, and by extension their personal office, have unchecked power save for the potential of a caucus revolt. Given the fact that the leader also controls the party apparatus, the chances of a caucus revolt, for a party in power, is slim to none.
The centralisation of power in the Premier or Prime Ministers office is an indelible feature of modern Canadian politics.
But when we go to the polls we elect a representative, not a party. Our voting system is out of step with the way our governments operate.
Since, as we have seen so graphically in these two cases, the party and the leader have full control over the government in our times, it is even more undemocratic that electoral reform has been shelved in both Ontario and Canada.
Since the leadership of the party in power had all of the legislative power and local representatives have become irrelevant in terms of policy development in provincial of federal politics, we need a new system.
If we can’t reform our Parliamentary system, then let’s be honest and move to a Presidential system, with a 50% threshold. There are two advantages to that system over what we have now in Canada.
First, at least the name of the leader who will exercise such power, will be on each of our ballots. Second, we can put checks on that power in place.
Right now, our Premiers and Prime Ministers have a level of unchecked power that is beyond anything that could be imagined in the United States, for example.
We’ve been covering Randy Hillier at the News ever since he was the leader of the Lanark Landowners. It’s fair to say he has always been an energetic, but divisive figure. His history with the Progressive Conservative Party, which we have covered from the outside looking in, has clearly also been a fraught one.
Back in 2007, he essentially forced his way into the party by winning the nomination as a candidate, bringing many of his Lanark and Ontario Landowner Association supporters with him.
Over the years he has given and rescinded his support for a succession of party leaders, and even ran for the job himself back in 2010. Early last year, he played a role in the removal of Patrick Brown as leader, and then he backed Christine Elliott in the contest for a replacement. When Doug Ford was chosen instead, and then went on to win the election, Randy Hillier expressed his strong support.
When I interviewed him just before the election last June, Hillier said “I can phone Doug Ford up any time and he’ll take my call. He wants to know what people think. We haven’t had a leader like that before”.
Doug Ford does not seem to be taking Randy Hillier’s calls anymore.
Again, looking at the situation from the outside, it seems that our MPP, who was elected under the PC banner, has been turfed from the government benches, at least temporarily, in order to send a message to the rest of the caucus. The Toronto press and the CBC claim that Hillier has run afoul with Doug Ford’s chief of staff. By shunting Hillier to the penalty box, everyone else in the Conservative caucus, and their staff and riding association members, will know what the consequences of defiance are.
His record of bucking to the party leadership, going back almost to the beginning of his political career, makes Hillier an easy target within the party.
We all know that politics is about power, and from time to time parties move to ‘keep the troops in line’.
The problem in this case is that the pretext for turfing Randy Hillier was thin, very thin. Even the people who accused him of saying “yada yada yada” to them didn’t seem to care that much. They said afterwards that they are concerned about the funding regime for autistic children, not Randy Hillier. And Doug Ford himself and his Minister of Children and Youth Services Lisa McLeod have made more defamatory comments to protestors in recent weeks.
It is strange that this, of all the things Randy Hillier has said and done over his political career, is the reason that the leadership of the Conservative Party has acted against him.
The Progressive Conservative Party has approved Randy Hillier as their candidate on four separate occasions. Under their banner, he has won each of those times. Now that, the party is in power, they are pushing our riding to the sidelines along with our MPP. We are just collateral damage in their move against Hillier.
This riding, much to the consternation of some of us, always elects the same party. Anyone carrying the Conservative banner will win the riding, just about every time we go to the polls.
By removing our member from their caucus, without justifiable cause, the party is telling all of those died in wool Conservatives in Frontenac and Lanark County that they don’t really count in Toronto.
Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston MPP Randy Hillier was not named to Doug Ford’s cabinet, and his bid for the Speaker’s chair was unsuccessful, but he continues to make headlines nonetheless, this time by quoting Jerry Seinfeld.
Premier Doug Ford suspended Hillier from the Conservative Party caucus last Wednesday, (February 20) over a comment Hillier made at the end of Question Period that day. The visitor galleries were full up with parents of autistic children, and the NDP members of the house in particular were taking up their cause. The parents are angry about the direction the government is taking regarding funding for autism services, and fearful that the reforms to the system will be detrimental to their autistic children.
NDP MPP Monique Taylor (Hamilton Mountain) who is the Child and Family Services Critic for the NDP, has held meetings with some of the parents and has been one of the most persistent voices on the issue, in and outside of the legislature.
As the MPP’s were leaving the chamberafter Question Period, Hillier said, “Yada yada yada” a phrase that was made famous in an episode of the 1990’s sitcom ‘Seinfeld’.
The Merriam Webster definition for ‘yada yada’ is as follows: “boring or empty … often used interjectionally especially in recounting words regarded as too dull or predictable to be worth repeating.” Hillier’s third yada presumably upping the level of dull and predictable, by a third.
Some of the parents, who were in the visitors gallery overlooking the chamber, claim that Hillier’s “yada yada yada” comment was directed at them.
Shortly after, Premier Doug Ford suspended Hillier from the Conservative caucus, and issued the following statement: “Effective immediately, Randy Hillier has been suspended indefinitely from the Ontario PC Caucus following his disrespectful comments to parents of children with autism. I want to listen to every parent, and every family member who wants to share their stories and their asks. But Mr. Hillier’s comments crossed the line and that is unacceptable.”
Later that afternoon, Hillier said that his yada yada’s were not directed at the parents of autistic children, but only at Monique Taylor.
In a statement, Hillier acknowledged the “emotional challenges and hardships of the many families of autistic children who were present”. He said that the NDP caucus has been politicising the issue and that he finds “the exploitation of those families by members of the NDP caucus disheartening.”
The statement says the following about his own actions.
“At the end of Question Period as members were leaving their seats, Monique Taylor continued to politicise these hardships so I caught the eye of Ms. Taylor and simply said to her “yada, yada, yada.”
“In my twelve years in office I do not recall a member heckling a spectator in the gallery and all banter is always between members on the floor of the House.
“I apologise to the parents present who may have felt that my comments were directed at them: they were not, and never would be.”
At the time Hillier said that he would have a conversation with his colleagues within the Conservative Party to clear up the matter, but as of Tuesday, (February 26), there has been no change in Hillier’s status within the house, he is effectively an independent MPP, although he is still a member of the Conservative Party.
He has received support from some unusual sources however. In a post to Twitter, CBC correspondent Mike Crawley reported that reporters for the Toronto Star who witnessed the exchange, agreed with Hillier’s account of what happened, that his comments were addressed entirely at Taylor and not the families.
And in an editorial published on Sunday, the Star went further, using Hillier as a weapon in a critique of the Ford governments autism funding changes.
The editorial points to Hillier’s and Ford’s different viewpoints on who the yada yada’s were intended for, and then goes further.
“Either way, it’s far less disrespectful than what Ford himself said in 2014 when he was a Toronto city councillor. Ford said then that an Etobicoke home for teenagers with autism had ‘ruined the community,’ and followed that up by telling a father who complained about him to ‘go to hell’.
“Yada yada yada is also not as troubling as Children, Community and Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod’s decision to threaten the Ontario Association for Behaviour Analysis with ‘four long years’ they didn’t publicly support her government’s autism overhaul.
“But Ford rushed to defend MacLeod as an ‘absolute all-star’ and ejected Hillier — pending a PC caucus meeting on Tuesday to decide his future.”
The editorial then speculates that Hillier is being punished by Ford.
“Could that be because MacLeod is doing his bidding and Hillier, an outspoken backbencher, is not?” the editorial says.
The irony around the fact that the Toronto Star is supporting Hillier, although only because he is on the outs with Doug Ford and the Conservative Party, was fodder for comment on Hillier’s twitter feed.
“Just what Randy needs: support from the Toronto Star,” was one of the comments.
(This article was written on Tuesday, February 26. A call in to Randy Hillier’s office for comment was made on Tuesday morning. Dave Shostal, from the office, called back in the afternoon. He said that Randy is not commenting publicly beyond what he said in the statement he released last week, but that he would put the Frontenac News on the list of those who had called him should he wish to comment at some point in the future. Shostal said that to his knowledge there had been no change in Hillier’s status within the Conservative caucus resulting from the weekly caucus meeting that took place earlier in the day.)
When replacing a culvert over the Henderson Road, Central Frontenac crews put in a larger, and longer pipe. It turned out that because of the extra length, the culvert now extends beyond the township right of way and onto Ken Arney’s property.
Exactly how far into Arney’s property the culvert extends, has not been determined yet. Given the situation, the township intends to purchase a small piece of Arney’s property. In order to determine how much of Arney’s land is involved, and make the purchase, a survey must be completed, and that can’t happen until the snow melts.
Arney came to Council this week (Tuesday, February 19) in order to express his frustration about how the process has been carried out thus far.
“I am not happy about the way I have been treated by township staff over this. I feel that I have not been well informed by staff. I wasn’t impressed with one of the councillor’s comments either. He said it was inconsiderate of me to ask him to spend two hours of his valuable time on this by visiting and having a look.”
Arney also said that he thought the township needed to survey his property in order to determine the limits of the piece they intend to purchase.
Mayor Frances Smith said that since Mr. Arney’s neighbour’s property has been surveyed, “the surveyor can work from those posts to survey the piece. We are not going to survey the entire property.”
When the possibility of expropriation was mentioned, Arney speculated that he might be better off going that route.
Mayor Smith said, “as far as I understand it, when we fixed the culvert we encroached on your property by mistake. We aren’t going to pull out the culvert so we need to buy the land. The best outcome is for us to do the survey and come to an agreement over the price. Expropriation is not something we want to do. We would rather agree on the boundaries and the price with you.”
Pic Hall repair – old walls hold secrets
Acting Development Services Manager Alan Revill spoke to the ongoing construction at the Piccadilly Hall. He reported that when the paneling was pulled off of one of the exterior walls in the hall to reveal some century old lathe and plaster, it also revealed a 5 inch gap between the wall and the floor and a similar gap below the ceiling. Given this, the contractor recommended stripping out the existing material and putting in a new wall on the existing wall supports. This will increase the cost of the project by over $7,000. The good news, Revill said, was that the project has been progressing smoothly, and will be “substantially complete by early March.”
Pic Hall repair (part 2) who owns the hall anyway – In 2016 the township became aware of the fact that the property the Piccadilly Hall is located, as well as about half of the adjacent cemetery, are not legally owned by the township. The piece of property, which was part of the old Clark farm, that was purchased by the Snider family, was donated to Hinchinbrooke Township but apparently the land transfer was never completed. The land is still registered to Clark, as it has been since 1857. Council did not act on the information in 2016, and Deputy Clerk Cindy Deachman prepared a new report this month in light of the construction that is now going on.
“Staff recommend Council approve commencing the required legal work to correct
title for both the hall property and the two cemetery properties. This will most
likely include survey work to obtain a legal description, and a court
application, at least for the two parcels owned by Mr. Clark,” she said in her report.
The estimated court costs will likely be over $5,000 and the survey will cost a similar amount. The township is planning to budget for the transfer this coming year.
Compliance with new Municipal Act – Council, along with all other municipalities in Ontario, are facing a March 1st deadline to enact policies to comply with provisions in the recently revised Municipal Act.
One of them is a Tree Canopy and Natural Vegetation Policy, which the Deputy Clerk recommended keeping at more of an educational level than imposing bylaw restrictions on property owners. An email from David Shostal of Randy Hillier’s office indicated that the government was backing down from the requirement.
In that context, Councillor Brent Cameron said Council should take no action. Councillor Victor Heese said it was still a good idea to have a tree policy in place. Councillor Bill MacDonald, a logger himself, said some restriction against clear-cutting might be a good way to go. The matter was referred back to staff. The council has another meeting before March first, and they may or may not pass a new tree policy.
Another policy that is required is a council pregnancy and parental leave policy, providing 20 weeks leave for council members.
Councillor Tom Dewey suggested that the proposed policy, including a provision to pay the deputy mayor the salary of the mayor if the mayor is off on a maternity or paternity leave.
Mayor Smith assured Council that she is not seeking such a leave at this or likely in the future, but that Dewey’s recommendation seemed sensible.
When asked, all of the council members indicated they are not planning on taking such a leave.
Finally, council considered a code of conduct and council staff relations policies, which will be coming back for a vote on February 26.
One more year of OMPF funding.
Provincial transfers to municipalities under the Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund (OMPF) will be unchanged in 2019. The Ford government intends to change the program in the coming months, with a view towards focussing on the more rural and cash strapped councils. In a letter to municipalities, Minister of Finance Vic Fedeli said OMPF changes would be announced well in advance of 2020, before municipal councils start their budget process for next year
“Ministry staff are working to finalise data updates to ensure the OMPF continues to be
responsive to changing municipal circumstances as is the case under the current
program,” he wrote. He added that the province is facing a deficit and continues “to review government transfer payments.”
Budget meeting, March 22.
Because members of council will be away in early March, the next budget meeting will be Friday, March 22, at the fire hall on Wagner Road, 9am.
There were few surprises at the inaugural meeting of the 2018-2022 Frontenac County Council, which was held on Wednesday, December 22, just as the Frontenac News final edition for 2018 was being printed.
North Frontenac Mayor Ron Higgins will serve as warden for the second year in a row, to be followed in 2020 by Frances Smith (Central Frontenac), who was elected deputy warden for 2019. Ron Vandewal (South Frontenac) will assume the warden’s mantle in 2021, followed by Dennis Doyle (Frontenac Islands) in 2022.
While all four of the above-mentioned mayors are serving at least their second term on council, four new members of Frontenac County Council took office at the meeting. They are: Alan Revill (South Frontenac), Bill MacDonald (Central Frontenac), Gerry Martin (North Frontenac), and Bruce Higgs (Frontenac Islands).
The only other major appointments that were made at the meeting were to the Kingston Frontenac Public Library Board. There are two Frontenac County resident positions on the board, appointed by Frontenac County Council. Council appointed Louise Moody from Central Frontenac to the board, and Natalie Nossal from Howe Island. Council also sends a representative from their own ranks, and that will be Alan Revill.
Warden Higgins delivered an inaugural address. He talked about the importance of the next phase of work by the Eastern Ontario Regional Network (EORN) and the focus on cell and broadband coverage in remote regions of Frontenac and neighbouring counties, a key issue for North Frontenac Township in particular. He talked about the completion of the K&P Trail to Sharbot Lake and the next phase of the trail, through North Frontenac.
He also touched on what he considers to be the very real possibility that the changes in governance that were forced on Toronto City Council in the early days of the new Ontario government last summer, was the first step in a more comprehensive municipal amalgamation exercise in the province.
“Personally, I believe it will expand to municipalities across the province,” he said, and then added that “it is obvious that amalgamation is not working the way it was intended and does not reflect the needs of some municipalities today. I believe we should be thinking about the challenge now to ensure that we are proactive and ready in the event that the province mandates restructuring.”
Among the dignitaries who attended the meeting were MP Mark Gerretsen from Kingston and the Islands, Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson, as well as Lanark Frontenac Kingston MP Scott Reid and MPP Randy Hillier.
They all spoke briefly, bringing greetings and said they were committed to working with Frontenac County over the next four years.
In his remarks, Scott Reid took up Higgins comments on municipal restructuring, and said he was addressing his remarks “mainly to an audience of one” MPP Hillier, in order to get a message to the Ontario Minister of Municipal Affairs, Steve Clark, who had been scheduled to attend the meeting but was called back to the legislature for an emergency session.
“To try and go back and correct the errors of the past through further amalgamation, will likely bring about a further series of problems that we do not foresee.”
He said that the Canadian experience of governance that features incremental rather than radical change in structures has served the country well.
In his brief remarks, Hillier avoided making any commitments in response to Reid’s advice that municipal restructuring is a dangerous path to undertake.
Instead, he said “regardless of whatever comes up, whatever challenges the county and the municipalities have to face, I will be proud to be with you, to work with you and make sure that we have a strong collaborative approach and that we make things better for this very unique jurisdiction that is Frontenac County.”
Both North and South Frontenac gave cannabis fans in their municipalities a green Christmas present at their final meetings of the year, deciding to permit private cannabis retailers access to their market, subject to the restrictions that are set out by the government of Ontario. But the chances of a pot store opening up within the next six months within either township are remote, as the government has limited the number of private stores in the entire province to 25 when stores will be allowed to open up on April 1st, only 5 of which will be located in Eastern Ontario.
The problem is one of supply, and once that is sorted out the government has indicated they will let the market determine how many stores are viable in Ontario.
Both townships received staff reports that outlined the pros and cons of permitting private stores in their jurisdictions before debating the issue at a council meeting.
Claire Dodds, the Director of Planning Services for South Frontenac, summed up the benefits of cannabis sales in her report: “It is broadly recognized that the legalization of recreational cannabis creates a new sector in the economy. While projections of users and sales vary, it is anticipated that the market will be sizeable. It is also expected that the market will grow over time as Canadians begin to participate as legal consumers.
“Opting out of permitting retail sales in the Township would mean that the only legal sources of purchase will be online or through retail outlets in neighbouring municipalities. If retail stores are not permitted in South Frontenac, any associated jobs related to retail stores will occur in neighbouring municipalities.”
The Province has stipulated a 150 metre buffer around schools in any municipality that opts-in to retailing, and has also said that there can be no further restrictions on locations other than commercial zoning.
North Frontenac opts in by Craig Bakay
North Frontenac Council voted 7-1 to opt in with retail cannabis outlets at a special meeting last Friday in Plevna. The lone nay vote came from Coun. Vernon Hermer.
Although he didn’t get a vote, Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston MPP Randy Hillier, who came to Council on another matter (his letter questioning the role of conservation authorities), stuck around to see how the cannabis question resolved.
“I was glad to be here so they could hash it out,” Hillier said.
As it turned out, Council engaged Hillier right off the bat while it ‘hashed out’ the question asking him about the provincial government’s recent decision to limit the number of store licences to 25 in the initial round.
“That’s only the first round,” Hillier said. “It’s because of supply.
“It’s not a cap we’re imposing.”
“I’m aware a lot of people grow it and use it,” said Coun. John Inglis. “Our benefit initially is $5,000 (a government grant when a municipality opts in).”
“Sounds like a bribe,” said Hermer.
“It’s legal now, so if somebody wants to have a business, that’s OK with me,” said new Coun. Fred Fowler.
“It would be a great summertime business,” said Coun. Wayne Good. “Maybe we should open one here in the office.”
“It’s going to be available anyway,” said Mayor Ron Higgins, not necessarily referencing, Good’s comment.
“I think we made the right decision to let municipalities decide if they want to opt in or out,” said Hillier. “I think there will be a benefit by reducing revenue for criminal activities.
“I can see there being lower policing costs from less criminal activity.”
Clerk Tara Mieske pointed out that a retail store cannot be a home-based business.
“So I can’t run it out of my basement?” said Coun. Gerry Martin.
Cannabis Debate: South Frontenac by Wilma Kenny
In bringing the staff report on cannabis to Council, Claire Dodds, Director of Development Services, said there have been some further changes in the provincial regulations since her report was circulated to Council last Thursday. Not more than 25 retail outlets will be phased in ‘at any time’, of which a maximum of five (of the first 25) will be allocated to the Eastern Region of the Province (ie from Lindsay to Quebec). Most of these will be directed to municipalities of 50,000 or more. “Therefore, if we (South Frontenac) opt in, it’s unlikely we will have an outlet here (in the near future), but it keeps us in the conversation.”
Councillor Sutherland proposed that a motion to opt in be amended to stipulate that any outlet should be located in the LCBO stores, “so we would know where they are.” Councillor Barr said that the Province has already decided that cannabis outlets would not go into LCBO stores. Dodds said the Province has given the municipalities only one choice: to opt in or out, with no additional criteria. No one supported Sutherland’s proposed amendment.
Councillor Revill said he was reluctant to opt in, for he was not in favour of enhancing the use of cannabis, but he recognized the danger of encouraging the black market, and respects those who need cannabis as a medication.
The motion brought to Council was to opt in, and to direct staff to develop a policy statement for Council’s approval, which would assist staff with providing comments to the AGCO (Alcohol and Gaming Corporation of Ontario) in line with the municipal public interest on proposals for cannabis retail stores in South Frontenac. This passed in a non-recorded vote, with Councillors Sleeth and Roberts opposed.
Back on Nov. 9, Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston MPP Randy Hillier send a letter to Rod Philips, Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks regarding growing concerns with the activities of the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority and the Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority. The letter asked that the section “an authority may enter into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with a municipality situated in whole or in part within its area of jurisdiction in respect of programs and services that the authority provides on behalf of the municipality” be deleted. Hillier copied the letter to municipalities in his riding, asking for their support.
North Frontenac deferred the request, directing the Mayor to contact Hillier for clarification.
That clarification came Friday at a special meeting of North Frontenac Council.
In the interim, North Frontenac also received correspondence from the general managers of the two authorities in its area, as well as letters from representatives of various lake associations.
“Conservation authorities are currently under review as they’ve moved to a new Ministry,” Hillier said. “The purpose of my letter (to municipalities) was to ensure a variety of views on the review.”
The Townships of Central Frontenac and Mississippi Mills passed resolutions that support what the local conservation authorities have been doing.
At the end of Hillier’s presentation, North Frontenac took a different track, passing a resolution that supports a review of the Conservation Act to include:
• “Municipal makeup of the Executive Committee (Board of Directors) and define the length of the term for its members;
• “Ensure conservation authorities have detailed asset management plans and adequate reserves to avoid negative municipal levy impacts, which is not mandated in the Act;
• “Review of Development Application Packages where possible versus conducting on-site inspections to avoid duplication and additional costs to the applicant;
• “Ensure that their mandate is fulfilled.”
The resolution also asks that municipalities be involved in the review.
Hillier told Council that in his experience, CAs have had trouble fulfilling their core mandate of maintaining water levels, erosion control and regulating development on waterways and conservation lands.
“We’ve seen them expand their ancillary services thru MOUs with municipalities instead of replacing bridges culverts and dams and maintaining trails/maintenance of their properties,” Hillier said. “I don’t want to get rid of them but I want them to look at their ancillary services as temporary and get back to their core services.
“(And) in the MVCA, representation on the board is more based on the number of people in the municipality rather than the size of the watershed. North Frontenac has one representative, Mississippi Mills has two and Ottawa has five.”
“I sit at those meetings and all I ever hear about is Carp Creek,” said Coun. Gerry Martin.
“Some would call it a ditch,” said Hillier. “I call them about the Clyde — the dams on it are in disrepair.
“I’m told they don’t have the resources — as I drive by their $6 million building.”
Mayor Ron Higgins said the Township finds value in some of the services like the voluntary septic inspection program but questioned the need for a governing board.
“Why do they need a committee?” Higgins said. “I’ve concluded that aspect should go back to the province.
“I think the whole conservation authority needs to be reviewed, not just the specifics of your letter.”
“The thing I find most frustrating as the lack of reserves for infrastructure,” said Martin. “They spend money on new parks when the Kash dam needs to be replaced.
“And there’s the Ottawa old boys network who suggested a special levy on North Frontenac to fix the dam — Thank God that didn’t fly.”
“If you’re interested in conservation, you fix the dam,” said Hillier. “If you’re interested in politics, you build a building.”
“I’m not in favour of restricting MOUs because they’re requested by the municipality,” said Coun. John Inglis. “I hear a lot of praise from lake associations because they get a lot of help with their lake plans.”
“My letter isn’t saying they don’t do some good,” said Hillier. “But there are a number of examples of expensive litigation over a half-acre of land.”
MPP Randy Hillier was at a special meeting of North Frontenac Council Friday to drum up support for a review of the role conservation authorities play in municipalities. Photo/Craig Bakay
Central Council passed a resolution stating that it does not support MPP Randy Hillier’s request for support in his investigation of Conservation Authority practices at the final meeting of the outgoing council on November 27.
Coun. Brent Cameron questioned some of the Conservation Authority practices.
“I will support Council in its decision but CAs aren’t as easy to deal with as perhaps they might be,” Cameron said. “Remember when Welly Smith Road was flooded?
“There was a beaver dam on Authority property and we went back and forth with them on it too long. If it were anybody else, we could have forced action on it far more quickly.”
CAO/Clerk Cathy MacMunn said that she supported the CAs as they do site visits when planning matters are involved that would be far more expensive if private companies had to be engaged to do the same inspections.
“If their (CAs) responsibilities were downloaded to municipalities, there’s no way we could afford it,” said Coun. Bill MacDonald.
“Downloading can happen bit by bit,” said Mayor Francis Smith. “And we have been downloaded on before.
“It’s more cost effective for a small rural municipality to do it the way we’ve been doing it.”
John A. Macdonald didn’t have to deal with it. Neither did William Lyon Mackenzie King, Lester Pearson, Pierre Trudeau or even Stephen Harper.
But, in this, the 21st Century, everyone is having to deal with social media, and politicians are no exception.
Recently, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson was sued by three people he blocked on Twitter. They claimed he violated their charter rights.
And Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston MPP, Randy Hillier, isn’t immune either.
Hillier recently blocked Perth resident Jeff Collver on Facebook over a disagreement over the PC Provincial government’s decision to repeal Ontario’s cap and trade system.
Collver decided to go public with Hillier’s ban after the Watson incident.
“He blocked me too,” Hillier said in an interview this week.
Hillier said he sees his Facebook page as his forum, not an extension of the government and certainly not an ‘official’ communications outlet.
“There’s no requirement for MPPs to have a Facebook page,” he said. “It’s not an official communication channel for my business as an MPP and thus no one has a guaranteed right to either access its contents or post to it.”
Having said that, he did acknowledge that it can be a good communication tool, but no more so than the phone, mail, email, fax or a visit in person to his office.
“There are no rigid statutes for social media, just policies,” he said “And do we need statutes? I hope not.
“We have too many laws as it is.”
As far as policy goes, Hillier said he tries to treat social media as he does his office code of conduct.
“If a person comes in asking for assistance, we don’t ask them if they’re Liberal or Conservative,” he said. “But if they start swearing, I’ll throw them out.”
He said he has about 20,000 followers on Facebook and Twitter so “I must be doing something right.
“If there wasn’t good content, people would go elsewhere.”
He pointed out that media outlets like CBC moderate what goes on their pages and he intends to continue doing so.
“I’m having my hootenanny Dec. 16 with the Bowes Brothers at the Grand Hotel in Carleton Place,” he said. “It’s open to everyone.
“Nobody will be blocked unless they get unruly.”