It was the fall of 2016 and Rideau-Goulbourn Coun. Scott Moffatt was having one of his town hall meetings in North Gower, just an informal gathering to keep residents up-to-date on city issues. But the small crowd on hand had little interest in listening to much of what Moffatt had to say. They were angry, they were suspicious and they didn’t hold back in letting him know. The reason for their anger? A plan to hike their water and sewer bill on their municipal taxes.
It was clear the rural residents trusted Moffatt, but they were almost paranoid in their distrust of Ottawa council as a whole. The group had questions, lots of them. One man, particularly angry, suggested the rural residents might be able to accept the change, but feared this was nothing but a slippery slope — the start of bigger hikes on their taxes.
Moffatt, perhaps a little too trusting, assured him and the rest of the crowd that would not be the case. Fast forward to the fall of2017. Turns out Moffatt unwittingly lied to his residents, through no fault of his own. He actually believed the increases wouldn’t be jacked up. He was wrong. Not only was he wrong, but he wasn’t even included in the discussion about the change in policy. And at this week’s environment committee when the policy was unveiled, Moffatt uncharacteristically exploded. Here’s the thing. Moffatt is what you want in a local politician. He’s one of the best. He’s hardworking, he doesn’t speak to hear himself talk and you won’t see his face plastered on social media heralding his attendance at a variety of social events that have nothing to do with his work as a ward councillor.
As much as he can, when real work isn’t calling him, he spends his evenings with his family.
Here’s the background.
Up until the fall off 2016, all stormwater services were funded through the sewer surcharge.
Here’s how Moffatt explained it in a newsletter to his residents, “The creation of a separate fee for stormwater reflects the reality that stormwater costs are not related to water or water use, but are driven by rain and meltwater volumes and impervious surfaces like roads, buildings and paved surfaces. This fee will be charged to all properties across the city (except for agricultural and forested land), rather than only those receiving water bill.”
Frankly, that’s fair. Misleading rural residents isn’t.
Moffat, usually relatively calm lashed out at the committee, accusing environment committee chair David Chenushenko of blindsiding him. No theatrics here. Moffatt was on solid ground with his accusations. Chernushenko, not so much.
It’s standard practice for councillors affected by proposed new politics to be advised. It’s absolutely ridiculous they weren’t. Chernushenko, living in his little downtown world, didn’t show any leadership or collegiality. “What I would believe is that the cost would go up incrementally as anything does. I certainly wouldn’t have anticipated something as drastic,” Moffatt said. “I trusted them and I thought they were being honest. That’s what makes this incredibly disappointing. It’s my job to make sure they’re not telling me a bunch of sh…,” he told On the City, From the Burbs.
Information unveiled at Tuesday’s meeting showed the projected annual rate increases. Residents will pay as much as 13% more each year for storm water service over the coming decade. The city expects to garner $50.3 million in revenue next year, and $134 million by 2027. The average combined rate increase for water, wastewater and storm water will be 5.2% each year for the next five years, and 4.4% for each of the following five years.
The storm water fees alone are projected to rise at more than double those rates. Moffatt is vowing to fight this.
As he should.