I have prepared a one-page “cheat sheet” with the contact information of local hospitals and clinics and a brief synopsis of their information regarding appointments and visits in light of the the COVID-19 virus. I hope it may be useful. Click the link below:
In our first 6 months we…
- saved Don Maynard Park
- restored public parking on Sadler Drive
- corrected late penalties on water bills; reduced by 8.75%, from 10% to 1.25%
- reduced tax increases from 7% a year to 2.5% this year
- established more opportunities for public participation in your municipal government including new advisory committees with more expert and representative membership, no conflicts of interest and a new petition policy
- more communication, more often
- established regular in-person availability of Almonte councillors (at the Library on the first Saturday of each month except July)
- helped with flood mitigation and volunteer efforts (particularly Councillor Dalgity who personally sandbagged every day and established a volunteer coordinator)
- recognized our youth several times (and their achievements are ongoing and outstanding in sports and academics)
- hired a new Chief Administrative Officer, Mr Ken Kelly, with a wealth of professional experience in management, accounting and public works
Works in progress
- improving audio-visual records of council and committee meetings
- improving the Procedural Bylaw
- new parks and recreation
- working with the County to promote the Ottawa Valley Recreational Trail and reporting any any negative impacts on residents of improper use to both the County and the Police Services Board
- downtown Almonte parking study underway
- commencing work on the asset management plan (a multi-year project)
- refocusing Public Works on essentials
- ensuring more accountable processes and reporting
- pursuing new growth and economic opportunities
- improving strategic, asset and fiscal planning to deal with past debt and future needs
- building new partnerships with other municipalities and organization
In preparation for the discussion of the Department of Public Work’s recommendations on spraying wild parsnip, I looked into the active ingredients and the variety of eradication methods. Councillor Dalgity also shared some Health Canada information about the product that he obtained. Online, I looked at many documents from sources charged with approval of pesticides such as Health Canada, the Ontario provincial government, the US Environmental Protection Agency, the European Union, and others that mentioned the active ingredients in Clearview. We heard from farmers, both those who use herbicides and organic, who invest a lot of money, time, and effort in their products and do not want them endangered. I received email from three people whose children were badly burned, and heard from a few others who suffered minor burns or had treated burns.
I will convey what I understand from all this:
Reference point: we are all required by law to eradicate noxious weeds under the Ontario Weed Control Act. After reading Ontario guides from different years, it looked to me like some plants are removed from their list and new ones are added. If a person has noxious weeds on their property, they could be ordered by a weed inspector to remove them. If they don’t, they will be removed anyway and the Municipality gets billed for the cost. The Municipality in turn recovers any cost on the property tax bill. Growing up in Manitoba with several big seed companies like McKenzie’s, that was not new to me.
The Province mandates the eradication. The federal government and Province approve the herbicides.
The product, Clearview, seems to be an improvement over older type herbicides which were much stronger, persisted longer and were more toxic to other life forms such as animals, insects, fish and humans. The earlier product recommended for Giant Hogweed and Wild Parnsip contained glycophates, which I understand are now in question. In the 2015 version of the Guide to Weed Control, a footnote said that test projects at the University of Guelph indicated that Clearview did well. Clearview is different in that it is not metabolized by anything but plants. Different things I read said that it dissipates quickly after spraying and will not remain for very long, except maybe in legumes like soybeans. Its minute application is very diluted with water.
The active ingredients are Aminopyralid Potassium and Metsulfuron-methyl. While some claim that Clearview has not been tested, the active ingredients have. Both were tested by the United States Office of Prevention, Pesticides Environmental Protection and Toxic Substances division and reviewed by a joint Canadian-American panel. The European Union also reviews the various ingredients of herbicides. All this information is easily found online. It is not true that only Dow tested the ingredients; there were quite a range of tests by various companies and organizations including International Wildlife, as cited in the US Environmental Protection papers.
The product instructions caution against repeated use to avoid plants building a resistance to it. If spraying is successful, Clearview should be needed less and less. This was borne out by recent City of Ottawa and Lanark County evaluations.
It is a balancing act: spraying will kill some other beneficial broadleaf plants, which can be slow to come back. However, the invasive weeds are already crowding out natural plants and infesting agricultural fields, causing pollinators like bees to lose some of their preferred sources. Farmers keep bees like livestock. Failure to control weeds on municipal property adds to the burden on our agricultural producers.
For the future, scientists are researching more specific and gentler herbicides but also insect predators that could be imported to prey on the wild parsnip. There was some success with importing two types of beetles from Europe to attack the purple loosestrife, although the beetles were reportedly picky about where they would work! Importing predators can be a double-edged sword if the insect predators then take on desirable plantlife.
We might expect to see it in use on wild parsnip. The insects used are parsnip web worms. They would also be a foreign species so caution is in order. I read an article about how the wild parnsip in New Zealand “let down its defences” after being separated from its predator for 100 years. The result was that wild parsnip was pretty much wiped out very quickly. Dr Coupland alluded to this information. The North American parsnip may not be as vulnerable.
I learned that even domestic parsnip can be irritating, although more mildly. I heard that there were 26 property-owners who opted out of spraying last year, and 20 of these controlled it on their own, by puling it out mostly. This year, concerned citizens can group together and Adopt-a-Road to eradicate the pest manually. Our Public Works can give you more information on opting out and adopting a road.
If people insist that all herbicides be banned, or think that wild parsnip should not even be controlled, they might lobby the provincial and federal governments with their evidence. We can’t change those laws here.
This Council was in favour of allowing opt-outs and encouraging Adopt-A-Road volunteers, but wants to be strictly vigilant in protecting people and animals from burns and agricultural resources, both traditional and organic, from invasive plants. We expect that the required conditions of spray application, such as buffers around water, will be strictly observed by the licensed operators. This is a balanced approach, tailored to local preferences, but keeping our Municipality absolutely within the law. We expect that those who opt out or adopt a road share this view.
The good news is that we are witnessing the evolution of dealing with invasive species using methods, including herbicides, with the least amount of impact on non-targets that is reasonably available right now. We have witnessed this approach before, in medicine. Manufacturers and governments are changing, thanks to the concern of people like the delegates who cautioned against spraying. Because of their concerns, the management of pests is evolving to include safer and more organic means in future I am sure.
If you do want to tackle the wild parsnip on your own, I heard at the February 23 Business Breakfast that Indian Creek Orchard Gardens of Pakenham will be offering workshops on the proper removal of wild parsnip.
Their website is here: https://indiancreekorchard.ca/
and you may email them about the workshops here: firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information:
The results of the municipal election are in, and so is a mostly new Council. I am very grateful for your support and trust and I will work hard to try to live up to your expectations.
I want to thank my husband, Mike Maydan, and those who contributed to my campaign and worked visiting door-to-door with me. I received warm advice and support from so many former council members and residents, including but not limited to, the large PRATAC family led by Brian Gallagher and Gerry Belisle. The experience taught me about all of Mississippi Mills. I admire the courage of those who stepped up and those who supported them. Thanks to those residents who invited me into their homes – and sometimes families – who walked their neighbourhoods with me and educated me on their histories and concerns.
On August 1, Mike and I met two members of Canada’s Socchi Olympic Gold Medal Team: Ryan and E.J. Harnden. We have long been curling fans, especially of Team Jacobs.
I asked if I could take a picture with them, saying that I thought it might be lucky as I was running for Council in my little town. E.J. grinned and agreed, saying “You’d better hold this then,” handing me his heavy gold medal. I was awestruck.
I feel just that way to the power of ten today. Thank you.
Investigation into Illegal Closed Council Meetings
Under the Municipal Act, council meetings may only be closed under certain conditions:
- The security of property of the municipality or local board;
- Personal matters about an identifiable individual, including employees;
- A proposed or pending acquisition or disposition of land;
- Labour relations or employee negotiations;
- Litigation or potential litigation
- Advice that is subject to solicitor-client privilege;
- A matter authorized by another provincial statute;
- If Council is the “Head” and the subject matter relates to a request under the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act; or
- The meeting is held for educating and training and no member discusses or deals with a matter in a way that materially advances the business or decision-making of the council or local board.”
Much research has already been posted, particularly the history of the attempts to sell Don Maynard Park.
The recent investigation of complaints of illegal closed council meetings engaged several layers of bureaucracy. The Ombudsman’s authority to investigate is delegated to “LAS” (Local Authority Services), a service for Ontario municipal governments which was assigned the closed council investigations for Mississippi Mills. Then LAS delegated the investigation to a private firm called Amberley Gavel Ltd. Four levels of bureaucracy (Ombudsman, LAS, Amberley Gavel and the Municipality) were involved in this “to save money.” Council meetings, closed or public, must be advertised in advance to the public.
The provincial laws need more teeth: note that although the investigation found a number of illegal closed meetings (and only investigated those that received complaints), not a thing changed and no sanctions were imposed. At the meeting where the results of the investigation were – briefly – aired, Councillor McCubbin asked the Clerk, Shawna Stone, if any decisions would therefore be changed as a result, and the Clerk replied that they would not. The November 1, 2016 “working group” meeting in particular concerned Don Maynard Park: not a single elected Almonte councillor took part in that decision.
Read the investigation here: Amberley Gavel Closed Council Investigation Report
Bike Lanes Research
When the bike lanes were installed in May 2017 against the protest of most affected residents, it seemed that they were very rarely used. Some motorists like them because they could drive faster down Ottawa Street.
Any contrary information at the so-called public meeting was not allowed to be heard. For example, the Ministry of Transportation strongly urged communities to spend a lot of time “selling” such lanes in cities, and getting buy-in and reciprocal benefits from affected homeowners. That was not the way things unfolded in Almonte. Residents were not allowed to present any argument against them. The decision was made by a group called the “Active Transportation Committee” that are, in practice, the “Bicycle Committee:” most members are also avid cycling hobbyists.
Residents along affected streets were never consulted.
I decided that once school came back in, I would run a study to see how many cyclists actually use the lanes. We set up a camera to capture how many cyclists there were, and whether they used the lanes properly or not. I thought I’d compare the number to the number of people walking along the cracked and spray-painted narrow sidewalks, to get an idea whether this Council had its priorities straight.
I am not against cycling. I believe that there should be a posted safe cycling route instead; I have spoken with avid cyclists who agree. However, I would never dream of imposing it without consultation with affected residents. It is a very serious matter to take away parking from residents without their agreement. You do not build bridges in your community that way.
My study took place over about 3 weeks in September and October of 2017. It is the only data that I have seen on the subject in a year; the municipality and active transportation committee published nothing.
The weather was warm, as you will see; I kept a record of the temperatures on most days. I also have photographic evidence to back up my counts. See my table of numbers here: Bicycle Lane Use Ottawa Street Sept-Oct 2017
The maximum number of cyclists recorded in a day was 6. The maximum number of pedestrians was 109.
There have been conflicts of interest related to the Heritage Conservation District that were discovered by PRATAC’s investigation: some members of Council voted on decisions affecting property that they or a family member owned in the area, potentially receiving enhanced benefits as a result.
An example of one attempt at the suppression of free speech in the public interest is something called a “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.” This Council made a decision to fund one in a closed council meeting. Since the lawsuit was a private action by two individuals on the Council, why did this Council agree to fund them? Given that the two who launched the personal suit could not vote on it, at least 5 of the remaining 9 council had to have agreed to use your money to help them. Did the closed council meeting in meet the criteria listed above? Remember, this was not a lawsuit brought against the council or one that the municipality started under its authority. Justice Pedlar ruled that municipalities cannot sue for defamation Montague (Township) v. Page, 2006 CanLII 2192 (ON SC)
Mr Justice Patrick Hurley dismissed the action as a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, quoting Justice Pedlar. The facts are set out here: MCLAUGHLIN and EDWARDS v. MAYNARD, 2017 ONSC 6820 (CanLII)
The total charged to your account is unknown.
There were other concerns, too many to list here. The most worrying to me have been the attacks on democracy: appointing a councillor instead of selecting the next person elected; attempts to suppress free speech, public comment, the press and association. Did you know that the Procedural Bylaw of the 2014-2018 council does not permit even the media to record a PUBLIC council meeting for the record? Journalist Ashley Kulp commented on the issues of the past few years and was hopeful that the communications consultant report would provide solutions: Communication is Key Ashley Kulp Aug 3 2017
Mississippi Mills does not have an Integrity Commissioner, but will for 2019.
Without a history of regular financial reports to Council from the municipal administration and departments, it is hard to say how taxes will go. The debt is currently about $4 million more than the $18 million that the ex-mayor claimed it would be at the end of 2018.
Council said that the reserves would be built up so much by 2018 that we could borrow from ourselves. The mayor wrote “…if Public Works needs $300,000 for a new piece of heavy equipment, the money comes from reserves.” However, at their last regular meeting, the 2014-2018 Council voted to borrow nearly another million dollars to buy a grader, a fire truck and other equipment. When asked by a councillor if reserves could fund it instead, the staff response was “no.” Reserves have dropped below what they were supposed to have been at this point.
Where did things go wrong? Well, mismanaged projects and programs headed and directed by council have cost far more than expected; in the worst case, the Pakenham library renovation project alone was approximately 100% over its budget (final figures have not been reported at this writing). On some projects, milestone and cost updates were so late that potential corrections could not help. A few projects came in so much under budget that the costing process seemed odd.
Most big-ticket projects were managed by small groups of councillors who made the spending decisions; the ill-fated library renovation and Gemmill Park projects are examples. Meanwhile, little investment of time in real public consultation was made in the Official Plan review and ill-fated park sales proposals. How much time and money were spent on ideas like paving the recreational trail for the imaginary hundreds who “commute” (when no funds were allocated – or likely – for upkeep)? Development charges earmarked for Almonte growth were spent elsewhere. The downtown infrastructure replacement project seemed to have been dropped except for end-phase benches. The result of the lack of public consultation and poor decision-making is that the Municipality has incurred far too much in legal costs. Is there a contingent liability fund to pay for these mistakes? Or did it cost us some basic services?
The Long Term Financial Plan apparently did not account for things like the ever-rising costs of energy, interest rates, salaries, benefits and shaky management. Residential property taxes and sky-high development charges can no longer remain the only sources of revenue.
I would like to see taxes as low as possible. With so little fiscal information in the face of some obvious misadventures, it will be a challenge. I think that a fiscally prudent back-to-basics approach will be required.
When speaking with citizens of Almonte, one theme was stressed to me over and over: public consultation. Councillor Dalgity found the same.
When was the last time your councillor sent you an email or phoned to say “Hey, I’ll be at (old town hall/local restaurant/library/Legion/other) on Saturday morning if you have concerns about that proposed (Official Plan/park sale/OVRT/zoning change)?” Or, “send me an email about (snow-clearing/traffic speed/crosswalk/water overcharge)”?
There may have been troubles with the bandwidth at the Municipal office a year ago when the cabling went in, but what has been holding your councillor back lately?
Informal consultation can be frequent; formal communication needs to be regular.
The problem I heard with public consultation was not just that it was infrequent and amounted to lip service; it was that few on Council listened. At the August 9, 2016 meeting where staff and Council proposed selling Don Maynard Park, only one Councillor waded into the crowd outside and spoke to people, and that was Councillor Paul Watters, who represented Ramsay. The Almonte councillors didn’t: apparently, they knew better than more than thirteen hundred of their own citizens.
You can expect me to ask you for your advice and your preferences in a number of ways. My Council email is email@example.com
If you wish, you can copy Councillor Dalgity at firstname.lastname@example.org
We plan to hold meetings to consult with residents.
The safety of children on their way to school has been raised by many people in Tait McKenzie, Holy Name of Mary and Naismith schools neighbourhoods. Several people there have told me that traffic is more congested in front of the schools because some parents, whose children are within walking distance of the school, drive the kids to avoid an unsafe street crossing at Ottawa Street.
In some cities and towns, school routes are patrolled by the “school patrol,” older students who have been trained to help younger ones cross intersections safely. Their training is provided as a joint project by the province and the Canadian Automobile Association, in cooperation with schools. Paid or volunteer adult crossing guards are used on major streets. Parents are more willing to let their children use active transportation to school (walking or cycling or scooting) if there are crossing guards and school patrols.
You can read more about the Manitoba program here (search for “crossing guard” or “school patrol”):
Some people say that the municipal paid crossing guard program in Almonte was discontinued because it was thought too expensive. Some say no one wanted to do it. Some say the schools should look after it. There are suggestions that the high school students might do it for their volunteer experience. There are kindly retirees in Almonte who might volunteer, too. I think that we can all work together on this.
There are 40 school weeks. In Almonte, a crossing guard is most needed on busy Ottawa Street at Paterson, for elementary school children. To pay one crossing guard $15 per hour, for two hours a day, 5 days a week, for 40 weeks would cost $6,000. Two guards would cost $12,000. Additional insurance might be required. School patrols, who are older students who do not control traffic but rather ensure that children cross safely, could be stationed at less busy intersections on the routes. They are usually let out of school a bit early, given high-visibility vests and flags and work with a volunteer staff person or parent. People have suggested that high school students perform this function as part of their volunteer hours.
I have communicated with both School Trustees and Councillor Dalgity. We are arranging a meeting to discuss this in January. We need to have safer school routes.
“We are so divided!”
“We can never heal from this.”
“Why do they say they will listen but they don’t?”
“It was a hard decision to hurt you, but…”
“This hurts me as much as it hurts you.”
“Why don’t you believe me? You’re not perfect!”
“It’s for the greater good. Trust me.”
From 1997 to 2010, I worked on the Indian Residential School abuse cases; I was selected mainly because I had experience working with victims of sexual assaults and on reserves. Criminal trials finding several perpetrators guilty had started most of the claims. It turned out that thousands of children had been abused in residential schools nationally. The first ones were opened by the Jesuits in the 1700s, and the last one closed in 1996.
As one of the first program managers, I had few mentors or manuals to guide me as I represented the federal government in mediation, court and negotiation with churches. I ended up modeling the role for new staff and lawyers, trying to explain the need to maintain a relationship to people who argued for a living. The indigenous, church and government parties to the eventual Settlement Agreement ended up changing the limitations laws in most provinces and how bureaucracies treat people.
How do you reconcile? Is an apology good enough? What needs to be done? Does this mean you have to “turn the other cheek”? Suffer insults and abuse gladly or silently? Do you have to forgive? No.
For victims, speaking out is the first and hardest step. A victim might only accept and understand what happened and know they were not at fault. Because some offenders are unrepentant, real forgiveness is elusive or impossible. For those offenders who want to continue a relationship, a challenging self-examination is vital.
I am sharing a speech that I prepared in 2009. The principles have a very broad application: to nations, groups, families, couples and individuals. I hope you find it useful.