To the MNR, “Public” Means “Secret”…

Why does the MNR have one set of rules for Rondeau and another set of rules for everybody else?

A year ago the Ministry of Natural Resources decided that cottagers in Rondeau deserve a lease extension. Minister Linda Jeffrey telephoned RCA President Dr David Colby and said “Start celebrating, you’ve got your lease extension!” But our celebration was short-lived as the devil was in the details.

The so-called 2038 Proposal contained many unprecedented conditions that can only be described as bizarre. This was not a lease extension offer; it was a reprehensible scheme to phase-out our community at a rate of perhaps a dozen cottages per year as their owners passed away — then forced their survivors to demolish the family cottage at their own expense, even as they still mourned the passing of their late loved one.

Needless to say, this proposal did not go over well.

As per Ontario law, two public information sessions were held in Ridgetown and the details of the offer were posted online seeking public comments prior to a final decision being made.

The sheer number of people at the public information sessions overwhelmed the MNR reps and the first meeting spiralled completely out of control until RCA President Dr David Colby stepped-up to address the angry crowd. Clearly the MNR underestimated the passion we all have for our community.

The online posting on the Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) website is believed to have attracted more public feedback than any previous such posting. (By about ten times.)

The MNR acknowledges receiving 1,700 public comments with 81% supporting a fairer lease extension. Only 14% wanted the cottages demolished. The remaining 5% of comments did not express any preference or were not relevant to the issue.

Soon after, Minister Jeffrey said the 2038 offer was “shelved”.

Here’s where it gets interesting.

The EBR is a centralized provincial registry promoting openness & transparency. Every entry on the EBR (including ours) clearly states that all comments received become part of the “Public Record” and will be posted online and made available for viewing in a Ministry office. The EBR website has many examples of such comments posted for public viewing.

Shortly after the Public Commentary window on Rondeau’s 2038 offer closed, the RCA Executive started asking how we can see the public comments that will ultimately determine the fate of our community. And we’ve been stonewalled ever since. Despite the fact that these comments have become part of the public record — and comments about other policy proposals are freely available to everyone else — the MNR says we’ll have to pay a “substantive” cost to view them.

For Everybody Else:

For Rondeau:

Access to the EBR’s public comments is supposed to be automatic and it’s supposed to be free. And it is, at least for everybody else. But for us, there’s a formal application process, a $30/hour fee, and an ominous warning that the final cost for viewing these “public records” may be “substantive”.

Why does the MNR think they can get away with this?

One rule for Rondeau, one rule for everybody else. Again.