Muskoka Lakes Mayor Don Furniss is spelling out his reasoning for recent decisions surrounding the Bala Falls controversy. Below, in an exclusive for Moose FM, Furniss responds to the latest accusations thrown his way by opponents of the proposed hydro plant at the falls. Furniss tells us that the advisory committee formed to make recommendations on Bala Falls issue has no actual decision-making authority – that only council does. It’s a wide range of answers to very public accusations about the committee made by the group Save the Bala Falls:
*Note – the Save the Bala Falls information/pdf Furniss is referring to is here -> TML – Bala Falls
To Moose FM, from Mayor of Muskoka Lakes, Don Furniss:
The attached presentation made by Mitchell Schnier of Save the Bala Falls was made to Township of Muskoka Lakes Council on Friday March 13th. I terminated it part way through, because it violates one of the primary rules of any delegation to Council – to be respectful. Referring to an Advisory Committee as a Kangaroo Court and reducing the compensation of any individual Councillor were examples of gross disrespect in my opinion.
Our Council in December granted several organizations i.e. Save the Bala Falls, Moon River Property Association, Wahta Mohawk, Jeff Mole and Swift River the opportunity to delegate to Council.
Council took ASKS from each delegation and acted on each ask. Swift River requested to have the opportunity to meet with the Township to discuss their project and some proposals. They did not ask for a committee that included the whole community – I might add that SREL are obligated to hold public meetings during construction and up to 2 years after the project is completed. Council approved the formation of an Advisory Committee in February.
The Advisory Committee represents Council, staff and Swift River and we have an independent chair because of the contentious nature of this project and in an attempt to reduce any bias. I will reiterate this is an Advisory Committee has no decision making authority – they only make recommendations to Council, who makes the ultimate decisions
Concerning the selection of councillors, I believe it is important to have a balance that represents the whole Township. Councillor Currie is an obvious choice as he represents Save the Bala Falls, is a Director of the MLA who now opposes the project and President of the Moon River Property Owners Assoc – who opposes the project.
Councillor Barrick Spearn from Ward B, who I believe is a good representative, free from what happened on the past council and from the social controversy in Bala.
Having only councillors from Ward A would not be a representative cross section of the Township, who’s taxpayers all have input on this project and pay any associated expenses.
I also did not select councillors from Ward C. because part of that Ward is in Bala and on the Moon River.
I hope this provides some clarity and background information that allows your audience to make informed decisions.
Mayor Township of Muskoka Lakes
*Note – The below video posted to youtube shows Furniss ripping a letter up at a March 12th Muskoka Lakes Committee of the Whole meeting. Furniss says the letter was an email between two individuals and that it was distributed by a third party. He says the distribution of the email wasn’t ethical or appropriate and that he didn’t feel he should read it which is why, he says, he ripped it up.