The Muskoka Ratepayers’ Association (MRA) works hard to be informed about the activities of the Council of the Township of Muskoka Lakes. To that end, at least two representatives attend every meeting of Council, Committee of the Whole, Planning Committee, and the Committee of Adjustment. There are at least one set of these meetings per month, and often additional special or public meetings as well. In the past 4 years, there have been over 200 of these meetings that have taken place, and the MRA has been there for virtually all of them.
The MRA reports to our membership monthly through our Township Watch Report, and also posts it to our web site for anyone else to read. The MRA does not endorse any candidate during an election period, but does its best to inform voters through Township Watch, Muskoka Matters, reports cards, and All Candidates Meetings about current and potential councillors. We leave it to the individual voter to assess our comments and those of others, and then make up their own mind as to whom to support.
We recognize that most voters (particularly seasonal voters) want lower taxes and more services, but do not want to be involved in local politics, and look for some help in making a voting decision. However, in our opinion, that does not extend to being told who to vote for.
In addition to our belief that our members are capable of making an informed choice, we see some dangers in recommending particular candidates.
Candidate endorsement in the Township of Muskoka Lakes this year comes from two types of groups:
This year, both types of organizations have put forth a slate of candidates, but questions must be asked about either type of endorsement.
In considering the endorsement of a single issue interest group, you might consider the following:
We all have issues that we feel strongly about, but the world is not a simple place at this time, and sometimes compromises have to be made for the good of all.
What about following the recommendations or endorsements of a more balanced organization that promotes itself as representing all voters across all issues? On the surface, this sounds like a more informed option, but also presents some challenges, including:
For these reasons and others, the MRA feels that it is wise not to endorse specific candidates or an entire slate of candidates. Obviously, individual members and directors of the MRA come to their own decisions on who to elect, but as an organization, that is where we feel we must stop.
Turning now to the current election (2014) and looking at two slates of candidates that have been published since late September, the MRA has concerns with both, based on many of the issues above.
The first slate, issued Sept 29, comes from the Save the Bala Falls (STBF) group. They have recommended a slate of candidates based solely on “if you wish to save the Bala Falls”, vote for …. The slate proposed identified candidates that supported their (STBF) position, and in two cases recommended that voters select only one of the candidates for township councillor, despite being able to vote for 2.
The STBF slate includes the following:
STBF say they have based their recommendations on attending All Candidates Meetings, and have classified all candidates into two categories:
By this yardstick, the 7 individuals identified fall into category 1, and the remaining 10 are the sheep.
Another interesting aspect to this slate is that there seems to have been no vetting of the candidates prior to the endorsement, and in fact, the STBF “did not first check to see if the candidates minded.. “. There appear to be no all candidate questions or interviews prior to their choice.
The second slate comes from the Muskoka Lakes Association (MLA). The MLA has been in existence for over 100 years, and is a well-respected association in the Township. The MLA also sends a (paid) staff worker to “nearly all” Council meetings.
The MLA has long presented a slate of candidates for office, and is doing so again this year. Their process is much more rigorous than the STBF, and involves a committee of 4 who send questions to all the candidates, and then meet individually with each candidate to assess their fitness for office. Though some in the MLA deny that their recommendations are an endorsement, that is not the general perception of many, and in fact, one of their selected candidates sent out an email within 12 hours of the MLA list being published stating “MLA OFFERS TOP TOWNSHIP ENDORSEMENT” and “I would like to thank the MLA for their support for the last term and for their continued support for this fall's election with a continued top candidate endorsement”.
Let’s look at several aspects of the MLA endorsement of candidates.
In 2010, the MLA proposed their slate of candidates, and every one of them was elected. Since 2010, the Ratepayers have regularly expressed their thoughts and concerns about what many are referring to as the “MLA Council”. We believe that our concerns were also expressed by many others in the community, and were not solely the feelings of the MRA. Many articles have been written in the papers and many letters penned to express similar feelings. What has the MLA said publicly in the past 4 years – well nothing in any way cautionary or negative that we can find. In August 2013, the Muskokan published an article under the MLA banner, entitled “Mayor Murphy Speaks Out”. It professed to be an interview with Murphy conducted by Mike Langdon (then president of the MLA), Anne McCauley (chair Political committee), and Rick Spence (strong opponent of the Hanna’s Landing project next to his cottage and party to the OMB hearings opposing Hanna’s Landing alongside of Mayor Murphy and the MLA).
The interview asked a number of questions ranging from strategic vision, to accomplishments, thoughts on Bala Falls, and public service. While some of the questions (particularly around Bala Falls) were pointed, the Mayor did a fine job of deflecting some of the questions, and no follow-up questions were asked. A conclusion of many was that this was a “puff piece” and more of an advertorial for the mayor (who they had backed).
With all the controversy that has surrounded this council and the mayor in particular, it is hard to find any public criticism or comment by the MLA. Again, this is a danger of endorsing candidates and then feeling that you cannot criticize any of their subsequent actions.
The MLA slate has just come out late on October 1st. It is both expected and also surprising.
First the expected - for 4 years, the MLA has not expressed any concern with the previous council, and has endorsed the same folk as last time with one exception (Gault McTaggart). If there had been no controversy about some of the past council and Mayor’s actions, this would be a natural outcome, but since this has been far from the case, one conclusion is that the MLA find it very hard to admit past mistakes – we are all wrong at some times.
The surprising aspect is that the MLA slate so closely reflects the Save the Bala Falls slate. The STBF slate was not a complete slate, but rather reflected their single issue – stopping / saving Bala Falls. The STBF slate included:
The MLA slate endorsed ALL these candidates with the exception of Sandy Currie, a Director of the MLA (they did not rate him due to a “conflict with his position” in the MLA).
There are some very troubling aspects to this portion of the slate, including:
The remaining MLA slate includes the following township councillors:
TML - Committe of Adjustment
Dec 12, 2018 9:00am to 9:00pm
TML - Committee of the Whole
Dec 13, 2018 9:00am to 12:00pm
TML - Council
Dec 14, 2018 9:00am to 9:00pm
MRA - Board Meeting
Jan 26, 2019 9:00am to 1:00pm