Some in the community have expressed concern about an early email communication between Meaford Mayor Barb Clumpus and a representative from TC Energy, the company hoping to build a pumped storage facility on the Meaford Tank Range, but from my perspective, what some have considered a 'gotcha moment' is a big ball of nothing.
It's true that on March 7 of last year Mayor Clumpus sent a follow-up email to a TC Energy representative, and in that email she expressed excitement about a proposed project that she had only just learned about. She assured TC Energy that she would not share information about the proposed project until DND and TC Energy were ready to bring the proposal to the public.
The email that has been causing concern for some has been characterized as evidence that the mayor was both attempting to hide the proposal from the public, and that she had already expressed a commitment to the project – to both of those assertions I simply shrug my shoulders.
I'm not one to blindly defend our mayor; she and I have had our moments over the years where we have butted heads, and more than a time or two she has not been thrilled with opinions that I have written. But this isn't a defence of the mayor but rather a defence of common sense.
Could Mayor Clumpus have been more reserved in her email? Sure she could have. Could the mayor have used different language in that email? She certainly could have, but the language used was no different than what is used when any new proposal is in the works.
We elect our mayor in part to engage with prospective investors into the community and to welcome proposals, not to drive them away. I would think that we would want our mayor to be welcoming of potential new investors, and to hold their upcoming proposals in confidence until they are ready to go public, rather than taking a stand with zero information or expertise.
I don't disagree that it would have been nice had the mayor not used four exclamation marks at the end of one sentence, and I could also quibble with the word 'thrilled', but again, part of a mayor's role is to be the welcoming face that developers and other investors might meet with to pitch a proposal. Imagine how infuriated we would all be if we were to learn that Meaford lost out on an opportunity for a small factory, for example, that most would welcome and embrace, simply because our mayor was not welcoming, or was even rude to the potential investor.
The mayor's job isn't to assess the merits of a proposal on day one; there are processes in place for these sorts of developments, and they are long, drawn-out affairs that include numerous opportunities for public engagement. The mayor's job is simply to ensure that Meaford presents itself as open for business and willing to entertain proposals.
As for the suggestion that the mayor attempted to hide this proposal from the community, I also don't buy that assertion. With this being a major proposal on federal land, there was no question that this would be a very public proposal; the mayor simply agreed to not share privileged information before the proponent and the DND had all of their ducks aligned before going public with the proposal.
Over the years I have called out our mayor on a number of issues, but on this one, I think some folks are looking for a villain, and they feel that they have found a 'smoking gun' to support their assertions, but I truly think people are reading far too much into that early email.
Could the email have been better? Of course it could have, but it was simply a small town mayor responding to a newly pitched proposal, and it seems a pretty standard though possibly overly excited response.
Can we call out the mayor for expressing too much excitement about a proposal that she had just learned of? Sure, that's fair I suppose, but to suggest that the email is evidence of a plot to hide the proposal from the community, or a commitment from the municipality to support the proposal, that is far from reality.
For those most concerned about this 'smoking gun' of an email, I would ask this – what negative impact has it caused? With more than a month remaining in the DND commenting period on this proposal, what has the community lost?
If we entertain the conspiracy that this was an effort to hide the proposal from the community, then it was a horribly failed attempt given that just a few months later the entire community was very aware of the proposal.
If we consider the assertion that the mayor's email was a confirmation of support on behalf of the municipality, that too would be a failure, as the mayor can't make those sorts of commitments alone – she is just one vote on council, and council has yet to express any firm position on the proposal.
I understand that some folks are searching for a villain when it comes to this proposal, but in this instance I don't think that villain is our mayor.