Opinion: Heritage follows proper course

By Mike Williscraft

There was an interesting set of bookends at last Tuesday’s Heritage Committee meeting.

The Zoom meeting started with members of the committee introducing themselves, except chair John Dunstall – he of the overthrow the committee-elected chair to get the position fame – moved on not allowing Coun. Dorothy Bothwell to introduce herself as part of the committee.

Of course the oversight was corrected once Bothwell injected, but it was typically telling and a foreshadowing of a lack of consideration.

At the end of the agenda, a little occurrence which I am sure Grimsby 5 Commander-in-Chief Kevin Ritchie will be sure to remedy with another procedural bylaw change occurred.

Simply, Bothwell introduced a motion to have the committee recommend initiating the process for that already council-approved Main Street East Conservation District Study.

“This motion is only a recommendation at this point. It is not saying we’re defining anything and setting all the terms. It’s just recommending to the committee of the Whole that the draft be considered, to designate the Main Street East Conservation District Study in accordance with Section 40.1 and that the draft bylaw be circulated to staff – the intention is that staff look at it for comments – to be considered while concurrently COTW can consider it,” noted Bothwell.

Now, that comment only came after Bothwell was forced to issue an appeal of committee chair Dunstall’s decision to quash the Town’s proper procedures and not allow a motion to waive procedure and allow Bothwell’s Notice of Motion (NoM) on the matter to be dealt with at that meeting. Normally a NoM would come back at the next meeting.

Bothwell correctly noted the study was planned for Q4 and has been parked since being approved by council in the budget process since March. The Heritage Committee does not have another meeting until late November, cutting things very close.

Adding to the fun were the watchful eyes of other Grimsby 5 card carriers – Councillors Dave Kadwell, Randy Vaine as well as Ritchie also sat in on the fun.

I’ve never seen an advisory committee meeting with so many members of council present but, then again, something was going to be done – the heritage study motion – which The 5 have dragged their heels on consistently.

While the vast majority of this council campaigned on the need to marry the need for preserving heritage with current planning and development guidelines, much or all of that sentiment has been thrown out the door by some. Bothwell’s rather innocuous motion at a committee meeting is not desired by The 5 for several reasons.

First, it takes away some level of control they enjoy at every council meeting. At Heritage, council had six representatives on the screen. Only Dunstall, Bothwell and Mayor Jeff Jordan are on the committee and were on the screen. Kadwell and Ritchie both were recognized by the chair and spoke at length during the proceedings, while Vaine also chimed in because he could not miss an opportunity to take a shot at Bothwell.

Funny these guys cannot make a special meeting for a critical matter council had to deal with in the past but they can all find time for an advisory committee meeting on a Tuesday in October.

But I digress….

To cap this, Bothwell was playing by the rules and it was clear Dunstall et al were not happy about it.
Ritchie went so far as to say the committee – which was hand-picked to advise on matters of heritage – did not have “authorization” to make a recommendation that the Main Street East study should be for a Heritage Culture District. He also seems terrified that someone may ask staff to do anything…ever.

The fact this process could play out – a recommendation coming to council The 5 really don’t want to see – will force them to overturn an incoming recommendation, which they likely don’t want to do. That is why the new and rocky Committee of The Whole process is perfect for this group. They control every aspect of what comes and goes from the council table and – to a smaller extent – who gets to comment and for how long on how council is conducting its business.

Bothwell was right. The Heritage Committee was right. Dunstall and Ritchie on the wrong end of both what the process would allow and trying to control the heritage committee from providing insight into a heritage matter.

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