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LETTER: We must remain vigilant on precious water resources

Township, province have overlooked a 'treasure-trove of public record documentation in plain sight,' says letter writer

MidlandToday welcomes letters to the editor at [email protected] or via the website. Please include your full name, daytime phone number and address (for verification of authorship, not publication). The following letter from Tim Taylor, director with the Oro-Medonte Property Owners Association, is in response to COLUMN: FOI failure: Five-year delay a blow to transparency by Jessica Owen.

Just like Jessica Owen, I, too, am not the kind of person to just let things go, which has been both the bane of my existence and a real eye-opener.

In my opinion, the public record regarding water issues in Horseshoe Valley speaks volumes for itself, but who is really reading, listening and keeping track of the things that public officials say and do. What safeguards are in place to ensure transparency and accountability locally and in the province?

During a regular council meeting on June 10, 1980, the mayor and council members in Medonte Township (now Oro-Medonte) passed a resolution to authorize the signing of a Water Rights Guarantee Agreement, a water contract supplying guaranteed water to municipal subdivisions in Horseshoe Valley in perpetuityThis was done in a public, open council session at that time and the agreement was registered in the Land Titles government registry system in Simcoe County.

Section 8 of this agreement holds that “NOTWITHSTANDING anything contained in this Agreement, Medonte [now Oro-Medonte] shall not be obliged to retain title to the system and to the easement on which it is or shall be installed, until completion of the local improvement work outlined in yellow in Schedule ‘B’, the Agreement continuing an executory contract until such local improvement as is contemplated hereunder is completed to the satisfaction of the Medonte Township Engineer and such Engineer has so certified to Medonte.”

In a stunning turn of events in 2022, 40 years after the signing of water guarantees, the director of environmental services for the Township of Oro-Medonte, in their sworn affidavit to the courts, testified that “To the best of my knowledge, those requirements were not completed, engineering certification was not obtained or submitted and accordingly the system was not assumed by the township.” 

Back in 1982 the mayor and council members passed an assumption bylaw for the supply of water to municipal subdivisions in front of the public on Oct. 12 and announcements about the issuance of debentures for these works were posted in local newspapers.

This provincially sanctioned bylaw plainly provides that “AND WHEREAS by the Water Rights Guarantee Agreement the Subdivider agreed to dedicate and the Corporation undertook to accept and assume the system subject to completion of the local improvement works and subject to the certification of completion by the Corporation's engineers.”

The very next sentence of the bylaw explodes off the page verifying that “AND WHEREAS such completion certificate has been received.” This bylaw is presently stored in the township’s public bylaw repository for all to see, including the director of environmental services, the mayor, council members, and their legal staff. Archived records for these works are also stored in three additional places: the Simcoe County Archives, the Archives of Ontario and the Water System database of the Ministry of the Environment. Easy peasy! If you don’t believe me, then look for yourself.

The million-dollar questions still remains – Why are affected water consumers in Horseshoe Valley paying thousands of dollars to hook up to a system that they already own? Besides, if there are any disputes about the registered water guarantees, simply read the agreements. They are as clear as the water coming out of our taps.

Sadly, in my opinion, there are no guaranteed water rights in life and in governance in Ontario and Oro-Medonte and all of us need to remain ever vigilant over our precious water resources.

The truth of the matter is that layers of certification of completion were provided by the Ministry of the Environment, township engineering staff, and the Ontario Municipal Board under the authority of several provincial statutes, and yet the township and the province overlooked a treasure-trove of public record documentation in plain sight. 

What a blow to transparency and accountability in our own backyard of Oro-Medonte. 

Could this happen to any municipal water works in Ontario?

In the face of injustice, I’m here burrowing and uncovering every possible public record stone just like Jessica Owen of Village Media. Since 2019, we have both been speaking truth to power through the freedom of information process. 

Please get angry with both of us.

Tim Taylor
Director, Oro-Medonte Property Owners Association