Assumptions

This page added on Sept 20, 2014 with edits at 8:40 am on Sept 22.

Assumption No. 1 regarding legislation to ban the widespread practise of spreading septage on vacant land approved by the Ministry of the Environment for that purpose.

Mayor Bob Pringle has often said that, at a meeting or conference some time ago, the provincial Minister of the Environment promised that the government was planning to implement legislation that would drive the need for disposal of septic waste at the bio-digester. I have heard Georgian Bluffs Mayor Alan Barfoot make a similar statement.

It can be implied from this August 29, 2013 article in the Owen Sound Sun Times that there was a reference at the August 28, 2013 Chatsworth Council meeting to a “promise” by the Ministry of the Environment six years earlier. As recently as this past July, I heard Mayor Pringle speak about the province’s “broken promise” at a Council meeting.

When I heard this from Mayor Pringle at our first meeting in March 2012, I asked for more specific information, but he could not point me to anything in writing.

The first sentence in Section 1.1 of the report by Henderson Paddon titled “Septage Management Plan for the Municipalities of Grey County” dated March 12, 2004 refers to a discussion with the Minister of the Environment at the ROMA/Good Roads conference in February 2003. The report says “… he (the Minister) indicated that they were considering banning the application of septage from the land in future … ” (my emphasis by bold text).

In my view, this doesn’t cut it as any sort of promise, certainly not one that could be taken to the bank, so to speak. So I read every Provincial Speech from the Throne and Budget Speech back to 2004 – there is not not a single word about legislation that the Mayor says was “promised.”

By 2009, there was no evidence whatsoever of any pending legislative changes regarding septage. Yet the 2009 Design Report for the bio-digester contains technical and financial estimates based on the assumption that legislation was imminent. On this assumption, contracts were signed and money was borrowed to build the bio-digester in 2010.

There is a term for making an investment based on hope, rumours or guesses about upcoming economic or political events: speculation.

I don’t think it is appropriate for municipalities to invest taxpayers’ money in a project on the basis of speculation, but didn’t our Leaders (Mayor Bob Pringle, Deputy Mayor Terry McKay and CAO/Clerk Will Moore) compound the problem by not providing even the slightest hint of any uncertainty associated with statements like “pay back all the capital in less than 10 years?” Does this meet anybody’s definition of “prudent management” or “respect for taxpayers?”

It appears that Mayor Pringle didn’t start to talk about “broken promises” until after it became clear even to him that the bio-digester was posing, shall we say, significant operational and financial challenges. It is natural to want to blame changing circumstances, or bad luck, or somebody else (like the Province) for the financial mess the bio-digester has created for the Township of Chatsworth.

John Kenneth Galbraith addressed this human trait eloquently when he said: “Faced with a choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everybody gets busy on the proof.”

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