WEST CARLETON REVIEW


 

Willola’s “Peaceful Protest” Draws Crowd

By Sarah Trant                                                                                                   July 23, 2004

Neither the heat nor the weatherman’s storm warnings were enough to deter West Carleton residents who flocked out to Willola Beach’s well-publicized protest against the proposed Chats Falls boat bypass.

The promise had been for “fun” as well as harder hitting items, and fun there was.   Folk-rock singer/songwriter Lynda Grenier who told the crowd that she was “contemplating life in Lanark County” was in great voice.  She entertained her appreciative audience with a medley of songs as well as one composed for the occasion.  There were hotdogs and ice cream, signs to buy, and information to exchange.  All in all it was a well-planned event mixing entertainment with hard-hitting speeches from representatives of a range of organizations while local residents mixed with visitors to answer questions and provide information on the practical impact the construction of a 155-metre berm (an integral part of the bypass project) might have on the area.

Leona Cameron, grandmother and “a twenty-four-seven” resident of Willola Beach was one of those who was happy to make her views heard.

The Cameron property lies adjacent to the small city-owned lot next to which the berm will be constructed. Cameron is affronted at the way

 
   Willola Beach, Mike Campbell with some
   ammunition for Saturday's peaceful protest
 
the lifestyles of the residents of the area have been totally disregarded by the “people who started off by calling themselves the proponents, the same way they told us that they were doing an environmental impact assessment.  Then they told us that it wasn’t exactly an environmental impact assessment but it was conducted along the same lines.  Then they stopped referring to themselves as ‘proponents’.  I don’t know what they call themselves now but what they’ve been all along is developers who are strictly out for themselves,” she said.

Cameron, who has not only attended but also actively participated in the string of public meetings dealing with assorted aspects of the bypass development, is one of many who feel that they are “simply not getting all the facts.

“In the beginning,” she pointed out, “when ‘the proponents’  were busy selling the idea, we heard that in those areas where other boat bypasses had been built, the local residents were not only consulted but kept informed.   

“That certainly hasn’t been the case here.  We weren’t consulted and if we’re informed at all it’s at a very basic level.   The consultants don’t even have a clue as to what sort of area this really is.  Just because they see the houses as small they refer to them as “cottages” with the assumption that they’re just summer homes.  This is simply not true.  These are permanent homes that will be permanently affected.

“As for meeting with us one-on-one I can tell you it simply didn’t happen here and, with the quality of contradictory information we’re given, I very much wonder if it happened in the other places either.”

Cameron’s “cottage”, like many others on the river side of the road, is set some fifty feet or so back from a reed bed where herons fish and deer come to drink.  The land is level.  Any significant change in the river’s flow could cause serious problems to those residences like hers that back onto the water.

 
 
“We hear that if you want to enlarge your dock you have to get permission from the City.  We hear that you can’t do anything that might change the natural flow of the river.  So tell me about 155 metres of berm!  What we’re seeing with this Council is that anything goes if you have the right connections and money behind you.”  
                                                - Leona Cameron, Willola Beach resident

 

 
 

“I just don’t understand it,” she goes on.  “We hear that if you want to enlarge your dock you have to get permission from the City.  We hear that you can’t do anything that might change the natural flow of the river.  So tell me about 155 metres of berm!  What we’re seeing with this Council is that anything goes if you have the right connections and money behind you.”

From Cameron’s cottage the announcement of the day’s program could be clearly heard.  Willola Beach organizers had assembled an impressive slate of speakers ranging from Daniel Van Vliet, Chair of the Ottawa Chapter of the Sierra Club, to People’s Voice Terry Kilrea, Shirley Dolan representing the West Carleton Rural Association, Bob McKinley who is President of the Rural Council, and Jack MacLaren, Director of the Lanark Landowner’s Association who represented President Randy Hillier.

 
 
“In a democracy people expect government to protect their rights but today we find ourselves more and more often fighting our own government because it is threatening our rights.  I believe in democracy but it only works when the people hold their elected officials responsible for their actions.   If we don’t then democracy breaks down and that’s what this struggle is all about.”
                              
- Adele Muldoon, Director of the Rural Council

 

 
 

All of the speeches were tough, and to the point, but the speech of Rural Council Director and West Carleton Rural Association Past President Adele Muldoon’s words set the stage very precisely for the tone taken by the other speakers.

“In a democracy,” said Muldoon, “people expect government to protect their rights but today we find ourselves more and more often fighting our own government because it is threatening our rights.  I believe in democracy but it only works when the people hold their elected officials responsible for their actions.   If we don’t then democracy breaks down and that’s what this struggle is all about.”

Jack MacLaren told the audience that “when public officials withhold information from the public and hide what they’re trying to do, then there is something very wrong with what they’re doing, and it has to be stopped,” and in the same vein Kilrea, who despite being a late entry proved a surprisingly strong contender in the last Mayoralty election, stressed that “City Council is very little more than a group of puppets.  For the most part they know very little and appear to care even less about what goes on outside the City core.  To a large degree they’re happy to dance to whatever tune the Mayor plays and it would seem that without knowing too much about it, the Mayor is happy to endorse the boat bypass project with our tax dollars while cutting back on other essential services.”

After commending the Willola Beach Property Owners Association (WBPOA) for the excellent organization of the day’s events, Bob McKinley, President of the recently formed Rural Council, congratulated the residents on “the excellent job you’re doing of making yourselves heard at City Hall.”

He then went on to announce that the preliminary results of the four question survey which had been circulated in the City’s regional wards showed an “overwhelmingly high endorsement” of the Rural Council’s efforts to bring about change.

“The answers received to the question dealing with the level of satisfaction regarding city governance shows that there is a huge level of dissatisfaction with the City’s performance,” said McKinley.

The event, scheduled to last from 1.00 to 4.00 p.m.  finally wound down with a brief address from WBPOA’s Bruce Collier of who thanked the residents for “your fighting spirit!   We’re not going to back down now, and we’re not thinking in terms of losing this battle.  Remember the information meeting this Wednesday, the 21st,” said Collier.  “It’s a residents’ information meeting and we’ll be kicking things off at 7.30 p.m. sharp in the Fitzroy Harbour Community Centre.”


For interview with President of Rural Council Bob McKinley, please…SEE BELOW



McKinley Questions City Approval Process for Boat Bypass

By Sarah Trant                                                                                 July 23, 2004

Rural Council President Bob McKinley is questioning the City’s approval process for the proposed Chats Falls Boat Bypass.

“We’re being told that this will not go before full Council,” he told the West Carleton Review.  “The decision on the project will, in essence, be made by the Corporate Services and Economic Development Committee based on the rationale that Council already made a decision back in 2002, prior to the election.”

In discussions with the City Solicitor, McKinley pointed out that all that was decided in 2002 (and recorded in the Minutes)  was that a one-time grant of $350,000 would be made to the partnership to fund the capital costs of the improvement. 

“I also explained that in the Minutes of the 2002 June 24th meeting, the proposed route which formed the basis for the proposed bypass was through Fitzroy Provincial Park – a route which was, subsequently, disqualified.”

 
   

McKinley told the West Carleton Review that he was appalled that despite the fact that other, well-respected national agencies had warned that the outcome of such a radical invasion of the river and waterfront could have horrific results in terms of irreparable environmental damage, the developer was not even being asked to engage in the usual, thorough, environmental impact studies of the areas involved such as the Ottawa River and the Conservation area.

 “That,” concluded McKinley, “in my thirty years of dealing with the Municipality is highly unusual, and extremely suspect.”

 

 
 

The City’s position, according to McKinley, is that the decisions made at the 2002 meeting pre-empt the proposal being presented to Council, despite the recent route changes which have occurred.

“I do not find the process acceptable,” asserted McKinley.   “The blanket approval of a Committee, made more than two years ago, for a project where the parameters have changed significantly, seems highly suspect and is, at best, unacceptable and, at worst, lacks integrity.”

Public consultation has taken place but without open access to public documents.  Although some portion of those relevant documents (although not all) is being made available, despite formal demand being made, the documents themselves remain out of reach.

“We’re not asking for anything unusual here,” says McKinley.  “There is a right to this kind of information under provincial legislation.”

According to McKinley, City staff take the position that the Willola Beach corridor proposal although never mentioned in the Minutes of the June 2002 Committee meeting does not require Council’s approval and can be dealt with adequately and appropriately by Corporate Services.

“When they meet on August 17th, Corporate Services will be in the position of granting permission for a right of passage across public lands without Council’s approval and without the vote of the Councillor who represents the interests of the people impacted because,” emphasized McKinley, “Councillor El-Chantiry does not sit on the Corporate Services Committee.

“What it boils down to is that there will be no one representing the communities involved when that Committee sits down to make the decision.   This,” said McKinley, “is what the City sees as the democratic process in action.”

In closing McKinley told the West Carleton Review that he was appalled that despite the fact that other, well-respected national agencies had warned that the outcome of such a radical invasion of the river and waterfront could have horrific results in terms of irreparable environmental damage, the developer was not even being asked to engage in the usual, thorough, environmental impact studies of the areas involved such as the Ottawa River and the Conservation area.

 “That,” concluded McKinley, “in my thirty years of dealing with the Municipality is highly unusual, and extremely suspect.”

In the unlikely event that the proposal were to be presented to City Council, a simple majority vote is all that would be needed to resolve the issue.

                                                               West Carleton Review


 

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