Regional Overview Of Geography And TaxationIn discussing the politics and taxation of the area, it is first necessary to clarify the political geography. An arbitrary line was drawn many years ago down the centre of the French River and this line has many implications. North of the line is the District of Nipissing; south of the line is the District of Parry Sound. Cottages north of the line are in Bertram Township, now part of the Municipality of West Nipissing; while cottages on the south side are in either Hardy or Patterson Townships.
Cottagers on the north side became residents of West Nipissing Municipality after amalgamation on January 1, 1999. High taxes became an immediate issue, and the UFRCA has struggled to be recognized as a financial contributor to the region with little in return. Over the years, the UFRCA has been instrumental in the establishment of 911 addressing and mail-in voting for those in Bertram Township. The on-going issue of the maintenance of the Dokis Road was finally resolved in 2011 when West Nipissing finally accepted responsibility for maintaining its portion of the road.
For many years, most of the cottagers in the French River area had enjoyed very low taxes. Most got very used to paying, on average, $20 per year in taxes. These land taxes went to the Ontario Government and were used for administrative purposes. Since amalgamation, taxes on properties in Bertram Township have increased 10-fold to approximately $2000 per year for an average cottage with no services. Note that both municipal and education taxes are levied separately on the same tax bill. Cottagers on the south side pay a provincial land tax as these townships are unorganized. All pay education taxes.
All property owners in Ontario pay education taxes on every property they own. It is a common misconception that education taxes go directly from the taxpayer to the school board of their choice. In fact, municipalities collect education taxes which are then directed to the province. Through a complex funding formula, the province allocates money to the school boards in cities and towns and rural areas across the province.
In 1998, West Parry Sound School Board amalgamated with East Parry Sound and North Bay District School Boards to form the Near North District School Board - the major English Public school board in the region. There are 3 other school boards operating in the North Bay area: Separate (Catholic) French, Separate (Catholic) English, and Public French, which makes the situation even more confusing.
Summary: Currently cottagers on the north side pay municipal taxes to West Nipissing while those on the south side pay land taxes. Cottagers on both sides of the river pay education taxes.
The amalgamation of Bertram Township with the Municipality of West Nipissing in 1999 resulted in the UFRCA becoming much more politically involved. One of the major contributions of the UFRCA to the entire municipality was the successful request for mail-in voting. This process has now been used successfully in the 2003, 2006, and 2010 municipal elections, and has been positively received not only by cottagers but also by many local residents who have found it difficult to access traditional voting locations. Municipal elections are now held every four years. To be eligible to vote, one must own property or reside in the municipality, be 19 years of age and older, and be a Canadian citizen.
Upper French River Political Contacts
Municipal Main Office
225 Holditch Street
Sturgeon Falls, ON P2B 1T1
Tel: (705) 753-2250
Fax: (705) 753-3950
Office Hours: Monday - Friday 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Ward 8 Bertram Township Councillor:
10521 Highway 64
Tel: (705) 594-2301
406 Leclair Road
Tel: (705) 594-9382
Municipal Office (705) 753-2250 Ext. 6900
Fax: (705) 753-3950
Members of Parliament (2010 Federal Election)
Riding of Nickel Belt (includes Sturgeon Falls and Bertram Township)
Claude Gravelle (NDP)
Riding of Parry Sound – Muskoka (includes Hardy and Patterson Townships)
Tony Clement (PC)
Members of Provincial Parliament (2010 Provincial Election)
Riding of Timiskaming-Cochrane (includes Sturgeon Falls and Bertram Township)
John Vanthof (NDP)
Riding of Parry Sound – Muskoka
Norm Miller (PC)