For those of us that are avid readers and follow the news whether it’s local, national, business, politics or any number of other topics, there has been no shortage of material to digest and weigh-in on over this past several months if not years.  Nowhere has there been more noteworthy news to follow than in the Town of Collingwood.

Over the past couple of years Collingwood was engaged in a lengthy and costly Judicial Inquiry dealing with two hotly debated topics.  First was the the sale of the Town’s electric utility business Collus now known as Epcor.  The second phase of the Inquiry dealt with the spending of the proceeds from the Collus sale on two recreational facilities.  Despite the fact that COVID 19 has dominated the news for the past year, we can’t overlook and or ignore issues that are important to our lives right here at home in terms of municipal government.

The Town of Collingwood is in the news once again as the result of Town Council voting and passing a decision to implement an Interim Control By-Law with respect to new development.  In essence, this By-Law will put a pause on the approval of any new development in the Town that has not already been approved and or is under construction.  At the heart of the matter is the increased demand that further yet-to-be-approved development would have on the Town’s water treatment capacity.

The municipality has or is not running out of water as the source for said water is Georgian Bay.  Rather, the Town’s water treatment plant is running at near 80% capacity with room for a further 1,000 or so residential dwellings.  Given the current rate of development however, serving 1,000 new dwellings with their municipal water needs will soon be reached posing the question what now?

The only thing that comes to my mind as being “infinite” is the universe itself and for most of us that’s a hard concept to understand.  Virtually everything else with perhaps the odd exception is “finite” and that includes water.  It is said that the Great Lakes continues about 20% of the world’s drinking water.  That too fluctuates and we have seen that through the years with rising and falling water levels.  What the issue at hand is the Town’s water treatment plant has a “finite” amount of water it can process and treat in order to meet the everyday needs of the community.

In 2014 I ran in the municipal election as a Candidate for Collingwood Council.  My overall platform was pretty basic and focused on the need for Council and the Town’s employees to amongst other things, concentrate their efforts on running the municipality in am effective manner.  Having closely followed the Judicial Inquiry and now reading about the current water capacity issue it brought back a lot of memories from the municipal election in 2014, what I stood for and why I ran.

Below are some excerpts from the speech I made at the All Candidate’s meeting at that time:

“Many challenges face our community as they do others.  The steps proposed to address these issues along with other initiatives will be the basis for many of the candidate’s election platforms as they attempt to secure your vote. Ultimately however, one single issue stands out from all the others, it’s a question we all need to ask ourselves.  Who do I trust to look out for my best interests?”

“We need to stop the partisan politics and cohesively manage the Town of Collingwood for what it is, a fifty million dollar a year corporation. Working with Town staff, our Municipal Council functions as the executive management of this corporation, the Board of Directors making decisions that will ensure our municipality continues among other things to function efficiently and effectively delivering the essential services and programs we depend on. This requires sound decisions made by committed leaders with a strong business acumen and above all integrity.”

“Look for three things in a person. Intelligence, energy and integrity. If they don’t have the last one, don’t even bother with the first two.”  Warren Buffett

“Like me, you have watched our current Council make questionable decisions often inconsistent with the public’s wishes. Those responsible now seeking re-election, claim to have exercised a disciplined fiscal strategy with minimal tax increases.  Claims like these are easy to make yet stand in stark contrast to the fact that residential property taxes in Collingwood are the second highest to any municipality in the surrounding region.”

“I envision A New Collingwood.  We must start with a bold plan that will address not only the current issues facing the municipality but will lead us to the ultimate destination, an economically sound, clean and vibrant community that we can be proud to call home.  To embark in A New Direction we must first elect a fresh, new executive management team that not only has earned your vote but is also capable of gaining your respect and trust.  Trust to manage the people and assets of our community corporation prudently versus running it politically.  This latter practice has impeded our progress while creating political cynicism and dissension among the community at large.”

Withe the arrival of COVID 19 in early 2020 and the steps that have been subsequently taken to control the pandemic, the term “essential services” have become the buzz word of the day.  Whether it’s an essential service or not has become the benchmark to determine what businesses can be open and which ones must be closed.  While the term “essential service” has come to the forefront in daily news during recent months it’s certainly not a new concept.  Water, hydro, shelter, gas, oil, food, drugs and any number of other things we require daily to live are all essential services many of which have been around since the start of mankind.  As noted above in bold print, “essential services” were an important part of my election platform and speech back in 2014 and they remain so today.

In the summary report of the Judicial Inquiry titled “Transparency and the Public Trust” the Judge’s closing statement said as follows:

“When trust is lost, the relationship between the public and its municipal government may never be the same. The road back is arduous. Repairing the relationship requires self-reflection and a commitment to change.” 

TRUST seems to be a recurring theme!

While I do not sit at the Council table, I know that the recent passing of the Interim Control By-Law by Collingwood Council was neither a easy decision to make nor was it made lightly.  Whether it’s the right decision and I believe it is, remains to be seen but one thing is certain.  Clean water for drinking and cooking is more than an “essential service,” it’s one of the absolute necessities for life itself.  Clean water is in finite supply and if temporarily putting a hold on yet-to-be approved new development helps to ensure that we have an adequate amount to meet the needs moving forward, no one can argue that this isn’t a good move without some alternative plans to back up their position.

If you want to point the finger of blame at someone for the need of this new By-Law look at the previous Council not this one, the one that was subject of the Judicial Inquiry.  Those that are claiming online that deferring additional yet-to-be approved development right now as the result of the Interim Control By-Law will drive home prices and rentals even higher and will kill local businesses have offered little or no data and or examples to back up their case.

The rampant growth in housing demand and pricing we have experienced in not only the Collingwood area but across many parts of Canada is not a healthy balanced market nor is it sustainable.  If stopping for only for a few months or a year to review and re-calibrate our water treatment needs and capacity along with other infrastructure issues will lead to a brighter and healthier future it’s tough to argue that this is not a good first step in preserving the enhancing the lifestyle so many have come here to enjoy and from what I hear, many in the community are in full support.