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Both of us attended the so-called information meetings at Sauble Beach and Wiarton in regard to the Sauble Beach land claim. Frankly, we were very surprised and disappointed in the lack of hard information available to the public that day. While their intentions were good, the negotiators for the province and the federal governments, as well as for the town of South Bruce Peninsula (SBP), could have helped themselves and the public by providing the presentation in written form for all who attended.

Many residents went away from those meetings with the idea that this land claim was being pushed forward solely by the Federal Government. That is absolutely not the case. Further, it should be clarified that there is no agreement at this point. This is merely a proposed settlement, drafted between Saugeen First Nation (SON) and the Town of SBP, in an effort to potentially avoid taking the matter through the costly court process.

It should also be clarified that the Province of Ontario is in this 50/50 with the Federal Government on all costs to settle this land claim. The Town of SBP is financially responsible for their own legal representation.

It was interesting and actually astonishing that the provincial negotiators did not utter a word at either of the meetings. It has been suggested that they were sent to the meetings under the direction of the Premier's office to not say a word at these meetings. If this is true, then the Province's actions are unacceptable and we will be taking action directly with the Province to seek the truth. Many questions are being asked and rightfully so, and it is our responsibility to seek all pertinent facts prior to any final decision. We will both reserve judgement on this until we're certain that all facts have been presented.

Everyone is asking why the town, the Federal Government, or the Province is pushing for this settlement or "rushing" it through. The fact is that no level of government is doing that. The reason this is being pushed at this time is because the claimants (Saugeen Ojibway Nation) have decided that they will not sit back any longer and allow their claim to trickle through the courts. In short, if a deal or agreement is not made, they will walk away and go to court to settle this. The band is within its rights to do so, should they decide to do that.

Another common question that has been posed to both of us by constituents is in regard to the Ballantyne Report, and why the Report was not referenced during the public presentations.

The Ballantyne Report was commissioned by the Province in 2006. A large number of people have a copy of the report. We have both read the report. In a nutshell, Dr. Ballantyne's assessment of the claim is contrary to what was presented at the two information meetings. However, there is information out there that a judge, Warren Winkler, ruled this report as inadmissible. It is our understanding this ruling came in either 2006 or 2007 and under the term of the previous SBP Council.

However, after further investigation, we have found out that this report was not ruled inadmissible as of May 2006. We will continue to investigate what happened to the report between May 2006 and the present.

So the question really is: Why does the Province not make this information public? Was it discussed during the negotiation process? If Judge Winkler did rule this report as inadmissible, after May 2006, then the case to fight the land claim in court would probably be very futile. If they released that information, regarding the in admissibility, it would help all of those who will be impacted by such an agreement to better understand why the recommendations to settle this land claim are being made to the town.

If Judge Winkler did not rule this report as inadmissible, after May 2006, then someone at the Province has a lot of explaining to do. If this report was not ruled out, it technically comes down to two opposing opinions and we should all be concerned with that.

We strongly urge the Province of Ontario to come clean on the Ballantyne Report.

We will not defend the federal or provincial negotiators. Our job is to ensure all the facts are on the table prior to a decision being reached. People's lives could be affected by this claim and the lack of openness does nothing but cause anxiety and indirectly leads to fear-mongering, negative relations, etc., as well as much wasted time, energy and resources. While the Town may be faulted for not providing proper information at the meetings, it is not to blame for the situation it finds itself in. It is our opinion that the Council has been forced to act on the information provided to them by the federal and provincial negotiators. This information is then reviewed by the town's lawyer. The Council is trying to salvage the best deal they can in the best interest of the rate payers of South Bruce Peninsula. There can be no doubt about that. If the Council had wanted to take the "politically easy" way out, they would have just said: Let's go to court. Does anyone truly believe that in an election year, the Council would play games on such a serious issue? It would be political suicide for all of them to do so. Based on the information they have been given to date, working out a settlement was viewed as the best option to pursue.

This is why it continues to come back to the province. Simply tell us the truth about the Ballantyne Report, and any other pertinent information that needs to be shared. If there is other information being withheld from the town, it is not only unfair - it is illegal.

In closing, we have both been feverishly working to try and find the answers to the many outstanding questions out there. We will continue to do so.

Larry Miller MP
Bill Walker MPP


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