Strawberry Festival 2016

The 36th annual Starwberry Festival to support the Milton District Hospital Auxiliary was a total success. The weather was perfect and considering last years weather, we were due big time. 

There were so many activities at the festival for kids of all ages and we also had some special guests in attendance including Canada’s Most Famous Hockey Dad Walter Gretzky. 
Thank you to everyone who came out to support the Milton District Hospital Auxiliary who do so much for our community. 
Just one of the big events that makes Milton the best place in the world to live. 

Bill 181 Municipal Elections Modernization Act

Presentation to Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs

Thursday May 5, 2016

From:  Mike Cluett Local & Regional Councillor

Town of Milton / Halton Region

Good afternoon and thank you for allowing me to speak on Bill 181, the Municipal Elections Modernization Act, 2016.

I first off want to acknowledge that I am not speaking on behalf of the Town of Milton or Halton Region, but I am speaking to you based on my own opinions and experience as a municipal councillor since 2010.  I understand our counterparts in the Town of Oakville have already endorsed the potential changes and ranked balloting, but Milton Town Council hasn’t predetermined what the best choice is without first consulting the public.

This is an important discussion. A discussion worthy of debate and engagement with Ontarians as we look for opportunities and evaluate our current systems and processes. Given the limited time that I have available I want to focus the committees attention a number of concerns that I have with the proposed legislation.

My main concern with Bill 181 is that it allows individual municipal councils in the province of Ontario to make changes to the way we elect our representatives with little or no public input from the voters.

The fact that these decisions can be made without holding a binding referendum at the bare minimum is concerning.

I can’t stress enough of the importance of seeking comprehensive public input and holding a referendum before any changes are made. Direct voter input about how we vote in elections is critical and I personally can’t support a bill that takes democracy away by allowing a government to change the way they are elected without appropriate consultation. As elected officials we have a responsibility to consult the voters in the province of Ontario.

Elections belong to the people, not members of the government in Canada, the province of Ontario or members of municipal councils.

The electorate must have a say on how that system is determined.

Ensuring that we protect the democratic process from being manipulated by the political process is non-negotiable.

Through this legislation, the provincial government has already decided that there are two choices and two choices only. We are aware that there are more than two electoral methods available, but they are not up for discussion apparently.

Ontarians must have the choice via a referendum before we embark on changing our voting system. Failure to do so is a slap in the face of voters and is counter to everything we stand for as a democracy.

Back in 2007, a referendum was held with the decision by voters to stay with the first past the post system.

While I agree that times do change and that governments should evolve, I do not agree with the government’s proposal to punt the issue to local municipalities.  This circumvents the voters and does not take into account their desire, or lack thereof, for change.

This legislation does not mandate any public consultation whatsoever, including a referendum, before making changes. Municipal councils as small as 7 can quietly change the voting system in their municipality.

During the last municipal election campaign in 2014, I can not recall one area or municipality or candidate speaking on the issue of electoral reform and changes to the voting systems we now know.

So how can this legislation propose that municipal councils as small as 7 decide how people elect them without a mandate from voters?

Even the most recent polls after the last federal election listed electoral reform at or near the bottom of voter’s issues of concern. Electoral reform is also being discussed at the federal level of government where there continue to be loud calls for a referendum on the issue.

Another concern that I would like to raise with you is that by allowing municipal councils the ability to make these changes, you open the risk of self-serving decision making for personal and political survival.

Allow me to give you a brief history of my political career in Milton. I first ran for Milton Town Council in 2006 and came 92 votes short of being elected. Now, if ranked ballots were the desired voting system at the time, chances are that I probably would have been elected.

In 2010 I ran again and was successful. There were only 2 candidates in my ward and I garnered 80% of the vote, so ranked balloting wouldn’t have been an issue. Then again recently in 2014, out of field of 4 candidates I won with roughly 46% of the vote with my two closest opponents 20% behind me so in a ranked balloting system, chances are I would have still been successful.

So given my own personal experiences, I could chose ranked ballots and have no issues.

Conversely, I could also look at other members of my council and point to a councillor who was elected out of field of 7 or 8 candidates with 25% of the vote. This person could look at this opportunity and realize if there was ranked ballots, they probably wouldn’t be there so they’ll choose to stay with the first past the post system.

I bring this up to illustrate a point. By giving the authority to municipal councils to change their electoral system opens it up to self interest and self preservation over the merits of each individual system.

We have seen in recent by elections in the City of Hamilton and Town of Oakville, there can be a high number of candidates running for these positions…over 20 in Hamilton and 11 in Oakville vying for a spot around the council table.

Municipal councillors can now sit back and say I wouldn’t have been here if this particular voting system was in place so they make their decision based on their own self interests. That is a conflict of interest. Period.

Should any changes be made I the voting systems we have, those changes should be made across the board: federally, provincially and municipally.

The intent of this bill has been described as attempting at making it easer for people to vote.  In many areas in this legislation, the opposite can happen and could lead to further confusion and voter fatigue.

Voting systems should be uniform instead of peace meal with one system for one level of government and another system for the other.

I can draw an example from my own area, the Region of Halton. Halton is an upper tier municipality comprised of four municipalities, the City of Burlington, the Town of Oakville, The Town of Halton Hills and the Town of Milton.

In Halton we elect our regional chair as opposed to other jurisdictions who appoint their regional chair. If the changes are made through this legislation, we could have the following scenario.

Out of the four municipalities we could have two choosing the route of ranked ballots and the other two staying with first past the post. That means residents in the ranked balloted municipalities can choose their local and regional councillors through ranking their choices and having to vote for the regional chair via first past the post.

This can and will lead to confusion with how we vote and can result with voters giving up and the opposite effect happening, declining voter turnout.

In summary, I feel that if the provincial government wants to go down the route to changing the way we elect our politicians in Ontario we must first start by getting a mandate from voters via a referendum. The group Defend Democracy has stated that our electoral system is the “basis of our democracy” and that no government or political party has the authority to alter our democratic system as “it is up to the people of Canada to decide directly through a referendum.”

No method of voting is the perfect and there are many views on which system is more representative of the people. But a government shouldn’t make these decisions. That decision belongs to the people themselves.

As an elected municipal official, I do support giving municipalities the authority to make decisions. Whether or not to allow wind mills within their jurisdiction, more flexibility on making planning decisions for high growth municipalities like Milton and Halton Region would be welcome changes, but those powers aren’t on the table today with Bill 181.

If we are going to look at making changes to our voting systems we need to start at the top…with the voters in the province of Ontario…as it should be.

Thank you for your time.

Meetings Meetings Meetings

Good Thursday afternoon everyone.  Lots of meetings coming up that will be affecting residents in Wards 1, 6, 7 & 8 and its a lot to tweet so I thought this would be a good spot to post them all.

First off Union Gas is going to be holding an open house to discuss the expansion of the Hamilton to Milton pipeline that will run across Milton.

https://www.uniongas.com/HAMILTON-MILTON

union gas pipeline

From the UG website:

“Starting in early May 2016, Union Gas is constructing a 20 kilometre, 48-inch diameter steel natural gas pipeline through an existing corridor that already has three operating pipelines. Specifically, work will take place between the existing Union Gas Hamilton Valve Site (located near Highway 6 and Carlisle Road) and the existing Union Gas Milton Gate Station (located south of Derry Road between Ontario Street and Third Line).

Our planned construction completion is the end of October 2016, with restoration and clean up through to the summer of 2017.

We invite you to speak with Union Gas experts at our Neighbourhood Information Sessions in April about what to expect during construction and how to connect with our dedicated Community Liaison, Susan Cudahy, for assistance throughout the project.”

These information sessions are to be held tomorrow at the Milton Memorial Arena (on Thompson Rd beside the Centre for the Arts) starting at 5:30 pm to 9pm.  I will be attending this one as the next one is Saturday April 23rd at the Milton Sports Centre from 2pm to 5pm (Miranda is having her birthday party at that time)

If you have any questions, please let me know.

NEXT MEETING….future elementary school

On Monday April 25th at Milton Council meeting there will be a public meeting regarding lands located at Ferguson Drive and Louis St Laurent (south side immediately across from Craig Kielburger SS) to apply for re-zoning from FD (Future Development) to a site specific institutional Minor (1-A*XXX) zone for a future elementary school.

You can read the report here. 

This is the beginning stage of meetings and reports so no decision will be made and we value the public’s input on this.  If you have any questions, send me an email mike.cluett@milton.ca and I can let you know how you can speak at the meeting or I can forward your comments to staff.

AND finally, also at the April 25th Council meeting, staff will be presenting a report on the re-zoning application for the property 10180 Derry Road (Mattamy Sales Office) and recommending that it will be approved.  From what we have been told by the property owner, there arent any changes planned for the immediate future and it will remain a sales office for Mattamy Homes but changing the zoning now gives them options to when they do want to make changes.

10180 derry rdThe report can be found here.

The changes to the zoning can allow for the following permitted uses:

artist’s studio, bank, commercial school, convenience store, day nursery, dry cleaning depot, medical clinic, office use, personal service shop, restaurant, restaurant (take out) retail store, and veterinary clinic.

As the report says, the site will remain largely as it its exists in its current form, with some modifications to the parking layout to increase spaces as well as an addition right in/right out entrance onto Derry Road.

Again you can delegate at the committee meeting and say comments or ask questions or you can send them through me at my email address mike.cluett@milton.ca

 

Austim Parents Head to Queens Park

Yesterday over 200 parents made their way to Queens Park with the intentions of making their voices heard.  And they did indeed.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/ontario-autism-program-1.3532775

When the province of Ontario outlined its 2016 budget, it announced funding of $333 M per year for a new Autism program.  That announcement was met with enthusiasm from thousands of parents who have children on the spectrum, political leaders like Ontario PC leader Patrick Brown and myself included.

Little did they know how these new changes would affect their lives.

These changes to the program including limitations and restrictions on the Intensive Behavioural Intervention or IBI for children 2 to 5 years old.  Children 5 and older will receive $8,000 and an immediate boot off the waiting list.  Permanently.

Listening to some of the parents outlining what they have had to do and what they will need to do in the future to help support their children is just heartbreaking.  Here is one parent had to say yesterday.

“We sold one of our cars, some of our furniture, used all our savings, liquidated the equity in our home, and moved our family of five into a one-bedroom apartment,” Bourdon said, her voice breaking.

She questioned if Premier Kathleen Wynne and Children and Youth Services Minister Tracy MacCharles have “given up their possessions to uphold the dignity of their child.”

Just incredible.  My hat goes off to all of these parents who took the time to go to Queens Park and make their voices heard.  My suggestion would be to not give up.

Those who know me know that for years I have been an advocate for Autism awareness.  Working with several organizations in our area, we have been working hard to raise awareness at all political levels and to make this an issue for the provincial government.  We can’t stop now.

Here is Ontario PC Leader Patrick Brown asking the government hard questions about the changes to the program.

Contact your local MPP and let them know these changes have to be stopped.  Autism doesn’t end at the age of 5.  By taking away this expensive therapy for these children, it is setting them back years.  Parents I’ve talked with who have had their children in IBI therapy say that it works.  If it works? Why change it.

I am very proud to see the community come together as they’ve done recently over this and I will do what I can to help out at whatever level is needed.

Parents can not let their children down.  It’s not a matter of deciding whether to pay for food or pay for therapy for their children.  When people have to sell their belongings to fund this therapy, don’t you think the system is broken?

Congratulations to these parents and keep up the pressure to have these changes reversed and have the province focus in on Autism therapy for the young children, teenagers and those who are now adults.  Don’t let up!

Downtown Milton Condo Proposal

Much has been talked about recently with the proposal for a condominium development in downtown Milton.  Recently the Town had held a Public Information Centre (PIC) to discuss it as well as get feedback directly from Milton residents.

I, along with a number of town councillors, attended both sessions which had over 80 people come out both times.  The Milton Canadian Champion has done a good story on the development today, so please have a read.

There will be public meetings held at Milton Town Council in the future, so stay tuned to my social media feeds to find out the details.  We want to hear from residents not only in the downtown core, but from all over Milton.  One of the biggest issues we face as a municipality is the development and improvement of our downtown core.  Recently Milton Town Council has also finally launched our Downtown Improvement Study to address these very concerns.  What will our downtown look like in the future?  How can we improve the quality of life in downtown?  We need to address a number of concerns to help breath life into our downtown core and public input is vital towards that process.

I think we can agree that something needs to be done in our downtown core.  Where the challenges lie is in the details.  Opinions range from total opposition to any kind of development in the downtown core to those who would like to see these kinds of changes made.  This is where we as a community need to come forward and have our say.

When council approved the recent downtown study several weeks ago, I remarked that we have to go about this with an open mind.  We all agree something needs to be done.  Business owners tell me that downtown Milton needs “feet on the street” to become vibrant.  We as a town and as a community need to come to a compromise and set a plan and move forward.  This will be very challenging and decisions wont be made hastily.  But we need to do something so I hope that everyone in Milton will take part in these discussions.

Here is the link to the article below from Melanie Hennessy at the Milton Canadian Champion.

Milton Canadian Champion

The downtown Milton skyline may soon look very different if plans for a twin tower condo are given the green light.

A group of numbered companies has put forward its plans for a condominium development consisting of an 18-storey west tower and 13-storey east tower with a combined 190 units on lands that front onto Mill and Main streets, west of Martin Street. The proposal also calls for almost 570 square metres of space for businesses that would be accessed from Main Street.

In order for the development to proceed, a number of approvals are needed, including one from Conservation Halton, as the lands fall within a regulatory floodplain.

The proposal was recently the subject of two public open houses, with each drawing about 80 people, said Town Director of Planning and Development Barb Koopmans.

“They were very well-attended,” she said, noting, “The purpose of the open houses was to make sure clear information is available on the proposal, not gauge public sentiment.”

Residents will soon have a chance to make their voices heard at a Town public meeting on the plans. A date has yet to be set, but it’s expected to take place this spring (details will be posted at www.milton.ca, and those who attended the open houses will be notified).

Following that, Town staff will complete its evaluation of the plans and comments received. They will bring a report to council with a recommendation to approve or deny the proposal.

The developer will also need to receive a permit and approval from Conservation Halton to proceed in a regulatory floodplain. The application will be subject to the Province’s “One Zone” concept, which treats an entire floodplain as one unit and restricts or prohibits development.

With two levels of above ground parking proposed for the base of each building, plus a mechanical penthouse on top of the structures to house equipment, the west tower will actually appear equivalent to a 20-storey building, while the east tower will look like a 15-storey structure.

To make way for the development, two Main Street and four Mill Street buildings would have to be demolished, including the Mill Street Coin Laundry, Bumpr’s Restaurant and the building located immediately west of the eatery, which is currently on the Town’s Heritage List.

The proposal comes at a time when the Town is undertaking a Downtown Study that’s examining the current state of Milton’s core and identifying opportunities for revitalization and redevelopment. Town staff is currently conducting a market analysis and anticipates bringing an interim report to council this spring.

“The completion of the study will be critical for the technical review of the (condominium) applications,” according to a fact sheet from the Town’s Planning and Development department.

The plans call for 190 parking spaces for those who live in the buildings, including 164 resident spots and 29 visitor spaces, spread over two storeys of above-ground parking that would be accessed from Main Street.

But the Town’s zoning bylaw currently requires a ratio of 1.5 spaces per dwelling unit, plus an additional 0.5 spaces for designated visitor parking. Based on this, the buildings would require 285 parking spots to service the residents, plus an additional 48 visitor spaces.

Public parking with access points on Mill Street and a total of 132 spaces has also been proposed.

The town must approve Official Plan and zoning bylaw amendments before the project is given the green light. Current zoning of the lands permits a maximum building height of four storeys.

Along with its application, the developer has submitted a variety of studies to the Town, including reports on air quality, heritage impact, noise feasibility and traffic impact. The municipality is awaiting the submission of an urban design brief, shadow impact study and tree preservation plan.

For more information, including copies of the studies, visit www.milton.ca/en/Build/DMOldMilton.asp#MillStreet.