Jeff Green | May 28, 2009
Back to HomeFeature Article - May 28, 2009 Frontenac County Council - May 20/09By Jeff Green
Consultant's governance plan rejected
The four township mayors who make up Frontenac County Council have heard their own councilors express the near unanimous opinion that a ward system for directly electing members of county council is not the solution they are looking for.
A $35,000 report by Doug Armstrong, which called for an expansion of the council to seven members, including three directly elected members, was thus jettisoned at a meeting of county council last week (May 20). No firm plan for proceeding on governance reform was established.
“The first thing I want to say is that I really hate the fact that we put out an RFP and hired a consultant, and then really don't act on it,” said South Frontenac Mayor Gary Davison, “but I don't see how the recommendations that were brought forward can work.”
North Frontenac Mayor Ron Maguire said that while County Council put forward the Armstrong proposals, they were “never something that the county was underwriting; it was never palatable from the start ... but it behoves the council to move forward, not to postpone this and leave it to another council.”
Maguire then put his support behind a proposal from South Frontenac Council, calling for an increase of county council to 8 or 9 members.
“I agree that each township should have two representatives and I agree with South Frontenac having an extra vote. I'm optimistic the townships would approve that,” he said.
Frontenac Islands Mayor Jim Vanden Hoek said he did “not think the $35,000 we spent on the Armstrong report was wasted; we certainly don't want to shelve it entirely, but I agree that the ward system will not fly.”
Vanden Hoek said the county does not have to hurry a decision along now that the ward system is off the table. “I don't sense there is a gun to our had in terms of timing here.”
Janet Gutowski, Central Frontenac mayor and current county warden, said she is “concerned about the lack of engagement of the public.”
A series of seven public meetings on county governance brought a total of 11 members of the public out, including eight at the final meeting on Howe Island.
“Do we need to make a decision right at this moment? I don't think so,” Gutowski said. “Perhaps we need a little more time to reflect on where the county is going. I don't see bringing anything forward today.”
The County Integrated Community Sustainability Plan (ICSP) is due to be released in June, and Gutowski said that since the ICSP will have an impact on the future of the County and the process to develop it has had much public input, the governance issue should be held off until the ICSP has been launched.
In order for a change in council composition to take effect at the next municipal election in November of 2010, it would have to be approved by County Council and ratified by at least three member townships comprising a majority of the county population, before the end of the 2009 calendar year.
Naturally Rich Frontenacs
Graham Halsall, the Sustainability Coordinator with Frontenac County, presented a report to Frontenac County Council that proposes the publication of a magazine-format booklet, “Naturally Rich Frontenacs”, to be spearheaded by the Frontenac Stewardship Council.
In his report, Halsall wrote that the booklet would be “a voyage through a sampling of the great wealth of Frontenac County – natural resources, human resources, stories of good stewardship of the land, the evolution of creative activities, and new forms of sustainable activities growing out of the same natural resources that sustained pioneer communities.”
The proposal called for a $9,100 expenditure from Frontenac County towards the $42,000 project, with the Stewardship Council putting in about the same amount in cash and $4,000 worth of labour as an in-kind contribution. The rest of the cost, about $20,000 towards an intern, would be covered through a grant from the Frontenac Community Futures Development Corporation, for which proponents of the project are planning to apply.
Gray Merriam, chair of the FSC, and Chris Raffael, resource person, appeared before Council to answer questions about the booklet.
Raffael passed out a couple of examples of magazines that have been produced through similar partnerships, including a 134-page booklet about Lanark County and a smaller one done in Renfrew County that focuses on privately owned forests.
“We see considerable economic benefits that could come from this project. Future economic development is going to link natural and human riches, maximize economic yield and minimize impacts on future economic yield,” said Merriam.
Merriam also said that the stewardship council has been faced with a similar problem that Frontenac County Council has faced, bridging the north-south gap of Frontenac County, and said the booklet would go some ways to doing that for both organisations.
Frontenac Islands Mayor Jim Vanden Hoek said, “Nobody is disputing the riches of the Frontenacs; but I can't resist asking something. I have yet to talk to someone from a wildlife service that has any interest in the constraints faced by municipal politicians, and they are often very skilled, more skilled than proponents of developments, in the political process. I know the types of individuals that go on your boards. How do I get some comfort that this won't turn out to be something that ends up coming back at us in our planning or political process?”
“I can give you a bit of comfort,” said Merriam, “we don’t do advocacy. I'll give you an example from Wolfe Island. We have spent a lot of money supporting the Big Sandy Bay rehabilitation. That's not a political issue.”
Warden Janet Gutowski said, “I’m going to support this project. It's really difficult to find promotional tools that identify to the rest of the world who we are. I think this could be a very valuable tool.”
South Frontenac Mayor Gary Davison said, “I feel that promoting the Frontenac brand is a great thing. I worry about this turning into another level of objection for development. We feel that our Official Plan, which has been recognised throughout the province, is sufficient. We already have the conservation authorities, the ministry of the environment, and all the rest; we don’t need another layer. That's the only thing that gives me a bit of a twinge.”
Despite some of these misgivings, council approved the expenditure, which will be taken from the county portion of Federal Gas Tax Rebate money.
The Frontenac Stewardship Council is a community-based group, affiliated with Ontario Stewardship, a program of the Ministry of Natural Resources.
The local stewardship council operates independently of the ministry, which provides a resource person and $9,000 per year in seed money.
With that money as a base, the FSC seeks other funding and provides support for stewardship projects undertaken by individuals and groups within Frontenac County.
Efforts supported by the stewardship council include a tree-planting program, wetland rehabilitation projects, support for the butternut and bald eagle recovery programs, and support for landowners and lake associations wishing to develop stewardship plans for their properties.
The council also sponsors talks, including one on Fishers last year, and a heavily-attended talk on Coyotes this past winter. In late June a day of events about Loons is planned for Sharbot Lake.