(Photo retrieved from flickr user Rhys A.)

Editorials

UCPR’s wrecking ball effect

By Francis Tessier-Burns

October 04, 2017

Sponsoring multiple golf tournaments, sponsoring the L’Orignal Old Jail, supporting the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, donating to the Fondation du Nouveau Réveil, to the Relay for Life, the Bean Festival and Sacha’s Park.

According to Guy Desjardins, mayor of Clarence-Rockland, these are all causes to which Colacem has donated. Apparently, this also justifies his municipality accepting Colacem as a sponsor of this summer’s Ottawa River Festival.

The mayor was motivated to highlight Colacem generosity at the latest United Counties of Prescott and Russell council meeting after seeing a Facebook post that, according to Desjardins, suggested Clarence-Rockland was the only municipality to accept donations/sponsorship from the company.

Desjardins spread the wealth, so to speak.

“I just wanted to note that Colacem does a lot for the Counties and the municipalities,” said Desjardins.

To be clear, no one is criticizing the donations; the problem is when these donations have an influence on political decisions. For example, the vote to approve Colacem’s proposed amendment to UCPR’s official plan earlier this year. An amendment Desjardins justified by claiming anecdotal evidence.

The final vote was 19 in favour and seven against the plan amendment. That decision, of course, is being appealed through an Ontario Municipal Board hearing next year.

Clarence-Rockland had seven of the total votes approving the amendment—more than a third of the total 19 and the equal number to the three municipalities against. The outcome isn’t so much the issue as the severe power imbalance between member municipalities.

Member municipalities often get up in arms when there’s a new provincial download, what they fail to realize is they have a similar problem in their own backyard when it comes to the voice of certain municipalities being more valuable than others. Granted, these municipalities have a greater population, but numbers shouldn’t override who will really bear the brunt of the decisions.

In this case, it’s entirely understandable Clarence-Rockland voted in favour of the proposed cement plant. It’s reaping numerous financial benefits—as made clear by Desjardins—without having to deal with the repercussions of the plant once it’s built.

It may be time UCPR rethink how it allocates voting power, either by introducing some sort of rotating veto given to municipalities that would actually be affected by a decision or by redistributing and minimizing power discrepancy between its member municipalities. The current system allows for a wrecking ball effect, where larger municipalities throw their weight around and can skew the scales.