Toronto– Innisfil Council refused to abandon its unprecedented campaign to extract OMB costs from its own residents last night.  To boos and cat-calls, the Mayor and 7 of 8 Councillors refused to allow discussion of a Motion clarifying why the town is supporting a staggering $3.6 million claim in the Big Bay Point case.
“I expect a Town Council to refuse to release information about a bizarre claim for millions of dollars against its own residents on an episode of the Dukes of Hazzard, but not in Ontario”, said Dr. Rick Smith who addressed Council and asked for debate.
“Is this Council even aware that in addition to legal and expert fees, they’re seeking reimbursement for everything from a bug jacket, to a bag of ice, a piece of Chocolate Explosion cake and literally thousands of dollars for croissant, sliced fruit and bagels and cream cheese?”, Smith added.
Despite the obvious and serious repercussions on the Town’s finances and for its ratepayers on proceeding with the unprecedented costs claim against the Innisfil District Association (“IDA”) and its former lawyers, Council has never discussed publicly or even in-camera the decision to proceed with the claim. 
The Town is supporting the whole of the developer’s claim even though it adopted By-law 021-05 that guaranteed the Town would be reimbursed its hearing expenses regardless of the outcome of the hearing.  In other words, the Town is expending considerable time and resources trying to get the developer’s money back but has no financial interest in this proceeding.  This is a highly unusually and prejudicial action taken against its own constituents.
Don Avery, Chairman of the Innisfil District Association, had asked Council to debate a Motion to answer residents’ questions such as ‘who is paying the Town’s lawyer’s fees’?  ‘When and by whom was the lawyer authorized to launch this extraordinary action’?  ‘Why was this matter not presented to this Council and the public for a discussion’?
“Council has never circulated a staff report or legal opinion on whether this enormous cost claim has merit or is in the Town’s interest”, said Don Avery.
Environmental Defence lawyer Clayton Ruby has stated flatly the developer and Town’s claim is nothing more than a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation and should be defeated to protect the public interest.  According to the August edition of Toronto Life Magazine, the Town’s claim is now just one of a number of actions and counter-claims involving opponents of the Big Bay Point project totalling $225 million.
Council also refused to address the fact that according to a spokesperson from the OMB, cost awards are unusual and usually in the range of $2,000 to $5,000.  In addition, Council refused to consider that costs at the OMB are awarded in less than 2 per cent of cases, usually for patently unreasonable behaviour during hearings. Most awards are nominal or symbolic amounts unrelated to the real expenses incurred.
“The Government of Ontario owes the residents of Innisfil an explanation for this secret assault on democracy and the rights of the citizens of Hazzard County… we mean Innisfil, Ontario”, Smith added. 
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For more information, or to arrange interviews, please contact:
Mike Layton, Environmental Defence, (416) 323-9521 ext.257, (416) 525-5758 (cell)