It was the Spring of 2010 when my wife, Loretta, and I moved to Wasaga Beach to enter that wonderful world of retirement. We chose Wasaga because we loved the countryside and Loretta had a couple of sisters living in the Beach.
Settling into retirement, my days were spent in long walks on the beach and watching the political news on television, from both sides of the border.
Once a political junky, always a political junky.
I took little interest in the local council until some four years later when the 2014 municipal election was on the horizon, and it became clear that the natives were restless enough to make some wholesale changes in who would represent them for the next four years.
Now, I had seen this before in the fifty years of my political career, serving both as an elected official in the Metro Toronto area, and as a Chief Administrative Officer in four different municipalities in Southern Ontario. However, what was different, was the fact that those candidates seeking to replace the old guard were generally inexperienced in the world of municipal government.
The thought crossed my mind that if I entered the fray, and was successful, I might be of some help to the incoming council.
The odds were certainly against my being elected, considering I was new to the area, had no “political base”, and had no campaign workers, save for a few neighbours who had no political campaign experience.
That would be tough enough, but not as tough as convincing my wife of sixty years that I should take the plunge. Much to my surprise I won her approval with only one stipulation, I was limited in how much money I could spend.
Within a few days I launched my campaign with a bare-bones budget. No advertising, no lawn signs, and certainly no screaming supporters, cheering me on.
The election came and went, and much to my surprise I finished fifth in a councillors` race where five were to be elected. The only person more surprised than me was the lady that gave me the O.K. to run.
The election returned only two members of the old guard, Nina Bifolchi as Deputy Mayor and Ron Anderson, finishing fourth in the Councillors race. The newly elected mayor was Brian Smith, a local businessman who had been raised in Wasaga Beach, and had very deep roots in the area. The remaining three Councillors elected were Bonnie Smith, Sylvia Bray, and Ron Ego, finishing one, two, and three.
Other than the two returning members from the previous Council, the remaining five were elected on a platform of CHANGE.
Now, you would think that with such a wholesale facelift of Council, it wouldn`t be difficult to get everyone on the same page when it came to change. However, that didn`t happen.
Early in their mandate, Council was faced with an opportunity to evoke a major change in the development of Beach One, the homebase of Wasaga Beach`s tourism industry, and hence, the entire economic future of the municipality.
In February of 2015 the new Mayor introduced a motion for Council to direct staff, along with the town solicitor, to conduct a review of the process to establish a Development Corporation under Provincial Legislation to oversee the development of a “Main Street” and the “Development of Beach Area 1 and 2.”
The motion carried 6 to 5 with the Deputy Mayor as the only member opposed.
In April 2015 a public meeting was held to listen to deputations regarding the proposed purchase of private properties by the municipality, along Beach 1 for a purchase price of $13.8 million. The purchase included seven properties and 8 buildings, resulting in the municipality having ownership of over seventy percent of the commercial lands on Beach 1.
After hearing a number of residents` opinions on the matter council voted 5 to 2 to proceed with the purchase. Again, the Deputy Mayor voted in the negative.
From that point on it became obvious that the Mayor and the Deputy Mayor were on different sides of the “change” issue, and Council was looking at a long four years of division.
It wasn`t long before the Deputy Mayor turned to social media to use her website to take her case directly to the general public. In the beginning her comments were bland when it came to reporting the actions of Council. However, as time went by, and her opposition to almost everything that came out of the Mayor`s office grew, she began to use her website to belittle the mayor and members of Council, as well as painting herself as a “victim”, at the hands of her fellow Councillors.
All in all, it was a “poor me” diatribe.
Most ratepayers follow Council`s activities “in passing”. However social media, at least in Wasaga Beach, has produced a small number of ratepayers who have become political groupies, and the Deputy Mayor has become their favorite. There are two sites that are quite entertaining. They can be found on Facebook and are named, Wasaga Beach Political Forum (“W.B.P.F”), and Wasaga Beach News and Commentary Group.
The W.B.P.F. is overseen by Mark Wineberg, the spouse of Councillor Bray, although that`s never mentioned on his site…..so much for full disclosure.
At any rate, the overriding opinion of these sites plays into the “victim” scenario espoused by the Deputy Mayor, and fun is had by all.
To really grasp the negativity that exists at the Wasaga Beach Council one has to review the voting patterns over the past year and a half. Recorded votes are not taken on all issues, but those that are taken are recorded in the Official Minutes.
A staff report to establish a Development Corporation carried 6 to 1…The Deputy Mayor opposed.
A motion to purchase land and buildings on Beach one carried 5 to 2…Deputy Mayor opposed.
A motion to award a number of one-year rental contracts for Beach One properties carried 6 to 1…Deputy Mayor opposed.
A motion to award a one year rental contract on The Dard carried 5 to 2…Deputy Mayor opposed.
A motion to award a one year rental contract on The Copa
carried 5 to 2…Deputy Mayor opposed.
A motion to transfer insurance money to repair damaged trusses in The Dard carried 5 to 2…Deputy Mayor opposed.
A motion to appoint an Integrity Commissioner carried 5 to 2…Deputy Mayor opposed.
A motion to refer the development application re. Pine Valley Developments back to Committee to allow ratepayers the opportunity to address council carried 6 to 1…Deputy Mayor opposed
A motion to amend the Code of Conduct carried 5 to 2…Deputy Mayor opposed.
A motion to have staff develop a business case to establish a Development Corporation carried 6 to 1…Deputy Mayor opposed
A motion directing staff to prepare a proposed 2016 Budget based on a zero percent increase carried 5 to 2…Deputy Mayor opposed.
A motion to restructure the Economic Development and Planning departments carried 5 to 2…Deputy Mayor opposed.
A motion to direct staff to prepare new rental agreements for Beach One properties for the 2016 season for council approval carried on a 5 to 1 vote…Deputy Mayor opposed.
A motion to amend zoning by-law to allow the development of a recreation hall at 60-19th. St carried 5 to 2… Deputy Mayor opposed.
A motion to establish a Main Street Market for the year 2016 and direct staff to make application for any provincial grants that may be available carried 6 to 1… Deputy Mayor opposed.
A further motion directing staff to report on the necessary infrastructure needed to support a Main Street Market carried on a vote of 5 to 2…Deputy Mayor opposed.
A motion to have Committee of the Whole, operating as the Budget Committee, receive the proposed 2016 Operating and Capital Budget First Roll-Up- Part 1 carried on a vote of 5 to 2…Deputy Mayor opposed.
A motion to implement a Coordinated Committee of the Whole structure to replace Standing Committees of Council passed 5 to 2…Deputy Mayor opposed.
A motion to direct the Director of Economic Development to proceed with a Terms of Reference and seeking private funding of a Downtown Master Plan carried 5 to 2…Deputy Mayor opposed.
A By-Law appointing Board of Directors of Wasaga Hydro carried 6 to 1…Deputy Mayor opposed.
A motion approving Operational and Capital Budgets carried 4 to 3…Deputy Mayor opposed.
A motion to revise a Code of Conduct carried 5 to 2…Deputy Mayor opposed.
A motion to approve three year leases covering kiosks at $6,000 annually carried 5 to 2…Deputy Mayor opposed.
A motion to hire an architect to design a beer garden carried 5 to 2…Deputy Mayor opposed.
A motion directing staff to proceed with negotiations for a beer tent at the Main Street Market with the Wasaga Beach Brewing Co. carried 4 to 3…Deputy Mayor opposed.
A motion to proceed with the necessary infrastructure supporting the Main Street Market carried on a vote of 6 to 1…Deputy Mayor opposed.
A motion to approve a rental lease of the Copa carried 4 to 3…Deputy Mayor opposed.
A motion to review options of establishing a Ward System for the 2018 municipal election carried on a vote of 4 to 3…Deputy Mayor opposed.
A motion for staff to prepare a report regarding sky
diving requirements carried 5 to 2…Deputy Mayor opposed.
A motion to lease Bananas for 5 years with an additional 5 year option carried 5 to 2…Deputy Mayor opposed.
A motion to lease 31 Beach Drive by RLS for five years plus a five year option carried 4 to 3…Deputy Mayor opposed.
A motion directing staff to issue a Request for Proposals to undertake The Downtown Masterplan carried 4 to 2…Deputy Mayor opposed.
A motion to approve a contract to design and build the Beachfront Rental Kiosks; the Main St Market Kiosks, and the Lifeguard/Ambassador Stations carried 4 to 3… Deputy Mayor opposed.
A motion recommending approval of a three year lease to rent 12 Main St., Unit F, to Blooming Onion carried 5 to 2…Deputy Mayor opposed.
A motion recommending approval of a three year lease to rent 12 Main St.,Unit U, to Edward Donnelly carried 5 to 2…Deputy Mayor opposed.
A motion deferring consideration of Council Compensation Review until Council has a full compliment of members and can have a full discussion on the report carried 4 to 1…Deputy Mayor opposed.
It is no wonder that in the coffee shops across town the Deputy Mayor is referred to as Nina No No. A name that will be hard to shake.
So, when those loyal supporters of the Deputy Mayor cheer on her continuous opposition to the motions that have been presented to bring about change, and move the economic development of the municipality forward, the ratepayers of Wasaga Beach should look back to the 2014 election campaign and just review what the now-members of council said what they would do if elected.
In fairness to the Deputy Mayor, her campaign was made up of telling the voter of all the Committees she had served on over the previous eight years as a member of Council, other than her plans for the future.
Bringing about change was not part of her program.
However, she did state the following, “Wasaga Beach has seen some changes and had been met with some challenges over the past decade that have allowed us to re-evaluate and plan for the future. Transition and change take time and now that the background work and planning is done, I am ready to move Wasaga Beach forward to become a place we can truly live, work and play.”
So, if we had the magic wand, and with the flick of the wrist, we could reverse all those things that the Deputy Mayor has opposed over the past year and a half, what would we have left?
We would be back to the old way of doing business. No change….No progress.
Can any of the Deputy Mayor`s supporters from Social Media make a case for that ?
P. S….Keep watching…there`s more to come.