District councillors in Muskoka are being asked not to vote on the controversial Hydro Plant issue in Bala Falls. That’s according to a recent email that was sent to many of them including District Chair John Klinck. The emails, written by Save the Bala Falls supporters asks them to excuse themselves from voting on the issue at upcoming meetings. The emails suggest they have a pecuniary interest in the project. We spoke with Klinck to see if he’d tell councillors not to vote…

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Below is the full email that was sent to District Councillors by Tim McDonald and John Wright.

District Chair, Honorable Mayors, Councilors: 

I have studied the plans for this power plant in Bala for many years.  My family lives in Bala and are on record as being opposed to the plant and the amount of money that is being wasted by our government(s) supporting what will, no doubt be, a financial, environmental and economic disaster for Muskoka as a whole.  There are many reasons that this project should be shelved. I sincerely hope that you are aware of the facts and all of our safety concerns.

In addition, I have always been concerned about the place that our municipalities hold with respect to ownership of our power supply channels and in particular where the towns of Bracebridge and Huntsville stand with respect to managing any power facility in Bala should construction ever get off the ground.

I too think that a conflict of interest is in play here, and that your positions in the decision making process are questionable.  It is tough being a councilor, as all too often you are placed in a position where you know some business personally or the people involved.  I see it all the time, and many elected officials have mentioned the conflicts to me privately. When this occurs, you recluse yourself.  Simple as that.    

So it makes sense for me to essentially copy Tim McDonalds email and paste it in here. It is well written and to the point for your consideration.

What is important here is that a majority of the constituents in Bala and area are opposed to this power plant.  Folks are sick of it, as im sure are all of you.  

Where you have the opportunity, you should be informed and understand the risks (safety) of the plant and how it will devastate the well being of a historically beautiful site that brings much to our many communities. 

When was the last time you walked your family around the barbed wire enclosures at the Bracebridge falls? (attached)  If you could go back in time, would you, as a decision maker, make different recommendations for that river?  That Bay?  That site?

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In view of your arguable conflict of interest – as councilors for Huntsville and Bracebridge respectively – I ask you to recuse yourselves from both discussion and voting on any motions or preambles involving the advancement of the interests of Swift River Energy Limited, their agents or surrogates, in the matter of their status as proponent in the proposed building of a hydro plant in Bala; at either the Engineering and Public Works Committee or District Municipality of Muskoka Council meetings, particularly, but not limited to, those scheduled for January 21 and February 17 and 18, 2015.

In 2013, according to the company’s financial statements, Lakeland Holdings Ltd. paid the Towns of Bracebridge and Huntsville a total of $750,000 in dividends based on their 76% ownership of this power generation holding company. This company conducts and manages operations, largely hydro generation of electricity, through its subsidiaries Lakeland Power, Lakeland Energy and Bracebridge Generation.

While Swift River Energy Limited may not, and possibly does not, have any contractual agreements or even an ‘agreement in principle’ with any of these four companies to operate a plant for them in Bala on an if-as-and-when basis, it is disingenuous to suggest or posit that there is therefore no pecuniary conflict of interest.

The ethical stumbling block remains that you, and all other councillors, are cognizant that the proponent has indeed spoken to one of the above companies about operating the Bala hydro plant on their behalf. You also know that the benefit to the Towns of Bracebridge and Huntsville which would be derived from such operation would be significant if the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry does indeed give the proponent an initial 40-year land lease, as currently proposed.

Given this discussion and the view shared – I think you will agree – by just about all interested parties, it appears highly likely that one of the Lakeland Holdings Ltd. companies will be retained to operate the Bala plant – if it gets built.

Given also all the valid negatives of superimposing a large concrete bunker on your neighbouring town, summarized below in my ongoing personal discussion with Premier Wynne (and also her ministers), supported by all the organizations and VIP people in the ADDENDUM below that, and all the reasons detailed with graphic proof so credibly by Save the Bala Falls here, why would any intelligent, responsible and caring person vote or make any effort to advance such a threat to a small community and Muskoka as a whole, unless there was a large amount of money involved from which they, or the people they represent, would benefit.?

There is nothing about the building of this Bala plant in the public interest – except the public interest of the people of both Bracebridge and Huntsville, if Lakeland Holdings Ltd should have one of its subsidiaries end up running or otherwise benefitting from the construction. I think you have to admit that such affiliation – and the resulting benefit to your townships – is highly likely, and can be expected, if this obnoxious plant should ever get built.

Any mayors or councilors supporting the building of this plant to the obvious detriment to one of your own towns, namely Bala, need to consider the old adages of “selling your neighbors’ birthright for a mess of pottage”. Any jobs generated are only crumbs from the feasting of subsidy-driven ($100 million to be specific) developers and won’t offset the economic pain inflicted on Bala businesses and the tourism industry in Muskoka generally, the drop in property values, and the loss to future generations of a heritage-listed tourist attraction as well as the loss of water recreation in the area. Bala’s waterfalls are the last ones in the middle of a small Muskoka town still uncluttered and undefaced by obsolete and redundant and nearly useless (in terms of the amount of power generated) hydro-electric power plants. The existing plants in Bracebridge and elsewhere in Muskoka – and the still-outstanding litigation from one of the two 2008 drownings below local hydro plants – should be a warning to think before you jump and to be careful what you wish for.

Please recuse yourselves accordingly. I ask Bracebridge and Huntsville mayors and district councilors to recuse themselves for the same reasons from the same discussions and votes at full council meetings starting with the one scheduled for February 17.