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Report on April 12 meeting of TPRC (by Hubert Hogle)

At Thursday’s meeting the Taxation Policy Review Committee reviewed the analysis of the OPP data for January 2016 which broke down calls for service on a ward-by-ward basis with overall totals broken down between residential and commercial. The analysis showed larger call volumes in the urban wards (4 & 5).  However, when the commercial calls were subtracted, residential calls were the same in the Rural and Urban regions. (The committee had previously agreed that only residential calls were relevant.) Surprisingly, the highest residential call volume appeared to be in Ward 3, which is 90% rural.

Much of the meeting was taken up with questions from Ted Davie which the chairman dealt with one by one.  In the end the committee decided to ask for more OPP data on calls for service broken down: (a) by ward; (b) along the traditional water-sewer boundary; and (c) between residential and commercial calls in both cases. The data we received took 6 hours to produce and this was done by the OPP free as a courtesy. The OPP will bill the Town for additional data analysis, hopefully within the budget of $2,500 allocated by council. If more data puts this issue to rest, it may be worth it. However, it’s beginning to resemble Johnny 5 in the movie, Short Circuit who keeps calling for “more data”.

The committee recommended that Council approve a 25% phase-in for the 2016 taxation year and the chairman sent a letter to council to this effect which now appears on the agenda for Tuesday’s council meeting. Staff have recommended that council adopt the recommendation.

To put this in context, current tax policy increases urban overall taxes 8.1% and reduces rural overall taxes 8.9%.  Assuming an overall tax increase (County, Town & Education) of 3% in 2016, this means that rural taxes will rise 5% and urban will rise 1%. These are averages and are affected by assessment changes for individual properties.

There are indications that council would like to wrap this up and I can understand why. They are probably being bombarded by queries from some of their constituents. The urban members of the committee all wanted to wrap this up at the last meeting but, in the end everyone voted to get more data.

Every resolution of the committee has been unanimous to this point. I would love to see a unanimous recommendation sent to council; and, I would love to see council adopt it unanimously. It would show a spirit of cooperation that is needed. There are a lot of issues still to be dealt with by council and I believe it would benefit every resident of our Town to have council working together in a spirit of cooperation.

Our next meeting of TPRC is May 19 at 7pm in council chambers.


Report on February 9, 2016 meeting of Council (by Hubert Hogle)

There was an interesting episode at the February 9 council meeting which is reported in the February 11 Beaver.  The Beaver story does not contain all that was said at the meeting.

As usual the agenda contained committee reports for approval including the January 5 minutes of the Taxation Policy Review Committee.  When this item came up, Councillor Schenk (ward 1) made a motion to separate the police issue from the rest. Councillor Kaiser (ward 2) seconded it and this passed without dispute. Councillor Schenk then moved to accept the rest, councillor Kaiser seconded it and it passed.

There was discussion about the absence of policing data. Councillor Lucas (ward 5), councillor Harvey (ward 4) and Deputy-Mayor Isbester all cautioned against interfering with the committee. Even councillor Kaiser seemed to agree even though he had seconded the motion. Councillor Schenk then said  he was just trying to ensure that the committee had all the data there was.

At the end, the mayor pointed out the privacy concerns, the cost of stripping out privacy info from the data and his concern that staff not be saddled with this.  He then said:

“I really think, Councillor Schenk, you’re jumping at the gun here. You can register that, that’s for sure, with the minutes, of your concern but I think I have to agree with the other comments. We put this committee in place and we have to trust that they’re going to come back with a report at the end of the day. And you might not agree with it and I might not but that is something we have to look at at that time. And this committee – I’m not going to go to the meetings because I have my personal views. I’m going to let the committee come back with a report and then I’m going to look at the report and the reasons why. And so, at that point in time, I’m going to…   I don’t know how we’re ever going to go against the committee.  We started this committee. I mean if you didn’t want this committee you should never have started it. So, I think we should let them do their work and I think you’re presuming something that we don’t have a lot of control over with the OPP in my personal view. But, your motion stands. Recorded vote.”

The motion to try to secure more data from the OPP was lost with only councillor Schenk voting for his motion.

Report on November 10 meeting (by Hubert Hogle)

What exactly happened on the afternoon of June 17 when council met in closed session with lawyer, Tony Fleming, to receive the legal opinion on the validity of the current 32% rural discount? At the Nov 10 meeting the mayor and the CAO asserted that no written opinion had ever been received. It was claimed that the legal advice given was entirely verbal. (Other councillors apparently have different recollections.)

To me, in a matter of this importance, it is astounding if nothing was ever put on paper.

Whatever opinion was received, written or verbal, it took 2 months to generate. It was first requested on April 21. In the interval another taxing by-law was passed.

So. what did the lawyer say?

As reported in Nov 5 Beaver, the mayor has given his version:

“Though the Municipal Act does state that tax rates are to be the same for all properties and classes in a municipality, it also give examples for tiered municipalities. Mayor Gord Schermerhorn said the law can be ‘interpreted’ many ways and the municipality and it’s lawyer believe Greater Napanee’s two-tiered tax rates are not illegal.  ‘We’re going to start a committee up this evening to deal with the whole issue, and yes you can say we’re breaking the law. The law is an interpretation. And, yes, we might be wrong but we don’t think we are,’ said Schermerhorn… Our lawyer told us that there is no precedent set to show that we’re wrong. He said there is no case law there that could prove you’re doing anything wrong, or defend that you’re doing anything wrong’ Schermerhorn said.”

The remaining members of council have remained mum as required by section 3.2(2) of the Town procedure by-law which provides:

3.2(2) No Member shall divulge any information to any person that pertains to any aspect of any discussion or direction of Council that was given or provided at a Closed Meeting of Council.

Last night, councillor Lucas pointed out that the procedure by-law prevented him and the other council members from stating their own versions of the advice they received. He made a motion, seconded by councillor Harvey that the minutes of the June 17 meeting be released and the lawyer return and give his opinion to the public in open session.

The motion was promptly defeated by the other five councillors.

So, there it is.  The mayor has given us his version of what was said. And the rest of council is not allowed to give theirs.

Section 239(4) of the MunicipalAct requires that, before going into closed session, council must first hold an open session and state the reason for doing so. There is no indication on the meetings page of the Town website that either an open or a closed session was held on June 17.

At both last night’s meeting and at the October 27 meeting, councillor Lucas pointed out the mayor’s apparent violation of the procedure by-law but last night the mayor insisted he had done nothing wrong.

Is the mayor’s understanding of the Town’s legal position correct?

And, if everything is A-okay, why not just put it in writing and release it.

Is the public not entitled to know?  After all every one of us, urban and rural helped pay for it.

Report on October 27 meeting  (by Hubert Hogle)

From 8 applicants, in closed session and by secret ballot council selected a committee of six citizens to review tax policy and recommend change.


Hubert Hogle 245 John St Napanee ON K7R 1R8 613-532-3672

Hans Bichsel      396 Dundas W Napanee ON K7R 2B7      308-9530

Mr. Bichsel formerly lived in Port Hope and was one of the urban contingent who spoke at the meeting at SPC on June 29.

Robert Marriott   101 Bridge W Napanee ON K7R 2C8      354-2813

Mr. Marriott is a Human Resources Officer with the Department of National Defence in Trenton and a Maritime Surface Officer in the Naval Reserve at HMCS CATARAQUI in Kingston. He is a member of Napanee’s Royal Canadian Legion (Branch #137) and the Province’s appointee to the Police Service Board.


Axel Thesberg     84 Applewood Cove RR1 Bath ON K0H 1G0 373-2167

Mr. Thesberg is an accountant.

Leslie Howell     415 Homestead Roblin ON K0K 2W0

Ted Davie         327 Bayshore Rd RR1 Bath ON K0H 1G0 373-0115

Mr. Davie is retired and has been involved with the RRA for years.

The Independent Chairperson is Gary Scanlan of Watson & Associates Economists Ltd.

The council liaison is Charles McDonald.

by-law was passed to establish the committee.

Briane Birney spoke at question period about not receiving an answer to his question at last meeting about the legality of our current tax policy.

(Council had received a legal opinion at a closed meeting on June 17 . Councillors Lucas and Harvey had asked that the legal opinion be released to the public but this was voted down by the other five councillors.)

The mayor proceeded to give his take on what the lawyer had told council on June 17. He claimed that the lawyer had told them there was no precedent in Ontario but he acknowledged that the Municipal Act makes it clear that basic mill rates must be the same everywhere.

Councillor Lucas pointed out that the mayor’s statement appeared to violate the Procedural By-law which provides:

3.2(2) No Member shall divulge any information to any person that pertains to any aspect of any discussion or direction of Council that was given or provided at a Closed Meeting of Council.

Councillor Lucas asked again that the legal opinion be released. The Mayor was opposed and the standoff was put off to the next meeting.

Report on September 22 meeting) by Hubert Hogle

Council voted unanimously on September 22 to create a committee, with representation from both factions, to attempt to resolve the tax policy issue.  This is also good news.

Report on September 8 meeting (by Hubert Hogle)

Dennis Mills, John Stinson, John Wilson, Judy Wood and I attended council last night (September 8). John Stinson spoke to council on the need to arrive at a fair solution to the tax policy debate and one that all councillors could endorse.

The CAO presented a report setting out a number of options for a process for tax policy review. The report is insightful and it seems that at least staff realize the nature and extent of the problem.  Click here to see the CAO’s report.

Council voted to table the report for consideration on September 22 and to hear from the public.

Without discussion or debate, the Mayor directed that the meeting be held at South Fredericksburgh Hall.

Councillor Harvey suggested getting Nigel Bellchamber back to moderate the review of tax policy. This was promptly squashed by the Mayor.

Report on July 14, 2015 meeting of Council (by Hubert Hogle)

There was nothing on the agenda about tax policy except letters from Charles Milne and Bill and Susan Phillips which, for some reason, appeared under “Unfinished Business” rather than with the other correspondence. The Milne letter suggested setting up  a small advisory body (not including council members) with staff and representatives from both factions to try to reach a consensus using outside help before considering a cost of services study.

John Stinson presented a deputation at the outset of the meeting supporting Mr. Milne’s idea and pointing out the importance of reaching a result that all councillors could support. He pointed out the benefits of putting this issue behind us. He suggested engaging a facilitator such as Nigel Bellechamber to help reach a consensus.

Council did not comment but I thought John’s suggestion was well received.

Later in the meeting, when the letters were considered, the CAO announced that senior staff would be reviewing tax policy shortly and would have input for the August 18 meeting. Councillor Harvey supported the idea of an advisory body. Deputy Mayor Isbester suggested the process could not be delayed and supported a Cost of Services Study. The mayor felt that council needed staff guidance.

Staff Recommendations were adopted to spend $249,435 to cap Roblin dump and $25,882 for 2 new lawn mowers.

Dennis Mills made a deputation suggesting that the 152 year old building at 115-117 John be listed under the Heritage Act. Deputy Mayor Isbester made a motion to do so and it carried.  For more on this building, see Hotel Hollywood on our website.

The tax policy issue is now coming to a head.  It is clear that Council now knows it can’t keep the rural discount. And the rural faction now knows that the worse-case scenario is that overall taxes in their region would rise 8.9%.

Surely, one option that should put before council should be to phase in the 8.9% over 4 years with a few sweeteners which might reduce this to 1-1.5% per year.  One obvious sweetener would be to use the PUC fund to pay off the arena debt. This simple act would lower overall taxes for all taxpayers permanently by 2%. Why this hasn’t been done is totally baffling.  There are other options to resolve this in a way that everyone can see is fair.  It would be an enormous benefit to council and our Town to put this issue to rest once and for all.

Report on June 17 special meeting of council with MPAC (by Hubert Hogle)

Thanks to everyone who came out to last night’s special meeting with MPAC. Thanks especially to our newest member, Steven Phippen, who made a good presentation. There were about 90 people present and it was a good meeting. Beverley Disney and Troy Bresee from MPAC described what MPAC does, how it assesses property and how taxpayers can challenge their assessments. Nigel Bellechamber chaired the question & answer period afterwards.  I’m sure council members were well aware of the process and I felt that their main purpose was to educate the public. I thought the presentation helped counter the arguments for preserving the present 32% rural discount in the mill rate.

I thought the meeting helped emphasize many of the points we have been making:

1. Taxes are based on assessment times mill rate; Assessment is done by MPAC; Mill rates are set by the municipality.

2. Assessment is based on market value which is determined by sales data with adjustments for various factors including specific input codes for some services (called “data elements”) for road-surface, water-sewer and other utilities;

3. Market value is based on the decisions of hundreds of buyers and sellers who consider available services when a sale takes place;

4. MPAC does a better job now and there’s no need for council to try to second guess them by adjusting mill rates;

5. It’s double taxation for the Town to adjust mill rates based on available services when MPAC already does this when setting assessments.

I may be wrong, but I feel the wind shifting. I think there’s a realization on council that the existing scheme cannot be supported and the fix has to be done in a way that will put the issue to rest once and for all. I think the issue is becoming whether or not to do a CSS or to come up with a sensible solution without further delay. Another study will only keep things churning until Christmas and may end up creating more unrest on both sides if it isn’t seen as impartial and just duplicates what MPAC does.

I’m hoping we will see a sensible resolution to this issue, but probably not until after the summer break. If council can somehow put this issue to rest, it will be a huge relief to them and staff. There are so many other issues for council to address and I’m sure this issue has been a big distraction.

There will be a large turnout to the June 29 meeting. If you don’t want to stand, get there early. In previous years, council has only heard one side of this issue.  Fortunately, they’re now hearing both sides.

Report on June 9 meeting of council (by Hubert Hogle)

Dennis Mills, John Wilson, Judy Wood, Anne and I attended the June 9 meeting.

Item 8 – Legal Opinion.

The Mayor said the legal opinion would be dealt with later in closed session and was surprised to learn that at least some of the councillors were unaware that a legal opinion had been received.  Councillor Lucas moved that the legal opinion be dealt with in open session and Councillor Harvey seconded it. Jim Timlin stated (incorrectly) that legal opinions must be dealt with in closed session. In fact, under s. 239 of the Municipal Act, it’s optional.  The motion was defeated 5-2.

Item 10.5 – Format of Special Meetings on Tax Policy:

The CAO (who was away at an AMCTO meeting) had set out the format of the June 29 meeting on tax policy at SPC in the minutes.  He proposed that Council would open the meeting, turn it over to Nigel Bellchamber, a professional moderator and retire to the audience and not answer any questions themselves.  The CAO proposed that the he review the 2013-2014 Proposal for a Service Delivery Review (which was cancelled) and review a listing of all services provided by the Town. The Treasurer would then review the sources of revenue, and expenses and make comparisons with neighbouring municipalities. At that point, Mr. Bellchamber would moderate questions and statements. However, no questions will be accepted except those related to “how to proceed for an independent study of taxation policy”, the wording Councillor Schenk had used in his March motion.

This caused tremendous confusion and debate. Councillor Schenk seemed surprised at how his motion was being interpreted. Everyone felt that that the public should be allowed a wide latitude in asking questions, but when it came time to vote, Councillor Schenk moved to adopt the format as drafted. Councillor Lucas proposed a friendly amendment to delete part of it.  The mayor refused to allow a vote on the amendment and an angry exchange ensued about the procedural issue which ended with the mayor taunting councillor Lucas to take him to court.  On the usual 5-2 vote the format of the meeting was accepted as drafted by the CAO.  No surprises there.

Item 11 New Business

Councillor Lucas reviewed several statements made by the CAO which indicated that legal advice on the legality of the tax policy had been received in 2014 and not shared with council. He moved that all such advice be presented to the council at the next meeting.  This caused a howl of protest from the mayor and the rest of council and the motion was promptly defeated on the usual 5-2 division.  In effect council decided that there are some things you are better off not knowing.

Item 12. Notice of Motion to Answer John Stinson’s Question & Publish Result

On May 12, John Stinson had asked council how much overall taxes would change if mill rates were the same in both areas. The mayor promised an answer but John heard nothing further. On May 26, Councillor Lucas delivered a Notice of Motion that the question be answered and the result publicized.

(The Question is important because some rural ratepayers are being told their taxes would increase 32% if rates were the same. The correct number is 8.9%. We’ve been trying to get this information out there since March 2 but Town Hall was unresponsive. Click here for more info.)

Councillor Harvey supported Councillor Lucas’ motion and Councillor Kaiser did too.

The mayor then blew up.

He said he had promised John Stinson he would get an answer and his word was all that was necessary. (He didn’t explain why, 4 weeks later, John was still waiting.) He was angry that Councillor Lucas had needed to bring the motion, but when it came time to vote, he requested a recorded vote and was the only one to vote against it! Everyone in the room was flabbergasted. The only explanation I could image was not the substance of the motion but anger towards the person bringing it or anger that the Town would now have to publicize the answer.

Item 13- Statements by Members

Councillor Harvey pointed out the lack of information in the newspapers about the June 29 meeting and asked that staff ensure better publicity.

Report on May 26 Council Meeting (by Hubert Hogle)

Pierre Cliche, John Wilson, John Stinson and I attended last night’s council meeting.

 Deputy Mayor Isbester chaired the meeting in the absence of the mayor. The  agenda was short, only 101 pages.

Ted Davie asked a question during question period about the use of street sweepers and was assured that the Town does sweep streets in both regions.

John Stinson made a presentation suggesting that it would be possible to pass a budget for 2016 with a 0% increase and without sacrificing services. He suggested council should, by June 30, ask staff to undertake this objective and report back to council by the September 30 on ways this could be achieved. John encouraged council to take the initiative on this.

I thought this was one of the best suggestions I’ve heard. As everyone knows, year after year, staff hand council a draft budget which is almost always approved with little change.  John’s suggestion would set a goal and leave it to staff to meet it, not unlike what is done in the private sector.

To me, the biggest criticism of our council is that it has done too much following and not enough leading.  This sounds like an excellent place to start.  What politician could afford to vote against a motion to have 0% increase in spending next year?  My own view is that this goal could easily be achieved, not just for one year, but for all 3 remaining in this term.

Two proposals were presented for water-power projects, a 900kw plant as part of the Gibbard redevelopment and a 100kw plant at Forest Mills. The proponents need council approval to qualify for the feed-in-tariff. Both projects, in my view, are long overdue. Hydraulic plants operate steadily and produce close to their rated capacity most of the year.  Solar and Wind produce only a small fraction of their rated capacity and actual production fluctuates over short periods which destabilizes the grid, now a major problem at Goodyear and elsewhere.

No legal opinion has been received on the validity of the tax policy. This was requested by council on April 21. Councillor Lucas (Ward 5) expressed hope that the answer be available before the June 29 meeting and be publicized. No one disagreed.

Councillor Lucas presented a notice of motion asking that the question which John Stinson asked at the last council meeting be answered.  John had asked how much overall taxes would change if Town mill rates were equal in both urban and rural.  This motion will be debated at the next council meeting.  I can’t imagine any councillor voting to refuse to provide the public with the answer to this vital question, but we’ll have to see.  The answer, I believe is that rural residents would pay 8.9% more and urban residents would pay 8.1% less than they do now. This is a far cry from the 32% figure that has been circulating. I would really like to know if the Treasurer agrees with my math.

With little comment or debate, council voted to spend $224,840.83 on a new street sweeper, $269,000 to reline digester #1 at the sewer plant and $33,177.07 to buy yet another 3/4 ton pickup.

A report was made by Peter Dafoe who heads the pool task force.  They are proposing a “survey” of demand for indoor or outdoor pools (p. 82-83 of the agenda).  The survey will be less than scientific, to say the least, a fact that Councillor Lucas alluded to.  Anyone can pick up a questionnaire at 25 locations around Town. Participants will not be identified. There is absolutely no mechanism to insure that the sampling is representative of opinion in the Town as a whole or that multiple questionnaires are not submitted by the same household.

Sitting through these meetings is tedious but it’s the only way we have to get an understanding of what’s really going on beneath the surface.  I think I’m not the only citizen with concerns about the decision-making process at Town hall.  I hope that through Greater Napanee Ratepayers Association our citizenry can get more complete information and make their own judgment on where and how our governance can be improved.

Report on May 12, 2015 Council Meeting (by Hubert Hogle):

 John Stinson, Briane Birney, Geoff Webster, Pierre Cliche, Anne and I attended last night’s meeting.

John Stinson spoke at the start and pointed out that there was a lot of misunderstanding about the effect of the 32% rural discount and that this was causing unnecessary discord in the community. He requested that staff calculate and publish the effect that removing or reducing the 32% discount would have on the total tax bills in urban and rural areas for properties of equal assessment.

Councillor Lucas read into the record the memo on the status of council’s request for a legal opinion which was provided to council members last week outside of the regular briefing papers. This memo is not on the website.  Councillor Lucas tried very hard to pin down the CAO on what the lawyers had told him last year when they looked into the matter. The CAO did not make a direct answer and the Mayor sprang to his defence and cut off further discussion. 

 As expected, by-law 2015-0029, A By-law to Establish Tax Rates and Provide for the Collection of Taxes for the Year 2015 passed as presented and without a legal opinion. As in past years, it provides for separate mill rates on urban and rural taxes. The 2015 mill rates are:

Urban    0.006602

Rural     0.004489

Councillors Lucas (Ward 5) and Councillor Harvey (Ward 4) voted against the by-law in a recorded vote.

Councillor Lucas argued that the by-law should be delayed until the legal opinion had been obtained.  The Treasurer inferred that the by-law was needed to raise the money due to the County/Province on June 30, but he did not say that the Town didn’t have funds to do it.

The rest of the meeting proceeded pretty much as usual with just about every staff recommendation approved exactly as presented.  The briefing papers were 541 pages long and the most controversial item seemed to be the speed limit on Bridge St past councillor Cole’s subdivision.

Each of us who has concerns about the current tax policy should speak to those members of council that we are close to.  The more members of the public they hear from the better our chances for seeing meaningful change to this festering issue which has divided our community.

Most of all, we need to tell our councillors that the public needs clear and accurate information in advance of the June 29 meeting.  We’ve been trying since March 2 to get the Treasurer and the Clerk to answer the question John Stinson asked last night and we’ve been ignored. The rural residents seem to think their taxes would go up 32% if everyone paid the same mill rate when the reality is their taxes would only increase 8.9%.

I can’t imagine why any councillor would not want this simple fact as well publicized as possible.

And, looking beyond, I think all of us need to ask our council members whether they feel they feel they are really in control.

Report on April 28 Meeting (by Hubert Hogle)

Dennis Mills, John Wilson, Pierre Cliche, Anne & I went to last night’s Council meeting. Legal opinion on the validity of the tax policy had not been received.  The CAO said that the taxing by-law is to be passed at the next meeting.

Ted Davie delivered a deputation from the Rural Ratepayers Association (several members were present) adding questions to be asked at the public meeting with MPAC about how assessments are done. He suggested that the meeting be combined with the public meeting on tax policy but Council decided to do separate meetings.

The meeting with MPAC is tentatively set for June 17.  The public meeting at SPC to review tax policy is set for June 29. Everyone should mark June 29 on their calendar and get out as many people as possible so the meeting is not dominated by the Rural Ratepayers Association.

The Clerk delivered a report on the 2014 election process. Attached to her report was a lengthy one from AMCTO about the poor quality of the voters lists across Ontario. The preliminary list of voters is generated by MPAC, a provincial agency and then revised by the clerk. Everyone agrees that MPAC does a lousy job.

Report on April 21 Council Meeting (by Hubert Hogle)

John Wilson, Anne & I attended last night’s council meeting which turned out to be very interesting. The mayor was absent and Deputy-Mayor Isbester chaired the meeting. This was the final budget meeting “with intent to adopt the budget” and Treasurer, Mark Day, did most of the presentation.

Like the other budget meetings, a lot of data was supplied but, from the questions asked, I think much of it was over the heads of the councillors. This may be why they approve exactly the amount asked for by staff year after year after year. I haven’t taken the time to sit down and try to figure out the numbers myself. I’m not sure anyone could. I did notice that there was a large mathematical mistake in one of last night’s papers that was missed by everyone.

The grants portion of last night’s meeting took up most of most of the time, but the amounts involved were minor. A $250 item for Pearl Memorial Garden attracted the most controversy.

But then…

Councillor Schenk (Ward 1) made a motion to adopt the budget. (The budget included the mill rates for both urban and rural with the rural discounted 32%.)  Councillor Lucas said he supported the budget but not the rural discount and asked that this be a separate motion. Councillor Schenk (Ward 1) refused to amend his motion. Councillor Lucas expressed doubt about the legality of the discount. The budget passed on a recorded vote with Councillor Lucas and Councillor Harvey (Ward 4)  voting against it. This sets the stage of a formal taxing by-law to be presented next week whereupon the tax bills can be issued.

And then…

Under new business, Councillor Lucas again questioned the legality of the rural discount and, surprising everyone, including me, made a motion that a legal opinion be obtained for the meeting next week. Councillor Schenk (Ward 1) wanted this delayed until June and said something like who cares, it’s been done this way for 15 years.  Councillor Harvey (Ward 4) came out strongly in support of Councillor Lucas (Ward5). A recorded vote was called. Councillor Schenk (Ward 1) voted against the motion. Councillor Kaiser (Ward 2) voted against it too.  Councillor Cole (Ward 3) was next and he paused a few seconds, then, surprisingly, voted in favour of the motion. Councillor Lucas & Councillor Harvey voted for the motion. This put the Deputy-Mayor very much on the spot and it seemed like she hadn’t expected it. If she voted against the motion, the result was tied and the motion was lost. But, who would want to be seen as supporting something that might be illegal? (Well, okay, two of the others did…)  She paused a couple of seconds and then voted for the motion and as a result it passed.

The CAO claimed he was “blindsided” and claimed the legality of the tax policy had never been questioned before. (It is worth noting here that on August 8, 2014 Councillor Lucas  did send a letter to the CAO asking a number of questions. The first one was: “In general or specific terms is the present urban/rural levy legal and consistent with current provincial legislation?” On September 23, the CAO gave a very vague  answer to this very specific question.  Staff Response to Councillor Lucas’ Questions

There was discussion about the format of the June meeting, but no answers. Councillor Harvey (Ward 4) made a notice of motion for regular reports from staff comparing spending to date with budgeted amounts.

Report on March 10 meeting (by Hubert Hogle)

There were approximately 250 people present and the legal limit of council chambers is about 75. Since the Fire Department guy was present (in uniform) no one wanted to exceed it.

My granddaughter handed out 200 Myths&Facts sheets but ran out of them. The people who received them did read them and no one questioned any of the facts set out although I am sure that many were surprised.

I was sorry that many could not get in. Before the public began I did publicly state to the mayor that about 250 people were present and were lined up down the stair, outside, down the steps and as far as John St. I asked if it would be possible to move the meeting to the Strathcona Paper Centre. The CAO checked and found that SPC was available. For some reason the mayor decided not to move the meeting, possibly because of technology availability or logistical problems.

The meeting proceeded. There were 3 deputations from Larry Holmes, myself and Dennis Mills. There were few questions, and some very muted responses from councillors. Councillor Lucas’s motion was debated and defeated 5-2.

This was not unexpected and the matter remains to be dealt with at a later date.  I thought that the opposition to Councillor Lucas’s motion centered on needing to take a closer look at the situation before deciding how to proceed.

There seems to be an impetus, probably originating from staff, to do a Cost of Services Study (CSS). This phrase was bandied about by many of the councillors and even showed up in Larry Holmes speech. (There were obviously a lot of back room meetings over the last 2 weeks.) I referred to it as “The King Solomon Solution” In my pamphlet and in my speech I emphasized that a huge amount of staff time would be required to assemble data and that no solution will satisfy the public unless it is open, public and verifiable.

A CSS is narrower that the (now cancelled) Service Delivery Review (SDR) which would have looked at more efficient ways of providing services. When the SDR was first proposed by staff, I wondered if it’s main purpose which was to provide a basis to bring Tax Policy into compliance with provincial requirements quietly.  When it was cancelled early in the term of this council, the staff were reportedly upset.

We can all speculate where the CSS idea originated and it was intriguing to watch how the Rural Lobby Group and some of the council were pitching the CSS term when Councillor Lucas (Ward 5) and Councillor Harvey (Ward 4) had never heard the term “Cost of Services Study” before.  This says something about how information is shared in the back rooms of Town Hall.


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