As frustrating as it was, the recent breakwall repair funding ordeal gave us a glimpse of how a democracy and elected representatives should work, and Meaford owes thanks to our local MP Larry Miller, who went to bat for the municipality when the federal government was refusing to honour their harbour lease agreement with the Municipality of Meaford, which required the federal government to fund such a repair.
The ordeal began last September when an intense storm brought heavy winds and waves to our shores. Some of the large boulders that made up the harbour breakwall became dislodged leaving gaps in the breakwall, and there were concerns that the weakened structure could deteriorate further should another big storm come along.
The estimated cost of the required repairs is $65,000 – $70,000, a fair chunk of change for a small municipality, but a pittance for a federal department like the DFO.
The municipality doesn't own the harbour lands, the feds do. Meaford leases the harbour area from the federal government at a cost of roughly $45,000 per year, and the lease agreement clearly states that repairs such as those required for the breakwall are to be funded by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. But when Meaford came knocking, the DFO slammed the door.
With the Liberal government essentially thumbing their nose at Meaford, council turned to our member of parliament, who did what he's supposed to do – he brought Meaford's concern to Ottawa, specifically to Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, and Miller kept pressing until the DFO finally agreed to honour their own lease agreement with the municipality and agreed to fund the repairs.
With a signed lease agreement in place, there should have been no need for anyone other than the Municipality of Meaford and the DFO to get involved, but then governments, no matter their political stripe, aren't exactly known for always acting honourably, so thankfully our local representative on the Hill was happy to act on our behalf in order to ensure that Meaford was treated fairly.
No matter what you think of MP Larry Miller, his party, or his politics (it's no secret that Larry and I hang out on different ends of the political spectrum), Miller provided excellent representation in Ottawa for this municipality, and he did so quickly and without prodding. You can't ask for much more than that from a local member of parliament, and the fact that he succeeded in forcing the DFO to step up the plate was badly needed icing on the cake.
With any luck the repairs will happen quickly and we can rest assured that our breakwall will hold up during future storms in order to keep our inner harbour area in good shape.
So, I don't say this often, but thank you to MP Larry Miller for taking Meaford's issue to Ottawa, and not letting up until the just outcome was realized.