Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Crossing the floor, changing lanes, jumping ship - A Cynics View

Cynic - a person who believes that people are motivated purely by self-interest rather than acting for honorable or unselfish reasons.

A Cynic might find it typical that MHA Paul Lane could so easily switch from the governing Tories to the Liberals without losing a beat. It is like an episode of Extreme Make Over political style, one minute he is the jolly blue giant then next he is Joey reincarnate. If you take Mr. Lane on his word this was all about the leadership of Premier Kathy Dunderdale and he just couldn't take it anymore. If Mr. Lane was an obscure backbench politician that was lost in the fray, a non cynical person could maybe buy that, but here is a man that was on the forefront of everything the government was doing, a point man so to speak.

Anyone who follows Mr. Lane on Twitter for instance knows there was no bigger defender of the current government and Premier. It is difficult to believe that one morning he woke up exited the bed on the other side, transformed into a Liberal and all was right with the world. Someone who isn't cynical may believe that when you join a political party you do so because you gravitate towards other like minded people and come together to formulate policies to achieve a common goal. To think that this can be done without some bumps in the road or disagreements would be a bit simplistic and naive. We don't just take our marbles and go home when things are not going our way or jump through the first opening that makes itself available.

When news of Mr. Lanes defection and transformation came across the news wire a few thoughts may have came to your head. The first thing I had to do was check the calendar to make sure it wasn't April 1st. Paul Lane? Seriously? A Liberal? Once the disbelief faded I then put my cynical cap on and tried to reason why something like this would happen.

A cynic might look at this defection and think to themselves, well I guess the rumblings about Randy Simms maybe running in the next election in Mount Pearl South have someone skittish. Maybe a cynic would think that this move was done to preempt an election between Tory Paul Lane and Liberal Randy Simms, which would likely result in the defeat of Mr Lane. A cynic might look at that defeat and the fact that Mr. Lane has only served one term as kissing his pension good bye. A cynic might look at the entire issue of party changing as more of a political opportunistic move that one of principle.

It is understandable that a person can have a change of heart and become disenfranchised with their political party, especially if the direction of the party makes a big shift. The principles that the party stood for and the goals changed then making a change could be warranted. One could understand that from the average run of the mill party member, but hardly from a party insider or heavy weight. These are the people who have the real power to enact the changes in the party that they want to happen. That is what makes a cynical person look at defections of high profile MHA's and top party executives as nothing more than opportunistic and self serving.

One thing that we can be sure of and that is there will be no bigger defender of the Liberal brand going forward that Paul Lane. The transformation will be so seamless that it will be open for debate whether he was ever a Tory. He has already spoke out against Bill 29, the Premier's leadership, direction of government, why you would think that he never had a hand in any of that. I guess changing parties mid term is like getting amnesia or being born again, seeing the light, alleluia, alleluia!!

Let us not forget, Paul Lane is not in this alone, no the Liberal Party and their leader Dwight Ball are right in the middle of this too. Of course it takes two for the transformation to be complete, you need something to transform into and it just so happens that the Liberal leadership has a case of political amnesia as well. Either that or the cynic in me would say they just don't care, it is another seat, add one on, can we take your bags? oh never mind forget those and leave them behind, welcome to the club, kumbya!!

Makes you wonder why so many people are cynical about politics.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Liam's Army Bonus Ball Fundraiser

My sister Mandy McKnight made a plea on Facebook recently asking for help for her family and in particular fundraising help. My nephew Liam suffers from a devastating disease called Dravet Syndrome, a severe form of Epilepsy that has no known cure.

Aside from the emotional and physical struggles the family has to deal with they also have tremendous expenses to contend with as they try and find a treatment that will help their son.

Anyway some members of our family here in Newfoundland are pitching together to have a fundraiser in the form of a Bonus Ball Lottery and is described in the picture included in this post.

Please take the time to visit Liam's Facebook Page Liam's Journey Epilepsy to find out more about this wonderful little boy and this terrible disease he is inflicted with. I am making a plea to my friend and acquaintances to please dig deep and do what you can for this amazing family.

If you want to buy a number or several numbers just send me an email craigscott.torbay@gmail.com , facebook message or call me 697-3297. We really want to make this a big effort so please tell your friends.

Friday, January 10, 2014

What is going on in Torbay? - My Council Update

It has been a while since I posted an update but with everything that has been going on lately and the Christmas season coming to an end I thought now was a good time.

November 2nd the Town had another great Community Market at Jack Byrne Arena. Members of Council were on hand to pass out programs and meet people as they came in. The number of compliments passed along to the organizers by patrons at the event was endless. Great job by all those involved!!

November 5th was the annual Guy Fawkes bon fire which was well attended despite the cold temperatures. It was a great time with lots of marshmallows and hot chocolate on hand. Thanks to the Torbay Volunteer Fire Department for helping out with this event.

On November 11th the town's official Remembrance Day Ceremony was cancelled due to the weather but those members of council who were available went to the memorial site and laid our wreath anyway. It would have been nice for more people to be involved but under the circumstances we did what we could. This event has been heavily discussed afterwards and we will be taking steps to ensure we have an alternate plan in the future.

On November 23rd there were two events. In the morning members of Council were on hand to serve up breakfast at Breakfast with Santa and the event went really well. We served up pancakes and fruit to the parents and children who seemed very excited to have a visit from Santa. Later in the evening I attended the Torbay Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony and it was a great night, some of the most deserving people in our were recognized for their efforts.

There were so many things going on over the Christmas season it is difficult to list them all here, but there were a few events that stand out. The fact that our Santa Claus Parade was in jeopardy of being cancelled and replaced with a Santa Drive Through was on the top of many people's minds. In the end Council and staff were able to take steps to ensure the parade took place and from all the feedback I received people were very pleased.

Another great event was the annual Christmas party for people with disabilities hosted by the Torbay Volunteer Fire Department and former fire department member Joe Tilley. I couldn't make this event and I was really looking forward to it. Hopefully I will be able to make it next year as this is one of the most important Christmas events held in the town. Taking the time to recognize people with disabilities should be a priority in our town and this event does just that. Congratulations to Mr. Tilley and all those involved. The Telegram did a very nice story about the party complete with pictures and can be seen here.

Another great event that we had was the Seniors Christmas Dinner on the 12th of December. This was another event where members of council were on hand to help serve dinner and wine. It was a fun time and the Mayor along with his friends entertained those on hand with some live music. I always enjoy spending time with seniors and having the opportunity to give a little back to those who have given so much in their lives. It is times like this when I think of my grandmother Bridget Hawco and all the good times we had over the years.

We also had the Torbay Magical Forest, wreath making, Christmas card contest and the town Christmas Tree lighting as part of the Christmas season activities. So much and so little time but it was a pleasure to participate in as much of this stuff as I could. Add to those the Town Christmas Party, the Fire Department Christmas Party and all other council responsibilities over the past couple of months it has been pretty busy.

In between all of these more social engagements we did manage to get some town business done and it was equally as busy if not more so.

We ended off the month of October by passing a motion to get some safety improvements made in the area of the Elementary School, specifically getting the crosswalk painted and adding the school zone markings to the road. This seems like a small thing but it has been a point of contention for some time and I am glad we could get it done relatively quickly.

The tender to complete road work on North Pond Road and Convent Lane was awarded but due to the lateness in the year the actual work could not be completed. I know this was very high on the priority list for residents in that area and for the town but circumstances beyond our control resulted in the work having to be scheduled for the spring.

On the weekend of November 15-16 council met to formulate our Strategic Plan for the next four years. We got together over a couple of days and discussed the priorities for the town and worked really hard to come up with a comprehensive plan to direct us as we move forward. This exercise was very eye opening and a challenge but ultimately I think we came up with a great document. There are so many things we want and need in our town that it is hard to limit it to just a few however the need to narrow focus so that we can actually get things done is absolutely necessary. Hopefully our plan will be ready to be adopted by council in the near future.

We also adopted our Economic Development Strategic Plan. This was very important for the town to have a clear direction as to how be move forward. One of the barriers to our town growing our economic base is the fact that around 96% of our tax revenue is generated from Residential Property Taxes. The need to diversify our revenue base and reduce the burden of residents is of great importance and this is a great step in the right direction.

Over the past couple of months council has engaged the public on various initiatives and one of them was to get feedback on a new sports club house to be constructed at the Upper Three Corner Park. The building is a joint venture between the town, the provincial government and ACOA. This is a badly needed upgrade to this facility and should be used extensively by soccer and softball programs alike. It will also provide another facility in our town that can be utilized by various groups like scouts and brownies etc.

Council also took a bit of a field trip to tour the new community center in Paradise to view what they have there. This should prove very helpful when we are trying to make decisions on the type of facility we intend to build in Torbay.

On December 9 council voted on and passed our Multi Year Capital Works funding application to the provincial government for the years 2014-2017. The application will total $9,457,878.84 and initiatives submitted for consideration were.

Community Center $8.0 Million
Booster Station on Indian Meal Line $572,364.78
Ball Field Lights at Upper Three Corner $231,262.27
Road Improvements (Mahon’s Lane and Morris Avenue) $654,251.79

These are projects that a lot of the ground work has been done on and we have cost estimates for them all so they made the most sense to move on right now.

Last weekend during the power outages council took a decision to open a warming station at the fire hall to give residents a place to go if they needed it. With help from the fire department and town staff we were able to keep the station open all night on Saturday in case there was a need. Up until I left there at around 11:30 we had around a dozen people come through with various needs from charging oxygen machines to just getting some water. We closed it up on Sunday morning when the immediate need was over but were prepared to reopen if the power situation got worse.

The past couple of months have also been very busy with regards to budget preparations. I am very happy to report that for the first time we held pre-budget consultations and requested budget submissions and presentations from the general public or community groups. I have to say I was a little disappointed by the low number of submissions but this was the first time we did it and I am confident as we involve the public more in decision making processes that the number will grow. Keep an eye out for calls from the town asking residents if they would like to participate in various committees and groups in the near future.

At our public council meeting Monday January 6 we passed our first budget as a new council. One of the main concerns during the budget deliberations was the desire to limit any spending increases and hold the line on taxes. The finance committee did a great job ensuring that we are providing the residents of Torbay with the best possible services and not increasing taxes.

There are a number of great initiatives in the budget that were announced in the public chamber Monday night but I don't want to get into too many details as it is not fair to parties who may be affected by budget decisions. All I will say right now is that it was a balanced budget in the amount of $7,737,851.69 with no mill rate increase.

Another big decision that council will have before us in the next couple of weeks is finalizing the site for the new depot. Currently there are three sites under consideration and an independent review of the feasibility of all sites is currently under way. It is expected that at our next council meeting we will be voting to move forward with one preferred site and hopefully get the depot move on the fast track.

People often ask me why moving the depot is such a high priority for the town and what is wrong with leaving it where it is? I have to admit I have asked this question myself in the past. The answer is that until the depot is moved it will be difficult to move forward with our plans for a new town center and in particular Community Center in the area where the current depot is located. So moving the depot is in essence a step in getting our new community center that I and many others would like to see constructed. It is something that people are asking for and something that I believe we desperately need.

This decision that is coming up next Monday night as to where to put the depot is extremely important for so many reasons it is not even funny. One big issue is the fact that the funding for the depot relocation is time sensitive and any delays could result in the loss of that money which would be a disaster. Depending on how the independent review goes this could turn into a very difficult decision based on the long term feasibility of each site. I can't speak for anyone else but I will be making my decision based on hard facts and numbers and what is in the best interest of the entire town for now and going forward. As in all decisions some people will agree with me and some won't but all I can do is try and make the best decision I can with the information available.

I would also like to add that town staff have been doing a great job clearing the snow and keeping the town running so far this winter and I am sure they will keep up the good work. There is an awful lot of work that goes on that we as residents never see to ensure that work gets done. People working both inside and outside of the Town Hall to make life easier for us all.

Speaking of making our lives easier and taking care of us we should never forget the efforts made by the Torbay Volunteer Fire Department. In my haste to try and get this post done I forgot to mention that the fire department had people manning the station in Torbay and Flatrock 24 hours at times during the power outage. The firefighters were extremely busy during the blackout and the fact that they did such a great job is no big surprise to anyone in Torbay.

Happy New Year to everyone and lets work together to move our town forward in 2014 and beyond.


Here are some pics of various events that I snapped on my phone

Mayor Tapper and Council at Nov 11 wreath laying

RCMP Officers at Nov 11 wreath laying

Wreath being placed at War Memorial Nov 11

Seniors Christmas Dinner at St. Nicholas Hall

Mayor Tapper and his friends entertaining at the seniors Christmas dinner

Councillors Thorne-Gosse and Smith enjoying themselves at the seniors Christmas dinner

2013 Torbay Sports Hall of Fame inductees
Mayor Ralph Tapper , Bryan Manning  , Pauline (Hearn ) Byrne , Dave Manning , Barry Codner

For those of you who may not have gotten the chance to visit Torbay's Magical Forest that was located at the Kinsmen Center here are a few pics of the various Christmas Trees that were there.