The Muskoka Ratepayers’ Association (MRA) is pleased once again to provide our observations of the newly elected Township of Muskoka Lakes Council. With the election of a new mayor, Muskoka taxpayers and residents voted for change – change in leadership, style, behaviour and direction!

The MRA has been pleased with the change in leadership and the sense of compromise and cooperation that has been demonstrated by the mayor. In addition, three new councillors and the return of seven councillors from the last council (including the new mayor) have brought a blend of newness with experience. We have been impressed with the perspectives and contributions made by several returning councillors and some of the new councillors who have shown themselves to be a quick study.

These changes over time should augur well for the next four year term. However, as often occurs, change takes some time to settle, and some division and disruption has been noticed by our on-site observers and in media reports. There are early indications of “bloc voting” that the MRA deems unacceptable at the municipal level.

As leader of the new council, it is incumbent upon Mayor Furniss to ensure respect for the office of mayor, for administrative staff, for township procedure and for public process. By so doing, constructive debate and accomplishment will follow, cohesiveness and unity of purpose will be evident, and the taxpayer will benefit from increased efficiency and productivity.

Some of council’s positive actions over the past four months:

  • Passed the Comprehensive Zoning By-law (2014-14)
  • Hired a new Treasurer for the Township
  • Held four Strategic Planning sessions for public input
  • Formed a Working Committee with Swift River to try and mitigate community concerns

Some observations that are causes for concern:

  • Each councillor should remember to adhere to the Township Code of Conduct (ethics, individual behaviour and conduct all matter)
  • Cell phones should be turned off during council and committee meetings
  • Councillors should schedule and reserve meeting days and remain in attendance until adjournment
  • Each councillor should familiarize themselves with the Procedural By-law and act accordingly
  • Bala Falls issues continue to dominate many agendas

Councillors should remember that it is an honour and a privilege to represent all township constituents. We, at the MRA, are hopeful and confident that any present issues can and will be resolved in short order for the good of the township and the taxpayers.