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Midland, Ontario L4R 4K8


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MIDLAND TOWN COUNCIL - 2013 YEAR IN REVIEW

Midland Town Council- 2013 Year in Review.

Midland residents continue to experience a Council that lacks cohesion, a shared vision and sensitivity to its customers, Midland taxpayers.   

Sadly, some progress in 2013 remains overshadowed by continued poor behaviour of a few Councillors.  Two years ago, the behaviour involved ‘e-mail gate’ and a series of nasty, offensive emails about Midland residents. Then in 2012 the Ombudsman came to town to investigate Councillors unlawfully closing meetings to the public. Later, four Councillors, namely Pendlebury, Jeffery, Atwood and Charlebois all voted against an interim measure to give Council legal authority to review future uses for 3,300 feet of prime waterfront land after Unimin’s closure allowed Midland the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to redefine its waterfront.   

The lack of wisdom and vision exhibited by these four Councillors led 800 people to sign an online petition in just a couple days demanding they reconsider their incredibly poor decision. On reconsideration, the result was suddenly 9-0 in favour of passing the ‘interim control by-law’. But what were they thinking? How can you not see there might be something better to put on 40 acres of prime waterfront land than a pile of crushed rock? How can the same four councillors continually develop the same failing eyesight and all at the same time? 

Fast-forward to the end of 2013 and we once again witness problems with Councillors. This time it involves allegations of workplace harassment or violence brought by the same four, Pendlebury, Jeffery, Atwood and Charlebois. As the editor of the Mirror put it, “The bad blood that has divided Council ever since the 2010 election not only persists, but may have worsened”. Not only were all four of their complaints dismissed as unfounded by an independent adjudicator, they also cost Midland taxpayers $10,000, resulted in the cancellation of the December Planning & Development Committee meeting and wasted time of senior Midland staff trying to resolve them. How is it the same four Councillors always seem to end up on the wrong side of issues? 

Midlandcommunity.ca recently asked for views on the question what politicians should do when they “…abuse the system with meritless claims.” 50% of respondents stated they should resign, 50% said they should donate their share of the public money they wasted to charity and 41% are looking for a public apology.  Regrettably, none of these things is likely to happen because this kind of misdirected and counterproductive behaviour has not only become a predictable pattern, but it seems to be engrained in the DNA of the individuals involved. 

And finally in 2013, we witness dysfunction at the Police Services Board coupled with a complaint made by the Board itself to the Ontario Civilian Police Commission. The complaint results in our Deputy Mayor having to step aside from his duties on the Board as one of only two elected representatives on that Board. We will be presenting a deputation to the PSB in 2014 on what we consider its continued dysfunction. 

Here are some other highlights of 2013:

1) Despite all the initial theatrics, Midland now controls its jewel on the water – the former Unimin site.

2) The 2014 Midland budget appears to be coming in at less than 2%. Police costs continue to be the wild card and the number will not be final until the Police Services Board adopts and submits a budget. This Council’s three-year average increase is now in the 2% range so we have at least begun to stop the bleeding although without support from the predictable four Councillors. This is a much better result than the old regime’s decade of spending averaging 6%-7% annually.

3) Fire has signed a collective agreement for 2013 and 2014. This at least means we know in advance how high our costs will be as arbitration is avoided. We will enjoy some short-lived labour peace that may allow the Town to deal with structural problems and redefine a Fire model that is currently badly broken.

4) The possible sale of MPUC is worth mentioning, as it is a significant public asset whose value may be better leveraged to benefit Midland residents. Congratulations to Council for proceeding to consider all the possibilities and the business case for or against a sale.

5) Council did not see fit to reduce its size from nine members to seven as recommended by KPMG management consultants. Not only would this initiative have saved the town money, the big dividend realized is often greater efficiency and a clearer sense of common purpose.

6) The four member municipalities came together and formed the Huronia Economic Alliance (HEA). Clearly if Midland, Tiny, Tay and Penetanguishene can work together more strategically and effectively, the whole region benefits.

7) The Midland Police budget challenges - revenue, costs, timeliness, labour negotiations etc. - continue to plague us. In our view, the Police Services Board itself can be held responsible in large part for this overall dysfunction.

8) As we leave 2013 behind, 2014 will bring the next election for Town Council and a year of both risks and opportunities.

Wishing you and yours a safe and Happy New Year in 2014. Please remember to follow our mailings and check us out online at Midlandcommunity.ca. 

Roy Ellis and Stewart Strathearn on behalf of Midlandcommunity.ca

“A community group motivated to help Midland’s future arrive on schedule”.


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