By Don Crosby, Owen Sound Sun Times
Grey Highlands Mayor Wayne Fitzgerald is being criticized for remarks he made about a council decision to take the municipality’s fight with wind developer International Power Canada to Divisional Court. The mayor did not back down from his position.
Council recently voted 4-3 to seek a judicial review of a decision by the Ontario Energy Board. The board ruled earlier this year that IPC had the right to use municipal road allowance for its transmission lines, based on the argument that the wind developer is a distributor of electricity as well as a generator of power. The OEB also supported IPC’s claim that the appeal was frivolous and had little merit.
Fitzgerald, along with councillors Dave Kell and David Clarke, voted against seeking a judicial review.
In the May 26 edition of the Sun Times, Fitzgerald was quoted as saying “I don’t think the electorate or the citizens at large want their tax dollars going down this path. We’ve lost (twice) and we’re appealing a loss and we’ll probably lose again in my opinion.”
That didn’t sit well with Grey Highlands property owner Rob Wilton, who doesn’t agree with Fitzgerald that the battle in Divisional Court is already lost.
“As to the battle being lost, the councillors who voted in favour of court action obliviously had the confidence to do this through years of experience in dealing with similar situations and sincere concern for their constituents and the municipality of Grey Highlands,” Wilton said during a presentation to council last week.
He gave the example of a similar court action taken by the residents group Grey Association for Better Planning, which appealed an OMB decision several years ago that had originally gone in favour of water bottler Artemesia Waters. GABP, with some financial backing of the municipality, won the appeal in Divisional Court.
Wilton said the mayor’s statements violate the municipality’s recently enacted procedural bylaw 2011-009 which compels the mayor “to represent and support the Council, declaring its will, and implicitly obeying its decisions in all things.”
“The mayor is entitled to his opinions. He can voice those opinions before the decision is made, but once the decision is made he should endorse what the council has decided. It’s in the procedural bylaw . . . for him to break ranks, that’s unprofessional,” Wilton said.
“Does the mayor have a problem with the democratic majority vote rule? This is the same rule that got him elected. The mayor owes an apology to the citizens of Grey Highlands and especially to his fellow council members,” he added.
The mayor refused to comment on Wilton’s remarks or apologize to either council or the residents of Grey Highlands.
“I am not going to respond to that delegation,” he said. “I said what I said. I am not going to apologize.”