Letter to the editor 1, April 26, 2018
Were we at the right meeting?
The April 24 meeting of the Natural Infrastructure Committee was, at the very least, mind bog-gling. Many thanks to Citizen Expert Chris Buddle for his attendance, insights, and reminder that we have a vast pool of experts right here in Hudson, ready, willing and able to step up and assist. I can only hope the town actually reaches out to this group.
Also in attendance: Nature Action Group and Institut des Territoires. While I was completely surprised to learn there is some sort of project (details not yet know) for the Palliative Care residence, their representative as well as the representative from Nature Action were clearly a wealth of knowledge. It was thoroughly disappointing that the opportunity was not taken to learn so much more from them. Very little of this meeting was about finding ways to actually save the bog. Conversations were much more in generalities of the bigger picture, and concerns of lawsuits as the audience sat in silence and frustration, full of questions, full of ideas, hoping they would be addressed.
I’m sure some former mayors would have been impressed to see that the current administration has accomplished what they never could – they have managed to find a way to fill a room with “naysayers” and “angry mobsters” who were for all practical purposes “gagged.” Despite being invited to send in questions in advance, I suspect only a fraction of them were asked. I have to commend Councillor Legault for trying to address the “elephant in the room” (the Bog).
Councillor Duff for further discussing the importance of the bigger picture of the whole watershed from Rigaud to Vaudreuil (and hopefully protection of this vast wetland as a whole) and to Councillor Rikley-Krindle for trying to get a some of (mine and his other constituents’) questions answered.
Am I thankful there was a meeting? Yes, it was a start. However it was also big eye opener.
What is this new type of ‘committee’ structure all about? From my understanding there are now only two members who make up the ‘Natural Infrastructure Committee.’ I have made no secret as to what a bitter disappointment my experience was with the committees under the previous council, but at least they were more in keeping with what we recognize and expect a real committee structure to look like and function. As much as I may have faith in my mayor’s and councillors’ vision, I am not at all in agreement with this new committee structure, especially now that I have seen it in action.
You cannot have a real democracy of just one or two members. From what I understand, the decisions are made there, amongst the one or two, the committee decisions come to council via reports, council adopts/ratifies at council meetings. There is not enough opportunity for further input by the rest of the councillors and no opportunity by the greater public. This is not the kind of change we voted for.
I am under the impression councillor(s) did not realize these were decisional committees until the mayor explained this to a resident/past councillor at question period in March quoting Article 70 of the Cities and Towns Act. What was the result of the last caucus meeting, where, according to last month’s agenda there was to be a re-organizing of the committees and sub-committees? What is going on here?
The flaws in this committee structure were very clear to me when we had these wonderful environmental groups right there with us and yet very little was asked of them on how to actually find a way to save the bog. It was obvious they were chomping at the bit to share. But they are not our advocates, so politely they did not speak out of turn nor answer more than they were asked.
Seeing Councillor Hutchison seated with the audience, and not at the table with the committee or other councillors speaks volumes to me of her thoughts on this new structure as well. Thank you Councillor Hutchison for having the courage to take a stand for your beliefs.
So what are the major lessons learned? After several years, and several administrations, this topic of the bog has been kicked aside, most likely in hopes someone else would have deal with it.
Well we are against the wall now, the clay wall it seems. If we want to see this bog saved we cannot count on our elected representatives to do it alone. It was announced by the Director General that he just learned “today” that the certificate of authorization is valid. (Why are these things only revealed at the last minute?)
Why did the DG not point out at the last council meeting that they could have delayed their vote for subdivision (as per Bill 122) when the developer’s representative arrived with a last minute proposal during the actual council meeting?
The town concerns appear to lie more with being sued by the developer than the potential problems down the line (i.e. Chaline Valley) and potential damage to the bog, infrastructure, etc. Has the town even consulted an environmental lawyer?
Clearly citizen pressure is our biggest hope, perhaps our only hope to save Como Bog.
And now knowing that there are groups actually willing to help such as was learned from Nature Action and Institut des Territoires, as well as willing and able citizen experts, well these were the only rays of optimism at the meeting.
Don't kid yourself that citizens cannot make a difference... they can make all the difference.