On January 21, 2013, the current Springwater Township council met secretly to stop Jack Hanna, Midhurst councillor from communicating with his constituents.

December 27, 2013

It resulted in a complaint.  The Council then chose to (and forced us pay extra taxpayers, btw)  for their self-chosen investigator rather than use the no charge services of the Ontario Ombudsman.

Springwater Township

Perry Ritchie, Dan Clement, Dan McLean, Linda Collins, Rick Webster, Sandy McConkey, Jack Hanna (l to r)

This is called “oversight shopping” and Globe and Mail thinks it must stop…immediately See: Municipal government: Why so many hush-hush meetings?:

Full Excerpt:

Ontario Ombudsman André Marin’s report into secrecy in municipal government contains good news and bad news. The good news? Citizens across the province are increasingly upset about local governments that conduct democratic business behind closed doors, and they are complaining in growing numbers. The bad news? Many municipal governments are still flouting the province’s open meeting law – without penalty.

In 2008, Ontario’s Municipal Act was amended, to give the ombudsman power to investigate complaints of unnecessary and undemocratic secrecy on the part of the province’s municipal governments. The new rules on openness are known as the Sunshine Law. This past year, Mr. Marin’s team investigated 96 council meetings, finding that 19 of them were illegal. That figure likely underestimates the problem, since municipalities can pick a body other than the ombudsman to oversee their Sunshine Law obligations – a practice known as oversight shopping. Mr. Marin also found some meetings that appeared to violate the spirit of the law, such as the time city councillors in London, Ont., met in private at a local restaurant just before a budget vote. Sixty citizens complained.

Mr. Marin recommends that the province take four steps to ensure that the sun really does shine in. First, end oversight shopping. This year, Sudbury council voted to fire the ombudsman after he was critical of their behaviour. Fewer than half of the province’s municipalities have chosen to be overseen by the ombudsman. Since when do we allow an accused to fire the judge?

Mr. Marin also recommends that lawbreakers be punished – the law currently contains no sanctions – that all meetings be recorded, and that any meeting found to have been conducted illegally have its proceedings invalidated. All excellent ideas. And we can’t imagine why any of the three parties at Queen’s Park wouldn’t agree. Pass these reforms, pronto.

To Do in 2014:

  1. Contact your MPP and tell him you agree oversight shopping must end. Now.
  2. Find out who voted for gagging Mr. Hanna and throw them out at the fall 2014 election.
  3. Vote for candidates promising to use the Ontario Ombudsman’s services only.

PS: The investigation found that trying to gag Mr. Hanna was a violation of provincial law.

Posted originally on iLoveMidhurst.ca. Reposted on voteLesStewart.ca.

NOTE: A very similar article appeared in the Springwater News on January 2, 2014. pdf

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NEWS: Ontario government, First Nation agree on joint partnership at Springwater Park – Camp Nibi

December 20, 2013
beth-kim-sylvie-nahuis

Elizabeth, Kimberly Rose and Sylvie (l to r). Photo: Anne Nahuis

Ontario government, First Nation agree on joint partnership at Springwater Park – Camp Nibi

Springwater Provincial Park – renamed Camp Nibi by a group of First Nations women who have occupied it for nine months – is to be a partnership with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Beausoleil First Nation.

Beausoleil First Nation and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources are in discussions which ensure the interest of Camp Nibi/Midewiwin Lodge for their continued traditional, cultural, spiritual education will continue to be provided for on these lands of Springwater Park, Elizabeth Brass Elson said today.

“The traditional territories of Beausoleil First Nation will be protected and our teachings and ceremony will continue. Camp Nibi and Three Fires Midewiwin Lodge will have a voice in the planning and development of the park lands for the continued use of all in the future,” she said.

An agreement between the Ministry and the First Nation is good news for all, Brass Elson said.

“We are satisfied that our vision for Camp Nibi has been recognized. Camp Nibi and the Eastern Doorway of The Three Fires Midewiwin Lodge will be working together with the First Nation to bring traditional spiritual teachings on the land of Springwater Park.”

The past nine months at Camp Nibi have been the scene of ceremonies, teachings, potluck suppers and – most important – connection with the land and the surrounding community.

It’s been an important journey for Brass Elson, known to many in Simcoe County for her leadership role in the battle to stop Dump Site 41.

She turned her attention to Springwater Park – part of the traditional territory of Beausoleil First Nation – after the Ontario government declared it non-operational as of April 1, 2013.

“I found my true spiritual connection with the land here,” she said. People came from all over Ontario to camp with the women who were in the park through the high heat of summer and the recent bitter cold. Locals were generous with support and donations.

“Chi Miigwetch, a big thank you to all those who supported us, our friends and our allies,” Brass Elson said. “And special thanks to Beausoleil First Nation and Ontario Parks for recognizing our vision for these lands.”

Two women joined Brass Elson – an Anishinabek from Chimnissing (Beausoleil First Nation) – in a steadfast determination to ensure that the land remains protected in an area north of Barrie that’s being subjected to intense development pressures.

They are Kimberly Rose Edwards, a Richmond Hill resident from the Mohawk community of Oka, and Sylvie Simard of Kapuskasing, a Mi’kmaq from New Brunswick.

“This has been my destiny,” said Edwards. A seer, she found her native roots a decade ago and saw the Camp Nibi lands long before she arrived to support Brass Elson in April.

“I came to learn,” said Simard. “My ancestors were calling.”

News release from Camp Nibi

Cross posted on iLoveMidhurst.ca.

NOTE: A very similar article appeared in the Springwater News on January 2, 2014. pdf


Has the Ministry of Natural Resources treated the ladies in Springwater Park in a Christian manner?

December 20, 2013

Speaking from my imperfect knowledge of  Catholic social justice principles, no.

SSMarie Precious Blood Cathedral1

Notwithstanding an overall cordial relationship between the perfectly legal First Nations occupation and the local/regional MNR staff and the Premier’s office, any decision above the “mid-level grunt” level is clearly in bad faith (mala fidesand unfair dealings.

Examples:

  • refusing to meet with the occupation, Beausoleil First Nation, and community leaders at the same time, even once after 8.5 months opportunity to do so, (unreasonably force a winter occupation to cynically take credit for re-opening on Apr 1, 2014 which may coincide with a provincial election),
  • breeding distrust between indigenous and settler leaders (divide-and-conquer),
  • using the 230 cm of our expected snowfall and -20 C temperatures to drive first nations’ grandmothers out of the park or into the hospital,
  • cynically playing “bad cop” to Premier Wynne’s “good cop” (here, here, here, now here),
  • threatening to knock the building down,
  • cutting off all electricity for lights, heat and security in a 193 ha., unsecure wilderness more than 3 months ago,
  • refusing to meet with community groups from the Assistant Deputy Minister level and above,
  • (so far) refusing the community permission to do volunteer snow removal to keep the 14 km. of ski and snowshoe trails open. This also forces low income families to pay over $1,000 at private ski resorts for a season pass instead of using our already-paid-for trails.,
  • showing up late as guests for a spiritual ceremony,
  • refusing to allow fallen trees to be harvested for firewood by chainsaw,
  • failing to investigate damage done to vehicles (twice), and
  • approving the sandblasting/desecration of the Vespra Boys cairn (eg. the Anishinaabe and Medewinin Lodge call field stones “Grandfather”; people, animals, air, land, water, trees and even stones have a type of “soul”, made by the Creator and it is my great honour to have been taught should be valued and protected from harm).

I wish Minister David Orazietti and his family all the best for this Christmas season. He and I will be enjoying the warmth, generosity, support and company of our family, parish and community over this very special time in the liturgical calendar. I imagine that the Precious Blood Cathedral in Sault Ste. Marie will be as comfortable as St. Mary’s parish in Barrie will be for Midnight Mass next Tuesday night. St Marys bulletinWe have a terrific new pastor at St. Mary’s who was born in Kenya.

I’ve never had occasion to talk to him specifically about intolerance but this is the first such collection I can remember.

Cross-posted on iLoveMidhurst.ca.

NOTE: A very similar article appeared in the Springwater News on January 2, 2014. pdf


Midhurst 1 Boy Scouts, Springwater Park and the Vespra Boys cenotaph

August 2, 2013

I was there at the cenotaph on several Remembrance Days as a boy.

1st Midurst

I was there because of Bob and Ruth Byers.

Excerpt:

Springwater News
Fall 2012

Remembering Springwater Park
Heritage Matters
Ruth Byers

Springwater Park will be no longer be a provincial park by spring.

This sad news for the thousands of our township residents, and generations of families, who have enjoyed this park, and still do.

And the memories:
…the days when there was no charge to enter the park. Local kids just biked in, spent some carefree summer holiday time, and biked home, tired but happy.

…the picnics, school picnics, church picnics, family picnics, picnics for social groups, ball teams, and companies. And picnics for just two, holding hands, enjoying summer afternoon, then coming back years later with their kids.

…the animals and birds, staring at the owl as it stared back, waiting for the peacock to open his tail, watching the busy beavers doing their thing, while the majestic swans glided across the pond.

…marvelling at the engineering of the waterways through dams and sluices and climbing the stairs through the miniature village.

…buying a treat at the refreshment booth run by Miss Wattie.

…attending Remembrance Day services at the war memorial as a kid, and years later coming with the cub pack and scout troop.

…school trips. I first visited the park in 1949 when a student at Cundles School. I last attended the park on a school trip in 1971 when I was a parent volunteer with my son’s class from Forest Hill School in Midhurst.

…sadness when the water tower disappeared.

…more sadness when the sign at the highway entrance was ‘updated’. We like the old one.

…and the games; the ball games, three-legged races, horseshoes, even a quiet game of chess.

Springwater park invokes many happy memories. Not just part of Springwater Township’s history, but part of our heritage.


Heads up on the front page of the Springwater News: Simcoe County committee, Thursday in Midhurst

February 13, 2013

A truly responsive community media outlet.

Wanzel Les Stewart

Photo: Barrie Examiner and Mark Wanzel

Excerpt:

Probably, by the time you read this – 9 am on February 14th will have passed…BUT

Les Stewart was doing a a presentation to the County of Simcoe on behalf of the Springwater Park Citizens’ Coalition. They want to work with the County of Simcoe and the Ministry of Natural Resources so save the 477 acre  107 year old Park. to read about their efforts go to SpringwaterParkcc.org

Michael Jacobs prints 16,700 copies every two weeks.

Directions to the meeting: 1110 Highway 26, Midhurst, ON


The people who propose this must worship at the altar of ugliness!

October 24, 2012

Thoughtful, intelligent and caring communities build on the past. Don’t they?

Are we so short-sighted and lacking in confidence? Have we forgotten that today, we stand on our ancestors’ shoulders and hold the future in trust for our children?

In The Midhurst Secondary Plan: Let’s think again!Word pdf Bill Nieuwland is able to compress and express forty years of beauty and folly in a wonderfully elegant manner:

When I moved to Vespra Township more than forty years ago, it was an area of beautiful natural and agricultural landscape. Midhurst was a small village of mostly modest homes scattered along a few quiet streets. For the most part, residents wisely relied on the wooded terrain to enhance the settings of their homes. Subsequent small developments took their cue from the examples set before them. Thanks to the foresight of those who have come before, this village is a jewel of Simcoe County. Word of this bucolic hamlet soon spread. New arrivals were drawn to it because of the opportunities for a wholesome and healthy family and community life. However, it seems that some powers decided that all this was more than its residents deserved. And so, they imposed on it a planning regime that would overwhelm the community.

On the Midhurst Secondary Plan:

Now Midhurst is to be drawn and quartered. The streets that were laid in the heart of the village more than a hundred years ago are to become busy thoroughfares with tens of thousands of vehicles per day. There will be very few local employment opportunities for the thousands of new residents. The mass of commuters will need to go as far afield as Toronto. They will leave bleary eyed in the early morning and return exhausted in the evening. Commuting by public transit or bicycle will be all but impossible. Old Midhurst will become a pedestrian and cycling nightmare.

Bill’s writing reminds me of stories I’ve been told of people I’ve heard of and known, like Meth Adamson, Ike Merritt, Charles Bowdery, George Monteith, Rid Groves, Harvey Spence, Les Willis, Charlie Day, Dick Pierce, and Dick Brown.

If you want to see what Midhurst’s spirit can build, look to Springwater Park.

Springwater Park was planned and crafted out of a desert of sand when everyone thought it was of no value. So was the Midhurst Tree Nursery.

They  used to call it the Commons. It wasn’t worth anything. Alan Johnston

Every pond was man-made working in concert with the gift of abundant water.

Bill Nieuwland expresses an elegant alternate view to the present slash and burn mentality.

Originally published on iLoveMidhurst.ca on March 2, 2012.


Heritage does Matter: Tree nursery, Springwater Park and, then, the Vespra Boys cenotaph

October 24, 2012

Alive communities rise to challenges.

An important article entitled Pine Forests and a Park [Word pdf] appeared in the Springwater News today.

Ruth Byers suggests how our community has dealt with big challenges. This one was the total clear-cutting of the forests in the then-named Vespra Township  and Simcoe County in the late 1800s:

In the early years of the 1900s, the Ontario Government established a tree nursery and began to distribute trees for reforestation. About the same time, E.C. Drury a farmer at Crown Hill and E.J. Zavitz, a forester, began a project to help recover the land denuded of trees. They toured the ‘sand plans’ around Midhurst and Orr Lake.

In a quote from A History of Vespra, they described one of their trips:

‘We walked across the field, and came on a spring of fresh, clean water, bubbling out of a sandy bank. The stream wasn’t very wide, but seemed to have a good strong flow.’

This was the beginning of the Midhurst Tree Nursery. And eventually, Springwater Park.

The devastation of The Great War (WWI) provoked another communal, local response,  logically centred on the tree nursery and park:

Located in Springwater Park is a cenotaph built of stone by Veterans of Vespra Township. Harvey Spence and Robert Mills did the actual construction. Remembrance Day services were held her for many years, including members from Scouting and Guiding.

How will our community respond to the current challenges to our social, environmental and cultural equities?

Originally published on iLoveMidhurst.ca on October 11, 2012.


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