I have been told that life provides you with the same lesson again and again until you finally decide to learn, and act accordingly. Last night’s meeting of Council presented me with a lesson I have faced before. There are ‘special interests’ in Parry Sound and they get special treatment.

At last night’s meeting of Council, on a split vote decided by the Mayor, the decision was made to approve an Official Plan amendment permitting the relocation of the Royal Bank (RBC) from the north end mall to the Walmart plaza. This decision was at odds with the Official Plan and the recommendation of Staff. I have seen this before.

In a similar split vote, decided by the Mayor in the last term of Council, a variance application was refused that would have permitted a multi residential building to be constructed on Belvedere Avenue. In this case Council’s decision also went against the recommendation of Staff. It was pretty obvious what was going on at the time, a very influential property owner on Belvedere was openly against the development. You don’t bite certain hands.

In the case of the RBC vote the source of the influence is less obvious, but I have my suspicions. Lesson learned. It’s not a level playing field. But hasn’t that always been the case in Parry Sound? It’s just a little less obvious.

The lesson is that in Parry Sound you don’t look at the merits of a case to anticipate the outcome. You need to understand who are the ‘special interests’ and where their interests lie.

There was one little surprise at last night’s meeting. It was announced that Chief Wayne Pamajewon of Shawanaga First Nation has sent a letter to Parry Sound Council asking for their support of a casino development in Parry Sound. After last night’s ‘lesson’ I’m not going to try predicting what the outcome might be until I understand where the special interests line up. Based on the Mayor’s public support for the casino, perhaps the question has already been answered.

Any decision to support a casino in Parry Sound needs to be made by the property owners and residents of Parry Sound, not a Council that responds to special interests. It apparently takes only one vote to tip a decision.