RCA Meets With Local Politicians and Environmental Commissioner

In the past two years, RCA Directors have met with countless politicians in an effort to educate the decision-makers about our unique cottage community.  But on Thursday September 20th we met with someone a little different — a “non-politicial” decision maker!

The Environmental Commissioner of Ontario <http://www.eco.on.ca>  is the appointed watchdog of everything affecting the environment in the province, including the infamous “Environmental Bill of Rights” (EBR) that caused us so much stress <http://www.ebr.gov.on.ca/ERS-WEB-External/displaynoticecontent.do?noticeId=MTExMDMw&amp;statusId=MTY2NjE5&amp;language=en>  in the fall of 2010.  Mr Gord Miller is mid-way through his 10-year appointment to the position.  Working out of an independent office in Queen’s Park, he is often called-upon to give advice to politicians at all levels on environmental issues.  On September 19th he released his 2011-12 Annual Report <http://www.eco.on.ca/uploads/Reports-Annual/2011_12/Losing%20Touch%20I%20EN.pdf>  criticizing the MNR’s abuse of the EBR;  24-hours later he was sitting down to meet with the RCA inside a Rondeau cottage.

We invited him to Rondeau at the recommendation of Chatham-Kent Essex MPP Rick Nicholls.  His previous Annual Report <http://www.eco.on.ca/uploads/Reports-Annual/2010_11/Final-English-Bookmarked-2010-AR.pdf>  addressed a complaint <http://www.ecoissues.ca/index.php/When_Two_Worlds_Collide:_Cottages_in_Rondeau_Provincial_Park>  filed by two cottagers <http://www.chathamdailynews.ca/2011/09/13/cottager-happy-with-how-rondeau-run>  that the MNR was not doing enough to enforce their own rules when other cottagers broken them.  His investigation ultimately upheld the MNR’s statement that they were working to increase cottagers’ compliance with the Provincial Parks & Conservation Reserves Act.  However we were not entirely sure what to expect from this meeting.

Commissioner Gord Miller, MPP Rick Nicholls and his advisor Larry Landry met the RCA contingent of President Dr David Colby, Vice-President Brian French, Secretary Dr Mike Newell, and Directors Stew McLaren, Alysson Storey, and Rob van deel Piepers at a lovely Lakeshore Road cottage that was perfectly suited for such a gathering.  Over the next two hours much information was exchanged in both directions, and Mr Miller heard that park is a living example of a community in perfect integration with its environment.  We gave him a copy of one of Bill Stephen’s original Rondeau Forever books, a copy of our new Heritage Report, and a copy of our excellent feature story in the 2005 Cottage Life magazine.  His day ended with a guided tour of the cottage history of Rondeau.

His best advice for all of us?  Stop all off-lot encroachment, and don’t give the park staff any reason to want to get rid of us — individually & collectively.  Because nobody in Toronto ever hears the good stories about our community from the MNR, all they hear about are our transgressions.

We all agreed that it was an entirely positive meeting, and although no commitment was sought or offered, we believe that Mr Miller arrived with a mis-informed opinion about our community but he left with a well-informed opinion of our community.  And if he is ever asked for his opinion on Rondeau, he will remember what he read, what he heard, and what he saw.

– by Brian French