Traffic lights on Highway 26

Traffic signalsAfter looking at the increased volume of traffic on Highway 26 in the recent weeks, I have become convinced we need a set of signal lights between the Pretty River Parkway and the Blue Shores/Pilkington lights. I suggest Elliot Street might be the best location, although that would have to be confirmed by local residents.

I don’t know how anyone can turn left from any of the streets along the water side when the highway is that busy. It’s hard enough trying to turn right into the traffic flow – there are so many cars travelling so quickly there’s hardly room for another one!

Yes, I know: there are so many cars everywhere in town, especially on weekends. But the highway traffic is  denser and faster than the side streets. And in winter it will be especially tricky, what with snow, ice and snowbanks that obscure lines of sight.

I realize that the Ministry of Transport has many rules and regulations about erecting signals on its highways, and that the town can’t simply put them up on its own. I realize that the town would need to conduct the appropriate traffic warrant study before it can lobby the MOT. But I think it should be done  quickly – so that, if successful, a set of signals could be installed before next summer’s visitor trade starts to build.

I would also like to consider putting the lights at Blue Shores on a timer permanently, so that they stop traffic and calm the flow periodically. This would help until the new signals at Elliot Street are installed.

Heritage icon or white elephant?

Collingwood grain elevators
Everyone recognizes the Collingwood terminals, one of the iconic (albeit unused) grain elevators on the Great Lakes, but it is actually the fourth on our waterfront. The first three were wooden; the first one was built in 1855 and burned in 1862, the second was built in 1871 and also burned down (date unknown); the replacement third was demolished in 1937. (I’ve got pictures of the first and third, but not the second – although I have seen an early photo showing two elevators on the waterfront together).

Built in 1929, the existing elevators heralded a new era for Collingwood as the terminus of a great transportation network that brought grain from Canada’s western provinces to be distributed here to the eastern half of Canada and, once reaching the east coast ports, overseas. But it never lived up to its promise.

It stands 100 feet tall (183 feet at the top of the superstructure), is 350 feet long, and has 95 bins (55 large, 25 smaller ‘star’ bins and 18 half-stars) inside to hold the grain. It was built on 125,000 wooden piles – using 700,000 feet of timber and 26,500 barrels of cement, plus another 695,000 feet of timber for the concrete forms used to build the structure above. The railway line ran to the terminals and could hold 70 cars at a time.

Shortly after it opened, in Sept. 1929, the Great Depression brought most commercial business to a standstill. Then, while the world was recovering, the Welland Canal opened (1932) and ships could sail directly from Port Arthur (now part of Thunder Bay) through to Lake Ontario. They didn’t need to stop and unload in Collingwood. The terminals still got used, but never in the volume expected.

Built to handle 10 million bushels of wheat a year, by the start of WWII, it was only handling about 2 million. The outbreak of war proved a brief boon for the terminals, though: grain shipments climbed to about 8 million bushels by 1945 and in 1948 52 ships docked there – one of its best years. But another change was coming: the St. Lawrence Seaway. When it opened in 1959, ships could sail directly from Port Arthur to the east coast. Business at the terminals plummeted.

The owners made several efforts to drum up business. They sponsored Western farmers to grow corn in the 1950s, but when the Ontario corn market grew in the 1970s, they went after the milling business, which remained its major work until the terminals closed.

The Beattie family, from Stayner, bought the building in 1973, then the Hamilton brothers bought it from them in 1987. The Yacht Club leased the land south of the terminals in 1974. Similar terminals in Midland and Port McNicoll closed in 1990, while Collingwood’s struggled on until 1993. The town purchased the site in the late 1990s.

Continue reading “Heritage icon or white elephant?”

Collingwood’s pot problem

Two months from now, Canada’s federal government will make marijuana legal. Laws will allow it to be sold in private stores, smoked, eaten and even grown in your home. There will be retail stores and online sales. And the next council will have to deal with it.

But before then, our council should have discussed it and given the public some inkling as to what is planned here. Should have held public debate about where it could be sold – offered some suggestions for changes to our planning bylaws and Official Plan. Should have brought in someone from the police to publicly explain what policies about public safety will be in place for enforcement and control. Yet not even a staff report has been made public.

With only a few months to go before legalization, Collingwood has done nothing to prepare itself for what promises to be a significant change and challenge. That’s irresponsible.

The Ontario government will make more details known about its plans this week at the AMO conference in Ottawa – but as Bloomberg noted in a recent story, better-prepared municipalities have already made plans to deal with legalization:

Richmond Hill Mayor David Barrow told BNN Bloomberg in an interview Wednesday his municipality will choose to opt-out of permitting cannabis retail sales.

Did you even know Collingwood could opt out? If not, it’s because our council has been silent on the whole issue of marijuana sales. Is it better for Collingwood to allow sales or opt out? What rules should there be for the location of stores if we stay in? We haven’t heard anything and certainly haven’t had any public meetings where residents could be consulted about how they think it should be done here.

Well, okay, you weren’t consulted over the privatization of our electricity utility, the attempted privatization of our water utility, the privatization of our airport, or the decision by Brian Saunderson and his cabal to block the hospital’s much-needed redevelopment, so there’s little reason to think they would hold a public meeting now. I would expect if they do anything at all, it will be another autocratic dictate decided behind closed doors without any public engagement as they always do with major issues.

Continue reading “Collingwood’s pot problem”

The hypocrisy, it burns, it burns…

HypocrisyThe Block on Collingwood Council can’t seem to go a week without diving into their deep, private lake of hypocrisy. Remember how they whined and snarled about the partnership last council formed with PowerStream to own and operate our electrical utility? How the Jeremiahs at the table lamented that a partnership deal was bad for the town.

Now they want one for our airport. Ah, the hypocrisy.

Yep. A story in the Connection last week noted, “…the two best options for the municipality would be a full sale of the property or a sale that includes a private and public partnership.”

Partnerships were evil when the last council created them. Now The Block thinks they’re good. Hypocrisy is in their bones. They can’t help themselves. I suppose their remaining handful of supporters will say at least they’re consistent.

This is the same cabal that has been secretly scheming to sell the airport behind closed doors, without any public consultation, or engagement. Without even informing our municipal neighbours who are partners on the airport board (a Municipal Service Board created under special provisions in the Municipal Act). They never even discussed it with the people who work there or who have their planes at the airport.

But of course, the Block have never consulted, engaged or informed ANYONE outside their tiny circle about ANYTHING. That would be open and honest and run counter to their secretive, closed-door ideology.

And you, the taxpayer here, have never once been told why The Block are so intent on selling the airport. Or been asked if you agree with selling a publicly-owned asset. It’s all been decided behind closed doors. Secrecy and deception: the watchwords for Collingwood Council this term (14 closed-door meetings about the airport as of last November and one on Mar. 26 this year: 15 meetings behind closed doors and not a single public statement made to the public about WHY).
Continue reading “The hypocrisy, it burns, it burns…”

Madigan’s motion jeopardizes town

Conflict of interestOn January 15, Councillor Bob Madigan made a motion (seconded, of course, by his puppetmaster, Deputy Mayor Saunderson) to limit the progress of the Indigo/Eden-Oak/McNabb development at the south end of town.

Madigan’s motion demanded that,

…council provide no further approvals to the Eden Oak/McNabb development until such time as council as a whole has the opportunity to review the concerns expressed by the neighbouring residents and agree upon any mitigation options.

(Yes, I wondered who wrote it for him, too… whoever did it wasn’t very bright because he or she failed to identify what those mitigation measures should entail, who would oversee them, or if there was any deadline or timeframe for approvals – or what would happen if one councillor went on vacation and couldn’t “review the concerns” for several weeks. Very sloppy and nebulous; an amateur’s wording.)

This motion sets a very nasty precedent for the town: in future, any NIMBY group of neighbours who don’t want a development to go ahead, can stall it indefinitely as long as they can get someone on council to side with them. Or to say they don’t agree with any “mitigation options.” Or isn’t available to review anything.

In this case, there were seven on one side, as you might expect from the groupmind Block. But just one person in opposition or away would mean council “as a whole” isn’t in agreement – that’s what the motion reads – and can hold up a development.

Second, it puts the town in a significant financial and legal liability. If you were the developer and found your work was being held up for weeks or even months while councillors hem and haw over an approval (one they clearly don’t comprehend), all the while you are paying for workers and equipment to sit idle  – think you might want to sue the town for the costs?  Or if you’re one of the buyers and had planned your move-in date, but now found it delayed for an indefinite period, and had to find new accommodations and storage for your belongings while you wait – get enough buyers together and you have a class action suit against the town.

And that means taxpayers will have to shoulder the costs of any OMB or legal challenge by the developer, or its prospective homeowners (councillors have taxpayer-paid insurance against these lawsuits). Yes, I know: The Block don’t care about how they spend your money or what it costs to get their private agendas embedded in town policy. They’ve been spending like drunken sailors on leave in a whorehouse throughout this term, so why stop to think about it, now?
Continue reading “Madigan’s motion jeopardizes town”

Who ya gonna call?

This song keeps running through my head:

If there’s something strange in you neighborhood
Who you gonna call? (your councillor)
If there’s something weird
And it don’t look good
Who you gonna call? (your councillor)
With apologies to Ray Parker, composer of the Ghostbusters theme song.

More than three years after I left council, I still get calls from residents, still get stopped in grocery stores or when I’m walking my dog, dragged into conversations with residents unhappy with local politics and how they’ve been treated by this council. Specifically by members of The Block Seven.

I get asked about snowplowing, about why we don’t have more stop signs, about off-leash dog parks, about tree planting, about our utility bills, taxes, sidewalks, the BIA and pretty much everything else. I think I’ve been approached by more residents and town staff to discuss local issues these past three years than I was ever approached when I was actually on council.

I listen politely, remind them I am not on council and cannot do much as a private citizen, then I always ask, “Have you contacted someone on council about it?” And every time I get one or more of the following responses:

  • I tried, but they wouldn’t listen.
  • They won’t answer their phone (or email).
  • They brushed me off.
  • They wouldn’t give me a straight answer.
  • I don’t trust them.
  • They never returned my calls (or emails).
  • I tried but they couldn’t understand my problem.
  • They told me to speak to someone else on council.
  • They told me to call someone on staff.
  • After what they did to our hospital, I don’t want to speak to any of them again.
  • I did but they’re as thick as a brick.
  • They talked down to me.
  • I did and they promised to look into it but never got back to me.
  • I did and they promised to look into it but nothing ever got done.
  • And so on.

Well, it’s not true of everyone at the table, of course. Only The Block. Seems many residents find The Block uncommunicative, impolite and inept. Not a surprise, given their love of secrecy and deception, and dislike of learning and reading. Of course, no one ever claimed we elected the best, just that we elected a clique of self-serving people with private agendas and vendettas. But I’ve said that before. But that’s not where I was going. This post is about how to elect people you can speak with, by improving our election process.

Continue reading “Who ya gonna call?”