Don’t Surrender Yet

Former long-time councillor Sharon Tibbs, a mayoral candidate in the last municipal election, raises some excellent points in her Letter to the Editor this week that offers her take on the raging debate over higher sewer and water rates town council is mulling over.
Lost sight in the bickering amongst ourselves over the residential and commercial burden is the fact the province is looking to download yet another responsibility onto municipalities—one, quite frankly, that communities across Ontario cannot afford to foot on their own.
Given the pending legislation, one can understand council’s position that it’s better to plan ahead now, and start building up reserves, rather than hit ratepayers with an astronomical increase sometime down the road. It’s also safe to say that people are willing to help shoulder the cost of having clean water and working toilets.
But there is a limit to what residents and businesses in a community of 8,000 people (let alone towns the size of Emo and Rainy River, for instance) can fork over year after year to repair an 80-year-old system. And then, as Mrs. Tibbs argues, it’s right back to square one to start preparing for the next upgrade.
Fort Frances faces a big enough challenge trying to stem its shrinking population base and business sector without the province helping to drive more people away, and more retailers out of business, simply because it doesn’t want the legal liability of another Walkerton.
The province is wrong to download its responsibility onto municipalities. And municipalities are wrong to let Queen’s Park do so without at least putting up a semblance of a fight before passing the buck onto their citizens and businesses, which Fort Frances appears poised to do at council’s next meeting this coming Monday night.
Council should not wave the white flag just yet.