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Councillors' ForumRegional media flocks to council meeting

Regional media flocks to council meeting


by Shaun McLaughlin
first published at Shaun on Council 
Tuesday night’s meeting of Council and the Committee of the Whole (July 29, 2014) received an uncommon level of media attention. One item on the agenda—a motion to delay any major construction in Almonte’s downtown core while our heritage district study is underway—drew attention from eleven media outlets—Ottawa Citizen, CFRA, CTV, CBC Radio, CBC TV, the EMC, Lake88 FM, MyFM, Valley Heritage Radio, JackFM and the Millstone News—and about 100 concerned citizens, according to the media reports.

Citizen groups resisting the expansion of the Enerdu hydro generating station alerted the media and filled the Council chamber to show their support.

Encouraging Ideas from Residents

The motion, which I drafted in collaboration with five other Councillors, began as an idea within the community. Council and Town staff were unaware of the option, under the Heritage Act, for a moratorium on the Enerdu project of up to one year. This provides a clear example of why Mississippi Mills Council should always encourage ideas from residents and collaborate with them for the good of our community.

Council members voted nine to two to support the motion. Only Mayor Levi and Councillor Edwards voted against it. It now goes to Council on August 12 for ratification. After that, Town staff will draft a by-law for a final vote.

The Agenda and the Facts

CBC Radio, in a bid for balanced coverage, aired a brief conversation with the Enerdu operations manager, who said construction will go ahead this fall. This is an unfortunate example of an Enerdu representative promoting a development agenda versus sticking to the facts.

Our town planner, Stephen Stirling, told me several weeks ago that Enerdu still needs final approval on many aspects of the project. For example, the Minister of Environment ordered Enerdu to prepare detailed hydraulic modelling to show the new building would not promote flooding at high water, and to submit the study to the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) and the Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority for their review and approval. That step is far from complete. Also, it appears Enerdu is still wrangling with MNR over ownership of the riverbed. In addition, our heritage by-law, when passed, has legal weight. I passed these facts on to the CBC before publishing them in this blog post.

A Wake-up Call and an Opportunity

Opposition to the Enerdu project is both a wake-up call, and if dealt with properly, an opportunity. It’s a wake-up call to Councillors who felt we had no choice but to delegate the care of our community to Queen’s Park. But we can’t expect politicians in Toronto to care about our heritage assets more than we do. The opportunity is, as I have found, the gift of community input into the political system.

Should voters choose to give me the responsibility as Mississippi Mills’ next Mayor, I will create more opportunities for citizens to provide meaningful input to their municipal government. We are blessed with passionate, talented citizens who have expertise in a myriad of disciplines. The point is not for politicians and Town staff to come up with all the right answers, but to work with constituents to guide the community to build on its existing strengths, and be open to the possibility of an even more exciting future.

Mississippi Mills should always encourage business investment if it offers a clear benefit to the community. We should never accept development at any cost.




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