Issues to follow in 2016
Some issues will not go away quietly or quickly. Consider the Glengarry Sports Palace Revolt of 2015, which has spilled over into 2016. In April of last year, South Glengarry served notice that it wanted out of the Glengarry Sports Palace cost-sharing agreement it has with North Glengarry. The South’s 25 per cent share of the Alexandria arena’s costs amounts to about $ 60,000, money SG council members note could be better spent in their own municipality. But the separation is not quite official, yet. Both sides now agree to calling in a mediator in an effort to work out a compromise, and prevent the North from being stuck with 100 per cent of the palatial costs, which are about $240,000 per year.
With the spectre of an additional $60K expense to carry, if the union cannot be salvaged, NG will have to sharpen its pencil and find ways of cutting costs and upping income. One obvious option is the imposition of user fees on SG residents who use the Sports Palace. This will not amuse the 25 per cent of South Glengarrians who use the facilities. But the move would be justified, considering that SG initiated the break-up and the financially challenged NG folks cannot be expected to subsidize the recreation of their neighbours.
While there is a chance that South Glengarry will try to make a tweaked cost- sharing deal work, withdrawal rumblings from the politicians indicate that mediation is doomed to fail.
A mediator only works if both parties are willing to try to save the relationship. The mood does not augur well, considering the South already has one foot out the door.
Smoke in your eyes
Picture this: It is one of those incredible Summer days you dream of during the Dead of Winter. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, the sweet scent of freshly cut grass fills the warm air along with hummingbirds and butterflies. And then, thick putrid smoke begins wafting into the house and across the yard. This is no barbecue. The neighbours have decided to burn some stumps. There goes the weekend.
Such a scenario is bound to happen more often as deforestation continues throughout the district. Burning is a surefire way of clearing debris remaining from clear- cutting operations. But mounds can smoulder almost interminably, and invariably somebody downwind is going to be disturbed by thick, lung-clogging smoke. What are you going to do? You live in the country.
To its credit, North Glengarry is trying to clear the air by introducing a one-year post-clear-cut waiting period so that leftover wood has dried before it is torched. This provision complements the many existing regulations that are designed to reduce the collateral impact as much as possible.
Despite their good intentions, township officials realize that enforcement is key. All the rules in the world cannot govern the human factor. As council was reminded told last week by a Dunvegan resident, it boils down to respect for the neighbours.
Fuel for thought
When is a tax rebate not a subsidy? When it’s a diesel tax break for farmers.
That is the story farm groups are sticking with after a debate was sparked when Ontario environment commissioner Dianne Saxe questioned the wisdom of fossil fuel subsidies, and mentioned farmers' exemption from Ontario's 14.5-cent-a-litre tax on diesel.
Ontario’s coffers are deprived of about $190 million a year because of the tax exemption on the red-coloured diesel that is supposed to be used for unlicensed farm, construction, forestry and mining machinery.
The commissioner is not picking on farmers. And she shouldn’t. Agriculture accounts for three per cent of the overall coloured diesel consumption.
Farm organizations, such as the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, contend the tax break is not a subsidy, although it is indeed a subsidy, according to the World Trade Organization’s dictionary. Regardless of what you call it, agriculture and many other sectors do receive a financial benefit from the exemption, which is indirectly financed by all taxpayers, which every year lose out on $190 million in potential revenue.
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