June 03, 2008

Open Letter to Government of Ontario Ministers: Invesitgate Clarington Mayor and Council for Ignoring Democracy

The following is an open letter to be sent to three Government of Ontario Ministers. It's concerning the lack of transparency, accountability and respect for democracy that has gone on for some time by Clarington's conservative and Conservative mayor, Jim Abernethy and several local and regional council members - Ottawa's not the only one with municipal council problems. Most of the issues stem from the process surrounding the proposed energy-from-waste incinerator that these municipal politicians are trying to enforce on the unwilling electorate. At the end are some articles that are from the local paper addressing these concerns as well. The most telling part is that the local paper has an open, right-wing bias, yet the situation is to the point where even it can't ignore some of these issues. -------------------------------------------------------------------

Honourable John Gerretsen, Minister of the Environment

Honourable Gerry Phillips, Minister of Energy

Honourable Jim Watson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing

Dear Honourable Ministers

The undersigned are all directors of the Durham Provincial Liberal Association and it is with grave concern that we write to you today.

Democracy is at risk in our riding due to the behaviour of our local government that seems bent on ramming through an Energy from Waste facility with neither input nor approval from its electorate. Find attached a detailed description of how some local representatives are denying the democratic rights of those it governs. This behaviour makes a mockery of both the democratic process and the vulnerability of citizens. Also find attached a list of a few issues and questions we feel are relevant to the proposed EFW facility for Durham.

While it is understandable that you would not want to meddle in local affairs (and we do not think you should), we do call on you to you to help us by clarifying your stance on the issues that we have presented. We would be grateful if we could meet with you at your earliest possible convenience.


Pam Callus

Kyle Selmes

Scott Maxwell


Local Governance Concerns

Clarington Council

  • During the last municipal election, the Progressive Conservatives ran one of their people in each of the municipal seats in Clarington; we see this as a premeditated effort to gain control of council so that the incineration issue would pass easily
  • Clarington Council voted Clarington an unwilling host, yet the mayor and two regional councilors proceeded to the region with votes in support of the incinerator
  • Delegation times have been reduced from ten minutes to five
  • Council’s agendas have become intentionally long and delegations are scheduled after presentations; at one recent council meeting delegations did not start until 10:30 p.m.
  • Council agendas are so long that business items cannot be addressed before the 11:00 p.m. deadline and so are adjourned until another day; (in)conveniently not all members of council can attend these reconvened meetings
  • The Mayor of Clarington lobbied the members of a Green Advisory Committee to become the chairperson; when this was shown to violate a bi-law, staff recommended that a member of council should, in fact, be permitted to chair such a committee. The Mayor is using his influence to wield power over both staff and citizenry.
  • Delegations have been banned from Council because they made suggestions that some members of local government were bullying others.
  • Members of the public have requested that various speakers be permitted to speak on both sides of the issue at a forum where the public can ask questions. The Mayor has decided that this will not happen and he will invite a variety of speakers to appear at council so that councilors may ask questions on behalf of their constituents. This is a very convoluted and non-transparent process.
  • The mayor and the three regional councilors that support this project may not seek re-election (or may not be re-elected). If this is so, we will be left with a legacy that we have not had a transparent opportunity to question, let alone oppose.

Regional Municipality of Durham Council

  • The Regional Chairperson has publicly indicated that whether or not Clarington council is an unwilling host, the project will proceed.
  • Staff members are clearly prejudiced towards the EFW project; there is no effort to step up diversion as other communities have done
  • Council has rejected calls for a “backup” plan for both the potential incinerator site and alternative waste disposal possibilities
  • The Director of Waste Management for the Region has stated that he doesn’t want to hear about zero waste philosophies.
  • One reason why the Region maintains that landfill is not an option is because the Region itself created a policy whereby they would not allow any landfills within the Municipality; we don’t believe that this policy is coincidence and it creates the impression that officials are backed against the wall.
  • Residents have been polled regarding their thoughts on EFW. However, the questionnaire and reporting of its results were conducted by the industry stakeholders.

Issues and Questions

Ministry of the Environment

  • If guidelines for the proposed incinerator are established, will you enforce the guidelines?
  • Will your Ministry develop a comprehensive plan for the province regarding the disposal of waste?
  • If incineration is appropriate for any community in Ontario, then it could potentially be appropriate for all communities in the province. Is this the Ontario of tomorrow?
  • Too little is known about the effects of nano-particles released to the air during the incineration process. What regulations could your Ministry propose to address such contaminants?
  • Is it really true that this incineration project could be considered recycling?
  • The local press has reported that Mayor Abernethy requested a Ministry official to speak at council about incineration and that the Ministry’s response was that it does not take a stance on thermal technologies. If this is the case, why not?
  • A moratorium on incinerators in the province would provide time for enough research to be carried out so that an informed decision can be made regarding their future.
  • This facility, if built, will spew its airborne waste not only onto the surrounding farmland and homes, but also onto the Region’s composting facility virtually across the street and onto our most precious local resource, Lake Ontario.

Ministry of Municipal Affairs

  • What suggestions can you make to us that would help us put a stop to the autocratic governance in Clarington and the Region of Durham?
  • Are there checks and balances that we are not aware of that we could put into play to help make the processes of council more accountable and transparent?

Ministry of Energy

  • Will power generated from such a facility be deemed “green” as has been suggested by staff at the Regional Municipality of Durham?
  • Is this facility really necessary to generate energy, given its location next door to Darlington Generating Station, just 2-3km away?


Further Reading (all from local newspaper that is very open about its right-wing bias):

  1. Changing the Rules to Suit Himself is Wrong
  2. Former Mayor has Concerns About Current Council Workings
  3. Letters to Editor, Council Decry Mayor
  4. Rules are Rules and Should be Followed
  5. It's Debatable, Say Residents
  6. To Debate or Not Debate, That is the Question
  7. Air Quality Report Too Little, Too Late
  8. Clarington’s unwilling host status being used as a ‘bargaining chip’ say residents

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Have you received a reply from the province? As a resident in Courtice, I would be interested in their assurances surrounding the EFW proposal.

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