French does a mic drop

Mayor blasts special interest groups that are costing CBS taxpayers thousands

By Mark Squibb/September 23, 2021

Outgoing CBS Mayor Terry French used his final moments in the council chambers Tuesday to blast members of special interest groups that he says are costing the town untold thousands in Access to Information requests and appeals.

For almost 20 minutes, French, who compared special interest groups in CBS to third party groups in the United States, such as the National Rifle Association (NRA), lambasted opponents of the OCI Long Pond Harbour project without mentioning them by name, using instead the anonymous moniker ‘special interest groups.’

He prefaced his speech by saying there were likely a handful of members listening, and he hoped they were listening to what he had to say.

The mayor talked about personal attacks against himself, his immediate family, and even family members long dead – “something even my fiercest opponents would never ever do, and I’ve had a few dandies, let me tell you,” said French. He noted the group has been trying to impact the municipal election. “I know they’ve been out slithering about the halls of the Confederation Building, and I want to take my hat off to the current provincial and federal government, and the members, and the ministers, who have not bowed to these people,” said French, who also referenced the ‘vote for change’ election signs that have popped up all over town.

He then spoke to two specific instances where he claimed the group was costing taxpayers thousands: ATIPP requests and appeals.

“Everybody is entitled to know what goes on within these four walls,” said French. “And ATIPP has to exist, there has to be a way for residents to find out information about the town whenever they want, and I fully support it. But now it’s gotten foolish.”

He said staff were currently combing through some 5,000 to 6,000 emails for the purpose of ATIPP requests. “You know that the special interest groups are behind these requests, because of the questions that are posed to you, and plus because they appear on social media a couple of days after they get the information,” he said.

“So, one person now, or two people, are assigned to go through these thousands and thousands of e-mails,” said French. “And this is just one example. I would say that ATIPP requests alone in the last year, have cost the residents of Conception Bay South, not Terry French, but the residents, $100,000 in ATIPP requests alone. This is how ridiculous it’s getting.”

He said that appeals submitted to the Eastern Regional Appeal Board surrounding annual maintenance work done by the Long Pond Harbor Authority are also costing taxpayers big bucks.

“From time to time, over the years, it wasn’t uncommon to see a piece of heavy equipment out there doing work on the breakwater, it was a common thing,” said French, noting the Long Pond Harbour Authority has a pot of money that it secures through provincial funding.

“It doesn’t cost the residents five cents,” said French. “But, because of this special interest group, everything that is done now in this area, they bring it to Municipal Affairs, and they appeal the decision. They appeal the decision of granting the permit. So, what wasn’t costing the residents one nickel, is now going to cost the residents of this town tens of thousands of dollars, again, as we go through a legal process and have to consult lawyers and get them involved… So, it’s costing us, all 27,000 of us. Special interest groups are costing the residents of this town.”

He implored residents to make sure the candidates they vote for next week are not tied to the group.

“Because God forbid, if they are to get in here, how much will it cost the 27,000 of us?” said French. “So keep that in mind when you’re marking your X, and ask if they are a part of this special interest group.”

French said if the activity keeps up, he doesn’t doubt but that council will have to raise taxes to meet the appeal and ATTIPA costs.

“I’m sure I’ll get a mention or two on social media before the night is out,” he quipped in conclusion. “Hopefully I will, but don’t worry, I won’t be reading it.”

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