Craig’s Commentary

Volume 1 Number 22

26 June 2011

Craig Responds To OSST Article “Council Investigates Beach Cleanup”


 The title of Rob Gowan’s article about the beach at Sauble “Council Investigates Beach Cleanup” is very biased.  A better title, albeit a tad biased in the other direction, would be “Council considers destructive raking and removal of dune-building snow fences.”

 I find the driftwood on the beach very natural, and very beautiful.  I find a raked, manicured beach worse than ugly.  But that doesn’t make it a fact.  It’s just my opinion. Similarly, Ms. Jackson’s rhetoric “horrible mess…, It is ugly, …. I really just want the beach cleaned up”, no matter how often repeated, is still just her opinion – not fact.

 We’re never going to agree which state is ugly and which is beautiful, so whether to rake the driftwood and the beach needs to be decided on other factors.

 One is the plovers.  By law, their habitat requires protection.  And their habitat, by law, includes more than the 50 meter radius around a nest.  And the driftwood is part of their habitat.  So according to the Ministry of Natural Resources, the driftwood needs to remain, at least for a while.

 Raking the beach loosens and dries the sand, making it easier to blow away.  When the sand blows away, there is less left on the beach, the beach gets wetter, the beach is less comfortable, the sand near shore has more E.Coli, the water near shore has more E.Coli, and the beach is less safe.

 Raking the natural grass makes sand loss even worse.

 The snow fence is there to promote dune formation.  Again not everyone finds the dunes beautiful.  But they are a fragile habitat in need of protection.  And the dunes are key to keeping the sand on the beach.

 Taking the snow fences down for the summer would defeat the whole purpose of dune protection and restoration.

 Ms. Jackson apparently said on June 21: “I do not want aggressive raking. I really just want the beach cleaned up.”

 Yet her June 14 motion is minuted as: “…AND THAT Sauble Beach maintenance north of sixth street north to the Sauble River will be performed on an on-going basis from May 15 to September 15 of each  year.

 “An ongoing basis” seems somewhat aggressive to me.

 In saying:  “Friends of Sauble Beach must work with other residents and figure out how to share the beach”, is Ms. Jackson saying that The Friends of Sauble Beach (FOSB) are hoarding the beach, and not sharing?  If so, the statement is ridiculous.  FOSB have worked hard to protect the beach and dunes so that there is still a beach left to share.  And by putting in access boardwalks, FOSB have made the beach accessible to all, including the less mobile. FOSB have never ever claimed that the beach is theirs to share or not.  FOSB have always believed not only that the beach belongs to all the inhabitants, but also that the inhabitants have an obligation to ensure that the beach is not overused into degradation or destruction.

 Instead of gratuitously accusing others of not playing nice in the sandbox, Ms. Jackson might show a little thanks.

 Compromise is necessary in many situations, like marriages and labour contract negotiations.

 Some want no raking so that the sand is kept at the beach.  Others want the beach raked, meaning lots of sand loss.  Should we compromise at losing half the sand?

 And should we compromise at losing half the piping plovers?

 In this situation we need some common sense and some good governance, not a knee-jerk leap into “let’s compromise”.

 So please, Ms. Jackson, stop directing us to compromise our beach.  The health of the beach is not negotiable.

 Craig Gammie


Craig’s Commentary

Volume 1 Number 23

26 June 2011

More Untruths From The Office Of The CAO Re The Sauble Core Area Growth Study

 And eloquent dishonesty just rolls right off her tongue (sung to the tune of Linda Rhonstadt’s 1975 “Roll ‘Em Easy”)

 In 2007 an Environmental Study Report (ESR) was published for public review. The ESR was for sewers for the Sauble downtown core area only, about 320 connections –  a small part ofSaubleBeach.

 An RFP (Request for Proposal) was issued about April 2008 – for a Growth Study for the Sauble Downtown Core Area.  The RFP indicated that “ if council makes a commitment, through the EA process, to provide [downtown core area – 320 connections] services, a review of existing official plan development policies will have to be undertaken.” 

 The basis of the downtown core area growth plan study was clearly the sewers project for the downtown core area.

 Neither the ESR nor the downtown core area sewers project had been approved at this point, so the legitimacy of the RFP was, at best, questionable.  The RFP was issued anyway.

 On September 19, 2008, the 2007 ESR was accepted by Ministry of Environment – Sauble downtown core area only – about 320 connection. This made the RFP legitimate.

 Coincidentally (but maybe not a coincidence), on September 19, 2008, CUESTA Planning Consultants submitted a proposal “Growth Plan for Sauble Core Area.”

 The CUESTA proposal was dated the same day as the Minister’s approval to proceed with the 320 connection core area sewers project.   This gave the proposal some legitimacy that it would not have had even one day earlier.

 The CUESTA proposal was accepted September 29, 2008 per by-law 131-2008, just 10 days after the town received the proposal.

 In early 2010 the downtown core area sewers project was cancelled and the Environmental Assessment (EA) was reopened.  The EA was reopened ostensibly because the costs to do the 320 connection project would have been much higher than originally expected.  The CUESTA core area growth study project was based on the assumption of sewers in the core area.  With the cancellation of the 320 connections core area sewers project, the core area growth study lost its legitimacy, and should have been put on ice, and should have been suspended pending completion and resolution of the reopened EA.

 It was not put on ice.

 Instead of putting the downtown core area growth study on ice, the growth study was expanded to a growth study for all of Sauble Beach, a growth study even less legitimate than the core area growth study that it replaced.

 In July 2010, CUESTA published a draft discussion document that was a growth study not for the sauble downtown core area, but rather for all of Sauble.

 The growth study for all of Sauble was based on an assumption of sewers for all of Sauble, a completely unsupportable assumption.

 As of Early 2010 there was no longer any reason for proceeding with the Sauble Core area growth study.  And there never was a legitimate reason for proceeding with a growth study for all of Sauble.

 Having no legitmate reason for proceeding, the growth study for all of Sauble still went forward anyway.

 Lack of legitimacy was only one problem.  An additional problem is that the all-sauble growth study was not done for the benefit of the inhabitants who paid for it, but rather was done for the benefit of the development sector, the tourism industry, and the planning consultants who stood to gain so much work, and so much money, from having sewers across all of Sauble.

 The growth study should have been put on ice in 2010.  The growth study did not meet its requirements.  The study went, without authorization, outside its mandate.  No part of the growth strategy, including the unauthorized excursion outside the mandate, provided anything of any value, and may in fact have caused a lot of harm to the inhabitants.

 In July 2010 I and others made clear that the growth study was done for the benefit of developers and commercial operations to the detriment of the inhabitants, and that the switch from the Sauble core area was inappropriate, unjustified, and harmful.

 On February 2, 2011 I submitted a report to council which documented the improper focus on developers, the tourism industry, and planners, and the inappropriate, unauthorized, costly, and harmful switch from the downtown core area to all of Sauble.  COA Cook, the Mayor, and the Clerk branded my report as “defamatory”, and made sure that my report was not considered by council (see my commentary number 15 for details).

 On February 1, 2011 the CAO was instructed by council to determine whether CUESTA had gone “beyond their mandate”.  This request was a bit ambiguous, but from the unminuted Committee discussion it is clear that the council request was that the CAO determine not only whether CUESTA had gone beyond their mandate, but also whether CUESTA had met requirements, and whether CUESTA had provided anything of value.

 A June 19, 2011 report from the CAO to council did not answer the question of whether CUESTA had gone beyond their mandate, or whether CUESTA had met requirements, or whether CUESTA had provided anything of value, or anything else.

 When probed in the COW meeting of June 21, the CAO finally admitted that CUESTA had gone beyond their mandate.

 But the COA also suggested that previous council had authorized the switch by not challenging the switch when the discussion document was circulated to council about May of 2010.

 This is a mistruth. Council provides authorizations through council discussion and resolution or bylaw.   No such authorization was given.  I cannot even find where the draft growth study report was ever discussed by council.  I expect that only a few council members even looked at it.

The CAO also indicated that the growth study was expanded in keeping with the expanded sewers project.  (This was captured in the Committee of the Whole (COW) June 21minutes as what committee had discussed, but it was the CAO who said it).

 This is another mistruth.  There was no expanded sewers project and there is no expanded sewers project, and if we can manage somehow to get away from the constant stream of mistruths, and from the skullduggery, there will be not be an “expanded sewers project”.

 The CAO also indicated that CUESTA going beyond their mandate did not cost the town anything, (“There have been no additional costs to the Town” (COW minutes June 21))  presumably because CUESTA did not charge beyond what was in their proposal.  But this CAO statement is another mistruth, because in going beyond their mandate CUESTA provided nothing of value, and so the extra cost to the inhabitants was actually not zero, but rather the $20,000 that was paid for nothing of value delivered.

 When a consultant goes off in a direction that is unauthorized, and does not meet agreed-upon requirements, and does not produce anything of value, and sends a hefty bill, the responsible thing to do is to not pay them.  The irresponsible thing to do is to pay them and invite them back to do more.

 Yet, apparently fooled by the CAO’s mistruths, members of the COW made a recommendation to council (themselves) to invite CUESTA back for more:

 “THAT Council invites Cuesta to make a presentation to Council regarding the Sauble Growth Study.”

 Furthermore, Councillor Kirkland was so fooled that he suggested that staff simply change the RFP to match what CUESTA produced, then back-date the change to before the first growth study document, and presto! – conformance to requirements,  issue resolved, irregularities buried, carry on as if nothing wrong ever happened.

 The CAO, supposedly the chief servant of the public, is bound to furthering the public interest.    If the CAO had the public interest at heart, the CAO would not deceive council and the public, but would rather make clear that CUESTA switched without authorization to a radically different study, that CUESTA switched to a completely illegitimate study, that CUESTA did not even approach meeting requirements, and that CUESTA was paid $20,000 for a document that is virtually worthless.  And the CAO would do the right thing and recommend that council demand that any money paid to CUESTA be returned.

 For the CAO to issue mistruths so egregiously, somebody has to be pulling the CAO’s strings.  That “somebody” is clearly the pro-sewers consortium.  If anyone has any idea why the CAO dances so willingly and spritely to the “Sauble-sewers jig”, I sure would like to hear about it.

 CUESTA should be shown the door.  And while the door is open, maybe some of the help might be encouraged to take their schemes elsewhere.

 Craig Gammie