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Bingo licence too hot to handle

Published Dec. 7, 2011 — Try as they might, councillors Paul Collard, John Hill and Don Lubberts just could not find a way to save the Friends of Crystal Beach from permanently losing its bingo licence.

So they decided to let the province’s Alcohol and Gaming Commission give the bad news.

The three councillors — self-appointed adjudicators in the matter — decided after a three-and-a-half-hour appeal hearing Nov. 24, including an hour in secret deliberation, to follow the advice they rejected more than a month earlier.

The advice then from the Community Gaming Development Corporation — the town’s bingo authority — was to refer the question of the group’s eligibility to the AGCO.

While the town’s lottery licensing policy calls for a committee of council to be struck to hear appeals, the CGDC recommended referral to the AGCO as an impartial authority.

The FOCB found itself in hot water for its opposition to the Bay Beach condominium project that included petition campaigns, sign printing, door-to-door canvassing, delegations to council, donation solicitation to fight the project and even a $5,000 gift to the group that appealed the project at the Ontario Municipal Board.

The three councillors chosen for the appeal — Paul Collard, John Hill and Don Lubberts — are neck deep in the sticky morass of opposition to the project and may even face sanction for their ethical and legal lapses during the election last year.

The appeal committee was chosen by a 4-3 vote Oct. 3 with Mayor Doug Martin, Rick Shular and Stephen Passero opposed to selecting a committee at all.

The other opponent of the Bay Beach project, councillor Bob Steckley, voted with the majority.

In its decision Nov. 24, the committee requested the town solicitor provide a legal opinion on the interpretation of the section of the province’s lottery license policy by which the CGDC determined the FOCB was no longer eligible to hold bingos.

The solicitor’s opinion and all other relevant materials would then be sent to the AGCO for review and then the appeal committee would decide the matter.

The CGDC says the FOCB violated a requirement of the provincial regulation that says an organization “attempting to persuade the public to adopt a particular view on a political issue” is not eligible to have a bingo license.

The investigation of the group was triggered by a complaint this summer, Wilson said.

In a rambling defence, FOCB president Bob Lund said the group acted no differently than it had in the past and no one complained then.

“Why is this investigation taking place now,” he said. “Who is this person who started this storm of inquisition? And if we are a transparent democracy, why shouldn’t we know who that person or persons are?”

He continued: “Who is it who wants to shut down our charitable activities and our hard work? Is it the people on the internet? Is it a person who is disgruntled about the election result? Are they credible?”

He said there is no “definitive definition” of prohibited political activities in the town’s lottery bylaw or the province’s regulations.

He said the provincial regulations about non-profit organizations are contradictory to the federal regulations about registered charities.

Wilson said the contradictions don’t matter because the FOCB is not a registered charity and the CGDC is only guided by the provincial regulations.

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