Discussion heats up at water meeting

BARRY’S BAY – On July 10, the Township of Madawaska Valley met for their water, wastewater, waste meeting. The following are the highlights.





Controversy continued in the council chambers this past July 10, as the recently proposed changes in regards to the water and wastewater systems continues to cause concerns for local residents.

On the Wednesday morning, local resident George Gauthier approached committee members disheartened and suggested that the committee is still no more enlightened or informed than they were in January, in regards to the recent water and wastewater systems proposed changes.

“You have heard opinions from concerned citizens during this period as to why this should not be levied against them, but council has yet not concerned itself with the legalities of any decision that is to be made,” Gauthier said.

So, the local resident says he took matters into his own hands.

“In January, I took it upon myself to employ the service of one of the most respected legal firms in municipal affairs in Ontario,” he told the committee.

And Gauthier didn’t hold back at the July 10 meeting. He told the committee exactly what he had discovered, and exactly what he thought.

He provided committee members with several excerpts from his recent legal findings.

Gauthier asked members of the committee to consider the difference between a fee and a tax, for instance. The test to distinguish between a fee and a tax, comes right from the Supreme Court of Canada, Gauthier went on to say.

According to the local resident, the case law on fees and charges indicate that a levy is a fee where; firstly, there is a nexus between the fee charged and the cost of the services provided. What’s more, the levy is to be reasonable and the revenue derived from the levy is not deposited into general revenues.

“Case law decided, under the former Municipal Act fleshed out this last rung of the test, i.e. that a user fee cannot be used for general purposes. Under the former act, a municipality’s authority to impose a user fee came from s.220.1. The wording in this section is similar to what is currently found under Part XII of the Act: …”

In the section, Gauthier is referencing, it states, (2) Despite any act, a municipality and a local board may pass bylaws imposing fees or charges on any class of persons. (a) for services or activities provided or done by or on behalf of it; (b) for costs payable by it for services or activities provided or done by or on behalf of any other municipality or local board; and (c) for the use of its property including property under its control.

However, Gauthier says s.220.1. was not intended to change the concept that the general municipal services are to be supported by current revenue sources rather than a system of user-pay for any group, which council wishes to single out.

“At the last water, wastewater, waste management meeting, the municipal treasurer stated that tax bills were issued against the water/wastewater plan and were collected in the fees for services. After collection, they were deposited into general revenues. That, according to the Supreme Court, is a tax and is beyond the powers of the municipality to impose, and is illegal.”

Gauthier suggested to committee members, the municipality look at addressing such concerns right away. Furthermore, he suggested that Payments in Lieu (PILs) be forwarded to the general budget immediately.

“Council should consider the Supreme Courts decisions in this matter as it has been ruled upon and any decision contrary to this would be in violation of existing case law.”

What’s more, the local man went on to say, in recent budget deliberations, in regards to the wastewater budget to be specific, there was a line item for $30,000 – this is to service a loan for the current balance of the waste treatment plant.

“Can council explain why they see fit to levy these fees on a minority group of individuals when this plant, by a decree of council, was built to service all residents of the municipality?”

You cannot tell the people using these systems, they have to pay for everything related to it Gauthier went on to say.

Story continues in the July 17, 2013 issue of The Valley Gazette