NORTH BAY, Ont. – Refusing to surrender to the chaos in Bonfield, a determined group of township supporters travelled to Toronto last week to meet with the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Linda Jeffrey to call for her intervention.
“We alerted the Minister directly about issues that are causing hardship to the residents of Bonfield,” said Fred Hahn, President of CUPE Ontario. “We asserted that the Mayor and the members of Council were breaking the law. We believe they are unable to deal with the issues so we reached out to the Minister.”
Hahn led a group of CUPE representatives from the area, including Ontario Regional Director Linda Thurston-Neely, in a meeting with the Minister that lasted over an hour. They discussed the failure of the township’s elected officials to comply with the Municipal Act, a failure that has contributed to the crisis threatening to engulf the municipality.
“The Minister and her staff listened, asked questions and took notes as the group made their case,” said Hahn. “She told us she had been receiving letters from Bonfield. We urged her to assist us in finding a resolve that ends the chaos in the township.”
Several examples of alleged Municipal Act violations by Bonfield’s Mayor and members of Council were raised with the Minister. Holding infrequent special meetings, where the public cannot actively participate, instead of the regular public Council meetings mandated by the Act and by the township’s own procedural by-law, was among these.
Another example concerned untendered contracts being handed out, some to the relatives of the Mayor and Council members. The Act clearly states that policies for the procurement of goods and services and for accountability and transparency need to be followed. To date, there is very little evidence of this happening.
Since Bonfield’s 16 municipal workers were forced on strike more than six months ago, what used to be a well-run community has spiraled into a dysfunctional mess.
Cuts to services mean some families have had to change burial plans, property sales can’t close or are lost entirely as land owners cannot sever their properties and taxes go uncollected.
“The Minister listened with interest and will follow up. She will be looking at various issues, particularly those dealing with financial irregularities,” said Hahn. “We got her attention. We made a case on behalf of the residents of Bonfield. Our focus was on accountability and democracy.”
There is a democratic and transparency deficit in the community, added Hahn. That is why the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing was asked to exercise the powers she has to get Bonfield working again. A follow-up meeting with the Minister is being scheduled in the coming weeks.
Hahn invited all those concerned about the crisis in Bonfield to write, email or call the Minister:
Honourable Linda Jeffrey
Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing
777 Bay Street
For more information, please contact:
Steve Boyle, CUPE National Representative, 705-662-5975
Mario Emond, CUPE Communications, 613-237-9475