Science is Not Magic

Tags

But Magic may, in certain circumstances, involve science.

I attended the Town of Parry Sound volunteer appreciation night at the Stockey Centre a couple of weeks ago. The evening featured the magician Vitaly Beckman. His performance was remarkable. His biggest illusion, at least in the first half of the show, involved having members of the audience mark an oversized playing card by signing and ripping the card. This started with members of the audience signing and ripping the card, followed by a member of the audience signing the marked and ripped card onstage. The card was then placed into an oversized pack of cards on the stage. Following a little activity onstage, with the pack of cards seeming to stay right on the stage, the marked card appeared in the audience. Was it teleported? How was it done?

The whole performance was very well executed leaving the audience and me to wonder how this was done. I defaulted to the thought that this was magic, the art of illusion. I was impressed but not convinced that Vitaly was actually able to teleport the card. If he could teleport items, if we as a society could teleport, it would mean that we had reached the future imagined by Star Trek. There would be no need for cars, trucks, trains, airplanes and ships to transport people and freight, they could just be teleported.

As less than a rank amateur when it comes to magic I had no idea how the trick was performed, but I was convinced that there was no ’teleporting’ of cards going on. My sense is that a professional magician in the audience would have been able to view the same scene and quickly figure out how the illusion was performed. I couldn’t, and defaulted to my belief that magic is performance art based on illusion. It is not what it seems.

The same thought process is used by many people when it comes to science and the product of science, including climate science. Because they don’t understand how science ‘works’, and they do not have the technical knowledge and training related to any particular science, be it climate, oceanography, astrophysics or vaccines, they default to the comforting thought that this is not real, it’s an illusion. This is particularly the case when an idea raised by science is at odds with their faith, interests or economic interests. It’s the same as my response to magic; I don’t understand it so it can’t be real.

The greatest difference between magic and science relates to transparency. The first rule of entry to the world of magic is that you agree not to publicly share how illusions are performed. You not only don’t tell people how you perform your illusions, you also don’t tell people how other magicians perform their illusions. Science by contrast is the exact opposite. You are not just encouraged to share your results, you are required to fully explain your methods and how you reached your conclusions. The results and conclusions are subject to review by other scientists to ensure there were no obvious errors in methods or analysis. In many cases other experts will repeat the same experiments to ensure the results are real and can be repeated. This represents a foundation of science, full disclosure and peer review. When science seems unbelievable, it is often found to be just that, unbelievable. This can be the result of sloppy science, confounding results, or dishonesty.

Science is a process, not an outcome. It requires time for the process to work. It took a couple of years for the concept of cold fusion to be firmly debunked. Decades were required for the medical community to accept that simple disinfection could lead to significantly fewer deaths in hospitals, most notably healthy young women in the maternity ward. More recently we saw how long it took for medical opinion to firmly accept the harm of smoking. You can go back to the 1950s and find advertisements featuring physicians promoting the health benefits of smoking. While the dangers of smoking were recognized half a century ago it took decades to provide confirming evidence and overcome the resistance of those who had a personal and economic interest in promoting smoking.

Science is not magic, it is a process that has evolved with a set of checks and balances that help validate its conclusions. Sometimes what you don’t understand can be true. Rejecting science because it conflicts with your beliefs or interests is understandable. But in the end that doesn’t justify defaulting to the belief that science is an illusion just because you don’t understand it.

Science is not magic – it abhors illusions and secrecy. Science is also not a religion – it encourages heresy.

Magic at the Stockey Centre

(Note: I had this post in draft form for a couple of weeks following the performance at the Stockey Centre. Today seemed an appropriate day to edit and post it up.)

Council Agenda Preview – April 18, 2017

Tags

, , , , , , ,

There is nothing particularly controversial on the agenda. There is one item, 10.1.2 – Property Purchase – Oastler Park Drive that could use a bit of explanation on the part of Council. This purchase, about a quarter million dollars, concerns property across Oastler Park Drive from the Canadian Tire. It would be interesting to understand how this fits in with the Town’s Strategic Plan.

Item 4.4 – Kathy Morris, Manager, Navigation Protection Program, Transport Canada, is a little disappointing if you are looking for a quick answer. It seems the process of deciding the future of the Wasauksing Swing Bridge is ongoing and there is no interest on the part of the Ministry of Transport to have a ‘meet and greet’ type discussion with Council. If you had a statement to make about the situation I hope you filed it prior to March 15, 2017 when the period for public comment closed.

The more interesting items are noted below with comments as appropriate. Check out the full agenda at the Town’s website for complete information on agenda items and the supporting documents.

Closed Session

c) a proposed or pending acquisition or disposition of land for municipal or local board purposes. (Property Purchase)

Correspondence

4.4 – Kathy Morris, Manager, Navigation Protection Program, Transport Canada. Declined the invitation by The Archipelago, Seguin and Parry Sound to have a Town Hall meeting to discuss the new operational restrictions with respect to the use of the Swing Bridge.

4.9 – Susan Hrycyna, Parry Sound Downtown Business Association Administrator Re: Provision of Busking Policy and request to delegate authority to approve Buskers to the PS DBA.

4.10 – Susan Hrycyna, Parry Sound Downtown Business Association Administrator. Lack of public washrooms during the construction stage of the new public washrooms on Seguin Street. Requesting to have either a porta pottie installed by the Information Kiosk or for the public washrooms at the town dock to be open with a sign directing people there.

4.11 – Susan Hrycyna, Parry Sound Downtown Business Association Administrator. Requesting approval for Kathryn Nemcsok to busk in the downtown area during the upcoming summer months.

Resolutions and Direction to Staff

9.1.1 – Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund (OCIF) – Parry Sound Drive Paving and Trail Extension. Resolution. That Council approves utilizing the Town’s annual OCIF to fund the cost of paving Parry Sound Drive between Bay Area Electric and north Smith Crescent including paving a wide shoulder section which will link the Town’s trail with McDougall’s trail.

9.2.1 – Council Approved Sign Application – Downing – x2. Resolution. That pursuant to section 3.(4) of the Sign By-law, the Chief Building Official is authorized to issue permits for 2017 for two portable signs on Town Property (Bowes / Louisa W and Bowes / Louisa E) , and subject to the following conditions:
a) the signs are displayed only on Saturday and/or Sunday,
b) the signs shall not be installed unless a sale event is being carried out at the auction premise,
c) Town staff may give other users of road allowances priority over these signs and remove them temporarily,
d) The Chief Building Official is authorized to renew these permits upon payment of the sandwich board sign permit fee in 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021,
e) except as authorized by this resolution, the rules for sandwich board signs shall apply.

9.2.2 – Council Approved Sign Application – Barker. Resolution. That pursuant to section 3.(4) of the Sign By-law, the Chief Building Official is authorized to issue a single permit for five flag/ground signs and one sandwich board sign, as shown in the application, to serve the business known as Kate’s Kart located on the premises known an 30 Pine Drive, subject to the following conditions:
a) Display not permitted after the Thanksgiving weekend of any year and March 31 of the year following,
b) The permit is to expire after Thanksgiving weekend of 2021,
c) except as authorized by this resolution, the general rules in the sign by-law continue to apply, and,
d) the signs shall be essentially as represented in the application.

9.2.3 – Consent Application – B 7/2017 (PS) (Fuller/Bush). Resolution. That Consent Application No. B 7/2017 (PS) (Fuller/Bush) 30 Hanna Road, be supported.
This seems to be a ‘tidy up’ application for a triplex in the Isabella and Beatty Streets area that currently is improperly accessed through an empty lot.

9.5.1 – Motorized Mobile Ice Cream Truck. Resolution. That Council for the Corporation of the Town of Parry Sound hereby grants permission for Mr. J Athanasiou to operate one motorized mobile ice cream truck for the time period of May 1, 2017 to September 30, 2017 on municipally owned roads and lands of the Town of Parry Sound subject to the following conditions:
1. No parking/stopping or selling of products on any Class 3 road (Bowes, Seguin, Church, Joseph).
2. No parking/stopping or selling of products along any Class 4, Class 5 or Class 6 roadway without a shoulder or marked parking spaces.
3. No parking/stopping or selling of products in any municipally owned parking lot.
4. The operator will take necessary steps to ensure that public sidewalks are not obstructed.
5. No parking/stopping or selling within the prescribed distance (23 metres) of any eating establishment or seller of foodstuffs.
6. $3,000,000 public liability coverage for a refreshment vehicle is required as this is a motorized mobile vehicle.
7. The hours of operation will be from 11:00 am to 8:00 pm from Monday to Sunday.
8. Selling from any one location will be limited to 20 minutes.
9. Must receive owners written consent to park and sell on private property and a copy of the letter submitted to the Town’ s Licensing Officer.
10.That every employee who operates or works out of the motorized mobile ice cream truck must submit to a criminal record check.
That all other requirements under By-law 2006-49 Schedule I be met.
Ding-Ding, it’s the ice cream truck.

9.5.2 – Elimination of Vacant Unit Tax Rebate Program. Resolution. Whereas, Section 364 of the Municipal Act, 2001 requires a municipality to have a Vacant Unit Tax Rebate for commercial and industrial tax classes; And Whereas, this program provides a tax rebate to commercial and industrial properties only; And Whereas, these properties are privately owned by individuals or corporations and for an investment for these parties; And Whereas, the Province of Ontario has provided flexibility for the municipality to tailor the program to reflect community needs and circumstances, while considering the interests of local businesses; And Whereas, the Town of Parry Sound engaged the public to seek feedback on the potential elimination of the rebate program; And Whereas, the majority of feedback received supports the elimination of the program; And Whereas, Council for the Town of Parry Sound feels that the economic interests of the Town are best served through the elimination of the program; Now hereby be it resolved that the Town of Parry Sound asks the Minister of Finance for the Province of Ontario to pass the required regulations to eliminate the Vacant Unit Tax Rebate Program for the Town of Parry Sound.
This resolution follows up a public meeting that was held to gauge the interest of Parry Sound residents and businesses to continue providing a tax break for empty buildings who were claiming a vacant unit tax rebate. It appears that after consultation the Town has decided there is no significant interest in maintaining the rebate. This will result is somewhat greater revenue for the Town and act as a deterrent to property owners to sit on properties and not solicit lessees or a sale of the property for development. Property owners can still continue to do so, but they will not be able to benefit from lower property taxes because the property is vacant. Removing this rebate program will provide additional funds to the Town, the Downtown Business Association, and the local school boards.

By-laws

10.1.1 – Request for Deeming By-law – 22 Victoria Avenue and Lot 12 of Plan 123. By-law 2017 – 6729. Being a By-law to deem certain lots in the Town of Parry Sound not to be part of a registered Plan of Subdivision (MacDonald – 22 Victoria Avenue).
This is a simple consolidation of two lots, owned by a single party.

10.1.2 – Property Purchase – Oastler Park Drive. By-law 2017 – 6730. Being a By-law authorize the execution of an Offer to Purchase agreement with Ministry of Transportation Ontario.
This is a $245,000 purchase of property, about 3.5 acres based on the stated price of $75,000 per acre. I believe it is property across Oastler Park Drive from the Canadian Tire that extends from the Town Line to the unnamed pond/lake and along Oastler Park Drive for about 50 metres north to Bowes Street. I hope that the details will be provided at the meeting. Perhaps the Town will explain why they chose to purchase this unserviced plot of land for what seems to be a very high price. It is assessed by MPAC at $89,900. Perhaps there was a competitive bid for the property.

10.4.1 – Delegation of Authority for Permission to Busk Downtown. By-law 2017 – 6731. Being a by-law to delegate Council authority to approve busking in the Parry Sound downtown area to the Director of Public Works.

10.6.1 – Memorandum of Understanding – Town and Downtown Business Association (DBA). By-law 2017 – 6732. Being a By-law to authorize the execution of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Town and the Parry Sound Downtown Business Association.

Does The Internet Know Something We Don’t? Can They See the Future?

This is not a Photoshop trick on my part. I clipped it from the bottom of a webpage that I was reading. Yes, the internet not only seems to be able see into the future, but it also knows where you are located. No I didn’t click the link. Time for a VPN!

 

 

 

 

Parry Sound Town Dock – Summer Closure Schedule

Tags

, , , ,

The Town announced yesterday the days that the Parry Sound Town Dock will be closed to residents and visitors. This is to accommodate the cruise ships.

I am at a loss to understand why people are not permitted to use the Town Dock while these cruise ships are tied up in Parry Sound. I can understand that there might be an hour of so when access is restricted while the vessel ties up and people disembark. Yes, there may be an issue of customs and immigration to deal with on arrival, but once this is settled there shouldn’t be an issue with opening access to the public. The vessel itself has security measures in place, and it’s not as though anyone can just jump aboard from the Town Dock.

I guess we should just shut up and be honoured that these cruise lines have chosen to grace Parry Sound with their presence. I have no issue with their arrivals and vists, and even a brief period where the dock is off limits when there are procedures to be followed, but all day, for eleven days? Perhaps they will be rainy days and there will be no net loss to the hoi poloi.

Or the Town could look into finding a procedure by which access to the Town Dock would be permitted when these vessels are tied up. If no one asks or complains, it’s easier to keep doing what they have been doing than it is to figure out a workable option of sharing the Town Dock. And of course there is always the stock answer of, “oh, but that’s out of our control – sorry”. Nah, not really sorry.

From the Town’s website.

2017 Cruise Ship Visits

This summer the Pearl Mist and the Victory 1 will return to Parry Sound and be in port at the Town Dock on the following dates:

Pearl Mist:
Monday June 5 – 8:30am – 5:00pm
Wednesday June 14 – 8:30am – 7:00pm
Sunday June 25 – 8:30am – 6:30pm
Thursday July 6 – 8:00am – 7:00pm
Monday July 17 – 8:30am – 5:00pm
Wednesday July 26 – 8:30am – 7:00pm
Sunday August 6 – 8:30am – 6:30pm
Thursday August 17 – 8:00am – 7:00pm
Saturday August 19 – 9:00pm to Sunday August 20 – 6:30pm
Thursday August 31 – 8:00am – 7:00pm

Victory 1:
Sunday June 4 – 5:00am – 6:30pm
Friday August 25 – 7:00am – 11:00pm

Don’t Let the Wake Slap You on Your Stern on the Way Out

Walking the Talk – An Appeal to Common Sense

Tags

, , , , , , ,

MetrolandMedia, in their North Star publication and at their parrysound.com website, published an article on an appeal I have filed with the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) regarding two by-laws passed by Town of Parry Sound Council on December 20th of last year. The article provides background on the appeal that I won’t bother to repeat. Here’s a link to the online article in case you don’t subscribe to the paper version (I do).

It’s an interesting situation that if left as is has the potential to negatively impact the Downtown and Parry Sound as a whole, and by extension all of the Town’s residents and businesses. Parry Sound Council by a 4 to 3 vote approved rezoning and Official Plan amendments, against the recommendation of Staff, and against the stated opposition of businesses and individuals who constituted the majority of opinions filed with the Town. In the end a bare majority of Council chose to support the interests of two parties and ignore the interests of the Town as expressed by the Official Plan, the studied opinion of Town Staff, and the interests of dozens of Downtown businesses. It left me scratching my head. Who exactly is Council interested in serving? Do they know something that they haven’t shared? Are there bigger things afoot?

After determining that no other parties were in a position to file the appeal I chose to do so. I appreciate the support that the appeal has received.

As a Town we really don’t spend much time keeping an eye on what goes on at Council. Strange things happen, more often that you think. Almost always by a 4 to 3 vote.

The OMB appeal process is designed to address this type of situation. A set of independent experts, the OMB panel, is tasked with reviewing the facts and making a decision on whether or not the decision by a council is consistent with best planning practices, the existing Official Plan, and the interests of the community. They represent a second set of eyes. Parry Sound is rather remarkable in the very limited number of appeals that are filed with the OMB. This could be a positive statement on the measured decisions made by Parry Sound Council. Or, it could be a general sense of community apathy, and hesitance to ‘rock the boat’. Or, it could be that people in Town don’t understand their options when it comes to Parry Sound Council. We need to remember that they are elected to serve the Town’s best interests. Sometimes they misread the public interest and make mistakes.

And sometimes as an individual, you have to do what you have to do. Walk the talk.

That’s all you will hear from me about this appeal until there is a final decision. I wasn’t planning on discussing it at all, but yesterday’s article deserved some sort of acknowledgment.

Yesterday’s GapingVoid ‘Toon of the Day. Timely.

 

2016 Sunshine List Mashup

Tags

, , , , , , ,

Or, fun with figures.

I wasn’t going to post about the recently released 2016 Sunshine list, but I was ‘egged’ into it. I really don’t have a problem with what people are paid as long as they are doing their job and they are earning what they are paid. Given my regular interaction with the senior staff in Parry Sound I won’t complain. They seem to be ‘earning their pay’.

More interesting I thought was to look at how the 2016 Sunshine List looks across the West Parry Sound District, and what it reflects. Mashing together the 2016 Sunshine List and the recent 2016 Census figures provided for some interesting insights. Here are the figures, with some explanation. (Apologies to Whitestone for being excluded.)

(Click on any of the tables for a larger view.)

The table above summarizes the combined salaries and benefit figures reported for the area municipalities. Each of the municipalities uses slightly different titles for the various senior management positions so I have associated them to the best of my abilities. In the case of the Archipelago and Parry Sound there are a couple of positions that don’t fit the standard categories, these are Corporate Services and Emergency and Protective Services respectively.

This next table relates the cost for each position as a function of fulltime residences. It reveals a number of significant discrepancies in terms of the cost of all Sunshine List senior staff for municipalities, from a low of $47 per person, to a high of $1,167. But this is really not a fair comparison as some of the municipalities have far more seasonal than fulltime residents. Unfortunately, the census data doesn’t provide information on seasonal resident numbers. So let’s look at the same Salaries & Benefits figures as a function of the total Private Dwellings in each municipality. This includes both fulltime and seasonal properties.

This figure is closer to a reasonable estimate of Sunshine List ‘efficiency’, but it does not include the impact of businesses. If the number of business properties were to be included I suspect that Parry Sound would show a much more favourable ‘efficiency factor’.

So there are the 2016 Sunshine List figures with a little bit of analysis. A set of figures from the 2016 Census report that a I found interesting relates to municipality fulltime population and the number of private  dwellings (below). The numbers range from a high of 5.1 dwellings per person (Archipelago), to a low of 0.5 dwellings per person in Parry Sound. The difference obviously is the large number of seasonal residences in the Archipelago, Carling and McKellar. Those simple figures tell you everything you need to know about why amalgamation will not be something the municipalities spontaneously decide to do. It’s possible to imagine a Parry Sound and McDougall amalgamation, and perhaps an Archipelago and Carling amalgamation if they wanted to get better efficiency. The ‘business models’ are reasonably aligned. But don’t even think about it, much less talk about it. It’s a bit like integration in the U.S. South in the 60s. It took Federal legislation to make that happen. In the case of West Parry Sound it will take Provincial legislation. With Bay Street just a short walk away from the Provincial Legislature it’s – not – going – to – happen. Ever!

Notes:

  1. The 2016 Sunshine list is a bit of a bear to work with. I didn’t come across a simple PDF version as in earlier years. It’s available as a variety of data dumps. The easiest in my opinion was the CSV format file that can be searched with Excel.
  2. The municipalities that have only a single person hitting the Sunshine List may well have personnel just under the $100,000 cutoff, who would not be included in this report.
  3. It’s interesting to see how many police officers are on the Sunshine List. In the end, I think our neighbouring municipalities took the prudent course of action by biting the bullet and continuing on with OPP service.

 

Repatriating OPA Responsibilities

Tags

, , ,

One of the 2017 Town of Parry Sound Staff objectives is to ‘repatriate’ the responsibility for approving Official Plan amendments (OPA). I realize that I am using the term ‘repatriate’ incorrectly, but it makes a complex process a little easier to understand. This post summarizes the issue. It’s an interesting subject that provides some insight into how policy is created and approved.

Background

The Town of Parry Sound wants to gain the right to unilaterally approve amendments to its Official Plan. The Official Plan is a document that summarizes the Town’s plans and intentions with respect to development. Here’s a link to Parry Sound’s Official Plan. Presented below is the statement of Purpose from the Town’s Official Plan.

“The purpose of this Official Plan is to provide a planning framework to manage land use changes and to guide the physical development of the Town, while having regard to relevant social, economic, environmental and public health matters.

The Plan will:

 a) adopt growth management policies to guide development over the next twenty years;
b) direct the actions of Council, the Planning Board, agencies and the public on development applications;
c) recognize the financial capability of the Town to accommodate development and provide an appropriate level of municipal services;
d) ensure that development occurs in a manner that will minimize public health and safety issues, including the protection of human life and property from water related hazards such as flooding and erosion;
e) identify significant natural features and provide for their protection and conservation.”

It’s this document that, among other things, defines whether a new business can open in a certain part of Parry Sound, or if a bank can move from one location to another. Just because the Official Plan says it can, or can’t, doesn’t mean that it can, or can’t. In cases where the Official Plan allows, or at least doesn’t restrict, a new business to open, or another to move, then it probably will be approved to do so by the Town, if the application conforms with all other necessary requirements.

In cases where an application for a new business, or a move, or anything else doesn’t conform with the Official Plan, Council can, if they agree with the application, amend the Official Plan. This is referred to as an Official Plan Amendment (OPA). But that’s not the end of it. Because the OPA doesn’t conform with the Official Plan, the Town of Parry Sound must submit the proposed amendment to the Province of Ontario for approval. This typically takes a couple of months but can extend to 270 days. In most cases the Province approves an amendment, but when it doesn’t, the application underlying the amendment is denied, at least based on the application as it was initially framed.

Item 9.2.1 on the April 4, 2017 agenda is intended to confirm that the Town of Parry Sound wishes to apply to the Province for the right to approve its own OPAs, ‘repatriating’ that right from the Province. With that confirmation, Town Staff will make the necessary application with the Province to take control of OPAs. Provincial review will likely take several months, at most a couple of years. The Province can approve or reject this request. In the interim, Official Plan Amendments will continue to be reviewed by the Province. Item 9.2.1 also requests that the Town confirm that it no longer wishes to participate in the Parry Sound Area Planning Board (see below).

Allowing a municipality to approve their own Official Plan Amendments is not unusual. It is however, unusual in Northern Ontario, except for the larger municipalities such as North Bay and Sudbury. Seguin is one of the few smaller Northern Ontario municipalities who currently have the right to approve their own Official Plan Amendments.

Complications

I have only recently come to realize that there is a Parry Sound Area Planning Board (PSAPB) with responsibility for the Town of Parry Sound, McDougall, Carling, McKellar and Whitestone. It seems the PSAPB intends to request the right to approve Official Plan Amendments for their member municipalities. The board seems to feel that the Province would look more favourably on this request, rather than one where each municipality is delegated the right to approve OPAs for their own municipality. This means a Town of Parry Sound OPA would be reviewed, and approved or refused, by the PSAPB, rather than the Province. Given that this board is comprised of local elected politicians with limited resources and planning experience, asking this group to make informed decisions would probably not be in the best interests of Parry Sound. This also seems to be the opinion of Town of Parry Sound Staff.

Options

It seems there are three possible options for the future handling of Town of Parry Sound OPAs, all of which are under active consideration.

  1. Continue to have the Province review and, as appropriate, approve or reject OPAs.
  2. Delegate Official Plan Amendment review and approval to the Parry Sound Area Planning Board.
  3. Have Parry Sound OPAs reviewed and approved by Town of Parry Sound Council (‘repatriation’).

Reflections

My first reaction was to oppose this ‘repatriation’ of OPA rights by Parry Sound. My feeling was that the Province plays an important role with respect to ensuring that the intent of the Official Plan is being respected. It’s too easy for a council to forgo the intent of the Official Plan in hopes of generating additional economic development. Having an impartial, experienced set of eyes reviewing and approving the OPA seems important. Having the Province involved removes the burden from residents and businesses of having to look too closely at exactly what OPAs the town is approving, and the implications.

But, there is a but, things need to move forward in a timely fashion and not be hung up according to the schedule of the Province. A couple months here, a few months there, and suddenly momentum is lost, especially in this part of the world where construction is often seasonally restricted. A delay in filing an application with the Town, followed by the necessary community review, staff report and council deliberation, and then a couple of months or more for provincial review, followed by the onset of winter, can mean a project starts a year later than planned.

Even if the Town of Parry Sound gains the right to approve their own Official Plan Amendments, there is still the opportunity for public input before the issue is approved by Council, and if necessary after approval, through appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB). As I am discovering, this is a bit of nuclear option. While victory can be achieved, whatever that means, there is a high cost to all parties involved, winners and losers, in terms of expense, effort and time. It is not an option to be taken lightly. It also works best when all parties have access to the nuclear option, the right file an OMB appeal, or appeal an appeal. A business or resident, deciding to file an appeal, or a council deciding to approve a controversial OPA that might trigger an appeal, will need to carefully consider their options. It’s not quite assured mutual destruction, but it is costly in many ways. The key, in my opinion, is that all parties need to understand the appeal process and demonstrate that they are prepared to use it to ensure things are done in the best interests of the Town, its businesses, and its residents.

Conclusion

In the end, my preference is that the Town of Parry Sound gain the right to approve their own Official Plan Amendments. This would mean a by-law and the corresponding OPA could be approved at the same time. Decisions are made quickly, and appeals can be filed against both the by-law and OPA at the same time, if appropriate.

The second choice would be Parry Sound Area Planning Board approval of Town of Parry Sound Official Plan Amendments. That would add in a little delay to the process, perhaps a month or so, but much less than Provincial review. I wonder if the PSAPB would be responsible for defending their OPA decisions if appealed.

Of course, there is always the default situation where the Province continues to review Town of Parry Sound OPAs. That would not be ideal, but it is a known process.

What Will Happen?

Thinking about it a little bit more, my sense is that the Province will probably prefer to have an area planning board, in this case the Parry Sound Area Planning Board, assume responsibilities for approving Official Plan Amendments. It would mean the Province would only need to deal with a single body’s application for OPA approval privileges, the PSAPB in this case, rather than a number of separate applications, if Parry Sound goes ahead and withdraws from the PSAPB.

This explains the urgency of this week’s Item 9.2.1 and the decision before Council to leave the PSAPB. I think the Town realizes that if the Province is given the option to delegate OPA approvals to a single municipality or an area board, they will choose the latter.

So what will happen? The Town will surely withdraw from the Parry Sound Area Planning Board. That means the PSAPB won’t be able to include the Town in their application to ‘repatriate’ the responsibility to approve OPAs.

I expect that the Province will eventually approve the Town of Parry Sound’s application to ‘repatriate’ OPA rights, but it will take a year or so. It’s consistent with the Province’s strategy of downloading costs and responsibilities to the municipalities. That is unless the Province agrees to approve the Town’s request only if the Town joins with other area municipalities to have Official Plan Amendments reviewed by an area board.

This is ‘real world’ reality programming. And like TV it can take a season or more to come to any type of conclusion. Stay tuned.

It’s Not Magic, but It Can be Deceiving.

Council Agenda Preview – April 4, 2017

Tags

, , , ,

There are some interesting items on the agenda this week, at least from my perspective. The first issue concerns the ‘repatriation’ of Official Plan Amendment responsibilities to Parry Sound Town Council (9.2.1). I have been thinking about this for a couple of weeks and will offer my thoughts in a separate post this weekend. It deserves a little more discussion than a single paragraph. It’s nuanced. The other item of interest is the only by-law on the agenda, a lowering of speed limits from 50 kph to 40 kph on selected streets in Parry Sound (10.1.1). That’s likely to annoy some people, please others, and result in speeding tickets if it is enforced.

On a humorous note (ha, ha), I see that once again the powers that be have decided to dock Anne the ‘e’ off the end of her name in the agenda, and of course they usually insist on adding it to the end of my name, Joe not Jo. Actually my full name is Josef, but I prefer it shortened to Jo rather than Joe (yes, there’s a story, and some logic). But of course when living south of the border my name was sometimes shortened from Josef, to Jose. That always led to interesting calls with telemarketers.

Closed Session

  1. c) a proposed or pending acquisition or disposition of land for municipal or local board purposes. (Lease Agreement)

Deputations

5.1 – Ann Bossart, Parry Sound resident. Annual Update of progress at Tower Hill Heritage Garden

5.2 – Brad Weiler, Community Recreation Programs Coordinator. Community Recreation Programming – Update

Resolutions and Direction to Staff

9.1.1 – Tender – 3.5 Ton Mini Excavator. Resolution. That Council accept the tender from Bobcat of Parry Sound Limited for one new model 2017 Bobcat E35i 3.5 ton mini excavator in the amount of $58,755.74, including taxes and delivery, this tender being the lowest tender of nine tenders received.

9.2.1 – Official Plan Amendment – Delegation Request. Resolution. That Council confirm Resolution 2016-077, being the recommendation of the Business Stimulus Team to obtain Official Plan Amendment approval delegation and the withdrawal from the Parry Sound Area Planning Board.

9.2.2 – Minor amendment to the Purchase and Sale Agreement for the disposal of Town Lands. Resolution. That Council waive the Option to Repurchase, as noted in Schedule “B” to By-law 2014-6476, for a property known as Part of Water Lot D or Parcel D, Registered Plan 11, Geographic Township of McDougall, now in the Town of Parry Sound, being Part 1, Plan 42R-20257, part of PIN 52109-0182(LT).
It’s always tricky when it comes to agreements involving members of Council, even if they are not present for the discussion and decision. 

9.5.1 – Use of Reserves to replace Mail Machine. Resolution. That Council approve the use of $11,200 from the Equipment Replacement Reserve for the purchase of replacement postage machine.

9.5.2 – Use of Equipment Reserve for Parks Trailer. Resolution. That Council approves the use of $10,200 from the Equipment Replacement Reserve (20 year rolling stock plan) to be used to purchase a new Parks Department trailer, one previously scheduled to be replaced in 2022.

By-laws

10.1.1 – Traffic By-law Amendment – Speed Limit Reduction. By-law 2017 – 6727. Being a by-law to amend Schedule “L”, Rate of Speed, of By-law 2007-5095, a by-law to regulate and control traffic within the municipality, to reduce the maximum permissible rate of speed to 40 kph from 50 kph on various streets located in the Town of Parry Sound.

That’s pretty much it, see the full agenda on the Town’s website for the full agenda and attachments. See you Tuesday night.

Jewel of the 30,000 Islands? Close Enough!

Parry Sound 2016 Annual Report

Tags

, , , , ,

The Parry Sound 2016 Annual Report came out yesterday, or at least it was in my mail yesterday. It’s an interesting read and does a good job of summarizing what was accomplished and where the money was spent.

It’s nice to think that as a town we really don’t need any improvements or investments, and that taxes should be frozen, or even reduced. Like any living organism, or organization, growth and renewal require ongoing investment. While you may be perfectly happy with that new kitchen you installed in the 70s, residents and businesses do expect services and facilities to be maintained and refurbished as necessary.

The reality is that as a community we provide, and pay for, services and infrastructure that are a necessity for our low tax neighbours. Our neighbours seem to have problems rationalizing an investment in the high speed internet they insist is critical for their future. But when your neighbour provides most essential services why not look to the Province and Canada to provide for things that Parry Sound doesn’t?

I realize that people are frustrated by the municipal tax load carried by Town of Parry Sound residents and businesses. After attending some five years of council meetings and budget discussions I am unable to accuse Council and Staff of making unwise investments. There are any number of expenditures that I disagree with, but these are nickel and dime items in terms of the whole budget. Even if you consider all of the nickel and dime issues they don’t add up to a loonie. My sense is that if you want Parry Sound services and low taxes, move to McDougall or Seguin. Consider Carling and McKellar if you don’t mind the longer drive to Parry Sound. You will be coming here for one thing or another, pretty much every day.

Council Agenda Preview – March 21, 2017

Tags

, , , ,

There appears to be very little of material importance on this week’s agenda. There is a letter requesting future zoning by-law amendments to permit chickens (4.5). There are a couple of capital related items on the agenda, one that was in the approved 2017 Budget (9.5.3) and one that wasn’t (9.5.2 – materials for repairs to the Town docks off of McIssac way for transient boater use).

Thinking about attending this week’s meeting of Council? It’s a good idea. I’m pasting below today’s comments from Seth Godin that seem relevant. (Note: I recommend Seth’s Blog, it’s short and arrives daily, as a wonderful source of insight and reflection.)

Showing up
Some people show up when they need something.

Some people show up before they need something, knowing that it will pay off later, when they need something.

And some people merely show up. Not needing anything, not in anticipation of needing something, but merely because they can.

Closed Session

c) a proposed or pending acquisition or disposition of land for municipal or local board purposes. (Development Potential)

Correspondence

4.1 – Honourable Dipika Damerla. Minister of Seniors Affairs. Re: 2017 Senior of the Year Award

4.2 – Zack Crafts and Nicole Collins, Treetops Community Forest Re: Thank you card for the Town’s assistance and financial support for the Treetops Community Forest project.

4.5 – Wave Weir, McKellar Township. Re: Requesting future amendment to the Zoning By-law include allowing Parry Sound residents to have backyard hens.

4.6 – Petition – Signed by 22 residents of Macklaim Drive and provided by Bill Heitman Re: Requesting “that Parry Sound take the necessary steps to have the speed limit of Macklaim Drive and Dennis Drive reduced to 40 km/hr for the safety of the walkers both young and young at heart”.

Consent Agenda

8.3 – Support for Parry Sound Area Municipal Airport Application for RED Funding. Resolution. Whereas on the 21st day of August, 2000 the Corporation of the Town of Parry Sound and the Township of Seguin entered into an Agreement for the operation, control and management of the Parry Sound Area Municipal Airport; and Whereas, as per Paragraph 13. of the said Agreement, The Corporation of the Town of Parry Sound and The Corporation of the Township of Seguin hold title to the Airport lands; and Whereas, the Parry Sound Area Municipal Airport Commission has prepared an application to the Rural Economic Development (RED) Program for funding for the Airport Economic/Strategic Plan and related studies; and Whereas the Parry Sound Area Municipal Airport Commission passed Resolution 2017- 28, attached as Schedule “A”, requesting the Township of Seguin to act as the lead applicant for the RED program funding; and Whereas the Township of Seguin passed Resolution 2017 – 097, attached as Schedule “B”, approving the Township of Seguin to act as the Contract Agent on behalf of the Commission and its member municipalities to the conclusion of the referenced Project; And Further that in the event there are cost overruns for this project, the Township of Seguin will provide financial assistance to the Parry Sound Area Municipal Airport Commission as required; Now, Therefore Be It Resolved that Council for the Corporation of the Town of Parry Sound is in full support of the application for RED funding and the management of it’s application by the Township of Seguin.

Resolutions and Direction to Staff

9.1 – Sign Variance – 48 Bowes. Resolution. That the Chief Building Official is authorized and directed to issue a permit for the sign at 48 Bowes Street according to Schedule “A” attached.

9.3.1 – Blue Sky Net – Support for Innovate to Connect Project. Resolution. Whereas access to affordable and reliable broadband networks is an important part of everyday life and; Whereas communities outside urban centres face challenges in accessing internet service levels comparable to those in cities due to factors such as remote location and challenging terrain and; Whereas access to Broadband is key to economic, education, social and health development and; Whereas much of the West Parry Sound Area currently has little or less than 5mbps broadband coverage; Therefore, Be It Resolved That Council for the Town of Parry Sound supports Blue Sky Net’s application for funding under the (Innovation, Science and Economic Development) program, Connect to Innovate (CTI).

9.3.2 – WPS Smart – Support for Innovate to Connect Project. Resolution. That Council of the Town of Parry Sound does hereby support the West Parry Sound SMART Community Network Inc., in their application for Government of Canada’s Connect to Innovate Program.

9.3.3 – Lakeland Networks – Support for Innovate to Connect Project. Resolution. That Council of the Town of Parry Sound does hereby support Lakeland Networks in their application for Government of Canada’s Connect to Innovate Program and authorizes the Mayor to sign the letter, attached as Schedule “A”, in support of this application.

9.4.1 – 2016 Statement of Remuneration Paid to Council and Appointed Board Members. Resolution. That the 2016 Statement of Remuneration Paid to Council and Appointed Board Members, attached as Schedule “A”, be accepted.

9.5.1 – Noise Exemption – Cascade Street Generation Project. Resolution. That Council grant Bracebridge Generation an exemption to By-law 2009-5301, a bylaw to prohibit and regulate noise within the municipality to allow their contractor to work on the Cascade Street generation project on Sunday, March 26 and Sunday, April 2 between the hours of 09:00 and 19:00 and further; That Council grant the Director of Public Works the authority to permit the contractor to work during prohibited days and times as may be requested by Bracebridge Generation in the future and as may be deemed necessary in order to avoid significant delays to the project completion.

9.5.2 – Shopper’s Dock Replacement. Resolution. That Council approve the transfer of $10,000 from the Infrastructure Replacement Reserve to the Operating budget to fund the construction of new shopper’s docks.

9.5.3 – Quotation – Madvac LN50. Resolution. That Council approve single sourcing and accept the quotation from Joe Johnson Equipment for one new model Madvac complete with a 48″ hydraulic raise and lower vacuum head in the amount of $57,800, taxes extra.

By-laws

10.1.1 – Approval of Funding Agreement – New Horizons for Seniors Program Ontario Spokesperson: April McNamara, Manager of Parks and Recreation By-law 2017 – 672. Being a By-law to authorize the execution of a Letter of Agreement between Her Majesty the Queen in right of the Province of Ontario, represented by the Minister of Transportation for the Province of Ontario (the “Ministry”) and the Town of Parry Sound (the “Municipality”) Related to Funding Provided by the Province of Ontario (the “Province”) to the Municipality under the Dedicated Gas Tax Funds for Public Transportation Program

10.1.2 – Cash-in-lieu of Parking Agreement – Z/17/02 – 25 Mary Street – Aleesha Mullen. By-law 2017 – 6722. Being a By-law to authorize the execution of a cash-in-lieu of parking agreement between 25 Mary Street (Aleesha Mullen) and The Corporation of the Town of Parry Sound

10.1.3 – Revised Site Plan Control By-law. By-law 2017 – 6723. Being a By-law to designate a Site Plan Control Area for The Corporation of the Town of Parry Sound and repeal By-law 2015-6545.

I won’t be showing up this week. I’m making a presentation in the Big Apple for a client.

 

Parry Sound EDO – Just in Time

Tags

, , , , , ,

I received a call today from a town resident who wanted to discuss the new Economic Development Officer (EDO) and my thoughts on whether the Town needed this position. Picking up my copy of the North Star a bit later and reading the editorial I understood where the question came from. The editorial suggested that the EDO position really wasn’t something the Town should invest in. I wish they would have thought about it a bit more. My sense is that the position is absolutely necessary.

The EDO position has much the same responsibilities that I held in Business Development working with multi-billion dollar corporations making investments globally. We were expected to identify opportunities, assess their contribution to the bottom line and, as approved by management, get the deals done.

The thing you quickly realize doing this type of job is that your responsibility is not only to identify and get the best deals done, your job is also to identify the opportunities that don’t make sense, and make the business case to walk away from them. Management often has their pet projects that they want to see done, sometimes because they ‘have a feeling’, and sometimes because they figure it will enhance their career prospects if successful. And if it’s not, well they can just move on before the you know what hits the fan. The job of the EDO or Business Development Officer is to understand the risks and make sure management doesn’t enter into a deal with an inflated sense of opportunity.

Looking back over my career I’m as proud of the deals that I turned down as those that I completed. In many cases, it took courage to stand up to senior management and make the argument that the idea wasn’t in the best interests of the company. It’s not easy, but it’s very necessary.

Right now, the Town is looking at multiple business investment opportunities being suggested by Council (aka Senior Management). Someone with real world experience needs to look at these opportunities, develop the business case, calculate the net present values (NPV) of the opportunities, and provide an opinion. The Town of Parry Sound doesn’t have that experience on staff. Hiring a consultant to do this type of job would be much, much more expensive, and they wouldn’t have any ’skin in the game’. If a consultant makes a mistake they just walk on to the next job and blame failure on poor ‘execution’ by the client. The individual being hired for the EDO position in Parry Sound seems as though they will have some ownership.

Doing a little bit of Sunshine List research reveals that Mr. Harris, the new EDO, earned a little more than $260,000 plus $16,000 in benefits in 2013. Someone thought he was pretty good.

I will take the North Star to task for a little bit of sloppy research. They stated that the current Town of Parry Sound debt is $1.5 million, and that figure will rise to $4.2 million in 2021. Oh, I wish! That’s just the carrying cost for the Town’s debt, basically the annual ‘mortgage payment’. According to 2017 budget documents the Town expects to carry about $24 million in debt by the end of 2017, which will drop to $20 million by 2021 if no additional capital investments are made. If one adds in the projects being discussed, the Town’s debt may rise to over $40 million in five years.

We currently have one member of Council who seems to be ready to go ‘all in’ with Town capital projects in hopes of stimulating more business and tax revenue. My worry is this individual doesn’t really have the experience to judge these opportunities and seems to not have a long term interest in Parry Sound, and probably won’t be here five years from now. It will be left to others to clean up any mess that may be left behind. But that’s being pessimistic, these suggestions may very well prove to be the type of investments that the Town needs to make and will pay off ‘hugely’.

That is exactly why we need an Economic Development Officer on staff. We need the expertise on staff to assess the many proposals that will come from Council and businesses, and make their best recommendation. Hopefully Mr. Harris will focus on the interests of the Town’s residents and businesses, not the egos of elected officials. Sometimes the best deal you ever made is the deal you didn’t make.

I’d rather be paying a little bit more and having the full attention of an EDO rather than trying to get a share of a regional EDO with too many constituencies to please.

Welcome aboard Mr. Harris. We very much need your contribution.