BLUEWATER – Municipality of Bluewater Mayor Bill Dowson is facing an application under Section 9 of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act.
The application, made by former Bluewater Coun. Bill MacDougall, asks for a declaration that Dowson contravened the Act, and seeks an order declaring Dowson’s seat on council vacant.
Also requested is an order disqualifying Dowson from being a member of council or a local board in Ontario for seven years.
A hearing on the matter has been scheduled for Aug. 10 in Goderich, according to court documents obtained by the Times-Advocate.
Dowson’s participation in a May 16 council vote on wind turbines, along with his failure to declare a conflict of interest pursuant to relevant portions of the Act, gave rise to the application, according to an affidavit from MacDougall.
The affidavit alleges Dowson had a pecuniary interest as a result of contracts with Canadian Green Power Investment and Management Services, which according to a company source has entered into a co-development arrangement with NextEra Energy.
According to its website, NextEra is the largest generator of wind and solar power in North America.
Dowson acknowledged in an interview he has land leased to Canadian Green Power.
As the Times-Advocate reported earlier this year, Dowson voted May 16 in favour of a motion to charge developers a $25,000 annual fee for each wind turbine erected in the municipality.
The motion passed 8-1 in a recorded vote, with Hay East Coun. John Becker casting the only dissenting vote.
Dowson had declared a conflict of interest on a similar motion at a planning meeting May 9 but, as the Times-Advocate reported, Dowson cited legal advice when choosing not to declare a conflict at the May 16 council meeting.
In an interview Dowson said the motion was “negative to turbines. I wasn’t supporting turbines with that motion. I was supporting to get the best deal for Bluewater.”
Dowson later elaborated on the legal advice he received, claiming he was told, “you shouldn’t have a conflict (until) they come in and want to move dirt on your farm and ask for an official plan amendment or a site plan agreement or setbacks.
“When they come in to do that, you definitely have a conflict. Before that is your own call.”
MacDougall’s affidavit goes on to suggest that because of the alleged pecuniary interest, Dowson “was not entitled to participate in discussions or cast or influence the votes on any matters concerning wind turbines in the Municipality of Bluewater.”
Asked in an interview why he decided to make the application, MacDougall said “It’s a pretty simple situation. Politicians are in there based on their honesty and integrity.”
MacDougall later said he’s a “fervent believer in democracy and this is democracy at its finest – that a mayor is challenged for his leadership and I think that’s good.”
Dowson said the matter is in the lawyers’ hands.
“They have a good lawyer, I have a good lawyer, and we’re communicating back and forth and every time I chat I feel better,” he said. “We’ll see how it goes.”
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