Politeness and Politics

Happy New year to you, your family and friends.  I am looking forward to working with the new Council in 2019 for a more open, inclusive, compassionate and sustainable community.

South Frontenac Code of Conduct

With politics becoming ever more dysfunctional, South Frontenac is hoping to battle the tide with a new Code of Conduct.  A draft Code was presented to Council in December.  It stems from a provincial requirement that all municipalities have Codes of Conduct and Integrity Commissioners by March, 2019.

A Code of Conduct can be helpful if it facilitates thoughtful, respectful debate, and honesty and openness in government.  It can also stifle debate and opposition.

Overall the draft Code of Conduct’s scope and content encourages positive behaviour among your municipal politicians.  A couple of provisions raises possible concerns.

There is ambiguity in the statement “….to maintain and promote trust in the Township.”  Part of a Councillors job is to question activities of the Township that they think are not in the public interest.  Some would argue that this questioning could undermine public trust in the Township.

For instance, public trust is built by the Township by having proper oversight of finances.  If a Councillor suspected that there was poor oversight, it would be reasonable, if not expected, that they would raise this concern. Calling the Township to account should not be restricted by a possible complaint under the Code of Conduct that questioning the Township’s practices is undermining trust in the Township.

Similarly, the clause “respect council’s decision-making process” has the potential to stifle legitimate actions of Councillors.  For instance, would this preclude a Councillor from supporting a legal challenge to a decision of Council? Or, preclude a Councillor from advocating to overturn a decision of Council.

Finally, the section on conflict of interest and gifts is too permissive.  For instance, it seems to allow a contractor or caterer to supply “volunteer” services to a Councillor when that contractor or caterer could be bidding for Township contracts.

Similarly, Councillors are allowed to receive gifts valued at up to $300.  Even though these gifts would have to be disclosed, that is not sufficient, if they are from a party doing business or potentially benefiting from a Councillor’s vote.

It is important to avoid real and the appearance of improper influence. The debate on Code of Conduct will continue this month.

Development Review and Lake Protection

The Province is undertaking a “fundamental review” of all aspects of the development review process with the intention of removing some of the restrictions and red tape around development.

Many in South Frontenac want properly controlled development that protects our lakes, wetlands and the rural character of the Township.

The approval process for the Johnson’s Point development highlighted the limitations of current regulations.

These regulations allowed 18 units of housing to be developed in the midst of a provincially significant wetland and a candidate area of natural and scientific interest, and on a lake that is already well-developed.

The Environmental Commissioner’s 2018 report  found that the approval process did not give adequate attention to resident’s concerns, nor does it adequately protect wetlands:

“For example, a subdivision that is built adjacent to a wetland may not cause immediate negative impacts, but eventually, the cumulative impacts from this expansion, such as road salting, fertilizer runoff, leaking fuels, wildlife predation from domestic cats and recreation overuse (e.g., from off-road vehicles and mountain bikes), can severely degrade wetland functions”. (page 25)

The legislative mandate of the Conservation Authority and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry provided, at best, marginal protection for the environment and species-at-risk on Johnson’s Point.

On January 8, Council will be considering a motion to inform the Province about the limitations in the current process and ask for better protection of our lakes and wetlands.

Volunteer Openings with The Township

South Frontenac thrives on the work of volunteers.  They are the back bone of many services and activities vital to the community, including; the Fire and Rescue services, South Frontenac Community Services, New Leaf Link, Perth Road Crafters, the Lions Club and the many community Festivals.  You can also help by being a volunteer member of one of Township Council’s many Committees.

For a full listing of committee volunteer opportunities follow this link to the South Frontenac web-page .  Applications need to be in by January 16.

Upcoming Meetings

Monday, January 14, Township Hall, 7pm – first organizing meeting of the 2019 Lakes and Trails Festival, all welcome.

Tuesday, January 15 – Public Deputations on the 2019 Township Budget.  Comments on how your tax dollars should be spent are welcome.

About Ross Sutherland

nurse, researcher, public health care activist, councillor South Frontenac Township
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