THE WASAGA BEACH STOCKWELL REPORT
If you were looking up past Premiers of Ontario on Wikipedia, you would come across the following:
Frank Stuart Miller (May 14, 1927-July 21, 2000) was a Canadian politician, who served as the 19th Premier of Ontario for four months in 1985. He was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario in 1971 as a Progressive Conservative member for the Central Ontario riding of Muskoka. He served in the cabinet of Premier Bill Davis in several portfolios including Minister of Health,and Minister of Natural Resources. He also served five years as Treasurer of Ontario.
When Davis resigned in 1984 he vied for the leadership of the party and won over a slate of three other candidates. In February, 1985 he formed a cabinet of 33 members, which was the largest in Ontario`s history. Miller quickly called an election which was held on May 2. His party lost 18 seats but still held the most seats at 52.
He formed a minority government that lasted less than two months when the Liberals, under David Peterson, and the New Democrats, under Bob Rae, formed an unofficial coalition and defeated the government on a confidence motion on June 26.
Initially, Miller stayed on as leader of the opposition, but resigned shortly after.
After retirement from provincial politics he moved back to Muskoka where he became Chairman of the District of Muskoka. He died in 2000.
Now…What does this have to do with Wasaga Beach ?
Well, Frank Miller was the Minister of Natural Resources in June, 1978, when that Ministry released the Wasaga Beach Provincial Park Master Plan.
The opening paragraph of the Minister`s Approval Statement of the Master Plan clearly set the economic future of the newly formed Town of Wasaga Beach.
It reads as follows; “Wasaga Beach, since the popular and widespread use of the automobile, has been one of the most popular recreation areas of Ontario. As one of the best swimming beaches in the Province, Wasaga Beach has been magic to millions of visitors. Located completely within the Town of Wasaga Beach, the provincial scope and seasonal nature of the recreational resource became a problem for the local municipality. At the request of the community, the provincial government was asked to manage the beach and control the fun and sun seekers.
Consequently, throughout the past decade a joint municipal and provincial program evolved for developing the Town of Wasaga Beach into a complete, serviced, year round resort community with Wasaga Beach Provincial Park playing a major role.”
The closing paragraph of the Minister`s Approval Statement reads, “In accordance with the Provincial Park Act, Sections 1D and 7A, this masterplan is approved as the official policy for the development and management of the park. The implementation of the Wasaga Beach Master Plan represents a key component of the commitment by the Province to help the Town of Wasaga Beach to develop a viable recreational community for all seasons.”
For close to three decades the relationship between the Province and the Town went well. However, in 2006 the provincial government, under the leadership of Premier Dalton McGuinty, introduced The Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act, 2006, which changed the interpretation, objectives, and management of provincial parks. The new direction was capsulized in the new Act as follows: “Ontario`s provincial parks and conservation reserves are dedicated to the people of Ontario and visitors for their inspiration, education, health, recreational enjoyment and other benefits with the intention that these areas shall be managed to maintain their ecological integrity and to leave them unimpaired for future generations.”
The statement illustrates a clear shift from recreation and tourism to conservation. One that didn`t impact on the working relationship between the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Town of Wasaga Beach immediately, however, as time went by, and as ministry budgets became tighter in some areas, the maintenance of Wasaga Beach Provincial Park became wanting.
Today, under successive leadership of Dalton McGuinty and Kathleen Wynne the facilities within the Park are deplorable. The beach washrooms, within their lands, are almost unusable as a result of lack of day-to-day maintenance. More attention is given to the plight of the plovers than the comfort of the tourist that pay to visit the park. The Province pays little attention to the Spring clean-up of Beach Five, and of late, have allowed beach areas to be invaded by invasive vegetation that is reducing the area of sandy beaches.
Fortunately, three ratepayer groups, whose properties abut the beach, together with the Mayor and Chief Administrative Officer of the town, have banded together. They created a petition aimed at the Ministry of Natural Resources to address the issues within the Park, specifically the problem of the invasive vegetation that has literally taken over the beach area.
Faye Ego, who represents the Allenwood Ratepayers, Marsha Ramage, of the West Wasaga Beach Ratepayers, and Howard Wilson, of the Central Wasaga Beach Homeowners, have created a joint website that promotes the petition to the residents of Wasaga Beach.
The website is http://www.savewasaga.com, and I would urge you to visit the site, sign the petition, and urge your friends and neighbours to do the same.
When completed, Mayor Smith has agreed to present the petition to the Province in hopes of bringing the Ministry and the Provincial Government back to the Province of Ontario`s original commitment to the people of Wasaga Beach in assisting the town in its efforts to further recreation and tourism built around The Worlds Longest Fresh Water Beach.
Past Councils followed the 1978 vision and worked with the Province to promote tourism, rather than industry, as a strong tax base for the Municipality. It is unconscionable for the Province to now go back on its commitment by using the provincial parkland in a manner that hurts the town rather than helps it.
Adding your name to the ratepayers’ petition is truly drawing a line in the sand.
Now is the time to step up and be heard.