Michael needs his own blog. 

I sent the following text to Michael Blair the next morning after the election:

“Hey Michael it’s too bad you pulled down all your social media accounts today. It seems myself and many others enjoyed  the conversations that you started. As much as I gave you a hard time I think you were a positive influence to this election process and the town would be a better place with your continued involvement. All the best VFAN”

I meant every word of it, I recieved no reply. Then out of the blue he did his long winded comment on my post election opinion piece:”Collingwood puts on its big boy pants”. I didn’t agree with much of what he said but published it anyway, as I always thought Michael offered an interesting new perspective on the local political scene.

A few of my usual commenters jumped all over him and in his usual passive aggressive way he gave as good as he got. 

Today he posted another multi paragraph missive I dislike doing it, but I have had to put an end to Michael using this blog as an avenue to lecture the great unwashed rabble of Collingwood  about the mistake they made not electing him as Mayor. 

I posted the following reply:

Michael it seems you still have lots to say. I asked you in a direct text and I ask you here: Why did you pull down all your social media hours after the election? It left the impression of a petulant sore looser throwing a hissy fit. I gave you the original platform in this space, even though I didn’t agree with much of what you said.

I suggest now if you want to post multi paragraph bebutals and commentary you should do it on your own social media platforms, not in the comment section here. 

Lastly Michael, WordPress and other blogging applications are very easy to set up. A word of advice though: most people are not interested in hearing you bragging about your acoomplishments and achievements. Other than that I think you could offer interesting alternate opinions and perspectives on the local political scene. I can even suggest a name for your new blog: “Blowhard Musings” 

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Betrayals of public trust. 

This has been a bad week for my particular brand of politics. I’m talking about the private activities of two prominent provincial and federal Conservative cabinet ministers and former cabinet minister.

The first one hits close to home, our local MP Jim Wilson. I think the way Doug Ford has handled this dumpster fire is clumsy and ham fisted. I first heard about this Friday evening, and as soon as I heard about the “going into rehab” nonsense, I thought it stunk to high heaven. If someone has addiction issues he/she does not “resign from caucus”, you step down as cabinet minister and get help. So it was obvious the addiction treatment was only part of the story. The PC’s let this fester over the weekend and let the media poke around and try to discover what the true story was.  It ends up that there’s an allegation that while on a drunken binge Wilson made inappropriate sexual advances to a junior male staffer. As far as I’m concerned, I personally voted for Jim Wilson less than four months ago, he was in a position of public trust as a senior cabinet minister. If he did undead betray that public trust he needs to step down as our MPP and we need to have a bi-election as soon as possible.

The next situation involves Tony Clement, the long term federal Tory and former member of Steven Harper’s cabinet. My mind boggles at this story, I just shake my head at the complete stupidity of this man, sending compromising sexually explicit pictures and video’s of himself to a complete stranger on line is utter madness. To compromise himself in such a way shows such poor judgement it makes me wonder what he got up to when he was actually a cabinet minister and part of a government. Plus the fact that this story can be put into the “too much information” category and leaves me with mental imagery that has put me off my lunch today. 

Again in this situation he needs to resign, and I am very disappointed that Andrew Sheer has not insisted on it.

Provincial and federal conservatives are held to a higher standard than any other political group and the quicker we rid ourselves of these two miscreants the better.

Note: Back in the summer when our prime minister’s groping story hit the head lines, I was accused of being overly partisan. This type of behavior is completely unacceptable no matter which political party the person belongs to. 

Michael Blair’s review of the election and your new council:

Our new Town Council:  What you will get and what you won’t get.

I was very pleased with my first and last foray into municipal politics.  Almost 1,000 voters supported my candidacy in a Town where very few people knew my name.  We now have a Council led by a very popular Mayor and Deputy Mayor and a group of Councilors with a wide breadth of skills and experience.  With a strong mandate, this group has the capacity to deal with the pressing issues facing our Town.

Based on the lengthy campaign and the very good speeches and materials presented by those elected, it is clear what the issues are:

1.  A lack of attainable housing

2.  Inadequate public transportation

3. High and rising property taxes.

4. A lack of a multi-use recreational facility

5. Youth homelessness

6. Incomplete development of our waterfront

Can townspeople expect progress on these issues? 

A review of the campaign positions of the Council elected suggests otherwise.

Attainable Housing

Progress was made in the past few years with the construction of low-cost rental properties well underway on High Street.  This County funded development replaces an older development demolished on the same site and, while important, will not add to the inventory of lower-cost rental homes that existed before the development began.  No new initiatives were promised by those elected.

Approximately 3,000 seasonal residences will remain vacant for large portions of the year owing to Collingwood’ ban on short term rentals of unoccupied homes.    

The Town’s 2018 budget suggests attainable housing is not a priority.

TOTAL BUDGET $67,100,000 $81,300,000 $82,300,000  

                       2016                    2017                   2018

  Housing         $105,541 $   104,235          $73,561  

                         0.16%            0.13%             0.09%  Inadequate Public Transportation

The Town’s 2018 budget included $1,248,086 for transit in addition to a capital budget of $477,500.  Ridership was expected at 215,000.  With a population estimated at more than 22,000 few persons take the bus and the cost per ride is just over $8.00

During the campaign, I heard from hundreds of townspeople that the bus service was both essential and ineffective, taking too long to get from point to point such that it became useless for those commuting to work.

The Town can learn from the experience of Innisfil who replaced their buses with a contract with Uber where riders pay the equivalent of bus fare and get point to point transportation while the Town pays the difference between the bus fare and the Uber fare.  This is worth study.

I expect little to happen during this administration.  None of those elected responded to this issue during the campaign and it seems not a priority for those elected.  It is likely the Town will simply buy more buses and tinker with the route schedules while paying lip service to this critical regional problem.

High and Rising Property Taxes

Seen in the proper context, property taxes are very high.  In 2015, user fees and property taxes totaled $45.3 million.  In 2018, they were budgeted at $55.1 million.  

The 2018 budget disclosed the average property in Collingwood was assessed at $299,126 for tax purposes.  The average property in Collingwood today has a value of almost double that.  MPAC assessment are phased in over time and the average assessment will rise materially in the next 3 years.

Despite the issue being raised in the election campaign, there was no commitment by any of the incoming Council to deal with the prospect that property taxes may double over the next three years as higher MPAC appraisals are applied to current mill rates.

Council can alter mill rates.  This is a primary function of Council, to set mill rates at a level that reflects the reasonable costs of government programs.  The past is an indicator of what will happen.

Taxes have risen every year since 2015 despite the Town generating large surpluses.

Town of Collingwood Reported Surpluses in Annual Financial Statements

                       2014             2015               2016                     2017          4-Year Total

Surplus $  5,401,899 $  5,672,542 $  13,989,152 $  6,599,063 $          31,662,656 

Multi-Use Recreational Facility

Mayor Elect Brian Saunderson was Chairman of Steering Committee which in 2012 recommended the Town build a multi-use recreational facility (“MURF”).  The Town chose instead to put fabric covered structures over two existing recreational areas.  Saunderson has not spoken to the issue since that time.

Given the Mayor Elect’s athletic background and history, it is possible the Town will revisit this need, but my expectation is for little progress since, as I will mention in detail later, I believe Mr. Saunderson will focus resources on the Waterfront Master Plan which he claims as a major accomplishment during his term as Deputy Mayor.

Youth homelessness 

Barbara Weider House is the only Collingwood facility targeted at youth homelessness.  It relies on donations to operate, with a capital campaign of $850,000 and annual operating costs of $65,000.  It is wonderful to see the people of Collingwood support this critical need through donations.  It would be even better if the Town assumed the costs of operation and worked with this charity to expand the service to meet the need.

I am appalled that our Town sees fit to spend over $500,000 annually to maintain the Terminals while spending nothing on the issue of youth homelessness.  I am hopeful the new Council will make a meaningful contribution to assisting our homeless youth.

Waterfront Development

On area where we can expect substantial activity is the waterfront.  The Waterfront Master Plan is a centerpiece of the Mayor Elect’s campaign promises and will carry a total cost over $50 million.  This is where our tax dollars will be spent.

Phase 1 of the plan is estimated to cost $20,546,211 and be completed during the term of the current Council.  That phase does not include costs of renovation of the Terminals, which the Waterfront Master Plan foresees as including a Brew Pub.

Phases 2 and 3 of the Waterfront Master Plan are forecast to have costs of $21,952,627 and $8,041,723 respectively.  The total plan in round numbers will cost over $50 million and take until 2034 to be competed.

The Waterfront Master Plan plays lip service only to the cost of restoring the Terminals which Tacoma Engineers estimates will cost another $9.7 million.  The approved capital plan for Collingwood incudes that $10 million.  Taken together, the improvements to Collingwood’s waterfront will cost approximately $60 million.

CONCLUSION

Democracy is a wonderful institution but carries risks.  You get what you vote for.

In the United States, Donald Trump became President.  His divisive politics and thoughtless economic and trade policies may have an unhappy ending for that country.

In Canada, Justin Trudeau became prime minister.  His economic policies in the name of “climate change” and reconciliation with First Nations have severely damaged Canada’s key oil and gas industry with little likelihood of having a measurable impact on global greenhouse gas emissions or improving lives for First Nations people.

In Collingwood, Brian Saunderson brings a vision of a beautiful harbour that will attract visitors and industry to our Town and improve the quality of life for its citizens.

That vision seems unlikely to materialize for many people. 

The Waterfront Master Plan will bring more people to Collingwood.  Collingwood will grow and grow rapidly.  But most of that growth will be established persons capitalizing on the strength in GTA housing prices and moving to Collingwood’s growing inventory of expensive single-family dwellings. 

House prices will surely rise and with them property taxes will move even higher.

Industry will not come.  The combination of a scarcity of attainable housing and poor public transportation will see younger persons leave the region leaving a shortage of entry level employees.  With costly housing and poor transportation, employers will locate in jurisdictions where business development is the priority backed by reasonable policies to supply services and serviced employment lands to attract the needed workforce.

Labour shortages will worsen.  A large portion of Collingwood’s workers already commute from less costly areas such as Wasaga Beach, Thornbury, Meaford and Nottawa but will find the costs of doing so increasingly difficult at entry level wages.

Collingwood will become a country club Town with most of its citizens either retired or nearing retirement, living in beautiful homes and spending their recreational dollars at the wonderful array of private ski clubs in winter and boating in the summer.  Children will leave this area for employment elsewhere.

The majority will be people just like me. Established, retired, independent.  But they will lack my attachment to Collingwood’s history or culture.  Within a decade, the transformation of the Town will be complete – future Council’s will have no interest in “heritage” or “culture” and will continue the trend to make Collingwood into Whistler East.

That is what you voted for.  This is the mandate the incoming Council proposed, and you accepted.  This is what you wanted, and it is what you will get.  Accept it and embrace your new Council.

​Brother can you spare a dime.

I was shocked, this week, to hear the hard times that have befell our ex local MP Paul Bonwick. In fact I took a drive downtown to where the old Scotia Bank used to be to see if I could put a couple of toonies in his tin cup, but alas he wasn’t down there.

I’m talking of course about the latest bunch of nonsense being spouted by Bonwick’s “pro bono” lawyer David O’Connor at Monday’s Judicial Inquiry hearing on status and applications. 

Apparently through O’Connor Bonwick provided his last 2 tax filings for Compenso and Green Leaf as evidence on how broke he is. He said “they clearly show he has no available funds with which to retain counsel to represent him at the inquiry,”

O’Connor also stated that “The partners that he had in Monaco (project on the corner of Hume and Hurontario) told him that they didn’t want to have anything further to do with him and that they were going to buy him out, and in fact, they did for a dollar a share.”

He also stated that “Bonwick is acting as a consultant for at the airport, I think the amount that he’s being paid at the present time is twenty-five hundred dollars a month.”

O’Connor argued his client should receive funding so he can participate fully in the inquiry.

Justice Frank Marrocco reaponded as follows: “Having regard to the material filed and the submissions made, I decline to make any additional recommendations for funding concerning Mr. Bonwick” So now it’s up to the town’s CAO Fareed Amin to make a decision on paying Bonwick legals. I might suggest that after the $756k shellacking the town took from Bonwick back in 2012 it will be a cold day in hell when he squeezes another penny out of the town coffers.

Another interesting fact that was relayed is the following little nugget:

“Mr. Bonwick has advised that he does not maintain records for several years after his company is no longer providing consulting services to a client and we understand that Mr. Bonwick has previously discarded, deleted or destroyed all documents that are relevant to the Inquiry”.

For a bit of personal information in relation to this: I bankrupted a Canadian corporation back in 2011. I just destroyed and disposed of the last of that company’s financials and corporate fillings this past summer. It is required by law to keep all company bank statements and financial information for 7 years. If the CRA are paying attention to any of this I suggest this current Judicial Inquiry could just be the start of Mr Bonwicks problems.

In the mean time I think it behooves Collingwood to start up a GoFundMe page to pay Paul Bonwicks legals at Judicial Inquiry. I could name a few well heeled local residents that will be happy to contribute.

Collingwood puts on its “big boy pants”.

1. I am so damn proud of this town today, it has finally broken the chains of years of the old boys club. The nod and the wink and the look the other way. We did a thorough political house cleaning 

2. Look for a future Deputy Mayoral matchup between Tina Comi and Bob Madigan. Neither will run against Keith Hull because he is at present an unbeatable political force in our town. Tina and Bob have the Mayoral seat in their sights. Bob is not happy that newcomer Comi got more votes than him in this election. Watch for this interesting dynamic in the future.

3. I walked past Tina Comi last night and she obviously has no idea who I am because I heard her saying ……”great campaign except for that blogger spreading lies about me”. I never lie Tina, I just call it as I see it. Her campaign manager knows who I am, if looks could kill…..

4. This town should eventually erect a statue in Steve Berman’s honour. He singlehandedly booted the corrupt previous political establishment out of office. Others did their part, but think about this: Without Steve’s tireless FOI requests and continuous blogging and being a general pain in the ass prior to the previous election and probably no OPP investigation. I say Rick Lloyd would then have beaten Brian for Deputy Mayor. Chadwick would have very likely got back on the last council and this election would be a very different story. Thanks for everything you’ve done Steve.

5. I am extremely disappointed in Michael Blair. Although I was very hard on him in the run up, I thought he brought a great dynamic to this election, he picked, he probed and asked some great questions and started excellent conversations. I noticed this morning his Facebook and Twitter accounts are all taken down. I sent him a message saying that he ran a great campaign and his experience and expertise could be a great asset to this town. No response. I guess it was a vanity play after all. Either that or he was delusional enough think he actually had a chance of winning?

6. I am glad to see the Cooper/Bonwick compact is now a spent force on two fronts: First by Shawn being told loud and clear that his political voice in not wanted or required in this town. He was not even close, 1500 votes shy of being competitive. On a second front with Doug Measures and Nina Bifolchi being voted in as Mayors of Clearview and Wasaga Beach Paul Bonwick now has no place to go.

7. It was mentioned last night that it was a great achievement to have five women voted onto council. I voted for every member of that council last night except for Tina Comi. When I marked my ballot I did not look at gender I looked at how capable my choices were, the fact that they were woman made no difference to my vote. That is the great achievement.

8. One of the many joys of last night was to finally see the end of the political career of Ian Chadwick. I think even he must now realize that his days of having any kind of  political sway in this town are long past. Hopefully he will go back to writing books that no one wants to read.

9. I have been asked repeatedly whether I will continue with this blog. I can quite honestly say I’m not sure. Right now I am exhausted, I put myself in jaws of the lion and was insulted and abused by the people that did not want to see their power taken away. I made a joke of it, but it was hard to have my daughter overhear people calling me names and insult me. I started VFAN six years ago to try and back stop Steve Berman. My dream was to see the type of council that was elected last night. I’ve never been very good at being agreeable, I am much better at being an agitator. I will attend a few council meetings and see how VFAN fits under this new political environment. I do believe Collingwood is in good hands so VFAN might be redundant.

10. Good luck to this new council, there are now no excuses or impediments in moving this town into the 21st century.

Here are the 2018 official results in order of votes cast:

Mayor:

Brian Saunderson – 5065 x

John Trude – 3310

Michael Blair – 999

Deputy Mayor:

Keith Hull – 6112 x

Ian Chadwick – 2828

Councillors:

Mariane McLeod – 4683 x

Tina Comi – 4468 x

Bob Madigan – 4293 x

Deb Doherty – 4101 x

Steve Berman – 3971 x 

Kathy Jeffrey – 3918 x

Yvonne Hamlin – 3813 x

Tim Fryer – 3495

Cam Ecclestone- 2386

Dale West – 2385

Shawn Cooper – 2349

Jason Booth – 2195

Chris Baines – 2090

Sal Greco- 1597

Steven Aldred ,- 1421

Kathleen Knoll – 1323

George Dickenson – 1084

Nick Brindisi – 1021

Stuart Beeston – 997