Midland is a community that boasts a busy harbour, rimmed with commercial and residential development and is the Gateway To The 30,000 Islands. The water access is a major economic driver for property taxes, tourism and we will be increasing that capacity with the Midland Bay Landing re-design and the restoration of our seawall to allow for more great lakes cruise ship tourism. The costs for the waterfront master plan, the seawall remediation and the development of the 40 acres of waterfront will be expensive but worth it, impacting generations to come. While we make a plan with community input on how to manage the future enhancements to the harbour and shoreline, we need to manage the costs of our existing infrastructure and assets such as our small municipal marina and public boat launch.
Last year, we implemented a new fee-per-use system for non-residents to use the boat launch ramp and park their vehicles/trailers as a first step towards some cost recovery of maintenance of the public access to Georgian Bay. This past spring, we extended that user-pay philosophy to local residents who use the boat launch by offering a seasonal pass for $100 (unlimited use). The funds are directed into the harbour budget to offset the costs of maintenance and upgrades like the new floating docks we want to install at the boat launch and the updated electrical service at the town dock. Even with the new fee, we are nowhere close to “breaking even” on the costs of running/insuring the boat launch, but the new income stream helps to take some burden off the general taxpayers who have been entirely subsidizing this asset until now.
When we implemented this change, we did not consider the impact on our indigenous residents for whom historic access to the water is both spiritual and sustaining for harvesting of food in traditional ways. The Truth and Reconciliation Commissions’ 94 Calls To Action are addressed primarily to the federal, provincial, and territorial governments but also to municipal governments, the corporate sector, and the broader Canadian society. They cover a wide range of government responsibilities, including child welfare, education, language and culture, health, justice, commemoration, museums and archives, training for public servants, and a number of specific initiatives related to reconciliation.
Among the many that are actionable by municipal governments, I was moved by recommendation #74:
We call upon federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal governments to repudiate concepts used to justify European sovereignty over Indigenous peoples and lands, such as the Doctrine of Discovery and terra nullius, and to reform those laws, government policies, and litigation strategies that continue to rely on such concepts.https://www.amo.on.ca/sites/default/files/assets/DOCUMENTS/Reports/2021/MunicipalResourceTruthReconciliation20210823.pdf
Accordingly, as we are about to recognize Sept 30th as the National Day For Truth and Reconciliation, I have been consulting with members of our indigenous community about ways to honour recommendations found in the report and learned that we had unintentionally created a barrier for the indigenous community that was not in the spirit of Truth and Reconciliation.
Accordingly, Council approved the following just in time for Truth and Reconciliation Day.
“That in the spirit of the Truth and Reconciliation report’s Calls To Action and the unintentional impediments to traditional harvesting and cultural access to Georgian Bay imposed as a cost recovery initiative by the Town of Midland, Council agrees to waive boat launch fees for any residents of the Town of Midland who possess a valid Government of Canada indigenous “status” or Metis Nation of Ontario “citizenship” document and that this policy go into effect January 1st 2024.“