Central Elgin Ratepayers Assoc. address to C.E. council July 20/09

Central Elgin Ratepayers Association, CERA, was formed primarily to influence the Council of the Municipality of Central Elgin to do the right thing when it comes to the local property tax burden.

Officially incorporated on May 15, 2009, in just two months CERA now has over 240 members. A recent survey of our members indicated that the Harbour negotiations with Transport Canada was our members’ second priority, after high taxes. Thank goodness, Dan McNeil saw fit to uncover many of the shenanigans in this protracted duel between Transport Canada and Central Elgin Council.

The community is in Harbour negotiation burnout. Only 70 citizens of a population of 12,500 showed up for the re-launched edition Harbour Community Workshop! It’s a sad, misleading commentary when media releases from the municipality and the consultants extol the great turnout at the first session. How can a $100,000 grant from Transport Canada, that’s trying to dump the Harbour on Central Elgin, not positively influence their agenda?

It seems that Council is in a “rush to judgment” on the Harbour issue.

Is it because Transport Canada has threatened to de-commission and abandon the Harbour, surround it in barbed wire to reduce increased liability and let Kettle Creek silt in if the Municipality doesn’t play by their rules and expectations?
If that’s the case, it’s not true negotiations, it’s cowering to bullies.

We expect a strong Council, one that doesn’t buckle to intimidation.

Or is it because we have a Federal election in the next few months? I can remember when our present member of parliament first campaigned for a seat in our area. With his experience in the foodservice industry he talked about how his values of customer service would be of benefit to the citizens of his constituency. But these personal values have become buried under the Federal bureaucracy. Unfortunately, this may be the case no matter what party is in power.
Promise local dedication and stewardship when running, but you can’t deliver if the party doesn’t see it as a priority or is tied up in various Ministries’ protectionism .

And what about the Provincial government. There’s been little or no help here. “It’s not our area, it’s a Federal matter.” they say – that’s a cop out. And we now have the “Blob”! This pollution can be traced to local chemical operations of the past in Port Stanley and to a lesser extend to the effluent that flows through Kettle Creek from St. Thomas and even from south London. The Province is now slowly investigating this problem. How and when will this be resolved?

Wow, a triple whammy, a Federal, Provincial and Municipal election within 15 months!!!
The voters of Central Elgin can decide the winners at all three levels of government at the next elections.

We’re tired of the platitudes, ineptitude and photo ops from all three levels of government.

Some people ask, is the Municipality going to make a deal under duress? Hans Christian Andersen wrote a fairy tale about an emperor who unwittingly hires two shysters to create a new suit of clothes for him, “The Emperor’s New Clothes”. If you remember, the King cannot see the non-existent new clothes. The King pretends he can for fear of appearing stupid, his ministers do the same, yet even a child sees he has nothing on. It could be an interesting analogy to our Harbour situation!
To acquire the Harbour, while allowing Transport Canada to take responsibility for pre-existing environmental issues that exceed standards for approved future uses of the Harbour, means that these issues may never be cleaned up. Is that a legacy you want to leave to our children? I’m sure that Ecojustice, formerly known as the Sierra Legal Defence Fund might take a crack at this challenge. Stay tuned!

To take the rumored $15 Million from the Federal government to repair all the defects and issues in the Harbour when at least twice that amount is necessary will bury this Municipality in even more excessive taxes for the future. With billions of Federal stimulus dollars available (our dollars) we must do better.

The appointment of a Harbour Commission will not shelter the Municipality from subsequent burden if it fails. And it will fail, if the right deal isn’t achieved and if the Commission is loaded with political cronies.

The latest edition of the community workshop is called “Port Stanley Port Facility Feasibility Study and Business Plan” , with the second emission coming this Wednesday, July 22nd.

Our emphasis now is on the words “Business Plan”. A proper Business Plan can only be completed after all the issues above are resolved. It’s unlikely we’ll see this proper Business Plan at the Wednesday meeting. When can the public expect to see it?

One of the minimum requirements that CERA has demanded is a revenue neutral plan, one that does not further add to the significant tax burden of the Central Elgin ratepayers. That said, doing better and using surpluses to further improve the Harbour and/or lower the present tax burden should be the aggressive objective.

Now lets look at what the proper Business Plan should include:

Vision and Mission Statements
Corporate Structure
Governance Issues and Bylaws
Strategic Plan
Operations plan
Due Diligence List and Comments
Insurance Issues
Safety and Environmental Issues
Financing issues
Human Resource Issues, all leading to
A five and ten year pro forma Balance Sheet and Statement of Income & Expenses itemizing streams of income and costs, that includes a Risks and Sensitivities Analysis.

“A completed final proper Business Plan is to:
1) be presented to the community in all local media and at a public meeting for input and understanding, and
2) after final amendments, be included as a clear unambiguous referendum question for approval in Municipal election 2010, and
3) only after approval of the aforementioned referendum question, will the Municipality sign any agreements for the acquisition of Port Stanley Harbour.”

We ask that this be moved as a motion in this council meeting by one of the councilors, seconded and brought to an open recorded vote.

Council may consider this motion “substantive”, if you use Bourinot’s Rules of Order or if CE municipal bylaws call for a specific advance time notification for motions. If so, we expect the above motion to be brought forward at the next Council meeting in August.

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