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The Council of the United Counties of Prescott and Russell, as it is currently structured, should be abolished

To The Editor,

The zoning change to allow a cement plant to be built in L’Orignal provides a clear example of what is wrong with the current Council of the United Counties of Prescott and Russell (UCPR).

Champlain Township, a lower-tier municipality, voted against a zoning change that would have allowed a cement plant to be built in L’Orignal which is in its territory. Subsequently, the Council of the UCPR, which is an upper-tier municipality, being fully aware of Champlain Township’s decision, voted in favour of the zoning change to allow a cement plant to be built in L’Orignal. This vote went totally against the will of Champlain Township’s elected officials and its citizens. This is wrong and undemocratic.

Subsequently, a group of citizens appealed the UCPR decision at the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT). They financed this appeal through public fundraising.

Throughout the hearings of this appeal at the LPAT, the UCPR, using our taxpayers’ money, chose to fight against our citizens. The same applies for the hearing in front of Justice Boucher at the Superior Court of Justice of Ontario. In both cases, the UCPR paid for legal
representation and paid for the time of the County planner to be a witness at the LPAT and to listen in. This is totally wrong, unethical
and immoral. It points to one of the fundamental flaws in the current structure of the UCPR.

The Council is composed of the mayors of the eight lower-tier municipalities that are within its territory. The weight of each mayor on the UCPR Council is inequitable and could allow for bias and self-interest: Clarence-Rockland – 7 votes; La Nation – 4 votes; Russell – 4 votes; Champlain – 3 votes; Hawkesbury – 3 votes; Alfred-Plantagenet – 3 votes; Casselman – 1 vote; East Hawkesbury – 1 vote.

At the time of the June 2017 UCPR Council vote on the zoning change, Mr. Desjardins, Clarence-Rockland’s mayor, said that “he would not vote against the County’s planner recommendation because it would cost money and the planner could become a witness against the UCPR (my translation). This raises the question as to whether this current council has any purposes, if they would rather fight against the decision
of one of their lower-tier municipality and against the will of their citizens rather than vote against their planner’s recommendation. All
the while, they have been using our citizens’ tax dollars to fight against them.

This is fundamentally wrong and we need to abolish the Council of the United Counties of Prescott and Russell (UCPR) as it is currently
structured. It should be replaced by an unbiased, independent, neutral and democratically elected council that has no links with any specific
municipality. The UCPR needs to have a new and dynamic Council that has a true independent vision for its future.

Daniel Cloutier, Champlain

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