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Council Follow-up, week of January 31, 2022

Updated: Jan 6

A number of areas of concern this week, including a possible City breach of the Municipal Act, plus an individual breach of the Municipal Elections Act, and the City's Code of Conduct, and Use of Corporate Resources for Elections Purpose Policy.

City Council

Some good news, and some areas of concern from this meeting.

The meeting began with deputations on the application for 407-419 Mapleview Drive West – nine registered and two emergency deputations (this time, all voted in favour of allowing the emergency deputations). Of the eleven deputants, nine spoke against the developer's proposal (and seemed in favour of Councillor Harvey's compromise), and one (the planner for the developer) was for it – one registered deputant did not appear. The planner speaking on behalf of the concerned residents group was told she could not have any leeway past the five-minute limit. Yet the planner speaking on behalf of the developer was allowed to speak for almost ten minutes. This is a very concerning double-standard, giving obvious favour to developers over the city's residents. [EQUITY: our elected officials should represent all constituents – not just those who already hold power and have their voices heard.]

There was a single deputation regarding the request to the Province for Community Reintegration Officers for Central North Correctional Centre, presented by Meaghan Chambers, Executive Director for the Elizabeth Fry Society of Simcoe-Muskoka. It was very informative, including some good news that there will be officers (plural) provided in future phases of the program (unfortunately, not in this first phase of 25 hires).

Regarding the application for 407-419 Mapleview Drive West, staff had prepared an 8-page Memo, regarding Councillor Harvey's proposed compromise from the previous Planning Committee meeting. As it was clear that no further information was likely on top of this, Councillor Harvey withdrew his referral motion, and instead put forward an amendment that the City accept the rezoning to RM2, but not approve any of the requested Special Provisions, that the developer be asked to submit a revised Site Plan that meets the RM2 Zoning requested, and a holding provision put on the zoning bylaw until the Site Plan is approved (i.e., no development can occur on the site until this approval). Councillor Aylwin expressed concerns over this amendment due to the housing crisis, and this project being able to provide some of the "missing middle" that is often talked about as a solution. Mayor Lehman expressed concerns that with this rejection, the City could see itself up at the LPAT (Local Planning Appeal Tribunal, and he was surprised and relieved the City hadn't already heard from the developer's lawyers about this. (Please note: As of June 1, 2021, the LPAT no longer exists – it's been rolled into the Ontario Land Tribunal, alongside the Environmental Review Tribunal, Board of Negotiation, Conservation Review Board and the Mining and Lands Tribunal.) Nevertheless, Harvey's amendment carried, with Aylwin, Morales & Lehman objecting. And the motion as amended was carried, with only Morales objecting. (Also curious – nobody seemed to catch the fact that the amendment was written for Mapleview Drive EAST, instead of West – not entirely sure how that error will affect the issue? Can it simply get written off as a "typo" and corrected in the record, or will it need to go back to Council again?)

From last week's in camera General Committee report, we learned that the Housing Affordability Task Force Recommendations are deferred to "a future" General Committee. In the good news department, the City will be looking to support a new Indigenous Health Centre, as proposed by the Barrie Area Native Advisory Council (BANAC). Also in good news, more forward motion in the sale of the "H-Block" Worsley Street property to allow a new downtown YMCA. Regarding the Y, McCann put forward an amendment to legislate that the YMCA be told to come back with a "solid plan" of connecting (including a physical building connection) the Y to the Library. (Rather unnecessary since, if he'd bothered to ask, he'd know – as Councillor Aylwin informed him – that the Library has already been working on this with the YMCA for months. Rather disturbing that a Councillor would want to pass legislation about a matter without discussing it at all with the people or organizations affected.) This amendment was carried, as was the full motion, preparing for the sale of the property, and also asking the YMCA to investigate incorporating space for a (permanent) warming centre that could operate December through March – fabulous news!!

Regarding the request to the Province for Community Reintegration Officers, the news that some would be available in future phases for the CNCC required a change of wording in the proposed letter. Councillor Kungl put forward an amendment that changed the focus to expressing the urgency to prioritize allocating these Officers to the CNCC, in order to relieve pressures on local services as soon as possible. Both the amendment and the original motion carried unanimously.

In other great news, the Final Report of the Performing Arts Centre Task Force was received, and recommended next steps accepted – causing a ripple of relief to wash over the Barrie performing arts community! This means that the next step will be hiring a professional firm with expertise in municipal theatres development, design and management to take a look through the report and recommendations, and report back to General Committee with a plan, including timelines, scope, and, of course, the financials.

And finally, in the bylaws, the zoning was amended so two development projects could go forward: an apartment building at Bayfield & Sophia, and a condo at 217 Dunlop St. E.

Well, that's not the final thing to report, of course – there was the surprise announcement by Councillor N.Harris that she's going to run for Mayor. An announcement that may very well have disqualified her before the campaign period even opens.

According to the City's own Code of Conduct, and Use of Corporate Resources for Elections Purpose Policy, no member of Council is allowed to use City Property (including physical, intellectual and technical) for their own personal gain, and not for any election campaign and campaign-related activities. "No member shall undertake campaign-related activities on City property. No member shall use the services of persons during hours in which those persons receive any compensation from the City."

Section 88.12 of the Municipal Elections Act similarly makes it clear that no Corporation (including an Incorporated City) may make contributions to a candidate's campaign, including not just financial contributions but also goods, services and other resources (if the meeting had physically been in City Hall, this breach of elections law would perhaps have been more clear – nevertheless, the Council broadcast, not to mention the staffing provided for Ms. Harris's campaign announcement were all City resources). This is similar to Engage's concerns over the City contributing to Councillor McCann's sign (quoting his usual campaign slogan), as well as allowing it on City property.

The use of City resources to make her announcement is not the only issue, however. Section 88.8 of the Municipal Elections Act is also clear that no contributions may be made to a candidate outside of the election campaign period (which for this election does not begin until May 2, 2022). Section 88.15 clarifies that a "contribution" is not just financial, but includes goods and services, and advertisements. Also according to the Municipal Elections act, while a candidate may be allowed to announce their plans to run, no campaigning is allowed to take place outside the official campaign period – and a candidate's campaigning may not begin until they have filed their registration. Which makes Councillor Harris's posing for press photos and giving media statements about her candidacy the next day also problematic.

This candidacy announcement during a City Council meeting, and Councillor Harris's media campaign the following day, are damaging not just for democracy, but potentially for herself. The Municipal Elections Act lists the penalties of contravening any portion of the act, including fines up to $25,000 and imprisonment up to six months, not to mention potential forfeiture of office, and prohibition from running for office in the following two elections.

Having already conducted herself through her first election to Council, Councillor Harris should have already been fully aware of the Municipal Elections Act, Barrie's Code of Conduct and Use of Corporate Resources for Elections Purpose Policy, and should have known better than to use a City Council meeting for her publicity stunt. Some of our members are currently looking into possible courses of action in this regard. [ACCOUNTABILITY, DEMOCRACY]

City Council #2

This was not scheduled in advance, but it appears there was a second City Council meeting that happened on Thursday, February 3 at 7pm. No meeting details have been made public – which is also troublesome, since according to the Municipal Act, the public should at least be told the justification for a City Council meeting being moved to a closed meeting. [ACCOUNTABILITY, TRANSPARENCY]

Section 239 (4) Before [emphasis ours] holding a meeting or part of a meeting that is to be closed to the public, a municipality or local board or committee of either of them shall state by resolution,

(a) the fact of the holding of the closed meeting and the general nature of the matter to be considered at the closed meeting; or

(b) in the case of a meeting under subsection (3.1), the fact of the holding of the closed meeting, the general nature of its subject-matter and that it is to be closed under that subsection.

* Since publishing this report, the second City Council meeting has been removed from, without comment.

Planning Committee

This was a rather uneventful set of Public Meetings regarding three properties in Ward 9: 571 Huronia Road, 460 Lockhart Road, and 560 Lockhart Road (the two Lockhart Road properties being combined into one presentation). There were no questions or comments from the public – which is unsurprising, as all three of these properties are in areas that are not existing neighbourhoods.

Active Transportation and Sustainability Advisory Committee

Much discussion on many issues, but the only recommendation to City Building is to endorse a Bike the Night event for September 2022.

International Relations Committee

Council Compensation Review Committee



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