Council agenda July 16, 2013 – The property standards by-law (Craig Gammie Commentary 3-22)


I found only one item of concern in the July 16 agenda, but the concern is huge.

On the agenda as item 10.1 for first, second, and third reading is a property standards by-law.

There may be some property standards problems in TSBP. Corrective action may be required. A property standards by-law may be the proper measure. But not the one drafted and in the agenda.

The by-law requires that all properties in TSBP meet much of the current building code, regardless of whether the current code was in effect when a place was built. The building code doesn’t even require old buildings to be upgraded to meet the current code. The by-law is overly-prescriptive.

And while some provisions in the draft by-law seem sensible, many of the provisions are simply ridiculous.

Here are some of the sillier provisions in the draft by-law, just from a cursory reading.

3.4.3 All windows capable of being opened and all exterior doors shall have
hardware so as to be capable of being locked or otherwise secured from inside
the building.

3.8.3 Every roof drain shall discharge onto the ground at least 1 metre (39 inches) from the building or structure, when it is physically possible to do so, providing that it does not adversely affect adjacent properties, or cause erosion.

4.3.2 Where a floor covering has become worn ….. so that it retains dirt …….., the floor covering shall be repaired or replaced.

4.3.4 Every cellar and basement shall have a floor of concrete or other material
acceptable under the provisions of the Building Code, to ensure water drainage
and to guard against the entry of vermin.

4.7.1 Every residential dwelling shall have heating equipment capable of maintaining a temperature of 22°Celsius (72°Fahrenheit) from September 1st to June 15th as per Section 9.33 3.1 of the Ontario Building Code.

4.14.1 Every plumbing fixture in every building shall discharge the water, liquids or sewage into drainage piping, which shall be connected to a municipal sewage
system, or a system approved by the authority having jurisdiction and in
accordance with all applicable law.

5.1.6 The minimum area of a bedroom in a dwelling unit used as a bedroom by two or more persons shall be 4.6 square meters (50 square feet) for each person for multi occupancy.

7.1.1 Vacant land shall be graded, filled or otherwise drained so as to prevent
recurrent ponding of water.

There may be a need for a property standards by-law. But not this ridiculous intrusion into people’s past private decisions. My guess is that many or even most properties in TSBP would fail to meet the proposed standard. Many or most dwellings built as cottages many years ago will fail, not because they are a problem or because they are unsafe, but just because they are cottages.

Some of these standards may be valid for new construction, but there must be some grandfathering of places built in a different time, and approved at that time.

And new construction standards should be enforced through the building code, not a property standards by-law.

The bylaw needs to be sent back to staff for major repair. Actually the situation should be sent back.

The whole exercise should start with a problem definition.

What problem exists or what potential problem could arise such that we are in need of a corrective or preventive measure?

And then go through finding the best solution.

What are the alternative means of addressing the problems and potential problems (including a property standards by-law as one alternative)?

What is the best means?

And if the means chosen is a by-law, the next question is what is a proper by-law.

I would also like to know, from council, whether a lawyer from Millar Thompson was involved in this debacle. Miller Thompson lawyers should not be involved. They are way overpriced to start with. And they cater to their self-interests and the interests of a few of their contacts rather than the interests of the residents. They will always draft by-laws that will give them more work.

People should be aware of the penalties for contravention of the by-law.

The penalties are in section 8.4:

8.4 Non-Compliance
8.4.1 The owner of any property which does not conform to the standards as set out in this by-law shall repair and/or maintain said property to comply with the
standards or the property shall be cleared of all buildings, structures, waste or
refuse and left in a leveled and graded condition.
8.4.2 Where any person fails to comply with an order issued, the municipality may cause the required work to be done at the cost of the person. The cost of such work may be recovered by i n v o i c e , action or by adding the costs to the tax roll and collecting the said costs in the same manner as property taxes.

So if your kids’ bedroom in the old 1950 built cottage is only 98 square feet and you cannot afford to pay for the renovation you could literally lose your home.

Or if your heating equipment can’t maintain 22 degrees on that cold January day you could lose your home (and then really be out in the cold).

How is this by-law in the public interest?

I know that the by-law started with good intentions, but it has gone out-of-control. It needs to be fixed.

Craig Gammie

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Incompetent, Biased, Zero-Credibility Ombudsman Gives TSBP Council A Free Pass Re Closed Meeting Violations (Craig Gammie Commentary 3-21)


The annual report of the Ontario Ombudsman’s Open Meeting Law Enforcement Team (OMLET) lists complaints received about closed meetings, and also violations found and best practices suggested.

An excerpt from the report of October 2011 is in the table below:

MUNICIPALITY Complaints rec’d  Violations found   Best practices

TSBP                               3                                    6                                   0
Town of Midland            2                                    7                                   2
TOTAL                       128                                  45                                 34

Six of 45 Ontario “violations” of the open meeting provisions of the Municipal Act found by the Ombudsman were “violations” committed by council of the Town of South Bruce Penninsula. The Ombudsman found that council of the Town of South Bruce Peninsula broke the law with respect to closed meetings six times. That’s 13.3 per cent of all the violations found by the Ombudsman.

TSBP council had six “violations”, TSBO council had 13.3 per cent of the “violations”, and TSBP council was second only to Midland in number of “violations” (Midland had 7).  Hardly a good record.

All 6 violations were connected to a complaint made March 31, 2011. As required by law, the Ombudsman reported to the town about the March 31, 2011 complaint, in a letter dated July 19, 2011.

http://craiggammieblog.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/2011-07-19-ombudsman-report-re-2011-03-31-complaint.pdf

So with six violations of the law, the July 19, 2011 report from the Ombudsman to the town about the six “violations” must have been clear, unambiguous, direct, and strong.

Right?

Wrong.

The July 19, 2011 report from the Ombudsman about the meetings in which the 6 “violations” occurred does not even mention the word “violations”. In fact it implies that there were no “violations”. A few of the violations were described as actions which “should have” been done differently, but the language is couched so as to mean “maybe should have” been done differently. And in the report most of the violations of the law were described as actions which merely “could have” been done differently.

And in the associated Clerk’s report to council there is no indication of any “violations” of the law either. And the discussion of the issue in the August 2, 2011 council meeting was “we got a clean bill of health”.

In that meeting John Close even said, falsely, that:

“This was not an investigation; it was a report.”

This is incredible. Almost four months of investigation and six violations of the law found and John Close says there was “no investigation”?

The July 19, 2011 Ombudsman’s report is in complete contradiction to the OMLET report.

There is only one plausible explanation for this contradiction. Systemic bias. The Ombudsman’s office and the Ombudsman’s Open Meetings Law Enforcement Team I believe are steering clear of enforcing the law against TSBP council because they have a biased view that the council could not possibly be wrong.

(I would call it “political interference” instead of, or in addition to, “systematic bias”, but then I would have to admit that “political interference” is a bit speculative at this time, and that “political interference” is based only on my unsubstantiated belief that John Close is an active member of the Ontario Liberal party, that being the party whose leader at the time, in a clear act of “political interference”, stole $600 million of taxpayers’ money to buy out a gas-plant contract for the sole purpose of getting a Liberal win in a 2012 Mississauga by-election.)

So in the July 19, 2011 report the Ombudsman swept right under the carpet the six TSBP violations of the very law which the Ombudsman’s gang claims to enforce.

Regardless of the reason why the six violations were swept under the carpet, the fact remains that the Ombusman and his office swept them all under the carpet, and as a result the Ombusman and his office now have absolutely no credibility. No credibility whatsoever. On July 19, 2011, (or earlier), the Ombudsman’s office became a complete joke.

And TSBP council, then emboldened by the Ombudsman’s report, just laughed and carried on violating the law, just as they had done before.

Why anyone would even contact the totally useless and possibly corrupt Ombudsman’s office after the 2011 fiasco is beyond me, but someone obviously was concerned enough about TSBP council’s continuing violations of the Municipal Act to give the complaint-to-the-Ombudsman’s-office process another try.

Another complaint to the Ombudsman’s office, this time about several 2012 closed meetings and one 2013 closed meeting, was filed with the Ombudsman on February 1, 2013.

It turned out to be a waste of effort. The Ombudsman’s spring 2013 investigation was completely incompetent, the analysis biased and wrong.

The first flaw in the investigation was that the investigator looked at only closed minutes and only spoke to John Close and Angie Cathrae about what had been said and what had been discussed in closed session. No other council members were interviewed. So the investigator got only John Close’s and Angie Cathrae’s views of things. Very biased views.

And so the investigator got it wrong.

The investigator said on page 2 of her July 19, 2103 letter:

“The closed meeting records showed that, in all cases, the subject matter discussed in closed session focused on one or more active or potential lawsuits in which the town and/or staff acting on behalf of the town are named as respondents.”

The investigator was saying that the closed meeting minutes showed that only cases where the town or staff were named as respondents were discussed in closed.

If the meeting minutes actually do say that then they are false. Cases in which neither the town nor staff were named as “respondents” were in fact discussed. Several cases. And the investigator, Yvonne Heggie, was told of this before the investigation even started. And the investigator was told that to know with any certainty whether cases in which neither the town nor staff were named as “respondents” were in fact discussed in closed, she would have to look beyond the minutes and interview people (who were at the closed meetings) beyond just Cathrae and Close.

But the investigator ignored that advice, turned a blind eye to the facts, and as a result “found” no violations.

So the investigator, having no credibility as a result of the 2011 investigation fiasco, made her credibility and that of her office even worse by investigating the February 1, 2013 complaint completely blindfolded and wearing hearing protectors.

The investigator also made several other significant errors in her investigation and analysis. These are being put into a request to the Ombudsman for reconsideration of the July 19, 2013 report. (I will circulate the request for reconsideration when it becomes available).

On his website, the Ombudsman bills himself as “Ontario’s Watchdog”. What a joke. Blind and deaf. Sees only what he wants to see, and hears only what he wants to hear. Some “watchdog”.

Councillor Kirkland was very smug about the Ombudsman’s reports.

In an interview with Owen Sound Sun Times reporter Rob Gowan, [http://www.saublesewer.com/Documents/20130610%20Ombudsman%20Letter.pdf], Kirkland is quoted as follows:

“We have had the ombudsman review us in the past,” said Kirkland. “We are one of the only municipalities that have had the scrutiny of what is going on. It is nice to know you are doing things right and have that reconfirmed and we can carry on.”

Memo to Kirkland:

There were six violations found in the first investigation, Mr. Kirkland. The Ombudsman did not say you were doing things right in the past. And the investigation in 2013 was conducted blindfolded and biased. You are not doing things right now either. You were and are still violating the law.

Councillor Kirkland wants to just carry on violating the law, just as they have violated the law in the past.

Councillor Kirkland and all the other council members who are feeling so smug about getting away with the violations of the law should be aware that while they may have fooled the incompetent, zero-credibility, badly-biased Ombudsman on the issue of closed meeting violations, they haven’t fooled the engaged voters. Not one bit.

October 2014 can’t come soon enough.

I should note that Councillor Bowman appears to have picked up on the fact that council had violated the law regarding the earlier June 2011 Ombudsman’s report. But as far as I can see all others condoned the “we passed” scam. If any councillor does not or did not support the scam, they should say so.

Craig Gammie

John Close Is Running For Bruce County Warden: Residents of Bruce County – Hang On To Your Wallets (Craig Gammie 3-20)


TSBP taxes are up at least twenty per cent in the three years that John Close has been mayor.  The increase is not all due to Mr. Close’s shenanigans, but much of it is.

 Some of the increase is a direct result of Mr. Close dipping his greedy little hands into the treasury to pay for his personal legal expenses.  Some of the increase is for paying personal legal expenses of others, which Mr. Close supports.  Some is due to giveaways to the Chambers, which Mr. Close supported.  And charging all TSBP residents to fix the Oliphant water plant, and giving $60,000 more each year to the Sauble school than required by our agreement, etc, etc.

 Now Mr. Close wants to be Bruce County Warden.

 http://www.bayshorebroadcasting.ca/news_item.php?NewsID=58130

 I guess he wants to see how much damage he can do there.

 Watch your Bruce County taxes go through the roof.

 And hang on to your wallets.

 Craig Gammie

John Close’s Second Try To Give Away Our Half Of The Airport (Craig’s 3-19)


It was hard to tell from item 5.2 in the May 15, 2012 Council Agenda, titled “Public Meeting Notice-Restructuring, Georgian Bluffs and South Bruce Peninsula”, but the proposal was not really about “restructuring” at all.  The item was about John Close’s  proposal to give away our share of the Wiarton Keppel airport.

 The one page report included in the May 15, 2012 agenda package indicated only one clue:

 “The Town of South Bruce Peninsula has also consented to the transfer of their 50% ownership in the Wiarton-Keppel International Airport to the Township of Georgian Bluffs”.

 In fact the Town consented to no such thing.  It was John Close’s proposal to give away our half of the airport in return for ownership of the Wiarton Sewage lagoons and a cemetery.

 At the public meeting in shallow lake on Wednesday May 29th, 2012 Ana Vukovic pointed out to John Close and everyone else that we, meaning the people of TSBP, already own the lagoon lands and the cemetery that Georgian Bluffs is willing to give to TSBP in trade for half of an airport.

 John Close admitted that yes we do already own the lagoon lands and the cemetery.  He could not explain why he would have made the ridiculous proposal of giving up our half of the airport and getting in return something that we already own. Nor could anyone else explain.  In fact several TSBP councillors were very embarrassed at learning the truth.  Several were embarrassed at being scammed by John Close.

 With the spring 2012 exposure of John Close’s foolishness, the whole idea of giving our share of the airport away to Georgian Bluffs seemed to go silent.

 Now the foolishness is back.

 In the July 2, 2013 TSBP council agenda package is a report by Clerk Cathrae asking council to make a commitment regarding the airport.

 Cathrae’s report talks about an “apparent” Transport Canada June 20 inspection which “apparently” found deficiencies requiring $4 million in upgrades.   But there is no Transport Canada report available to check whether any of this is true.  It’s all speculation.

  But the big lie in Cathrae’s report is that the Township of Georgian Bluffs, which owns half of the airport, has asked TSBP to make a decision on the $4 million, or at least on our $2 million “half”.

 The Cathrae report says:

 “Georgian Bluffs feels that we must give some type of answer to Transport Canada before July 22, 2013 in order to secure the future of the Airport. It is worried that without a financial commitment and a plan to fix the deficiencies, the Airport may be closed. This leads to the question that Council must ask itself; do we wish to find the funding and what will be our role in the future of the Airport.”

 It may appear on the surface that Georgian Bluffs is putting pressure on TSBP to come up with a $2 million money commitment.  But the pressure is not coming from Georgian Bluffs council at all.  The pressure is coming from Dwight Burley, who is deputy mayor of Georgian Bluffs.  Dwight Burley is not Georgian Bluffs.

 Until TSBP gets the so-called Transport Canada report, this item should not even be on the agenda.  The only reason Cathrae put it on the agenda is because Burley wants to pressure TSBP council.

 Burley should not control council’s agenda. And Dwight Burley’s personal views should not be taken as those of Georgian Bluffs.  And Ms. Cathrae should not be putting Dwight Burley’s requests on council’s agenda.

 Ms. Cathrae presents three options, which contain much rubbish and misinformation.

 Ms. Cathrae’s option a) is:

 Make a Financial Commitment to the Airport: … The Town’s

share of costs could be $2 million.

 This option should not even be considered.  It is a bad idea to keep the airport open even if there were no $4 million costs facing.

 Ms. Cathrae’s option b) is:

    ….Council may wish to wait for the report from Transport Canada before they make any commitment. It should be noted that Georgian Bluffs will be awaiting a response from South Bruce Peninsula in this regard so that the Accountable Executive can report to Transport Canada prior to the issuing of the inspection report.  There is no written direction stating that a response is required prior to the issuance of the report; the Airport Manager feels that we would be acting proactively. If Council chooses to wait for the report, when the report is received, a decision will be required. There exists a liability with respect to owning an asset and Council should be aware of their responsibilities with regard to the liability which exists by being a joint owner of the Airport. Regardless of the findings on the report, we have been told that repairs will be required and a monetary commitment will be  required at some point.

 Obviously council must “wait for the report from Transport Canada before they make any commitment”.

 But the rest is all rubbish.  It is false that “Georgian Bluffs will be awaiting a response.” Cathrae even states that Georgian Bluff’s has not asked in writing for TSBP’s position.  There is no official request from Georgian Bluffs.  It is Dwight Burley pushing for a response and Dwight Burley is not Georgian Bluffs.

 It is also false that a decision will be required.  Council has no authority to commit 2 million dollars.  So the default decision at this point is not to commit 2 million dollars.  Council has in effect already made that decision.  Council is free to discuss other alternatives, but council should not be pressured by Burley or anyone else in Georgian Bluffs to make a change to its decision.

 Ms. Cathrae says “There exists a liability with respect to owning an asset ..

 But she does not say what that responsibility is.  This is irresponsible.  Council should note that owning half the asset is not an obligation to throw 2 million dollars into it.   Council can and should say “enough of this nonsense – pay for it yourself or shut it down”.

 The worst rubbish of all is Ms. Cathrae saying:

 “Regardless of the findings on the report, we have been told that repairs will be required and a monetary commitment will be required at some point.”

 That’s misleading and dishonest.

 Ms. Cathrae says “we have been told”, but she neglects to mention that the person who has “told us” is Dwight Burley, who has no authority and absolutely no say in what the residents of TSBP are required to do.  In addition, Mr. Burley is completely unreliable, and incompetent, and should be ignored.

 Why would Ms. Cathrae put “we have been told” in her report as if it was relevant when it is not?

 The alternative to keeping the airport open is obviously to close the airport. So contrary to Ms. Cathrea, doing repairs may be an alternative that some may still find worth considering, but it is not a requirement.  And contrary to Ms. Cathrae, a monetary commitment may be an alternative some may still find worth considering, but again it is not a requirement.

 Ms. Cathrae’s option c) is:

Make a Decision on Airport Ownership: Ultimately, Council will need to decide if they wish to remain as owners of the Airport and if Council does wish to remain owners, there will need to be some decision on the future management and capital commitment. If Council chooses not to remain part owners of the Airport, forward movement to transfer the ownership would be in order.

 The “forward movement to transfer the ownership would be in order” of Option C is just another attempt by John Close to give our half of the airport to Georgian Bluffs.  He’s using Ms. Cathrae as his talking puppet, but it’s the same strategy that was exposed and shot down by Ana Vukovic and others in May of 2012.  His stupid scam was fully exposed.  Why is it coming up again?

 Council should not be considering just “transferring the ownership”.

 Instead of transferring the ownership (giving our half away) we may wish to purchase Georgian Bluff’s half, or both sell to a third party, or we may wish to sell (not give away) our half to Georgian Bluffs, or maybe both may want to hang on to the (closed) airport for a while.

 Or if Georgian Bluffs wants to pay all the costs we may want to keep our share.

 But there is no reason to give our share away.

 The airport is a loser.  It sucks up money from the taxpayers.   It provides absolutely no benefit to the town (meaning the corporation).  Council needs to end the drain on the treasury.

 Council should say to Georgian Bluffs:

 1) no more capital; no 2 million

2) we will no longer finance deficits; you finance the deficit or shut it down

3) you can buy our share for $x million (x is at least)

4) or we can discuss sitting on it as joint owners

5) or we can discuss selling it

Craig