As mentioned in our previous post, a petition requesting the Province look into recent actions of Grimsby CAO Mr. Harry Schlange, is now gaining steam in the media. Local talk-radio station CKTB had an interview this morning with Grimsby resident Mark Kossek, who started the petition which has garnered nearly 1,000 signatures to date.
What happens when you step away from the computer for a day? When it comes to issues at the Town… a whole lot apparently! This day has been a media (and social media) smörgåsbord with the CAO, Harry Schlange and the Councillors who rally behind him… as the main course.
A late addition to tonight’s Committee of the Whole agenda is interesting correspondence from the Town’s legal firm, Aird & Berlis. In the letter, John Mascarin provides legal clarification on a recent motion ordering the Mayor to pay $1,302.62 due to a breach of the Code of Conduct that was deemed by the IC as being “trivial and without consequence”.
It appeared to be a long agenda… and for the most part it was. There were a few “saves” on items that looked like they might turn into marathon debates, so the majority of business, except the closed session was finished well ahead of the 11th hour.
Queen’s Park has published it’s annual Public Sector Salary Disclosure, better known as “The Sunshine List” for 2020. Last year saw 19 Town of Grimsby employees making over $100,000, up from 13 employees in 2019.
With the most recent Committee of the Whole/Council meeting clocking in at almost 9 hours (excluding breaks), the question of whether a system that was touted as promoting “efficiency” has really delivered up to it’s promise or not.
According to an article in the latest NewsNow, one resident was threatened with charges under the Elections Act for displaying a sign that was classified as an “election sign”.
The sign in question says “Who Speaks For The People of Ward 3?”
The Town’s “Sign By-law” 97-45 (link here) is the current in-force By-law regarding signs and it defines an election sign as follows:
There certainly is no municipal, regional, provincial or federal election underway nor does the sign appear to support a candidate or political party. What the sign appears to support is the exercise of Section 2(b) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms or simply “freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression”.
It is not an absolute right, as Section 1 of the Charter can curtail rights with “such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society” on the freedom of expression. For instance, the pre-COVID adage of “you can’t yell fire in a crowded theatre” serves as an example.
In this case however, should the resident decide to pursue a Charter case, Town administration and their legal team would be hard-pressed to prove that the sign By-law can revoke that enshrined right. Section 1 of the Charter sets a very high bar.
Interestingly enough, one of the Town’s legal team, Mr. John Mascarin, co-penned a legal brief in 2002 entitled “Is The Writing On The Wall For Sign By-Laws In Canada?”. In that paper, the authors reviewed a then-recent Supreme Court of Canada decision on signs and how Charter rights and municipal sign By-laws interact.
“Given that the sole purpose of municipal regulation is to place limits on the means of expression, applicants have had little difficulty meeting their onus of showing that there has been a prima facie infringement of their rights. … The difficulty from a municipal lawyer’s perspective is that, once the onus has transferred, justifying limitations in a sign by-law is extremely difficult under the rigorous s. 1 test.”
The current sign By-law dates back to 1997 and since that time there have been significant decisions that affect the enforceability and application of this type of By-law. Perhaps it is time for Council to look into this specific matter and bring this document into conformity with legal practice and judicial standards.
While it came to our attention just recently, it is still worth noting that the Town is having a public meeting (via Zoom) for it’s ward boundary review. To ensure adequate representation in local governments, municipalities will regularly review their ward composition.
If you would like to have a say on how your area should be represented at Town Hall for the next election, tonight is your opportunity to have your say. Only a handful of people have registered for the meeting, so residents are encouraged to participate.
Representing the citizens of Grimsby to ensure that the Town’s planning for intensification results in responsible growth while preserving the majesty of the escarpment and natural areas, the Lake Ontario waterfront, the small town charm, character and history, and the friendly nature of its people.
Bringing the citizens of Grimsby and its elected town council together to foster responsible growth and good planning to make Grimsby a leading community of modern small town living.