2012/08/23 1 Comment
By: Robert C. Henry
A significant majority of Muskoka’s 51 municipal politicians have shown a remarkable inability or reluctance to think outside the box.
Take for example the issue of municipal governance reform. Week after week the discussion has graced the pages of Muskoka’s local newspapers. Comments made; points scored, and; serious discussions have evolved.
But to the best of my knowledge the 51 heretofore mentioned have added nothing more than silence to the discussion. One must conclude that these municipal leaders are firmly convinced the current system of duplication, waste and inefficiency is flawless with no room for improvement.
Of course, there are those who would argue the 51 are much more interested in maintaining the status quo and perhaps – just perhaps – feathering their own comfy nests. It has also been suggested this not-so-fearless group of elected officials can’t envision positive change.
In other words there are 51 politicians in Muskoka who can’t think outside the box. But they don’t have to strain their cerebral grey matter as studies, currently collecting dust, are available for anyone who can read. A plethora of original thinking hides within their lap-top computers. Amazing!
But since this “we care for the taxpayer” group refuses and avoids entering into any discussion about municipal governance reform I have decided to jump off the diving board and check later to see if the pool is full or dry.
I will start with an obvious premise: Muskoka’s environment is the primary engine of the region’s economy as without pristine forests and clean lakes and rivers the Muskoka we all love and cherish will be no more.
It doesn’t take an Einstein to realize that a coordinated approach to environmental issues for Muskoka will not and cannot be sustained with six area municipal governments watching only their own backyards. Environmental issues won’t be resolved based on artificial geographic boundaries as Mother Nature draws her own lines.
Of course we are stuck with the current “build it bigger” approach embraced by our myopic 51. The philosophy of more industry, more massive hotels, more pits and quarries, bigger box stores, more “perfect” roads, more well-paved subdivisions and more golf courses is not a formula for environmental sustainability.
Moreover, employment based on building additional structures is finite. Once completed the buildings worth millions in labour and material do not continue generating significant income for Muskoka’s residents.
So why not put a single governing body in place with a focus on the environmental as opposed to concentrating on miss-directed growth. As an aside it would be a relief to see an end to the glut of municipal committees, sub-committees and citizen advisory groups. One can only dream that a single, manageable number of elected officials would take full responsibility for all decisions related to maintaining and improving Muskoka’s environment.
I envision a newly structured political body that would oversee an environmental protection zone, a nature preserve – a natural sanctuary. Personally, I favour “The Municipal Park of Muskoka” as a moniker. Yes, it’s a radical departure from the status quo, but it defines Muskoka for what it truly is – an environmentally and aesthetically unique area of the world. It could be promoted as a single destination with offerings from every section of the region. The piece-meal, fragmented approach to tourist promotion would finally end.
Immediately there would be a philosophic wedding of Algonguin Park and The Municipal Park of Muskoka. Common interests could and should be shared with the Province of Ontario that would be hard-pressed to argue against the formation of such a unique municipal body. For that matter a significant portion of Parry Sound might be interested in a loose or even binding alliance with this new municipal structure. The same holds true for the Haliburton region.
I recognize this is nothing more than a dream based on the fundamental assumption that tourist dollars (the environment) is the life-blood of Muskoka.
The idea that I have presented is not unique and probably not very original. However, it is better – much better – than the resounding silence we’ve heard from our contented 51.
I am reminded of a quote from Buckminster Fuller. He once said, “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”