- by Craig Gammie

"This should NEVER have gotten this far”. I agree. I also submit that it should never even have even got off the ground.

Janice Jackson has been fighting with the MNR (Ministry of Natural Resources) over plover habitat protection since 2011. She was repeatedly warned by MNR staff that grooming beyond MNR guidance would probably be considered a chargeable contravention of the Endangered Species Act and could result in charges and fines. She very publicly indicated in 2017 that she wanted to draw the courts in to settle her dispute with the MNR.

This is from the Owen Sound Sun Times July 11, 2017: “Jackson said she is not afraid of the town being fined. “It'll give us the ability to appeal and hopefully it will come before a judge who can then make a decision on what we can and can't do on the beach.” “
The 2017 grooming actions appear to challenge the MNR to charge the town.

Ms. Jackson succeeded in getting the matter before a judge. But she failed to get the outcome she wanted and expected.
The photograph is Ms. Jackson (red shorts) inspecting the bulldozing progress late August 2017 at the North end of the beach. Where she and the public works manager are standing was several hours earlier 3 feet depth of sand. The photo was entered as evidence in the trial. (In trial the Town lawyer claimed that there was no proof that the terrain had been altered.) In trial and appeal this area was found to be habitat and the action was found to be habitat damage, and the town was charged.

The decisions to groom excessively (spring 2017) and bulldoze (fall 2017) beyond the Endangered Species Act and beyond the town bylaw were not council decisions. The decisions were all or primarily Janice Jackson’s.
Ms. Jackson had choices at several points.

In 2017 she could have just obeyed the Endangered Species Act and followed MNR guidance (and followed the Town By-law). There would then have been no charges or legal costs, and the million dollars would still be in the taxpayers’ pockets. Instead, with disregard for the taxpayers’ money, Ms. Jackson chose to fight.

When charged the town could have admitted fault, and promised to obey the law going forward. A guess is that the crown would have settled the matter for zero or a tiny penalty. Cost to taxpayers? Maybe $100,000 maximum. Instead, with disregard for the taxpayers’ money, she or she and council chose to fight on.

When convicted in October 2019 the town could have paid the fines, declined to appeal, and conformed to the law going forward. Cost to that point would have been about another 5 hundred thousand or more. Instead, with disregard for the taxpayers’ money, she or she and council chose to fight on.

Now it seems that she is considering further appeals, possibly all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada. That’s not quite as simple as it sounds. The appeal would first have to go through at least one, and maybe all of these courts: Superior Court of Ontario; Divisional Court Ontario; and Ontario Court of Appeals.

If the town was able to get all the way to the Supreme Court (a big “if”), it could possibly cost the taxpayers another 1 million dollars or more. With no gain to the taxpayers if the town won.

Will she or she and council continue the disregard for the taxpayers’ money and choose to fight on?

image: supplied




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