Opening Council to the Public
The Township is slowly reopening from pandemic restrictions. The state of emergency has been lifted. Council passed a bylaw continuing the option for Councilors and the public to attend meetings virtually, including the live streaming of meetings. Allowing virtual attendance has dramatically increased the number of residents who listen to at least part of the Council meetings. It also allows Councilors and staff to attend if they are away or if they are feeling unwell. A good ongoing public health measure.
Public attendance at Council meetings will continue to be restricted until June. At that time, the matter will be reconsidered. Due to the size of the Council chambers, we are looking at other options that have the technology, like the new Storrington Centre, to have larger in person meetings with simultaneous virtual capability.
One of the strengths of municipal government is that it is close to residents. People attending meetings in person, both to give deputations and listen to debate, is vital for local democracy: and its openness has been one of the strengths of South Frontenac Council.
Restrict the Ontario Land Tribunal
A few years ago, the Provincial Government gave the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT) power over zoning and panning decisions made by local Councils.
The OLT is an unelected, appointed body that is not accountable to the residents of South Frontenac. The province gave the OLT the power to make a final decision on planning matters based on a “best planning outcome” and not whether the proposed development is in compliance with approved official plans or consistent with provincial plans and policy. Essentially, it can, and does, override municipal government decisions that were in compliance with locally approved bylaws and provincial legislation.
Ontario is the only province in Canada that gives a separate tribunal this power. The province’s use of the OLT has forced municipalities to spend millions of dollars defending Official Plans in expensive, time consuming and ultimately futile hearings.
South Frontenac Council passed a motion asking the province to remove Planning Act decisions from the OLT and increase the ability of local governments to represent their community. If this comes to pass it would increase our communities’ control over development: a positive step in these times of rising political alienation.
A Climate Lens
Council passed the following motion:
“Moved that staff reports include a climate lens assessment: that is an assessment on how the subject matter of the report moves the Township towards zero greenhouse gas emissions; and comments on how the policy impacts the Township’s resilience to climate change”.
Staff and Council have been including climate considerations in many of their discussions. This resolution will formalize the process and broaden it to apply to all policy.
Sometime in the next few months Council should have staff recommendations for our first climate change action plan. Regardless of the specific initiatives proposed we still need to evaluate all polices on how they affect the overarching environmental challenge of our time.
Time to Move On
After much thought over the last couple of years I have decided to not seek reelection. One of the real joys of the last 8 years has been writing these reports and reading, and engaging with, your comments, both positive and negative. Thank you all for being interested. I will have more to say as we get to the end of this term.
If someone is thinking about running for Council, I would be happy to talk with them about my experiences. Council could really use some younger women representatives. At this point the “old boys club” is more than a metaphor for Council.
You will be missed, very much so.