Mayor Ron Higgins’ involvement with One Small Township, the business concept being explored in North Frontenac, doesn’t seem to be sitting well with much of his Council, at least when he uses the ‘Mayor’ title when promoting and/or talking about it.
The issue came up at last Friday’s regular Council meeting in Plevna, under the correspondence heading when Higgins presented council with an update.
“I attended the Open House (at Clar-Mill Hall, two weekends ago) and left with the impression these are private businesses, albeit a little different ones,” said ouncillor Vernon Hermer. “This is getting far too much attention compared to other businesses.”
“This was a way for me to update council,” Higgins said. “If you don’t want me to update, I won’t.”
“You’ve been promoting this as Mayor,” said councillor Denis Bedard. “I know there’s been an ombudsman complaint come in.
“Should we be seeking a legal opinion?”
“We have talked with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing,” said CAO Cheryl Robson. “They seem to be ok with it as long as we provide them copies of what comes to Council.
“We’ve not sought legal advice because we’ve not been instructed to do so by council.”
In his update, Higgins said: “My role in this program is to facilitate and guide organizations and investors through the process required for attracting and retaining new businesses and residents.
“I am not, and do not plan to be, directly involved with any business operations to ensure that I remain impartial and abide by the Ontario Municipal Act.
“I will however attend business meetings to provide advice and provide them with current bylaw requirements to ensure a smooth introduction of proposed projects.
“I will also work with other levels of government and regulatory agencies, such as Canada Revenue Agency, to abide by current legislation, identify opportunities for funding and garner support for various projects.”
“Perhaps this (an update in the action items section of the correspondence agenda) is inappropriate,” said councillor John Inglis. “We get communications for private businesses and that doesn’t (go in this section).”
“I don’t think private business should be discussed in council,” said councillor Gerry Martin.
“When the Mayor gets up at county council and discusses it, it’s inappropriate,” said Bedard.
In a recorded vote, Council passed a motion not to have updates on One Small Township included in correspondence. Higgins cast the lone vote against the motion.
Council voted to support the Township of Baldwin’s motion asking the Federal Government cancel Bill C-71 which would add new firearms regulations.
“There already have been millions spent on it and that ended in failure,” said Vernon Hermer. “Why would it work now?”
In a recorded vote, the motion passed 4-2, with Mayor Ron Higgins and John Inglis voting against.
Mayor Ron Higgins’ request for the use of a township community hall at no cost to hold an “investors session” to allow for an “investors session to allow all/any businesses in North Frontenac and investors to discuss project funding requirements” was defeated in a tie vote with Denis Bedard, Gerry Martin and Vernon Hermer voting against.
Higgins said that right now, there are 18 “investors” for One Small Township.
“Well, we haven’t been asked by this group,” said John Inglis.
“It’s not a business asking for it, it’s me,” said Higgins. “It’s to organize an investors day.”
“I don’t favour this at all, it’s a private business,” said Bedard.
“It’s had an impact on business in our community,” said Higgins.
“Hold on,” said Bedard. “I’ve seen no evidence of any impact or that they’ve hired any local people.”
After launching into an economic argument as to why contributionism would be bad for the local economy, Hermer concluded: “this scheme stinks.”
“I would support this on a one-time basis,” said John Inglis. “I’m not afraid of these people.”
“You should be,” said Bedard.
“If the investors want to pay the fee and book the hall, it still could happen,” said CAO Cheryl Robson.
Council also passed a resolution that Contribute & Thrive can come to the Economic Development Task Force and present their case.