There has been a great deal of public discussion on the recent letters sent out by a third party insurance company (SLWC) on behalf of Durham Region Water and Sewer.
One Oshawa resident has waged an email campaign that includes all incumbents and candidates for Oshawa and Regional Chair election positions. After a number of back and forth communications among nearly 40 aspiring political representatives and information provided on behalf of the Region, I weighed in with my own response, which is copied below. I will be sure to respond to residents with a balanced and researched answer. It’s part of my commitment to Accountability and Transparency and to represent the best interests of the residents of Ward 4, and it is part of my PLEDGE to citizens. We may not always agree, but we can always have polite discussions that get to the bottom of the issues.
It appears my response was well received, and I look forward to meeting this citizen in person on my campaign.
Mr. (redacted), Thank you for bringing this very important matter to the attention of both current and future elected officials, and the members of the public on your BCC list. Ms. Nokes has provided some interesting background information on behalf of the Regional Chairman, a former Mayor of the City of Oshawa. The first line in her paragraph 2 under the heading Background is important.
The Region’s Sanitary System By-Law 90-2003 has been modified and was approved by Regional Council on September 29, 2021, and finalized on April 27, 2022, to shift the limit of responsibility to the property line for the repair of sanitary sewer service connections.
This by-law amendment was 'approved by Regional Council', which includes representatives of each of the lower tier municipalities in Durham Region, including 6 representatives of the council of the City of Oshawa. In the email you forwarded from Councillor Brian Nicholson, he states: "It has been clear over the last few days that neither the community residents or the members of Regional Council truly understood how this change would occur. Many of my colleagues at the Region were of the understanding that the warranty would be between the Region and the warranty company and were surprised to learn that it was now between the property owner and the company." Not to deflect from the very serious issues that you have raised, and the shift of financial responsibility onto the property owners, but it would appear the root problem here is the lack of Accountability and Transparency of the Region of Durham. While one might question the Regional Councillors as to their degree of due diligence to fully understand the implications of their vote to approve this drastic change in Regional policy, their standard defense will be 'we made the best decision based on the information provided to us'.
It is ironically fitting that we are dealing with a sewer issue here, because, as we know, the flow goes downhill... So, the question now becomes 'what information was provided by staff of the Region of Durham to the decision makers, our elected officials?'. Regardless of the information provided, our elected officials are supposed to work in our best interests, and clearly, they have not. Someone, anyone, could have asked for more detail or greater clarity of the consequences of their decision to offload the responsibility of an aging infrastructure directly to the residents and taxpayers of Durham Region, but apparently that did not happen.
Even after our Regional representatives approved the change in financial responsibility and the official by-law, the Region of Durham again failed its taxpaying citizens with their weak notification process through posting it on their website and now adding it to their social media 'campaign'. Their deflection defense by citing their refusal to accept a 5% royalty " to provide those monies back to the property owners as savings on the cost of the warranty (lower monthly rates)" is yet another sign of the disrespect they show to the citizens and taxpayers. Do you really believe they decided to forego that royalty for your benefit of a lower rate?
I am no more impressed nor pleased with this decision of Regional Council than you are.
I am thankful that you have brought this issue to the attention of so many, including taxpayers, current elected officials and candidates like me. Durham Region is an upper tier municipality that has certain regulatory controls over the 8 lower tier member municipalities, including the City of Oshawa. By provincial statute, the City of Oshawa collects taxes from its residents on behalf of the Region of Durham. While you may pay those taxes directly to the City of Oshawa, they are transferred to the Region much like your school taxes are transferred to your designated school board. Regional and school board taxes are not set by the City of Oshawa, but through their own entities. In this particular case, the change of sewer maintenance responsibility, your argument is not with the City of Oshawa, but with the Region of Durham. I am quite confident that the current Council of the City of Oshawa will not consider your request for legal appeal of the Region's decision.
While I do not condone the decision made by our current elected Regional representatives, I suggest to you that they have failed in their duty to represent the citizens and taxpayers that have elected them. While this issue has certainly earned much attention and dissatisfaction, I suspect this may not be the first or only time that our Regional Council has approved an item without the proper due diligence or understanding of the effects on our taxpaying citizens. That is exactly why I am running as a candidate for Regional and City Council representing Ward 4 in Oshawa. Oshawa's Mayor and five (5) Regional Councillors will need the support of representatives of other lower tier municipalities in order to have this issue reconsidered by the Regional Council. A reconsideration of a decision made within one year generally requires a 2/3 majority vote of Council, of which there are 29 members.
I can only hope that there are citizens as angry and as engaged as you in the other lower tier municipalities in order for the current Regional councillors to take appropriate action, but at this juncture, can we expect it to be anything more than an election ploy?
Our current governments at the City and Regional level have long ago given up on their responsibility to serve the citizens' greatest need. It is time for change to eliminate the continuation of poor representation and damaging decision making. Jeff Davis Candidate for Regional and City Councillor, Ward 4, Oshawa www.jeff-davis.ca