MNBP Council Reporter’s Notebook – Councillor Golden Exonerated on Conflict of Interest Complaint

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By John Francis

Municipal Council received the long awaited Short-Term Accommodation Report from Michael Wynia of Skelton Brumwell Associates. A summary of the report will appear in the minutes of the meeting in the next issue of this newspaper. Highlights: the total number of respondents was disappointingly low. Of the less than 200 responses including only four business owners, 

-76% of property owners are somewhat or very dissatisfied with the way STAs now operate; 67% of STA owners think things are just fine as they are.

-Given a choice among annoying factors about STAs, most respondents identified “all of the above” as problems.

-Registration and licencing of STAs was supported by all groups, including 59% of those who identified as STA operators.

The report explores and summarizes the regulatory approaches taken by ten different municipalities in Ontario.

The report offers a carefully thought out series of recommendations for regulating STAs. It notes that STAs are not a defined, permitted use in MNBP. It suggests establishment of three classes of STAs with different degrees of regulation. It suggests that the municipality use licencing fees — which it gets to keep — rather than fines (which go to the province) to maintain control.

It suggests that “…all licences require that the operator reside on the rental property or have a local manager (i.e. individual residing in or business located within the municipality) available at all times during the rental period”.

To level the playing field between commercial accommodations (i.e. hotels, motels) and STAs, “…It is therefore recommended that Class B and C [STA] licences be subject to a 4% Municipal Accommodation Tax (MAT)”.

The full report is available on the municipality’s website (www.northbrucepeninsula.ca). There is also an easy-to-use feedback form.

Next on the Dec 16 Agenda was National Parks Superintendent John Haselmayer, who brought Council up to speed on Parks’ plans for the next couple of years, especially as regards to areas of shared jurisdiction at Emmett Lake Road and Little Cove Road. Expect more detail in future articles in this newspaper.

Barrow Bay North Road was discussed at length, as it has been many times before, over the years. Past studies and engineering reports have been costly and none of them has been approved by a consensus of stakeholders. Council reluctantly agreed to invest another $160,000 to try to engineer a consensus solution.

The Agenda for the Jan 13, 2020 Council Meeting contains an important report from the municipality’s Integrity Commissioner, HG Elston. The report deals with a Conflict of Interest complaint made against Councillor Laurie (Smokey) Golden on Aug 29, 2019.

The Report dismisses the complaint out of hand because it was not filed in a timely manner (“within six weeks of the complainant becoming aware of a possible breach of the Code”).

But the Report also deals with the complaint itself so as to “clear the air”. It concludes that “In any event, I find that Councillor Golden’s conduct in respect of the matter did not breach sections 4.1, 4.4, 4.8, and 8.2 of the Code.”

Some of the detail in the report, paragraphs 55 and 56: 

“55. As explained by Councillor Golden in her response, the focal issue for her in this matter relates to the prospective loss of municipal control over land use and Parks Canada’s alleged contravention of the Establishing Agreement. I find the fact that her brother’s business is seeking to use docks in Big Tub Harbour for a commercial purpose on bad weather days to be incidental to her main concern. Councillor Golden has a documented history of opposing Parks Canada’s authority to apply restrictions, since, in her view, such restrictions contravene the Establishing Agreement.

56. In sum, despite the Councillors predisposition toward the matter, the Resolution does not express an irrevocable decision, and, therefore, I find L.G. has not breached section 4.4. of the Code.”

The full 14-page report is included in the Agenda for the Jan 13 Meeting.

Although it does not appear in the meeting’s Agenda, the subject of Lion’s Head lighthouse will almost certainly be discussed at length under “Other Business”.