Greetings all Steenburg Lake friends,
I hope this message finds you and your families all well and keeping safe during this protracted COVID pandemic.
Normally this would be a relatively quiet time for us on the SLCA Executive as we enjoy a brief break from the number of issues that challenge our community, but nothing could be further from the case. I can think of at least six major issues that threaten to impact the way we enjoy our time at the lake, and we have been working to bring you information on each of these issues to help you make informed decisions that best meet your needs and circumstances. I’ll try to give you a brief break-down of some these issues, and let you know where we stand on them, as some are more time-sensitive than others.
As you may recall, gypsy moths were extremely active in Eastern Ontario last summer, and early predictions by the MNRF suggest that our area around Steenburg Lake is likely to be heavily impacted again this year.
I was recently contacted by a year-round resident of Dickie Lake, just a little to the west of us. This individual wanted to let us know that she had been in contact with both FOCA and the MNRF about the issue of gypsy moths and in particular was looking into the possibility of having large areas of land sprayed with an approved biological pesticide known as Btk.
She relayed information she had collected about a company called Zimmer Air Services who could apply this product in our area at a cost of $376 for the first acre or less, then an additional $96 for each additional acre. This process is very time-critical as it must be done in the early spring. The company set a deadline of March 1st, for anyone wishing to register for their service. If you are interested in investigating this option for your property, you can email Daniel Haught (firstname.lastname@example.org) or call (905) 512-0538. There is an online form that can be submitted here.
This is only one option available to you to combat this pest and help protect trees from the stress and damage of defoliation they cause. Your SLCA is working to collect and provide you more information to help inform and guide your actions. Please refer to a subsequent post by our Lake Steward, Maria Kaczmarek for more information on this threat and actions you can take to help minimize the damage caused. The following Q&A from a recent FOCA webinar on the gypsy moth problem may also help answer some questions you may be having. Have a look at this FOCA publication.
Hydro One Elimination of Seasonal Customer Classification:
You may have received a letter recently from Hydro One Networks explaining that they have been directed by the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) to eliminate this class of customers and move all affected customers to either a Low or Medium density rate class. The letter from Hydro One is very detailed and provides examples of how your bills may be impacted based on your consumption levels. They even provide an estimate of your average monthly consumption in 2020 to help illustrate the impact. Hydro One should also advise you which class they expect to migrate you to, starting in January 2022. If you are deemed to be in a Medium density service area, you may see a small reduction in the price you pay, but if you are in a Low density service area, you could be facing increases of up to 100%. An estimated 78,000 customers in Ontario are expected to be negatively impacted by this change. If you do not receive your notice from Hydro One soon, I would encourage you to contact them to find out how they intend to migrate your account.
Your SLCA, along with FOCA, have been watching and reporting on this issue for years, and we will continue to monitor this situation. We hope that our community is not impacted severely by these changes and we hope that the Onatrio government and OEB come up with fair ways to mitigate the impact on those customers who are facing large increases to what is an essential service.
Election by Wards vs. Election at Large:
If your property is in the Township of Tudor & Cashel, you will have received a survey enclosed with your interim tax bill. It describes a plan put forward by some members of T & C Council to move the Township to a Ward system. Currently, all members are elected every 4 years based on an “at large” system, where every elector in the Township, can vote for every member of Council. Under the new Ward system, property owners would be divided up into one of three areas of the Township which have yet to be defined, but approximately divide up the township into Cashel in the north-east (referred to as Gunter), and then the southern portion of Tudor into an area designated as Millbridge, leaving some portion of the north-west they refer to as Gilmour. In all likelihood, Steenburg Lake would fall into the area they would like to designate as Gilmour even though our lake community has little connection to this small, historic hamlet beyond sharing the same general postal code.
If Council presses forward with this plan, voters would elect only one Councillor to represent them. The position of Mayor and Deputy Mayor would still be decided by all voters in the Township. Council would like to make this change before the end of the year so that it can be applied to the 2022 municipal election.
I have sat in on both of the last two Council meetings and can assure you that this issue has been fumbled since it was introduced by Councillor Reilly in January. No valid justification has been presented for either the need or the benefit in making this change, but it seems motivated by individual politicians set on trying to preserve their seat in Council. Council recognizes that nearly two-thirds of the electorate in T&C are seasonal property owners. These are primarily on waterfront taxpayers like yourselves, who have been denied fair treatment and consideration by Council, yet pay the lion’s share of municipal taxes.
A move towards a Ward system would almost certainly mean that more candidates would be acclaimed to their positions rather than allow electors to choose the candidates they feel are most qualified. My greatest concern is that this is yet another attempt to perpetuate the “Us vs. Them” mentality that has divided this Township for far too long, and pitted constituents against each other.
The enclosed survey was hastily prepared by Township staff in order to be included in the interim tax bill, but it is fraught with problems. They ask you which area you “live in” without first defining what the boundaries of these areas are. They ask whether you voted in the last election and if you were familiar with all the candidates running in 2018. What bearing do your past election actions have to do with how you are planning to vote in future? Will they listen more to past voters than those voting for the first time? The survey does not ensure anonymity or privacy for the respondents, nor does it provide any controls to ensure that it is not abused (e.g., individuals responding more than once). By sending only one copy of the survey to each household as opposed to each elector in the Township, they make it difficult for every voter to have their say.
Most rural municipalities have moved away from this ward-based approach to elections, yet this Council seeks to take a step backward, and compare themselves to large municipalities where it might make sense to divide their council up into smaller, more manageable areas, with unique needs and interests. The numbers in Tudor & Cashel simply do not justify these segregations. At a time when the country is seized with concerns about the COVID pandemic and the resulting economic downturn, why would T & C Council concern themselves with this issue, and incur added costs at this time? And if they truly wanted to know what you the elector thinks of the idea of a Ward system, they could either hold a properly recorded referendum this year, or at the time of the 2022 election just as Hastings Highlands did in 2018 when they moved to eliminate Wards based on the results of their referendum.
It makes me question if this entire move is intended as a distraction while Council wrestles with the growing attention being focused on their financial strategies, budget processes and resulting taxation practices. These matters are currently under close scrutiny, as the Township sits on an unprecedented cash reserve of more than $2.3 million. A much-touted new Finance & Asset Management committee established in January of this year has already been disbanded by this very Council, and no priority has been placed on trying to resurrect the committee in time for it to make any positive inputs to the key financial decisions such as budgets, capital expenditures and tax rates.
I encourage each and every one of our members to respond to this council and make your concerns known. Submit as many copies of the survey as you have legally entitled voters to do so. You can submit your responses by email, but you must do so before March 29th. Send them to email@example.com.
I would also like to urge each of you who can, to join in on the next virtual Council meeting to be held on Tuesday, March 2 at 1 pm via a free conferencing service called Hello . You can do so by telephone, smartphone, tablet or computer. Connection information and the draft agenda are available here. Let’s let Council know that we are watching very closely!
All the best. Stay safe and stay sane,