As it was too likely that providing updates during the legal action would somehow work against us, we have not updated the SaveTheBalaFalls.com web site or provided any e-Newsletter updates for the past few months. Now that is finished, we can get back to our usual communications …
Legal Action update
To facilitate their proposed construction of a hydro-electric generating station at the Bala falls, the proponent has requested to lease three parcels of land owned or controlled by the Township of Muskoka Lakes.
In November 2015, SaveTheBalaFalls.com initiated legal action against the Township of Muskoka Lakes as the Township refused to respond to our questions concerning this proposed lease. The proponent claimed they would be affected by this legal action and so they insisted on receiving Party status, so they too became part of this legal action.
The case was heard on December 14, 2015 in Bracebridge, and Justice Wood issued his legal decision (Members click [this content is only available to SaveTheBalaFalls.com members, click on the Membership tab above to learn more]) on December 24, 2015. While we were disappointed that Judge Wood dismissed our case, we were pleased that there was opportunity for the lawyers to present the facts and be heard.
When a legal action is dismissed it is common for the Applicant to pay the opposing side’s legal costs, and Justice Wood’s costs decision (Members click [this content is only available to SaveTheBalaFalls.com members, click on the Membership tab above to learn more]) did in fact require that SaveTheBalaFalls.com pay the Township’s legal costs. Such costs are due within 30 days of the decision, and SaveTheBalaFalls.com will be fully paying this as required.
The proponent appeared to be abusing their Party status by piling three lawyers onto the case (resulting in high legal costs), while they did not actually add any facts or questions to the case. We were very pleased that Justice Wood clearly noted this in his costs decision, and as a result did not award any costs to the proponent.
As was our right, and due to outstanding concerns we had, on January 14, 2016 SaveTheBalaFalls.com initiated an Appeal of Justice Wood’s legal decision. Upon receiving further advice, such as that 80% to 90% of Appeals fail, we subsequently decided to abandon this Appeal, as that money would be better spent more directly pursing our main concerns. The steps to finalize abandoning this Appeal were agreed by all parties just earlier this week, which is why we can finally send this update today.
The SaveTheBalaFalls.com legal action was initiated as it appeared the Township of Muskoka Lakes was not following by-laws, procedures, and Acts required of them, and they would not respond to our questions about addressing this. The legal action required a huge amount of time from many people, and while it certainly would have been better if the Judge did not dismiss our case, what we learned will be helpful in the future (for example, see below), and we can now focus on our main concerns; that the proponent would not honour their commitments for which they were awarded this opportunity, and that the public has not been shown how this proposed generating station could be operated safely.
January 2016 meetings of the Council of the Township of Muskoka Lakes
At the January 15, 2016 monthly Council meeting of the Township of Muskoka Lakes, Mayor Furniss attempted to initiate a vote on the above proposed land lease; without it being on the Agenda, without notification to the public, without any opportunity for the public to know any details of the proposed lease, and without any opportunity for the public to provide comments. All this of even more of a concern as apparently the term of the proposed lease could be extended, at the sole discretion of the proponent, to 20 years.
As a result, concerned Councillors left the Council meeting, and as quorum was then lost, the vote could not proceed.
A special Council meeting was then scheduled for January 26, 2016 at which the public was given the opportunity to delegate, and the Agenda included a brief summary of the proposed lease. Of note:
- The many delegations raised excellent points, for example that the Bala business community has not been notified of which parts of which parking lots would be unavailable for customer parking for what periods of which years. Given that the proposed lease apparently would result in most of the Precambrian Shield parking lot being unavailable to the public for several years, and even for up to 20 years, one would expect that the Township would provide this information to the Bala business community. The Township giving away important parking lots for up to 20 years without telling the business community would be like selling the family car without telling your spouse. Does Township Council realize where taxes come from. And the Township hasn’t even stated what the proponent’s paltry proposed payments (equivalent to realty taxes from about nine residences) would be applied to – would these payment even benefit those most impacted. We don’t know because Township Council refuses to discuss this.
- Bala businesses have formally requested Township Council to consult with them on this matter but these requests have been ignored. Instead of providing this information, Township buried only select details in the Council Agenda released only a few days before the January 26, 2016 vote.
Township Council is extremely polarized on this issue, and the majority decided to ignore the concerns raised by the public and voted to approve authorizing the Township to sign the propsed lease. The Mayor has stated that the public will be able to see the lease only after it is signed, the lease has not yet been made available to the public.
While we are disappointed that Council voted to approve signing this lease, we are even more disappointed that Council would not even consider writing a letter to the Ministy of Natural Resources asking that an acceptable safety plan be presented to the public, a request we made in our January 26, 2016 delegation to Township Council.
We also do not understand why Township Council did not take the opportunity of the proponent requesting this lease to require that the proponent withdraw its $3,000,000 lawsuit against the Township. Why does the majority of the Council of the Township of Muskoka Lakes continue to not represent and defend the public interest, but insted provide the proponent with whatever they ask for.
Show your support – now you can be a member of SaveTheBalaFalls.com
While SaveTheBalaFalls.com has always acted as a conduit for information on the proposed hydro-electric generating station at the Bala falls, as Justice Wood noted, SaveTheBalaFalls.com has no members.
Previously we did not see membership as a priority, but now we have learned that having members can confirm the broad public interest of our concerns. Not having a membership program may have contributed to the Judge’s determination that, for our previous legal action, we were not considered a Public Interest Litigant and therefore we had to pay the full amount of the legal costs claimed by the Township of Muskoka Lakes.
So here are some details of the SaveTheBalaFalls.com membership program:
- One reason for providing memberships is to prepare for future possible legal action as it would help demonstrate the broad public concerns we represent. Therefore, we need as many members as possible, so please let everyone in your family know – all we need is a unique name and valid e-mail address for each member, and your agreement with our membership statement. We will not disclose these e-mail addresses, nor use them for any other purpose.
- Memberships will also help us raise money, and cost $20 each.
- So that we will be able to state that all our members share our main concern, part of becoming a member requires you to agree with the statement “I am concerned that the proposed hydro-electric generating station at the Bala falls would be too dangerous.”
- A benefit of becoming a member will be access to all information posted at SaveTheBalaFalls.com, as in the future some new information will only be available to members.
- The sign-up process is at the Membership tab at SaveTheBalaFalls.com.
Cottage Life Show
To raise awareness of our public safety concerns, SaveTheBalaFalls.com will have a booth at the Cottage Life Show, which is Friday April 1 to Sunday April 3, 2016, at the International Centre, 6900 Airport Road, in Mississauga. Cottage Life Show details are here, we will provide more details in the next weeks.
Just as we have been battling a poorly-planned hydro-electric generating station project proposed for an inappropriate location, the people of Thunder Bay have been battling a poorly-planned wind turbine project also proposed for an inappropriate location. There are many parallels:
- The majority of the local community has been battling these proposed projects for ten years.
- Both proposed project proponents are and are funded by the same Anthony Zwig.
- For both proposed projects the proponent has sued the local municipality (though not successfully) for millions of dollars.
But two very interesting facts about the proposed Thunder Bay project are:
- In the summer of 2014 the government of Ontario stopped the proposed Thunder Bay project by cancelling their Feed-In Tariff contract (article here), then last fall the Ministry of the Environment denied their environmental approval (article here – though in response the proponent has sued the Ministry of the Environment for this (article here).
- As noted in this article, the Thunder Bay community has raised and spent about $150,000 fighting this proposed wind turbine project.
So while we our fundraising over the past year has enabled us to pay all necessary professional and legal fees, we need to do it again. Whatever you donated last year, we need your donation again, and more. We have a great team doing solid work, but as the good people of Thunder Bay know, funds are needed to protect the community.
Donations can be made; on-line by credit card or PayPal, or by Interac bank transfer, or by cheque and mail. And you can receive a charitable donation tax receipt, all details are here.
As always, if you have any questions or comments, we’re at info@SaveTheBalaFalls.com, and remind your friends and family to sign themselves up for our e-Newsletters using the link at the top-right at SaveTheBalaFalls.com