By Neil Macmillan
The main order of business at the regular Cornwall City Council meeting on April 23 was to receive the 2018 financial statements as presented by Financial Services General Manager Tracey Bailey and then reviewed by auditors Ross Markell and Jamie Pollock of MNP LLP.
Bottom line (in Ross Markell’s words): “The city’s financial position continues to be strong” and the administration’s internal controls are “very good.” The City ended the year with a $1.5 million operating surplus and financial reserves totalling more than $56 million.
According to Mr. Markell, these reserves compare very favourably with those of comparable municipalities and essentially buffer the city’s relatively low property assessment and give it some flexibility in dealing with any unexpected major expenses that might arise. His presentation also included benchmarking comparisons with two other Eastern Ontario municipalities: Belleville and Brockville.
Also noteworthy at the meeting were two comprehensive resolutions on provincial government programs.
In the first, Council voted to “request the Minister of Children, Community and Social Services to suspend implementation of its planned changes (including enhancements) to the Ontario Autism Program pending meaningful consultation with a broad range of qualified stakeholders and inclusion of necessary revisions to the program to ensure that autistic children and adults receive the support they need to thrive within their communities, and that a copy of this resolution be forwarded to Premier Ford, Minister MacLeod, MPP Jim McDonell, the Association of Municipalities Ontario, and all municipalities in SDG.”
In the second, Council voted to defer consideration of a resolution concerning the provincial government’s proposed cuts to Ontario’s public-health system. While some councillors wanted to pass the resolution right away, a majority wished to postpone the matter until they had more confirmed figures and other details concerning the proposed cuts.
Another matter that was deferred for more input was a proposed corporate policy on the protection and enhancement of tree canopy and natural vegetation. According to Councillor Carilyne Hébert, Cornwall currently enjoys a 20% coverage of tree canopy and natural vegetation, which is well below the 30% recommended by the Raison River Conservation Authority. One reason for the low figure is the more than 2,500 trees that have been removed from city property because of emerald ash borer disease.
However, according to Parks and Recreation Manager Scott Porter, this situation can be turned around by planting replacement trees. It will therefore be up to Council to determine in due course the level of tree canopy and natural vegetation cover it wishes for the city in the future.
In the wake of Mayor Bernadette Clement’s acknowledgement that she inadvertently exceeded finance limits in her mayoralty election campaign last year, she temporarily turned the meeting over to Councillor Glen Grant as Acting Mayor in order to approve the appointment of a three-member compliance audit committee to review the expenses of all candidates in last year’s municipal elections. The three members named were Naresh Bhargava, Wes Libbey and Rachel Poirier.