An Exercise in Demockery: the February 19, 2019 Mississippi Mills Council Meeting
Dear Members of Mississippi Mills Council:
This is an open letter to you since you appear to have disregarded the many communications sent directly to you.
I, like many others, attended last Tuesday’s meeting in the hopes that our new Council would fulfill their promise for greater transparency, bridge-building, a more open council, and consultation with residents, only to feel that my democratic rights had been mocked, as the evening wore on.
Let’s start with the roadside spraying issue. In lieu of a public meeting, it was decided, last December, to invite people with an interest in this issue to submit comments before the January 21 deadline. In all, 65 letters were sent, of which 52 were against spraying and 13 in favour. Absolutely NONE of these concerns were addressed in the final proposal by the Director of Roads and Public Works (R&PW); it was identical to the original proposal. Why did Council not question this lack of transparency? Also, in this new proposal, a high cost was added in for mowing the roadsides identified for spraying, since the worst-case mowing scenario was multiplied by the total number of lane-kilometres to be sprayed. Requests that Council ask (a) how many actual lane-kilometres met this worst-case scenario, and (b) whether the cost for the usual annual mowing of these roadsides to preserve sightlines could be subtracted from the total, were ignored. Furthermore, the estimated (lower) cost for using pesticides didn’t reference the numerous associated expenses. Finally, requests to the Director of R&PW to provide actual proof of their assessed levels of wild parsnip infestations have not been answered.
Emails and letters of concern about spraying were sent to Council after the January 21 deadline, up until the date of this Council meeting, but no mention was made of them either, in the agenda or at the meeting. I have requested that the number of comments for and against spraying be sent to me, and am awaiting a response.
Then there were the delegations on spraying at the February 19 meeting. Those concerned about spraying were allowed a total of three delegations; those in favour of spraying were permitted to have four delegations. One of these pro-spraying delegations was the Ontario Vegetative Management Association, whose platinum members include Bayer (Monsanto), DOW, Univar and BASF, all pesticide companies. The presenter explained that the risk to humans of using the pesticide ClearView was very low. Wouldn’t this be like Philip Morris denying that cigarette-smoking is harmful? A number of dubious assertions by the other delegations were not questioned. No questions were asked of Dr. James Coupland, an expert on invasive species and sustainable farming practices, who explained how destroying the native species on our roadsides is contributing hugely to the collapse of our complex, highly connected ecosystems. Insect decline and extinction is increasing at a really scary rate every day, including in Canada. To put it bluntly, life on our planet is unsustainable without the insects that our current political decisions are affecting, as our children and grandchildren will find out in due course. None of you councillors seemed to take this seriously, as no questions were asked of him. When the petition against spraying, signed by nearly 400 residents, was presented, this too seemed to have no impact whatsoever. When it was explained that there were serious questions of bias and clear omissions in the testing and approval process of ClearView (the roadside-spraying pesticide that will be used this year), no one was willing to acknowledge this.
Clearly, you had already made up your minds to approve the original spraying proposal, and all this request for public input was just an exercise in demockery.
The discussion about how to choose a new Deputy Mayor was another farce. There was a huge outcry during the last term of Council because councillors had not only decided against a by-election to fill a councillor position that became vacant two years into the term, but also voted against selecting the runner-up for that position. This time around, two months (not two years) into the term, the logical option of appointing the runner-up to Deputy Mayor, who received almost as many votes as the winner, will not be chosen despite her impeccable credentials, and you and I know why, as do most Millstone readers. Knowing this situation, and seeking to ensure a fair process for everyone, many residents wrote letters and emails to you councillors, advocating a by-election. This motion was defeated by three of you, who were clearly grasping at straws in your attempts to argue against it. The ensuing motion to appoint a successor to this position was then approved by the four of you who are new to Council. Most people now have a very good idea who the replacement for this position will be. Transparent? Nope. Bridge-building? Nope. Consultation? Nope. An exercise in demockery? Yup!
Members of Council, if our pleas for democratic governance continue to fall on deaf ears, the next four years will be tumultuous for all of us. Please do the right thing. Now.
Yours in protest,
Resident of Mississippi Mills