Bye Tony, Hello Cal

Dec 10, 2009

By Dale Goldhawk

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Goodbye to Tony Guergis, the now-former Warden of Simcoe County and one of the key driving forces behind Site 41, the proposed dumpsite project that ended up being one of the most controversial landfill projects in the country. While I can’t say I’m sorry to see the end of Tony’s term as head of Simcoe County Council, it is sad that any leader has to bow out with such a mess as the defining highlight of his political career.

As Warden, I think Mr. Guergis made many classic mistakes to which too many people in positions of power are prone. He refused to listen to the constant criticisms of his pet project, Site 41. He failed to recognize how important and how odious this project was to so many constituents. He closed his eyes to the real fear felt by people who believed strongly that they, their families and neighbors were threatened by the contamination of their drinking water – our most precious resource. He held to his belief that he was doing the ‘right thing’ and that his opinion had to dominate all others. In other words, I believe he was arrogant and his arrogance overwhelms any good he may have done as Warden.

Tony Guergis declined a nomination to run as Warden for a fourth one-year term, leaving Wasaga Beach Mayor Cal Patterson to be acclaimed as the Warden for 2010. Patterson is the first politican from Wasaga Beach to be elected Warden of Simcoe County. He’ll make more than forty-five thousand dollars a year and have an office, staff, county car and expense account. But, on the larger scale in which most of us are interested, Patterson also gets responsibility and that certainly includes what is left of the Site 41 situation.

Patterson is 62 and has been on local and county councils for many years. He has been on many committees of county and Wasaga Beach councils including ones dealing with environmental issues. He knows the background of Site 41 as intimately as anyone. I think this leaves him with no excuse if he doesn’t immediately ask the Province of Ontario’s Minister of the Environment to withdraw the Certificate of Approval for Site 41. This action is needed to relieve the minds of all those opposed to this stupid scheme since only withdrawal of the C of A will kill this dump forever. As it is, there is a one-year moratorium on construction of Site 41 but the site could be sold to a developer who could develop a waste project or a future county council could vote to rejuvenate the landfill.

Patterson has made a lot of his commitment to work with citizens and with the provincial government. When he was acclaimed Warden, he said, “I lead by consensus. That’s my style. I want more participation.”

That’s all very nice but Patterson added that he plans to work with Guergis to ensure a smooth transition and rebuild county respect after the Site 41 debate this summer. This may have been a polite statement by Patterson to make the outgoing Warden feel good. I certainly hope Patterson doesn’t take any advice from Guergis on how to deal with the Site 41 issue. Guergis has been wrong all the way down the line on this one. In my opinion, rebuilding respect after the “intense Site 41 debate” will take a complete about-face from anything Guergis did on this file.

There is one way that Simcoe County residents can judge their new Warden and that is by the speed with which he asks Environment Minister John Gerretsen to get rid of Site 41 permanently. If Warden Cal Patterson doesn’t lead council to making this request ASAP, he will certainly raise doubts about his ability to jump out of the footsteps of his predecessor and work on behalf of his constituents.

Oh, and by the way, Warden Patterson, another thing you can do right now is to the kill the dumb county council decision to set aside $250,000 in taxpayers’ money to spend on public relations help for council members. Just talk to your citizens without lies and evasions. Explain things in plain language. And listen to them. That’s all it takes.

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