MUSKOKA HERITAGE PLACE
I am not sure if people get wiser as they grow older, but I do know from personal experience that at least some of us get less tolerant. A case in point for me is the reckless vandalism that occurred at Muskoka Heritage Place recently. There was no point to it other than sheer nastiness and mischief. Historical assets worth many thousands of dollars were damaged or destroyed, just so these jerks could get their kicks. I am told that the police believe they know who these guys are and that they also believe they are the same bunch who jumped all over new cars at a local dealership, causing more fruitless damage.
Personally, I hope when they are caught, they are thrown in jail. I know that there will be some folks who will say we need to look at the root cause of their actions and try to understand why they would do it. I don’t agree. As soon as people are old enough to know right from wrong, they should be accountable for their actions, most especially when they affect other people. If parents don’t teach them that, then it will have to be the justice system. These vandals should not be pampered. They should be taught a lesson. If they are let out of jail it should be to work to repay the damage they have done, every penny of it. And after that, they should do community service until they understand the value of other people’s property and the need to respect it.
This incident has caused me to rethink my position in relation to Muskoka Heritage Place. A decade ago, when I was mayor, Pioneer Village, as it was known then, was an issue of controversy and in some ways it has been ever since. It is expensive to maintain and an easy target at budget time.
Today, Huntsville Council is between a rock and a hard place. They are dealing with extraordinary expenditures, some of their own making and some not. But nevertheless, I suspect we will be looking at a double digit tax increase next year unless serious cuts are made soon. No doubt, that is why Council considered asking for proposals for a private operator for Muskoka Heritage Place. It would save taxpayers about $100,000 per year.
I admit to being one who had serious doubts about continual public funding for Muskoka Heritage Place. It has had declining attendance for many years and it seemed like throwing good money after bad.
However, spurred by the damage inflicted on Muskoka Heritage Place recently, I have rethought this. In addition to a tourist attraction, which is currently, not very successful, MHP is also effectively an archive for a good deal of Huntsville’s history. That should not be lost. Indeed it needs to be preserved and secured to prevent future incidents.
The question then, is how to do that in an affordable way? The status quo is clearly not viable. Perhaps it is a public/private partnership, bringing new capital to the site for upgrading and new attractions that would encourage more traffic and therefore more revenue. The important thing is to think outside the box. And that is why I think that Council made the right decision last week when they decided to seek available grant money to hire a consultant to develop models for Muskoka Heritage Place that would be affordable to taxpayers and also become a living and a viable, historical attraction, for tourists and for the residents of Muskoka.
I am hearing rumours, and I hope they are right. I hear that the North Simcoe/Muskoka Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) has not endorsed the recommendation of Muskoka Algonquin Health Care (MAHC) for a new single site hospital in the District. I for one, thought they would rubber stamp the recommendation and kudos to them for not doing so. Instead, as I understand it, primarily because of feedback they have received from Muskoka, they are opting toward engaging a facilitator to work with the entire community to find a reasonable and cost effective solution for the delivery of acute health care in Muskoka and hopefully, East Parry Sound.
Muskoka Mayors and others who contacted the LHIN deserve credit for their leadership in this. However, the hard work begins now. MAHC has submitted their recommendation. When a Facilitator is appointed, it will be up to Bracebridge and Huntsville to present viable options for comprehensive local acute hospital care. There is a group in Huntsville working on that now. Hopefully, that will put us one step ahead in the game.
Justin Trudeau will be sworn in as our Prime Minister on Wednesday. One thing he will quickly learn is the significant difference between governing and campaigning. During the Election Campaign, the Liberals made 150 promises. Many of them will no doubt be implemented. Others will be modified or retracted based on the reality of governing. That is the nature of politics and no leader should be held accountable for doing what he or she finds, at the end of the day, to be in the best interests of Canadians.
An example is Mr. Trudeau’s promise to admit 25,000 Syrian refugees into Canada by the end of next month. Under campaign circumstances, that was an understandable and perhaps emotional commitment, but even the most ardent immigration experts argue that it cannot be achieved by the end of this year, with appropriate vetting and security measures in place. It takes time and scrutiny to ensure that refugees in fact, want to live in Canada, have a place to live and an opportunity to work. Planning for such a mass influx of people takes time and that time should be given to the professionals whose job it is to manage the integration of refugees into our society with compassion and with an understanding of the mechanics that must be in place to ensure a smooth transition both for the refugees and for the citizens of Canada.
As Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau should listen to the experts and push back his timetable. It is the right thing to do and it will be an early test of his leadership. To do otherwise and allow 25,000 refugees into Canada in the next two months, would be to effectively place them in holding camps until they can be properly vetted and settled. That can be a recipe for disaster and we should learn from history and not go there. Most Canadians would agree, that if it takes a little longer to do it right, then that’s what should happen. Prime Minister Trudeau will not be faulted for listening to them.