A Take Back Democracy Meeting in Scenic Fenelon Falls by Marlene Black

They came from far and wide. Concerned citizens, worried about the direction our province has been steered in, came to meet each other in Fenelon Falls on Jan. 20, 2018. There were 85 people in attendance. They came from Niagara Falls, Ottawa, Bobcageon, Perth, Aurora, Kawartha Lakes, Elmwood, Muskoka, Kingston, Collingwood and more. They came because they were interested in what the four groups that had organized together, had to say.

Peter Weygang represented the Citizens for Direct Democracy C4DD and gave an excellent speech tracking the fall of democracy. “Democracy falls apart with the suppression of the people” and in Ontario, we are seeing legislated dictatorship. He stated that the prevailing attitude that there is an ‘elite that is better qualified to run the city’, is rubbish. He spoke at length about the problems they are seeing with ‘staff’ running the show and writing their own code of conduct. He examined how the councillors and the mayor have no authority over staff and cannot direct staff to do anything. Their hands are tied. The failure of the amalgamation of the towns in that area into the City of Kawartha Lakes was obvious. Before amalgamation there were only 2 people who earned more than $100,000. Now there are 108 people who get more than $100,000. It costs about 52 Million dollars a year for the staff of Kawartha Lakes. They have a maximum debt of 49 million allowed and rather than trying to lower it, they borrow money and keep it at the 49 million. The C4DD would like to see small local councils driven by the people.

John Snider spoke next on the Nightmare on Main Street. He is the treasurer of C4DD. John relayed an unacceptable and horrendous tale of overspending and incompetence for the project in Bobcageon of digging up the main street and replacing pipes and sidewalks. The 24 professional engineers who were tasked with overseeing the projects construction and major maintenance on the water mains cost the taxpayer 1 million in 2014 and 2.5 million in 2016 but the road was a disaster. Common sense seemed to be lacking on this project. Plans were approved and construction began but despite all of this, the road sloped down at both ends. Tons of fill were removed by the graders. Days later, the fill came back and there were new problems: some properties had their entrances blocked. The road grade had change. The new pipes were installed much higher than the old ones even though people cautioned that they might freeze. They did not seem to use the wisdom of the locals from the area. The deadline of June 1st passed without completion.

Bill Holmes spoke next. President of VOCO, the Voices of Central Ontario, he explained how a levy was just another tax, a tax on a tax and of the unacceptable overspending that seems to be out of control, borrowing to finance projects. He recalled how in 1999 it cost $180,793.00 to run Victoria County which included 16 communities.

Faye Magee who was a local politician said that in Victoria County, the staff was small and easily accessible. Elected officials now can’t do anything. The City of Kawartha Lakes doesn’t seem to care about the people they serve. There are less services and more dictators. There is no money though a new fire hall was built for 1.6 million dollars. Before, although the cemetery was run by volunteers, there was a cemetery fund to help fund projects and expenses. Now if there are volunteers, they are not given funds so the direction seems to be remove the volunteers. However, Faye was able to get them to give the $10,000 that they should have received. She said that land that was donated to the city, is now being sold. Since amalgamation, taxes have increased so it didn’t save money.

Steve Clark from C4DD spoke about the fact that Kawartha Lakes does not respond to the people and government has to be changed from the inside.  He said that 3 people are running for council so they are hoping for some success. Their group would like to see a return to transparency, referendums, and decentralizing of local government. They are tired of this “pay and obey” philosophy that permeates the staff.

Tom Black President of the Ontario Landowners spoke of property rights and how we are losing them and have to keep fighting back. The amalgamation of Ottawa left us with no representation and was the reason that we got into politics.

Liz Marshall, Trillium candidate and OLA researcher gave a history of the OLA. She said that in the Municipal Act, they do not have control over private property and the language in these acts is that they ‘may acquire the land to plan for it’ and they may ‘enter into agreements with the landowner’ before undertaking their plans for it. There are 380,000 regulations in Ontario and that is too much control over what the people of this province do. One regulation talks about new buildings that must have a ‘green roof’, one that sustains vegetation. To us, that seems like a problem waiting to happen with extra heavy rooves, potential water leakage into the houses, controlling weed issues and with no explanation as to why this was adopted? Politicians can’t possibly know and understand the law when we see how many rules there are enforce.

Jack MacLaren, MPP for the Trillium Party spoke of his frustrations within the PC party, the back room controllers and the whipping of caucus members to vote with the party line. He was frustrated with the direction the party was taking and decided to move to the Trillium Party. He felt a lot freer to vote for his constituents now that he is part of a party that will not whip their members unless it’s a budget vote. While standing alone in Parliament now, he was not forced to vote a certain way and in many instances, he voted against all 3 of the other parties and received a tremendous amount of support from people who saw that he was able to stand alone to try and make a difference.

Bob Yaciuk, leader of the Trillium Party read out the preamble to the constitution of the Trillium Party that the Trillium Party of Ontario shall be guided by the values upon which Canada was founded that place the rights of the individual above those of the state. He said that we have about 30 candidates presently signed up across the province and a new one joined that day. He demonstrated that his party was not going to be bound up by red tape as he held up the one-page document that the candidates had to sign. He compared it to the 40 page document of the PC candidates. The Trillium party welcomes and values input from the people in the province. Some of the key planks that are important to many are fixing the Sex Ed Curriculum to reflect parents’ wishes, no carbon tax, tackling Ontario’s broken Hydro service, promoting the skilled trades in our educational system, daycare incentives and full disclosure of public funds. Many people in attendance joined the Trillium Party that night.