At first blush there seems to be no real issues in this local municipal election;
hence the complacency towards it. But make no mistake, there are some very real,
serious and expensive issues looming on the horizon to be handled by the incoming
Council. Who you elect is going to matter very much.
Shrinking financial support from higher levels of government: Yes, the federal
Gas Tax Fund is now being indexed at 2% per year, but that is not enough to offset
the ever-shrinking-until-it-is-phased-out-entirely provincial Municipal Partnership
Fund. Even though property assessments go up every year, generating additional tax
revenue to municipalities without having to raise tax rates, properties in Ontario
are seriously over-valued and the coming market adjustment is likely to devalue
the property tax base to some extent (just how much is hard to predict). The probable
outcome of these combined factors is that municipalities will have less money to
work with. The kind of council you elect will determine whether they can do more
with less, or whether they opt to raise your taxes - and by how much. It is going
to directly effect your personal bottom line.
Port Stanley Harbour: The development, or lack of development, of this newly
acquired municipal asset has the very real potential to become a situation that
eats far more money than it generates and there is still no viable business plan
for its self-sustaining development. The infrastructure is crumbling before our
eyes and we did not get enough money in the transfer deal to repair that infrastructure
(we came up $13 million short of the bare minimum needed to repair it). If the west
breakwater is allowed to crumble into the lake, the broad main beach for which we
obtained the Blue Flag status will erode back to the narrow stoney strip of beach
it used to be (reduced tourism). The berm is supposedly going to be redeveloped
into a park by Transport Canada, beginning in 2016 - assuming that a federal election
resulting in a change in government does not happen before then. We've been through
this scenario before and right now all we have at the berm is a weed-overgrown mess
with mountains of sand piled up to keep people out. The municipality takes no care
of this property at all and its maintenance falls far below the municipality's own
lot maintenance standards by-law. Successive Councils of the day repeatedly promised
us they would not take ownership of the harbour without enough money and a business
plan to make sure the development and maintenance of the harbour did not end up
on our property tax bills. Well, they did take it without sufficient funds and the
only reason it has not yet ended up on our tax bills is because they have done very,
very little in the way of either development or maintenance. All they've really
done so far is spend money to acquire more harbour land, one piece of which they
turned into a very ugly parking lot that nobody uses. That parking lot may
get used once the Prespa development on Edith Cavell actually begins. The Richardson
property will cost us another $250,000 to demolish the grain elevators and structures
that are currently on it.
McAsphalt: Given that the municipality is now having Closed Session meetings
with McAsphalt, it would not surprise me in the least to see a proposal for the
municipality to also buy that property, shortly after we get through the fall election.
Port Stanley Firehall: A new Port Stanley Firehall is on the table and the
stated preferred location is the ball diamond in Selbourne Park. Not only is it
the last remaining public greenspace of any significant size left in Port Stanley,
it was even suggested that the kid's playground and skatepad could be left in the
park, for the kids to avoid fire trucks rushing in and out when responding to calls.
How brilliant is that? Current Council and staff do not want to even consider the
practical and cost-saving solution of amalgamating the Union and Port Stanley firehalls
into one, because it's a political football. A municipality of less than 13,000
does not need four firehalls (two of which are less than 15 minutes apart) and cannot
afford to support four firehalls. Given that the vast majority of the calls are
medical in nature, it makes sense to leave only a paramedic team in Port Stanley,
and have Union respond to the actual fire calls in this end of the municipality.
We can save on trucks, buildings, equipment, maintenance and staffing, and we don't
need a Quint (which is the next major purchase on Chief Crocker's wish list).
All of these looming issues affect your tax rate and thus affect your personal bottom
line. Currently our taxes, although higher than some neighbouring municipalities,
aren't that crazy - but they could easily get crazy if your elected Council does
not properly control the directions the municipality takes.
So what are the qualities we actually require in our Council members - the mayor,
the deputy mayor, and each and every councillor?
Leadership: is paramount. Did you know that senior staff inform newly elected
Councils that "we can make the next four years easy for you, or we can make it hard"?
Now, does that sound to you like Council is directing staff - as they claim - or
like staff is, in truth, directing Council? You hire competent staff to act as advisors,
but it is only an advisory role, not a controlling one. I've been attending
and reporting on Central Elgin Council meetings since 2005 and my impression over
these last 9 years is that senior staff in the municipality are effectively running
a fiefdom rife with nepotism which whatever council of the day simply rubber stamps.
Even if senior staff is university educated and degreed (which not all of them are,
though we pay that level of wages), their role should still be restricted to advisory
only. They serve at the will of Council, not the other way around. I have
yet to see any real leadership emerge in any Central Elgin Council meeting I've
attended, and I've attended most of them. Even in budget meetings the Council primarily
follows whatever staff wants. Real leadership is the only thing that can handle
the Port Stanley Harbour development without it eventually ending up on your tax
Previous Council Experience: I've heard more than one person say they prefer
to vote for someone with previous council experience, and would not vote for a mayor
without previous council experience. Well, an experienced incompetent person is
still incompetent - they are simply more experienced at being incompetent. Experience
is only a relevant factor if you want to return the same "old boys club" to the
helm, to keep things running just as staff have always run them, with special favours
for friends and projects undertaken to assist the business interests of other members
of the "old boys" club. In Central Elgin, you are never going to get something better
if you vote for anyone who currently sits on council, or who has previously sat
on council, or who has ever worked for the municipality. Previous council experience
is not the experience you need to look for in a candidate if you want something
Pertinent Experience: The type of experience that matters in a candidate
is their background. Are they educated? Do they possess a Masters in Business Administration,
an economics degree or accounting designation, an engineering degree or urban planning
designation, a law degree or any other kind of post-secondary education or skill
set like negotiations and alternative dispute resolution that would be pertinent
to the running of a municipality? Never discount the value of a candidate who has
years of experience running a mid to large size company, or large department within
a large company. That kind of experience is exactly what we need for developing
a viable business plan to make the harbour self-sustaining. By and large we've had
councils who have not had these kinds of education, business or skill sets. How
well has that worked out for you?
Financial Literacy: Determining the viability of a budget for a municipality
is not like running a household budget or a small business. There's a lot more involved
in terms of money and services provided that requires every member of council to
have the financial literacy skills needed to determine whether or not what staff
is proposing is necessary or desirable. It is not your money you're spending,
so this is one of those areas where strong leadership qualities are critical. A
career in which the candidate has been paid from the public purse is not the best
teacher of financial literacy when making decisions on how to spend that public
Integrity: This one is HUGE! It goes right to the heart of the "old
boys club" syndrome and the nepotism apparent in our staffing rosters. I have seen
council members neglect to declare a conflict of interest when they knew, or ought
to have known, they had one. The conflict can be because of property owned by yourself
or a relative, because of membership in a particular service club or other organization,
or the relationship by blood or marriage to a candidate for employment. As a member
of council it is your responsibility to ensure the municipality's business is conducted
fairly, equitably, and without favouritism or discrimination, at all times and in
all things. In the years I've covered council I have seen only one member
of council consistently display this level of integrity and that member is not running
in this election.
Intelligence: Every member of council needs to have the intellectual capacity
to understand what they read, understand what their advisors are telling them, and
to research for more information on their own. They need to be able to tell when
others are trying to manipulate or deceive them, and be reasonably skilled at discovering
ulterior motives and hidden agendas (you get a lot of applications coming before
council in which ulterior motives and hidden agendas are at play).
Strength of Character: When you occupy a position of power other people will
try to bend you to their will, to get you to use that power you have for their benefit
or to satisfy their preferred agenda. I will not go into a lesson on how this is
done; suffice it to say that it happens - a lot! Power can also tempt you to use
it for your own benefit - and this is a very seductive power to which many people
fall prey. Your candidates for council need to possess and exhibit the strength
of character that can resist both temptation and pressure, particularly manipulative
Commitment: Commitment to the people you have been elected to represent is
absolutely essential and incorporates a strong sense of allegiance to those people.
When you decide to run you are saying your are putting the interests of the electorate
ahead of your own personal interests. That is what public service means and if you
are not prepared to do that, get out of the race. Your decision to run should not
be motivated by a desire to improve your own social status, to be the big frog in
the small pond, or to improve your own financial health or that of your friends.
Yet it is obvious in some members of council that money is a motivator; wielding
power in a beneficent or vindictive manner is a motivator; and the social status
they perceive as being a part of the local governing body is also a motivator. Some
people run because they don't have a job and view this as an employment ticket.
The Current Field of Candidates
On the municipal website it states: Every four years, in accordance with the Municipal
Elections Act, 1996, as amended, the Municipal Clerk, as Returning Officer, conducts
elections for the offices of:
•1 Mayor elected by all the residents of the Municipality;
•1 Deputy Mayor elected by all the residents of the Municipality;
•1 Councillor for Ward 1
•1 Councillor for Ward 2
•1 Councillor for Ward 3
•1 Councillor for Ward 4
•1 Councillor for Ward 5
This means every voter gets to vote for a candidate for mayor, a candidate for deputy
mayor, and a candidate for councillor in their own ward. That means
you will place an X beside three (3) names on your ballot - not just one or two
names. If there is only one declared candidate for a position, that person wins
the seat by acclamation.
As of July, 14 2014 the following individuals have filed Nomination Papers, and
the comments are my observations and impressions of their performance on past or
David Marr: Sent as Council's representative to the ARC for Port Stanley
School, he failed to get the boundary review that might have kept enough
students in Port Stanley School to ensure it stays open. The appropriate steps have
all been taken that would allow the Thames Valley District School Board to close
that school at any time in the next five years.
He was also on the Harbour Divestiture Committee and a principal negotiator for
Central Elgin. Former Mayors David Rock and Sylvia Hofhuis assured Central Elgin
residents that the municipality would not accept the harbour without a business
plan to make it self-sustaining and enough money to make it economically viable
such that not one penny in extra taxes would end up on resident's tax bills. Well,
David Marr failed to get sufficient funds with divestiture deal, getting
only S13 million when the municipality's consultant said they needed at least
$26 million to make it viable.
Marr is also on the Port Stanley Harbour Visioning Committee and so far, despite
a $100,000 grant from the federal government to develop a business plan for the
harbour and another $56,486 spent from the interest earned on the harbour fund,
no viable business plan for the development of the harbour exists. Another failure.
Although these days Marr will declare a conflict on items pertaining to the Port
Stanley Lions Club, he does not declare a conflict on items pertaining to other
Lions Clubs within the same Lions District, although as a Lion he is required to
support the activities of other Lions Clubs within the same district. I do not,
and cannot, know the level to which he participates in Closed Session discussions,
decisions and votes pertaining to things like the lease for, or improvements to,
the Lions Landing Marina Park in Port Stanley. This is not to say that Lions Clubs
within the municipality have not made substantial donations to various projects,
groups and activities in the municipality - they have - but ethically speaking,
because of their own rules governing Lions Clubs, no member of council who is also
a member of a Lions or Lioness Club within the municipality should be involved in
discussions or votes on anything pertaining to any Lions or Lioness Club within
His financial background is as an income tax preparer, working primarily independently
on his own. He has no formal accounting designation of any kind.
Marr was elected Ward 1 Councillor in 2006 and was appointed as Deputy Mayor after
Deputy Mayor Tom Marks moved up to become Mayor when Mayor Sylvia Hofhuis died.
In 2010 David Marr ran for Deputy Mayor, as the incumbent, against three challengers
- Francie Dennison, Danial Dale and Dennis Crevits. Incumbent David Marr beat challenger
Francie Dennison by just 88 votes. Danial Dale came in third, 49 votes behind Dennison.
Dennis Crevits came in fourth at 58 votes behind Dale. Once again the split vote
save David Marr's seat (as it did in 2006), though the total number of votes against
(3,102) him well exceeded the total number of votes he received (1,174).
So far no one is challenging him for this seat, so he may get in by acclamation.
Sally Martyn: is a former school teacher who was paid from the public purse
throughout her career. History was her specialty. She comes from Sparta where she
and her husband continue to run a small farm. She is a staunch advocate for the
preservation of anything historical, often with what others view as an unrealistic
view of the financial implications of such ventures. She met with stiff opposition
when she tried to foster a Heritage Conservation District in Port Stanley and has
often met with resistance when trying to add a property to the Clerk's List.
She is a staunch supporter of Sparta and Union, the Ward 2 she represents. When
the Union Sports Club was required to pay property taxes on the facility they bought
for $1 off the Thames Valley District School Board, Sally strongly supported the
group's request for tax exemption, or a grant equal to the taxes. This was one of
those instances when Sally's public-purse background prevailed and she had great
difficulty with the argument that the municipality could not give to one group what
it did not give to others. In her defence, given that the lease for the Lions Landing
Marina Park effectively gives a tax exemption to the Lions by paying the taxes out
of the rent money paid to the municipality, Sally's resistance to the argument could
be understood. Every year Sally donates money (from her remuneration as a Councillor)
for the taxes to the Union Sports Club.
Sally, along with Russell Matthews, is often at odds with the rest of council and
staff when it comes to discussions and votes on fiscal restraint, especially the
fire budget and the municipality's fleet of vehicles. Their calls for fiscal restraint
are usually argued and voted against.
In the 2010 election Sally Martyn retained her seat by acclamation (no one ran against
Danial Dale: holds the position of Director of Planning and Municipal Services
for the Town of Aylmer. When he previously served on Central Elgin Council as Deputy
Mayor he seemed smart enough, but was definitely not one to rock the boat. He followed
Mayor Rock's lead, supported Mayor Hofhuis, supported Don Leitch, supported Lloyd
Perrin and supported Sharon Larmour. He was often late for Central Elgin Council
meetings as they conflicted with Aylmer Council meetings. I remember nothing of
note in his performance on Council and can find nothing of note for him in my records.
In the 2010 election he came in third in the race for Deputy Mayor. In the 2006
election he lost as the incumbent Deputy Mayor to Tom Marks.
Dan McNeil: is a retired Rear-Admiral from the Canadian Navy. That means
he was paid from the public purse throughout his career and knows how to take orders.
He is a volunteer on Project Ojibwa and was in charge of the operation of getting
the submarine to Port Burwell. On his watch the submarine failed to get to Port
Burwell in the allotted time, costing the project a $1.5 million federal grant -
but McNeil remains a part of the Project Ojibwa team. Should the endeavour be unsuccessful,
the taxpayers of Bayham are on the hook for the $6 million loan guarantee Bayham
agreed to for Project Ojibwa.
In 2010 he campaigned on replacing CAO Don Leitch and before he was elected in 2010
was always in opposition to David Marr. He won his Ward 1 seat with 794 votes to
the 334 votes of his challenger, Fred Darlington. In my opinion, since being elected
he has had his head so far up the butts of Marr and Leitch that he hasn't seen the
sun in the last four years. Not once in the four years he has been on Council have
I ever heard him object to any proposal from Marr or Leitch or any staffer. He always
votes in favour of whatever they propose and against any proposal of which they
McNeil is also on the Harbour Visioning Committee, and I repeat, there is still
no viable business plan to make the harbour self-sustaining. This is the same guy
who helped lose a $1.5 million grant for Project Ojibwa. In his 2010 campaign McNeil
said "My most important accomplishment would be to help Central Elgin have a very
effective executive leadership that has a culture of communicating to the community
as a matter of routine and is as transparent and accountable as possible." In this
McNeil has completely failed. He hasn't even come close to living up to that
campaign rhetoric. So far no one is challenging him for this seat, so he may get
in by acclamation.
Dennis Crevits: Dennis Crevits is a life time resident of Central Elgin.
His family farm is located in the former Yarmouth Township. He has an Honours Degree
in Political Science from the University of Western Ontario. He was the past Deputy
Mayor of Central Elgin from 2000-2003. He has been self-employed for over 25 years.
He ran for Deputy Mayor in the 2010 election and finished in fourth place (dead
In his last campaign Crevits said a fire budget needs to reflect the population
base and that "Taxes in the current economy cannot rise at a greater rate than personal
income." So far no one is challenging him for this seat, so he may get in by acclamation.
Stephen Carr: is the incumbent and a farmer who retained his seat in Ward
3 in the 2010 election by defeating challenger Marie Turvey by just 59 votes. He
consistently votes with whatever is approved by David Marr, as proposed by senior
staff, forming a voting block of Marr/Carr/McFarlan and which usually also includes
Walters. He also recently purchased a property in Port Stanley, so has a vested
interest in what is done by Council regarding Port Stanley.
Ward 3 does not seem to ask for, or get, anything out of their relationship as part
of Central Elgin beyond garbage collection and road maintenance. The only thing
they ever got was success in stopping the municipality from forcing them to hook
up to a sewer system they did not need when the County was rebuilding Sunset Drive
(Hwy 4). For that the residents had to form an association prepared to take legal
action to stop the municipality. They got no effective representation from their
councillor at that time, though that was not Stephen Carr. So far no one is challenging
him for this seat, so he may get in by acclamation.
Trent Clark: lives in the Lynhurst area. Correction: He has run, and continues to run, his own successful distribution business for the last 20 years and will downsize it if elected to dedicate enough time to councillor. He has been attending council meetings faithfully for the past year, to familiarize himself with the workings
of Council as much as an "outsider" can. The incumbent, Russell Matthews, is not
running again. So far no one is challenging him for this seat, so he may get in
Wayne Charron: Beyond the fact that he lives in Belmont, this one is completely
unknown to me. He has attended only one Council meeting this year, and none in prior
Rob McFarlan: is the incumbent from Belmont who served on Council prior to
2006 but did not run in the 2006 election. In 2010 he won his seat by defeating
challenger David Roberts by 77 votes. He has been employed by the Toro Company as
an Ontario Area Sales Manager since 1993 and was a member of the Belmont Lions Club
in the early 1990's. His performance on Council, both previously and on the current
council, has always been to support what was proposed by staff and as part of an
"old boys club" voting block along with David Marr.
Candidates have until September 12, 2014 to file their nomination papers. The next
regular Municipal Election will be held on Monday, October 27, 2014. If you want
what you've always had, return the same people to council. But if you want better,
you need to vote for a clean sweep.
And now the fun part: let's see how much of what I've written here ends up in the
election brochures and speeches of the candidates - just as it did the last time!