I watch from afar with sadness as my Town of Mississippi Mills is tearing itself apart over a proposed plan to improve recreation investment in our Town. Highly emotional engagements and internet critiques quite often leave the facts far behind. The core values of the Master Recreation Plan are being mistakenly attacked and devalued.
In 2010, I attended an International Olympic Committee conference on the world-wide phenomenon of lowering levels of physical activity causing higher levels of non-communicable (lifestyle related) disease. In 2013, I attended the same IOC conference and witnessed the 90 second Youtube video, “Five Extra Years”. (I found the video very moving. I think you will, too. I have put a link to the Youtube video at the end of this letter.) I brought this information back to the previous Council and staff and in their wisdom they embraced the concern. It is an underlying theme within the Master Recreation Plan and our new Active Transportation plan.
I am disappointed that in the rush to defend Don Maynard Park, some individuals have moved into ‘attack mode’ to discredit the entire plan and everyone and everything associated with it. This quite sadly misses the point. They cast aspersions upon the professionalism of our town staff. They call the Mayor a bully. They cast doubt upon the financial management of Town projects. They criticize our auditor because he is not from the town. They proclaim the Municipality is in violation of the Community Official Plan for park development and must stop ALL park projects. They claim the Town is disrespecting and dishonouring the man, Don Maynard. It is difficult to keep up with the unrelenting flow of negativity and after listening to it, I am surprised we are not subject to Provincial take-over. Of course, none of the expressed opinions are true.
In truth, Mississippi Mills projects consistently come in on or below budgeted figures. Mayor Shaun McLaughlin is not a bully. Though I have had a few key disagreements with him over the years, he is never a bully. Our Staff is very highly regarded for their professionalism, efficiency, responsiveness and the improvement of services in our Town over the years. They are recognized beyond our borders and are asked to speak to give guidance to other municipalities. The manner in which recreation projects are being brought forward is through a proper consultative public process which is consistent with the Community Official Plan. Should the Don Maynard Park be sold, the Council has already dedicated itself, with the greatest respect, to rename another facility or park after Don Maynard. Lastly, the Master Recreation Plan is a professional and reasonable Plan, which had a broad public consultation, to improve recreation services. It recognizes we do not need lots of low-grade recreation facilities; we do need higher quality recreational facilities delivered efficiently without duplication.
The rhetoric needs to be toned down so we do not stray from the facts. There are solutions to all problems. Calling one another names, making unfounded imaginary charges against the Municipality and yelling at public meetings or worse does not advance rational discussion. Simply put, we need to raise investment in recreation in our community. We must negotiate with the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario and come to a fair agreement, as we have done in the past with the Public School Board. We must respect and acknowledge the fiscal pressure upon municipal taxpayers and their expectation that duplication and waste will be eliminated. Council can find a way.
A no-change ‘land is everything’ approach to recreation when health officials are predicting a decline in lifespan for our children is not supporting the physical or mental health of our community. Current recreational planning recommends more active facilities for physical and mental health. Let ‘s join together to reverse the declining health trends in Mississippi Mills.
Our Town of Mississippi Mills is a wonderful community filled with spirit and respect for one another. In Rio, at these Olympic Games, I have witnessed individuals who invest a lifetime into an event. Events in which a competitor can erase, in a millisecond, the hopes of a fellow competitor’s lifetime by a better performance. They are in a desperate and emotional struggle against each other. But greater than winning, is the deep respect competitors show one another. There is no personal rancor, no name calling, no personal animosity. There is only deep respect as human beings sharing a journey. This is the true Olympic & Paralympic Spirit. We, too, can achieve this, and our community will be stronger for it.
Councillor, Ramsay Ward
Municipality of Mississippi Mills