Saugeen Shores to continue Initiative membership following vote


For approximately eight years, Saugeen Shores has been a member of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative.

The Initiative “…works with Mayors and other local officials to protect, restore and ensure sustainable development of the Great Lakes ecosystem and St. Lawrence River. This organization seeks partnerships and collaborates with municipalities and other organizations that are related to the Great Lakes issues, and provides an avenue for local government to participate and have an active voice in the decision-making processes for policies, programs, and best practices. Local efforts on goals around the quality, conservation, and vitality of water are also a focus for this organization.”

The annual membership dues are based on the size of the municipality and, for Saugeen Shores, the 2022 dues are $2,750 (no tax).

At Monday night’s Council meeting (Jan. 10), Mayor Luke Charbonneau said that he felt the municipality belonged to enough organizations and could not support the membership.  “I really do not see the value in this for Saugeen Shores being a member … we belong to several organizations that represent us at every level.  I have not been able to understand the value of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities for Saugeen Shores.  So, for that reason, I will be voting against this.”

Vice Deputy Mayor Mike Myatt agreed with the Mayor.  “You can pay these two or three thousand dollar bills but over 20 years that’s $60,000 and how much have you gained over a 20 year period.  I’ve done a bit of research on this and I don’t get this one … my recommendation is to withdraw the membership.”

Councillor Grace on the hand wanted to see the membership continued after attending the virtual conference hosted by the Initiative.  “It is a joint group between the U.S. and Canada. Because our lake is shared by the U.S. and Canada, I think this organization provides valuable resources of a shared (nature) to give us additional information and support in our shared resource.”

One of the many resources that Grace said she learned about in the virtual conference were grant opportunities. “If anything, I think we should become more involved in the leadership opportunities provided by this organization. This organization helped secure billions of dollars in Canada and the U.S. for things such as the rehabilitation of storm water systems, restoration of wetlands and shorelines, support for natural and hybrid infrastructure projects, the creation of a fresh water action plan to restore and protect large lakes and rivers, prevention of invasive species and all of these directly benefit our municipality.”

Grace suggested that the municipality may have not seen the value because it had not been very involved as attendees or presenters.  “I support wholeheartedly renewing our membership and, if anything, I would like to see representatives from our municipality become more involved in the leadership of the organization.”

Councillor Dave Myette said that he had also participated in past events hosted by the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative.  “I came to the conclusion before tonight that this is an initiative we should continue with at a time like this, when the Great Lakes are facing some of the greatest pressures in history through climate change and invasive species.  We are keeping the invasive Asian carp at bay but it’s almost inevitable that this invasive species will get into our lakes.  All of the cities, municipalities and towns that border on the Great Lakes will be seeing increasing threats.  I think for a matter of (approximately) $3,000 and that they do a lot of good work and, as Councillor Grace said, ‘you get out of things what you put in’ then maybe it’s time we look at becoming more involved in taking our issues forward.  I will support our staying in (the membership).”

Mayor Charbonneau pointed out that the Great Lakes are managed by the Federal Government and the International Joint Commission.  “There is  the Province of Ontario, the Association Municipalities of Ontario, the Good Roads Association and how many memberships do we require and how many organizations are needed.”

He reiterated that the Great Lakes are the responsibility of the Federal Government in joint membership with the U.S. Federal Government through the International Joint Commission and the Province of Ontario both of which Saugeen Shores is well connected with.  “Then there also the many municipal associations and FCM (Federation of Canadian Municipalities) which we are members of. ”

“There’s such a thing as membership overload and, at some point, you only need so many memberships,” added the Mayor. “At some point, you’re only providing so much value for the taxpayer by being a member of more organizations. I put to you those great initiatives listed by Councillor Grace would exist in some form or another with or without the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative because there are so many people dreaming up programs like that.  They will certainly continue to exist whether or not we are members.”

“It’s a question of membership overload,” said the Mayor.  “If Council chooses to continue with the membership perhaps we should consider ways to try to get more value out of it.  Whether it’s three of three hundred thousand dollars, we need to get value for the taxpayer.”

He pointed out that “… it’s always best to have a resolution put forward in the affirmative rather than the negative.”  Therefore, the resolution was changed to reflect that ‘Council does want to renew the membership’, as put forward by Councillor Cheryl Grace and seconded by Councillor Dave Myette.

The resolution was carried in a 5-3 vote, with the Mayor, Deputy Mayor Don Matheson and Vice-Deputy Mayor Mike Myatt opposed.

For more information about The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative and to read its recent Report Card …