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Feature Article - September 29, 2005

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September 29, 2005

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Letters to the Editor: September 29, 2005

Re:Sydenham Water will leave a political legacy

Your editorial “Sydenham Water will leave a political legacy” (Sept 22) was very timely and raises a number of serious questions.

1. Who made the decision that Sydenham needed a communal water system back in 1998? The Provincial Government mandated that the four townships be amalgamated. I am certain that they did not demand that the water system be a condition of the change. I am equally certain that it was not the property owners in Sydenham, as over 90% of them opposed the plan. So that leaves the councils of the four former townships. Why would they make a decision that effectively undermined the total concept of amalgamation as your editorial so gently put it?

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2. Why does the decision to have the property owners of Sydenham pay the whole cost of the water system appear to be written in stone (if it is written at all)? And if by chance it was written, why can it not be changed? Our council has no problem changing other by-laws.

3. Why is South Frontenac so afraid of the concept of amalgamation? The process of change is so slow that it challenges the proverbial turtle. Is it, perhaps, that with amalgamation the districts (former townships) would be expected to do what all other municipalities do in financing major projects and spread the cost over all property owners in South Frontenac as your editorial has suggested?

4. Why is the current council so committed to an old verbal agreement? Amalgamation is the future for the township. It is very difficult to understand why the past and current councils have stayed so committed to an agreement that freezes the districts into a decision making process where councillors spend all their time protecting their turf.

It’s not too late to rectify this paralyzing situation. If the current council has the courage and will to stop hiding behind this infamous agreement and spread the cost of Sydenham’s water project over the township, then South Frontenac will finally come into the 21st century. We could then start behaving like an amalgamated township using responsible long term financial planning to benefit everyone in South Frontenac.

- Bob Forbes, Sydenham

Absurd regulations threaten our Farmers' Markets

For many people in rural Ontario, the local farmer’s market is a long-standing tradition. In the days before grocery stores, it was the only place to purchase farm products. Today, many consumers are turning to farmers’ markets for products they can’t find at the stores, and for many family farms, the sales they make at the local market represent a vital supplement to the family income.

This traditional economic hub has been placed in jeopardy by a series of poorly designed provincial regulations. Ontario Regulation 562 prohibits vendors from selling prepared products—everything from muffins to preserves—beyond the farm gate unless it has been produced in a government-inspected kitchen. That’s right – every time you buy a few cookies or a dozen eggs from your neighbour at a farmer’s market, chances are you’re buying an illegal product. Unless it’s been prepared in a government-inspected kitchen, or (in the case of eggs) inspected at a government-approved grading station, provincial inspectors are mandated to shut down vendors.

Lest anybody think that this has anything at all to do with public safety, I want to point out that the government doesn’t ban farmers from selling uninspected eggs from the end of their laneway, or homemakers from preparing pies and raffling them off at a bake sale at the high school auditorium. If uninspected products actually represented a genuine health risk, it would be irresponsible—or even criminal—to allow people to poison their neighbours with uninspected food, including food sold from the farm gate or at the high school bake sale. If the health risk really existed, I’d be the first person to demand that every single Ontario muffin—with no exceptions!—gets that life-saving stamp of bureaucratic approval prior to being sold.

But of course, there’s no danger to you or me at all, regardless of the location at which we purchase farm produce. Which means that it’s preposterous to think that the farmer down the road whom you’ve known for years can drop off a home-baked pie or Christmas loaf at your house during the holiday season, but cannot sell that same product to you on a Saturday morning at the local farmer’s market. What’s even more bizarre is the fact that the provincial government draws an imaginary line between products sold at the end of a farmer’s laneway, and those that he takes to the market a mile down the road.

It’s time for the federal and provincial government to stop enacting laws and regulations to micromanage every aspect of a rural way of life. Regulation 562 is just the tip of the iceberg. It is a foolish attempt to protect us from a threat that never existed, by guarding us from the safe products we’ve always enjoyed. Worse yet, it threatens producers in our community and discourages the buying of local goods.

Regulation 562 must be amended to allow local producers to bring to farmers’ markets the same products they can sell at the end of their driveway. It is the only respectful thing to do, for our farmers, our communities, and rural Ontario.

For more information on Regulation 562, or to sign my petition calling on the provincial government to end the restriction on farmers’ markets, please drop by one of my offices; call 1-866-277-1577; or visit www.scottreid.ca.

- Scott Reid, MP

Sydenham Water – What Can We Do?

In response to the letter from the Sydenham Safe Water Association (Sept 15, 2005), I would like to focus on one comment. The idea of spreading the costs for the Sydenham water system across the whole Township of South Frontenac is a good one.

The skeptic may say, “Why should anyone other than the people getting the water pay for this?” My response is the whole township benefits from the water. For instance, we have been told by our council that our properties will go up in value because we have water. If that is true, then our property taxes will go up as well. The whole township benefits from this increase in taxes.

Also, we have been told by our council that water will bring growth. And with growth, there are more taxpayers, both commercial and residential. Again, the whole township benefits.

But the biggest reason we should spread costs out over the township is because this problem is just around the corner for Harrowsmith, Verona, Inverary, and many other small concentrations of houses in the township.

And when those villages need water and/or sewage, who is going to be there to help them? These infrastructure projects are incredibly expensive. Look at the history of the Sydenham project costs. The initial estimate from the consulting engineer was $5.6 million, with a projected 85% funding from the provincial and federal governments, leaving an $850,000 cost to the people. Well, four revisions of that number later, we are looking at a projected cost of $8.2 million, and the people’s share is a whopping $3.4 million.

So how about a little progressive thinking here. If Sydenham is the first of many villages to need these infrastructure projects, why not think a little further ahead than the end of next week? If we had created an infrastructure fund, like the SSWA suggested to our council over two years ago, and increased taxes by a mere $50 per household, we would be more than half way to paying off the costs of the Sydenham system.

And if we made this special fund an ongoing thing, imagine the resources we would have as a township to address things like the current issues with our landfill sites, as well as future water and sewage needs for the township.

It’s time our council started acting like an amalgamated township and stopped perpetuating the incredibly archaic view of independent fiefdoms.

- David Waugh

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