Thursday, July 25, 2024

Council Makes Adjustments to Pumped Storage Advisory Committee Terms of Reference Before Final Approval

Meaford’s council made some last minute amendments before giving final approval to the terms of reference for the Pumped Storage Advisory Committee during their March 11 meeting.

A number of residents made deputations to council, many of whom were supporters of Save Georgian Bay, a local advocacy group opposed to the proposal which had been specifically named in the original draft of the terms of reference regarding membership on the committee. However, the group was removed by council amendment two weeks ago in an effort to ‘depoliticize’ the document. The deputations to council were made at the beginning of Monday’s meeting, imploring council to make further amendments to the terms of reference for the committee.

Before a final vote to approve the terms of reference, council engaged in a discussion regarding some of the suggestions offered during the deputations made earlier in the meeting, and they made a handful of amendments aimed at clarifying the wording of some elements of the document. Those last-minute amendments included removing the words ‘potential benefits’ from the description of the purpose of the committee, and replacing them with ‘potential positive and negative impacts’, as was requested by Councillor Harley Greenfield, adding language that ensures that a rotating public member of the committee is involved in the agenda-setting process prior to meetings, and clarifying the language related to the declaration of a position by candidates for the committee, as requested by Deputy Mayor Shirley Keaveney. The terms of reference noted that there is no need for a candidate to declare a position on the issue when applying for the committee, however Keaveney’s amendment, which found the support of council, added language that encouraged those with a position to declare it in order to help form a balanced committee.

Councillor Brandon Forder also moved two amendments, both of which were supported by the remainder of council. The first added language to the document to highlight the need to focus on environmental stewardship, and the second added a clause to the terms of reference directing that, of the two non-voting councillors to be included on the committee, one would have voted for and another that voted against the support with conditions motion approved by council in a 5 – 2 vote last February.

With the last-minute amendments approved by council, the terms of reference were approved as amended with a 7 – 0 unanimous vote, ending several weeks of controversy related to the terms of reference for the new advisory committee.

After deferring discussion and decision regarding the terms of reference for the recently announced Pumped Storage Advisory Committee in early February, council saw the item return to their agenda for the February 26 meeting. Council had deferred making a decision on the terms of reference after some members of council expressed a need for more time to consider the elements of the terms of reference, and after TC Energy expressed displeasure with the document prior to council’s discussion of the agenda item at their February 12 meeting.

In short, we are disappointed that the proposal (CAO 2024-5) and TOR (terms of reference) were formulated in isolation, without collaboration or input from TC Energy. As constituted, we have concerns ranging from prospective membership – specifically TC Energy’s absence – to questions about the scope and mandate of the Committee and costs associated with the activities and operation of the Committee,” John Mikkelsen, Project Director for TC Energy, wrote in a letter shared at council’s February 12 meeting.

On February 26, the council chamber was overflowing with residents concerned about what they viewed as TC Energy attempting to control the makeup of the committee. Nine residents had registered to present a deputation to council related to the pumped storage advisory committee, sending a clear message to council that many residents did not want TC Energy to be involved in an advisory committee that is aimed to research and advise council on the controversial pumped storage proposal.

Once council began discussing the pumped storage advisory committee terms of reference, it was clear that council agreed that TC Energy should not have a representative included on the committee, which, after council’s amendments approved at the February 26 meeting, will consist of nine residents and two non-voting council members.

Deputy Mayor Keaveney noted that committee meetings are open to the public and can be attended by anyone including representatives of TC Energy.

Council spent nearly an hour discussing the terms of reference for the committee at the February 26 meeting, making a handful of amendments before voting to approve the amended document, with a final vote on the document to take place at their March 11 meeting.

Council voted in favour of removing references to specific groups in the terms of reference.

The original draft of the document stated that representatives from Save Georgian Bay, the ‘Impact Zone’ Residents’ group, the Meaford Chamber of Commerce, along with a youth member under the age of 25 should be appointed to the committee. Council voted in favour of removing reference to Save Georgian Bay, the ‘Impact Zone’ residents’ group, and the Chamber of Commerce, noting that eligibility for the committee should be open to any and all residents of the municipality.

What we are trying to do is to depoliticize these terms of reference,” Mayor Ross Kentner told council. “People who may be interested in serving on this committee, and having a voice in probably the most important decision that has had to be made by a council in Meaford in all its history, 150 years. It’s very important that we get it right.”

The pumped storage advisory committee will consist of nine public members who must be eligible voters in the Municipality of Meaford, and two non-voting Council members.

The Municipality is keen to ensure that the committee membership includes people with different opinions on the proposed project who are willing to work together to ensure the best possible outcome for the community,” the municipality noted in a media release issued after council’s vote on Monday, March 11.

We look forward to launching the Pumped Storage Advisory Committee to ensure transparency and community involvement in the decision-making process,” said Mayor Ross Kentner. “It is vital that Council hears from a wide variety of residents with different perspectives on the project as it progresses through the environmental assessment and approval process.”

Residents can still apply to be on the committee until Friday, March 15. Further details on the PSAC, including the Terms of Reference and how to apply can be found at www.meaford.ca/appointments.

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