Monday, November 9, 2015

My Update from MNL 2015 AGM

I just got back from the 2015 Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador 2015 AGM held from November 5-7 in Gander. We had some great discussions and debate over issues facing municipalities in the province and I figured I would give an update. I won't bore you with all the details of every meeting I attended but I will give an overview of some of them.

The first session I attended was the Urban Municipalities Committee (UMC). This committee is made up the larger towns and cities of which Torbay is a part of. This was a round table to discuss issues each town is facing and to toss around ideas as to how to deal with them. Some of the issues discussed were Municipal Assessments and what other potential revenue sources should be available to municipalities. We also discussed municipal ticketing and the challenges of trying to enforce the clean up of derelict properties. When we get together with other municipalities that are included in the UMC it really shows that we are not alone in trying to deal with the issues faced by larger towns.

Just a funny note on that, when I went to my first AGM in 2013 after getting elected to council I was looking at my agenda and saw the Small Towns Caucus meeting and just assumed that was where I was supposed to go. I saw many of my friends and colleagues from Flatrock, LMO, Pouch Cove and Bauline all filing into the room. So I went in and sat down, the session was almost ready to start but I couldn't find anyone from Torbay in the room. I just figured they were at another meeting because one person couldn't get to all of them, so I never thought anything of it. So, the meeting starts and I am listening to the issues being brought forward and found that I could relate to what they were saying. Then someone got up and said something along the lines of "the purpose of the Small Towns Caucus is to represented towns of less that 4000 people" I thought to myself, shit, I am in the wrong meeting, took out my agenda to see what else was going on and realized I was supposed to be at the UMC. So I jumped up, left the room to go find the other meeting and low and behold the other councillors from Torbay who were at the convention were all there. I told them I was at the wrong meeting and they had a laugh. That being said, many of the issues being discussed at the UMC were exactly the ones I had just heard about at the Small Towns Caucus, go figure. Since our current council has been elected we have made an extra effort to build relationships with our neighboring municipalities and it has been great. The six Mayors from our area and both MHA's Kevin Parsons and David Brazil meet on a regular basis to discuss issues and to bring concerns to government. This is a great example of the regional cooperation and relationships we are trying to create.

Another interesting session was called Regional Government - Trying it on for size. This was about trying to get towns in particular areas of the province to come together to look at how they can work together on a regional basis in a formalized manner. One of the main concerns raised at every conference or regional meeting I attend is LSD's. No, not LSD the drug but Local Service Districts which seem to get municipalities that live near them just as loopy though I suppose. You see LSD's and unincorporated towns don't have to pay property taxes however they still need to be supported by the Provincial Government with regards to some services like roads and snow clearing. They also try and make deals with neighboring municipalities for services provided in towns like garbage collection and fire services. We have seen some stories this year where some LSD's, unincorporated towns or cabin areas have refused to pay for things like fire services and then complain that the neighboring municipality won't provide the service. Anyway, this is always contentious and thankfully in our immediate area we have no situations like this to worry about.

A pilot project is being considered and I am excited that the six towns in our area have submitted an application to participate. We are already trying to find ways we can work together regionally so it only made sense to be part of this project.

The next session I attended was the Future of Fire Services, this was something I was especially interested in because I am council's liaison to the Torbay Volunteer Fire Department. To hear some of the struggles that many towns have with regards to finding enough volunteers, lack of equipment, lack of training it really makes me feel grateful that we have such a professional and competent fire department in Torbay. It is very expensive to operate fire services and many towns just can't afford it, we are fortunate that as a town we have the capacity to offer fire services to the Town of Torbay and Flatrock. The future of fire services is largely dependent on the ability to recruit volunteers and train them to be able to offer the tremendous service we get. Just a quick fact on the Torbay Volunteer Fire Department, did you know that our fire department responded to 255 calls last year, that makes us the busiest volunteer fire department in the province. I am proud to say that I believe we are also one of the best equipped and trained in the province as well and all that is a testament to the members of the fire department and leadership of Chief Mike McGrath.

Finally the last thing I want to give an update on in the fact that we elected some new members to the MNL board of directors. We elected a new Vice President, Mayor Tony Keats from Dover and a new President, the Mayor of Labrador City Karen Oldford. I am especially happy for Karen as she is originally from Torbay and it is great to have a woman as the new president. Out going President Mayor Churence Rogers of Centreville-Wareham-Trinity who did a great job on our behalf for the last four years and I wish him well, Karen certainly has some large shoes to fill.

We have a new UMC director Mayor Dean Ball of Deer Lake, new Avalon Director Mayor Wayne Power of Placentia. Mayor Roger Barrett of Reidville was elected Western Director and Councillor Art Puddister is the new City of St. John's Director. Last but not least is the newly elected Small Towns Director Mayor Sheila Fitzgerald of Roddickton-Bide Arm. I had the pleasure of sitting down for a chat with Mayor Fitzgerald and she is bound to bring a lot of fire and enthusiasm to that position. Her speech was one of the memorable moments from the convention.

Anyway that is all I have for now, maybe I will give a few more updates in the days to come.


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Family Fit Blitz with Far Out Fitness - June 6, Holy Trinity Elementary

This event is in celebration of Canada's first National Health and Fitness Day. Come on out with your family and enjoy the fun and get some exercise at the same time. This event was listed in the Torbay Summer Community Guide but I thought I would give people an extra heads up. I think this is a great event and the type of activity I have heard parents asking for to try and get their families active. Please take advantage of this opportunity to get out and have some fun with your neighbours.

Cost is $5 a family and will take place in the field at the Elementary School and of the weather doesn't cooperate we will be moving the activities inside the gym. Pre-Registration is preferred and you can do it through the e-services portal at You can also register onsite the day of the event between 9:15 and 9:45.

If you have any questions please contact Allison at or 437-6532 ext 286. Otherwise you can drop me a line and I will try and get you an answer.

Monday, May 11, 2015

2015 East Coast Trail Tely Hike Fundraiser - June 6th in Mobile - Show Your Support!!

Madeleine Florent of the Torbay Environment and Trails Committee passed this information along to me and asked me to share and I am more than happy to do it. The East Coast Trail is a tremendous asset to the Town of Torbay and I am proud to support it and this annual hike. Although I have to admit I have not yet been able to actually go out and participate in this hike I am committed to supporting it financially through a donation.

You can donate to one of our local Torbay teams at the following links

The East Coast Trail Tely Hike is coming up on June 6 in Mobile. There are two great hikes to choose from. If you've never taken part in the Tely Hike before, come join the fun.  It's not a race like the Tely 10 - you hike at your own pace and don't have to worry about carpooling as transportation to the start of the two paths is provided.  There are awesome prizes.  The more participants, the merrier… and it's all to help maintain our beautiful East Coast Trail!

Also, just to make things a little more interesting, Mayor Tapper has launched a 'friendly community challenge' to other Mayors inviting them to enter teams and try to raise as much money as the Torbay teams have raised in the last 4 four years.  So far we have two teams entered: The Torbay Coyotes and the the Torbay Beachcombers.  You can join a team (maximum of 10 hikers - there's still some room on the Torbay Beachcombers team), form a team of your own with family and friends, or simply hike as an individual participant.  

*** If you can't hike, please consider sponsoring one of the hikers from Torbay.    It is easy to make a pledge by credit card directly on the Association's web site, or you can contact one of the team members directly if you prefer to make a cash or cheque donation.  Every little bit helps!

If you have any questions or need help registering, feel free to contact Madeleine Florent  by email or by phone at 437-6439, or call the ECTA office at 738-4453.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Torbay Raises Transgender Flag to Recognize Transgender Day of Visibility

Transgender Day of Visibility is today, March 31, 2015 and in recognition of this Mayor Ralph Tapper along with Jennifer McCreath the co-founder of the East Coast Trans Alliance held a flag raising in the Town of Torbay yesterday March 30. I have to admit that until we received a letter requesting that the town participate in this event that I never heard of it. Despite that when we talked about this prior to our council meeting there was no question as to whether or not we were going to do this, it was an instant yes from those of us who were present at that meeting. The Town of Torbay was one of six communities in Newfoundland and Labrador to participate in this event and bring it to our province for the first time. The other communities committed to having a similar event are Harbour Grace, Carbonear, Grand-Falls Windsor, Gander and Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove.

This is the second time in the last year or so that the Town of Torbay has taken steps to try and show support for people in the LGBT community. During the Sochi Olympics in 2014 the town flew the Rainbow Flag for the first time to raise awareness of discrimination against LGBT people.

I am sure there may be people in our community or our province who may have reservations about this type of public recognition by our town but I believe it is long over due and a sign of changing attitudes towards LGBT people. I have to admit when I was growing up I didn't really know any openly gay people and certainly had never seen a trans person until I moved to Ottawa. I am sure that many people over the years can recall hearing or even telling jokes about gay or trans people and having a good laugh. I would hope that as people become more aware of LGBT people that our attitudes change and we become more understanding of the issues they face in their lives. I say understanding because so often I hear the words accepting or tolerant associated with LGBT people and I don't believe that is appropriate terminology. Who am I as a straight person to say to someone else I can accept you or tolerate you? Does that project to that person that we are equals? I don't think so, in my opinion it reinforces the notion that somehow we are on different levels as human beings, which I think is wrong.

Have I always felt this way about LGBT people and the issues they face? I don't know to tell you the truth however I can honestly say that I have certainly become more enlightened since meeting a lot of LGBT people over the years. One thing I can say for sure is that the more attention given to these issues the better, an open and public dialogue can only serve as a catalyst for positive change as we move forward. As a councillor in the Town of Torbay I feel that it is my responsibility to be a positive role model and be a representative for the entire community regardless of their sexual orientation or which gender that identify as. I am glad that our community is becoming a leader in our province for showing support for LGBT people and I hope it continues.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Torbay Public Library Reopening in its New Location - Today March 25

As many residents the area would know the Torbay Public Library has been in the process of moving from their old location at town hall to a new location.

I am happy to say that the library has been successfully moved to its new location across the street from Town Hall at 1339C Torbay Rd. I have been told that pictures of the new location have been circulated to all other Eastern Division libraries and library board and feedback has been positive.

I have yet to visit the new location but judging from the pictures it appears to be a very nice space for families and children.