John Whitelaw | Sep 16, 2020
Here's what has actually happened in the Snow Road tower affair, for those confused by some of the ambiguity--to use a polite expression--in the Sept 3 article "Communications Tower Approval Process".
In April 2015 the township of North Frontenac, by By-law 35-156, agreed that in the event of any telecommunications proposal in the township, it would permit an outside organization to "receive and process" any comments by its constituents, and would follow the instructions of that outside organization continued in a set of rules, which that organization can change from time to time. In other
words, the township signed away any responsibility for representing the views of its constituents, and agreed to do just what it was told to do by this outside, unelected organization.
Some say there is nothing wrong with this, because the municipality lacks the power, by bylaw or otherwise, to actually block or approve any telecommunications proposal anyway. So, the argument seems to go, little or nothing is lost by the township stepping aside and letting this outside organization tell it what to do.
Let's see how that argument actually works.
First of all, the township has agreed to do more than just step aside. On the contrary, it has agreed to actively support the proposal without regard to the views of its constituents.
Here's how that works: by the organization's latest version of its set of rules (CRINS Protocol 5), it requires the township to submit to the federal authorities a "Letter of Concurrence" (a term of art meaning a letter that says "we agree") once two conditions are met: First that the planning officials find there is some kind of compatibility with its paperwork, and second that the so-called consultation period is at an end. Not that anyone agrees with anything, merely that the so-called process is at an end.
So the township has agreed to certify that it agrees with the proposal, no matter what its constituents think. That's one reason why there is something wrong with what the township has done.
Second, this outside, unelected organization has in its rules made sure that the views of the public will not be taken seriously. Evidence of this is everywhere: For instance, in its unilateral decision not to have the proposal announced in the local newspaper, and in its having arranged that the public's views will not be presented to the federal authorities until after the township has submitted its "Letter of Concurrence", thus ensuring that those views are seen as marginal.
In fact, this outside, unelected organization has a clear and well-documented contempt for the views of the public. This is clearly reflected in its 2014 comments to a federal agency: It said: "[Public comment] is primarily an educational and informational exercise focused on individual concerns and addressing adjacent landowners' concerns..." By contrast, consultation with the planning officials "is much more wide-ranging in scope and with a long-term horizon in mind..." (CRINS, re DGSO 001-14 to the Director of Sprectrum Management Operations, March 28, 2014).
Members of the public, this organization thinks, can have nothing useful to say beyond their "individual" concerns. And that it why it has structured the process so as to minimize whatever the public has to say.
So that's a second reason why there is something wrong with this. Not only has the township obligated itself to say "we agree" no matter what its constituents think. It has also agreed to permit an outside
group to structure a process that minimizes public input.
And there is plenty to talk about if the issues were to be presented to the public, starting with this: Who would benefit from the proposal? EORN (Eastern Ontario Regional Network), supported by all levels of government, has said that our area's sparse population and terrain means that real solutions to the local problems cannot be left to private-sector corporations on their own, and that public-private joint ventures are the only solution.
The proponent here is not a public-private joint venture, but a subsidiary of a listed US real estate investment trust that is not technically bankrupt, but has 4 billion US dollars more in liabilities than it has assets, owning thousands of towers in various countries. It is a magnet for hot money, being what they call a story-stock, the story being endless growth in telecommunications towers.
Exciting! The fast world of Wall Street comes to Snow Road; we are blessed with CRINS to make sure the approval process goes smoothly; we have become free of all the nuisance of local government democracy.
What could go wrong?
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