The Stockwell Report E2-V2

THE STOCKWELL REPORT

 

Chad Morrison is the self-appointed majordomo of a website by the name of Wasaga Beach News and Commentary Group.

The Rules of Engagement are stated as a “header”of the site, and read like the ground rules of a high school debating class. e.g. “Try not to name members as well in comments unless it is in a positive way, if you disagree with someone then just post a counterpoint and try not to be just retaliatory but if possibly try to be informed or factual in your remarks.” Mr. Morrison`s favourite comment is “play nice”.

The site has a very large membership, some 6545, as stated in the masthead. The majority of these members follow the site without participating, as do most Facebook followers.

Of those that do participate on a regular basis, there is a very small group that consider the site as an opportunity to ignore the “play nice” request and constantly use the site to attack some members of Council, in general, and  Mayor Brian Smith, in particular. Sadly, they do this without being taken to task by Mr. Morrison.

Two years ago Brian Smith was elected mayor with an overwhelming win over an existing mayor and an existing deputy-mayor. It was an election based on “change” and the voters of Wasaga Beach made it clear that, in their opinion, Smith was a man that could deliver that change, even though he had no previous experience in the world of politics. They weren`t disappointed.

Now, two years later, that small group of ratepayers, who use Mr. Morrison`s website to attack Mayor Smith, continue to downgrade the accomplishments of the present council.

Even though there has been a major increase in tourism, a major increase in attendance at the Wasaga Beach Provincial Park, and a major increase in tourism-related business establishments, the naysayers continue to be critical of Mayor Smith and the majority of his council.

Personally, I am one ratepayer who believes that Wasaga Beach is fortunate to have Brian Smith as its Mayor.

He works a sixteen hour day, carrying out his civic duties, even though he directs his entire salary to charity.

He supports the local Food Bank, hosts a Christmas Dinner for those residents in need, and both he, and his wife, Joanne, volunteer to stand shifts of the Salvation Army Christmas Kettle program, plus a number of other charitable events that are based throughout the town.

He is constantly promoting local business, and continues to push for a local high school, after-hours medical clinic, and the creation of a downtown core.

He is always available when called upon to attend business openings, service club events, and even personal milestones, like wedding anniversaries and the likes. He is known, affectionately, as “The Everywhere Mayor”.

He continues to lead a council that is committed to moving the municipality forward, in spite of the unwarranted criticism that he receives from two members of council and their social media supporters.

In my opinion, Mayor Smith is doing just fine, and the next two years will prove that point.

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The Stockwell Report E2-V1

THE STOCKWELL REPORT

The highlight of the final Wasaga Beach Council meeting of 2016 was the passing of the 2017 Operating and Capital Budgets.

The total budget was $48.3 million, made up of $36.6 million in operating expenses and $11.7 million in capital expenses, compared to an overall budget of $49.8 million in 2016.

As usual, the Monday Morning Quarterbacks on Social Media were critical of the efforts of Council, constantly pointing out how well the past  Council handled the financing of the municipality, compared to what is happening now.

This point was hammered home by Morley Bercovitch, a member of the previous council, who served for one term before deciding not to seek re-election.  He stated that before the present council was elected, Wasaga Beach was a leader within Simcoe County, however, now Wasaga Beach is a laughing stock.

Since being elected two years ago I have made a point of not being critical of previous councils. In fact, I have stated publicly that I thought that the outgoing council, under Mayor Cal Patterson, did a good job handling municipal finances. However, such an outrageous statement made by a member of Mayor Patterson`s council deserves an answer.

During the last quarter of 2016, Council tabled a corporate efficiency review, carried out by KPMG Chartered Accountants.

In the Executive Summary of their report, KPMG states the following, “The Town enjoys a strong financial position. Based on its most recent financial results, we consider the Town to be in a strong financial position, with meaningful financial surpluses that are funded through financial, as opposed to non-financial Town assets. While the Town has taken on debt in connection with the acquisition of beachfront properties, we do not consider this to pose a significant challenge to its financial situation.”

Now, in fairness, this statement can be, and should be, shared with both the Patterson and Smith Councils.

Where the two councils are different, is how they handled senior level of government`s financial grants, when it came to the drafting of annual budgets.

The Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund (O.M.P.F.) is the Province`s main transfer payment to municipalities. The following was taken from a report by  the Wasaga Beach Treasurer to Council, dated November 2016, pertaining to this fund;

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The above chart tracks the O.M.P.F. Grant from 2011 to 2021, showing how the council, under Mayor Patterson, dealt with these grants from 2011 to 2014, and how the present council, under Mayor Smith, dealt with these funds from 2015 to 2017, as well as projecting 2018 to 2021.

Clearly, the Patterson Council used half of these funds to decrease the impact of a tax increase brought about by the amount of spending during their four year term, while the Smith Council spent the majority of their three year grants to build the municipal reserves.

This, together with the fact that the previous council sat back and did nothing to stop the decline of the Beach One area, should be enough to stifle any criticism they may have as to how the Smith Council is moving Wasaga Beach forward.

As we enter the second half of council`s four year term of office, it is time for some “push back” against those Monday Morning Quarterbacks who just don`t get it.

The next election will decide how the “quiet majority” deals with this issue.

 

The Stockwell Report E1-V22

THE STOCKWELL REPORT

The November 22nd. Wasaga Beach Council meeting wrote another chapter in the ongoing discussions of the future of Wasaga Distribution Inc, often referred to as Wasaga Beach Hydro.

On the agenda was the ratification of the actions taken at the Committee of the Whole meeting of November 1, 2016. The author of that report was the Chief Administration Officer of the municipality, George Vadeboncoeur.

The report laid out six recommendations to further the public consultation process in considering potential options for the future of Wasaga Distribution.

Briefly, the six proposals were; (1) The establishment of a dedicated webpage on the Town`s website, (2) Hosting Public Information meetings, (3) laying out a programing advertising said meetings, (4) posting a list of frequently asked questions, using social media, (5) undertake a public opinion survey, (6) creation of a e-mail address to allow residents and business owners to communicate with Council on the subject.

Over and above the Staff Report, the Committee added a seventh recommendation; the holding of a

referendum so that the ratepayers could vote on the Distribution Report.

The common theme that ran through the presentations was they wanted no part of a $95,000. referendum, and they wanted Council to stop the information process and vote to kill the sale immediately.

Following their presentations, Council entered into a debate as to deciding if the Committee report should be ratified. Various motions were put on the table, followed by a vote to defer a referendum to the 2018 General Election, so that such a question could be placed on the ballot for a yes or no vote.

That amendment was supported by Deputy Mayor Biofolchi, and Councillors Bray and Smith. In opposition was Mayor Smith, and Councillors Belanger, Ego, and Stockwell, defeating the amendment 4 to 3.

Following that vote, the second part of the Committee Report, being the holding of a referendum at a cost of $95,000, was taken to a vote, which was defeated, thereby doing away with the holding of a referendum.

So….Staff will now carry out the public information meetings described in their report. In doing so, they will be following the process that was followed by the previous Council in dealing with the establishment of a gaming facility ( casino ) in Wasaga Beach; public information meetings, the creation of a dedicated webpage with ongoing information on the subject, as well as a detailed list of frequently asked questions, background information, presentations made at public meetings, and links to media releases. The matter will then come back to Council for consideration. At that point it is my intention to move a motion that would result in giving the ratepayers an opportunity to be heard on the issue by following the public voting process that was followed by the previous Council in dealing with the question of the establishment of a gaming facility, the completion of an on-line survey giving ratepayers the opportunity to a series of questions, such as Strongly in favour, Somewhat in favour, Neutral, Strongly opposed, Somewhat opposed etc. Once the results of the public survey are at hand, a final decision can be made.

Such a process should be acceptable by three of the nine deputants at the November. 22nd Council meeting, as they were members of the past Council who followed the same process in dealing with a gaming facility, Ex-Deputy Mayor Foster, and Ex-Councillors Wells, and Bircovitch.

It should aso satisfy Deputy Mayor Biofolchi, who served as a Councillor at that time. Sometime the wheels of government turn slowly. However, in a democracy both the majority and the minority must be heard.

Merry Christmas

Councillor Bill Stockwell

The Stockwell Report V1-E20

THE STOCKWELL REPORT

    This Christmas season marks the seventh year that my wife, Loretta and I, have headed up the Salvation Army Kettle Campaign in Wasaga Beach. Last year we were joined by Councillor Ron Ego, and his wife, Faye, to assist in both the recruitment of volunteers, as well as sharing in “standing” the kettles on location, and we are delighted in welcoming them back.

93.5% of every dollar donated/collected from the kettles remains in our community to support the work of the Salvation Army throughout the coming year. During 2016 the Salvation Army Food Bank has been supporting over 100 households and averaging over 200 individuals each month. Food Hampers include meat, fresh vegetables, eggs (when available), bread and non-perishable food.

Clothing vouchers for our Thrift Store are also available as needed. Temporary emergency shelter was provided for individuals with no place to live.

The Christmas Hamper and Toy program supports needy families and ensures they have sufficient food and toys for Christmas day and beyond.

These are just a few services that are funded by The Salvation Army Christmas Kettle Campaign.

The Salvation Army Kettle Campaign will begin Friday, November 25th. and will end Saturday, December 24th. Volunteers  will be asked to be Bell Ringers at the kettles. The shifts are two hours in length from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The kettle locations are Walmart, Superstore, and West End L.C.B.O. in Wasaga Beach. Volunteers are asked not to solicit contributions from donors, but simply represent the Salvation Army in a positive manner, thanking the donors for their contributions and wishing them “Merry Christmas”.

In the hundreds of calls that I have made, seeking volunteers, I make sure to tell them one thing, “If you do this once, you will want to do it again.”

Should you wish to assist in this year`s campaign by offering to cover a two hour shift, please give me a call at 705 352 0292 (home), or 705 718 1774 (cell), or by e-mail at lorst2@gmail.com.

Your active support will be greatly appreciated.

The Stockwell Report V1-E19

THE STOCKWELL REPORT

 

At the Council meeting of October 24th, 2016, Council heard a presentation on Wasaga Distribution Inc. and Wasaga Resources Services Inc. It was presented by Wasaga Distribution Inc Board members Rick Archdekin, Jim Fraser, Peter Preager, and Mark Rodger, of Borden, Ladner Gervais.

 

This presentation was addressed in The Stockwell Report of October 17, 2016, and was referred to as a report addressing “the future of Wasaga Distribution Inc…better known as Wasaga Beach Hydro.”

 

The Stockwell Report gave a brief history of the public facility. It also noted that during the last Municipal election campaign the rumour mill was that the municipality would probably be considering the sale of Wasaga Beach Hydro.

 

It went on the say that, “of those who were elected, (if my memory serves me) unanimously opposed a sale during the election campaign. In fact, I can`t recall any candidate, old or new, supporting a proposed sale at that time…However, I certainly stand to be corrected.”

 

 

Well, at the meeting of the 25th, interested ratepayers overflowed the Council chambers, the entrance foyer, and the lower floor halls of the Town Hall to show their outrage at the potential of such a sale.

 

In fact, following the presentation to Council, those in attendance were given the opportunity to address Council and clearly voiced their opposition to such a sale.

 

At this stage of the game I can`t believe that a recommended sale would be supported by Council. In my case, I opposed a sale prior to being elected, as per the attached copy of my election brochure, distributed to every home in Wasaga Beach in the Fall of 2014.

 

The rumour that a decision to sell has already been made couldn`t be further from the truth. The rumour is only used to infuriate the residents of the Municipality.

 

Council must follow a due process that clearly brings the pros and the cons of the issue to all the ratepayers of the Municipality, and allow each and every ratepayer the opportunity to clearly show where they stand on the subject.

 

This may take time and I would encourage everyone to give Council the time to do so.

 

Sometimes, democracy is slow moving.

The Stockwell Report V1-E18

THE STOCKWELL REPORT
Earlier this week two long-awaited reports were presented to the Wasaga Beach Council, meeting as The Committee of the Whole. The first was a draft report of the Corporate Efficiency Review, and the second was from the Integrity Commissioner.
The draft report of the Corporate Efficiency Review of the Municipality was presented by Oscar Poloni, a partner in the firm of KPMG, Chartered Accountants. KPMG is highly respected   in the field of municipal administration, and Mr. Poloni is well experienced in that field.
In Mr. Poloni`s covering letter that accompanies the report, he states, “As outlined in the RFP, the purpose of the review was to evaluate the organizational structure of the Town with the intention of identifying potential opportunities for the enhancement of operating efficiency and effectiveness. As outlined in further detail of the report, while the review has identified some courses of action that could be considered by the Town, the overall results of our analysis indicate that the Town currently operates with a highly degree of operating efficiency and effectiveness.”
Under the “Key Themes” section of the report it states, “Based on the results of our review, a number of themes have emerged concerning our conclusions as to the Town`s effectiveness and efficiency, which we summarize in this chapter.
The Town enjoys a strong financial position. Based on its most recent reported financial results, we consider the Town to be in a strong financial position, with meaningful surpluses that are funded through financial as opposed to non-financial assets. While the Town has taken on debt in connection with the acquisition of beachfront properties, we do not consider this to pose a significant challenge to its financial situation.”

This should ease the concerns of those citizens who constantly comment on social media of what they refer to as the present Council’s mishandling of the Town`s spending and that the future consists of huge tax increases.

 

During Mr. Polone`s presentation he commented that he clearly understood the reasoning behind the purchase of the beachfront properties and he too would have supported the position to do so at that time.
Mr. Poloni’s parting words were, “that in all my years of reviewing municipal operations, this Town’s operation is one of the best that I have seen.”
Council has now taken the report onto themselves and will no doubt be referring to it during the budget process.
The second presentation was from the Town`s Integrity Commissioner, Robert Swayze.
He submitted a letter stating that since his appointment in November of 2015, Wasaga Beach was one of his most active clients. He had 12 formal complaints in 2016 under the Code of Conduct, two of which are still in process and one which has been dismissed in confidence.
Two complaints were laid against the Deputy

Mayor that she generally does not show respect for Council in debating issues. One against the Mayor for silencing Council members in meetings, and three complaints against Yours Truly for “disrespectful comments” against the Deputy Mayor made in social media.
Two additional complaints were made against the Mayor for having meetings with prospective tenants contrary to the purchasing by-law while requests for proposals were out for bids and after proposals had been before Council.
After investigating the complaints the Commissioner agreed with the Town Solicitor that he had no jurisdiction in this area.
The last complaint to be dealt with in this report was a complaint against the Deputy Mayor which alleged that she failed to respond to a series of questions put to her by a constituent. It was the Commissioner`s opinion that it is the electorate who must judge whether a Councillor is diligent and not the Integrity Commissioner.
There are two complaints outstanding and are still in the process of being investigated.
Councillors had the opportunity to question the Commissioner on all matters, and, when it came to my turn, I  stated that I totally agreed with members of the public having access to such a process, and having their identity protected in doing so. However, I had problems with members of Council taking other members of Council to the Commissioner, and remaining anonymous while those Councillors that have been accused are publicly named, even though the accusations against them were dismissed.
I pointed out that we are all politicians and must go back to the electorate for support, should we decide to run for re-election. At that time today’s report could be used against us, and I felt it was an unfair process. I also pointed out that the notice of dismissal of both accusations against me was sent to me marked “PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL”, leaving me no opportunity to publicly defend myself.
I also stated that it has always been my belief that complaints that members may have against other members should be taken to Council rather than the Integrity Commissioner. This is because Council is a forum for debate, and all members have the right to join into such a debate.
The Commissioner replied that he too thought it best for Councillors to bring such matters to Council, however, under the Municipal Act he must keep the names of all parties accusing members of Council private.
I then asked that if I went public, giving all details of any unfounded accusation against me, would he sanction me?
His answer was that he would not invoke sanctions against me for releasing details of failed complaints.
Councillor Belanger pointed out that Councillors who choose to file complaints under the Integrity Commissioner process were using taxpayers dollars to pay for that process.
So, when the dust was settled we are left with no change in the process.  However, Councillors who have had other Councillors take them to the Integrity Commissioner, but failed to make their case, are now faced with both their accusations, and the defence of those accused, becoming released for all to see.
That just might do away with a number of Councillor vs. Councillor accusations being made in the future.