Why not speak up for heritage? The future as seen by Muskoka’s visionaries and you. March 14, 2015 Bracebridge Examiner

muskoka-header-logoA March 14, 2015 article by Tom Millar in the Bracebridge Examiner is entitled: “Why not speak up for heritage? Big Ideas — The future as seen by Muskoka’s visionaries and you.”

I strongly support the work that Tom Millar is doing and for that reason I’m pleased to share with you the text of his article.

Tom Millar writes:

Yes, why not voice vexing heritage concerns to elected politicians, specially when the opportunity is there. That is what some did with MPP’s during Ontatio Heritage Week 2015.

The Architectural Conservancy of Ontario (ACO) arranged the individual meetings with about two dozen Queen’s Park legislative members. Muskoka ACO members participated in the sessions that were scheduled for 15 minutes but ran somewhat longer.

The focus of this first every ACO venture with MPPs was to inform, tell the story of ACO and the accomplishments of the volunteer organization. At the same time, MPPs were open to hearing about ‘asks’. And then some individuals voiced vexing heritage concerns, very specific ones.

The issues raised in the four face-to-face sessions I participated in included:

  • the ongoing desire to designate the historically important Port Dalhousie Jail, built in 1845 and one of the smallest oldest structures of its kind in Canada;
  • the change in practice over the years to place onerous obligations on the defendants at Ontario Heritage Board (OMB) hearings about heritage appeals; and
  • the decade-long efforts to preserve the at risk by a proposed small hydro generation station of the heritage valued, First Nations, Bala Portage located on crown land in Muskoka.

These were not resolved at these sessions. But they got voice to legislative representatives that have the influence to exercise authority to act on them, for a positive heritage outcome.

There was feedback from the MPPs. “The government needs heritage watchdogs” and “Please continue with your heritage works.” Then these suggestions:

  • when communicating with Queen’s Park cast a wide net. There is a need to find those in government that heritage advocates can work with.
  • when communicating with a ministry, cc the MPPs legislative assembly assistant. Ministry MPPs interact on issues with both bureaucratic and office staff.
  • when the desired results are not being achieved, communicate with the premier. Over time, the trend is significant and important issues are managed by the premier and office staff.

Yes, why not put voice to local community vexing heritage concerns and communicate with the MPPs at Queen’s Park. Local community Heritage Committee members that advise councillors are on the front line, have the first hand experience of what is vexing. In addition, being a “heritage watchdog” is the in thing!

Tom Millar was born, raised and educated in the Ottawa Valley, and enjoyed playing in and around the Rideau River. First came through Muskoka on his way to see Bob Orr, as the Boston Bruin’s Captain, raise the Stanley Cup in Parry Sound. Also swam at iconic Bala Falls. Now cottages in Minett with the old timers still mentoring him about the history, ways and traditions of Muskoka. Chair/Member – Heritage Committee, TML through to 2014.

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