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Protecting Your Lake
Bitter, Burdock, Coleman, Little Redstone, Pelaw & Redstone


Protecting Your Lake
Bitter, Burdock, Coleman, Little Redstone, Pelaw & Redstone

2019 FOCA AGM and Spring Seminar

I had the pleasure of attending the 2019 FOCA AGM and Spring Seminar for Lake Associations held March 2, 2019 at the Boulevard Club in Toronto.  Here is a brief summary of some of the highlights that were of interest to me.   For additional details, members of RLCA and thus members of FOCA can go to the FOCA website (, sign in as members and look at a comprehensive summary of the meeting prepared by Michelle Lewin of FOCA.  (See the last paragraph below for sign in directions.)  The focus of this meeting was on planning—from organizational planning best practices for associations, to tips for successful engagement with rural municipal partners, to personal family planning to pass the cottage to the next generation. 

Terry Rees, the Executive Director opened the meeting with a summary of the activities of FOCA during the past year.  2018 was a busy, productive year for FOCA.  The Directors led a strategic planning process that included an extensive member survey which then led to the creation of FOCA’s 20/20 Vision:  A Strategic Framework for the period 2018-2010.  See the FOCA website for the full document.  As a result of that planning exercise FOCA’s work for 2018 focussed on:

  • Strengthening Lake Associations  (eg. sharing statistics from the member survey, new print and video resources on topics like septics, ongoing risk management and member events on topics like first aid, responsible cottage rental, road issues, emergency preparedness  and cottage succession)
  • Effective Government Relations (eg. encouraging members to vote in their rural ridings, government liason, environmental advocacy and encouraging members to lobby to keep the lake partner program funding from the Ontario government)
  • Science into Action (eg. continuing the Lake Partner program, 29 projects on Invasive Species, a new resource called: A Guide to Citizen Science at the Lake)
  • Bridging Gaps in our Rural Communities (eg. A report on the Role of Waterfront Property Owners (WPO) in Economic Development in Rural Ontario, research on municipal septic maintenance programs with a report expected in 2019, and the continuation of the monthly Elerts)

All of which work was enhanced by continuing with communications (in print and digital formats) and expanded media efforts.  See the website for FOCA’s Brochure:  2018  Year in Review  for complete details

Next Marlin Horst, the President  took over for the business part of the meeting where:

  • the minutes from the March 3, 2018 Annual General Meeting were presented and approved by motion;
  • the  financial statements including the independent auditor’s report were presented and approved by motion;
  • a motion was made to approve the slate of new directors;   Ian Crawford and I were elected as new directors for a 3 year term.


The 2018 FOCA Achievement Award was then presented by Wendy Sue Lyttle, a FOCA director to White Lake Cottagers’ Association for their efforts in conservation, invasive species prevention, environmental education and involvement in municipal affairs.  The award is presented each year to an association whose activities are consistent with FOCA’s mission to protect thriving and sustainable waterfronts across Ontario.

Prior to the lunch break the guest speaker, David Meslin, spoke about Connecting with your Municipal Council and Why.  Dave is the author of a couple of books and passionate about many things, including community activism and municipal politics.   His premise is that municipal councils matter as that is where important decisions that affect daily life are made and where councillors, with whom you can speak, are not bound by party lines.   In provincial and federal politics you can meet with local representatives, make your pitch, feel that they accept your arguments and support your positions, only to find out that your position is not supported by the party and therefore will not be put forward or dealt with.   By way of contrast, in a municipal situation you just need to determine how many councillors there are, and one by one get them on side until you have a majority  of the council that will support your initiative. 

Dave’s Top Tips for connecting with your Municipal council are:

  1. Understand how the system works—you need to be involved well before the matter goes to council.  So stay on top of meeting notices and minutes and watch for a motion that leads to the request for a staff report.  Then be sure to speak with staff and councillors before it gets to council.  Find out about how standing committees, staff reports and public consultations work and arrange to make presentations to them.
  2. Research—become a real expert on the particular topic.  And communicate this knowledge to staff  and councillors.  Use the information to counteract the negative stereotypes you may encounter and to build your case.
  3. Build a strong team—find the people with the skills you do not have.
  4. Make a brand—perhaps you cottagers association brand is enough and make sure you identify yourself with that brand.
  5. Find allies—build a network of people passionate about the same issue.
  6. Create a strong elist.
  7. Organize events—use on-line communication to get people to events.
  8. Get media attention—they love a story.
  9. Get endorsements—find the big names in your extended community who can stand up for your issue.
  10. Be vigilant—when a development proports to improve things be aware that it may also be bad for community values.  Developers often bundle offers or opportunities in the hopes that councils will put up with the bad in order to get the good. 

 Dave ended by saying:  don’t underestimate the value that you as a cottager bring to your local community.  You see things differently and this can improve an area.  He concluded that if you do not make an effort to shape your world, others may do it for you and you may not like it.


LUNCH followed—very well done by the Boulevard Club.


The afternoon sessions started with Creative Solutions to Boating Issues, a panel discussion on boating etiquette, noise and safety.  Terry Rees from FOCA was joined by Sgt. Dave Moffatt, the Provincial Marine Coordinator for the OPP and by Greg Wilkinson of Safe Quiet Lakes.  Terry Rees of FOCA began by listing the “pinch points” of boating as identified by a FOCA 2018 survey—noise, traffic, boat size, speed, wakes (effect on loons and shoreline) and etiquette.

The OPP has had a marine presence since 1949.  They enforce not only the Canada Shipping Act 2001 but also all water related legislation and regulations, which include the Liquor Licence Act, the EPA (garbage overboard including sewage), the Criminal Code (impaired operation) property crimes and now the Cannabis Act 2017.    Sixty-nine detachments own vessels (148 in total) and there are 3 SAVE teams in Ontario.  SAVE stands for:  Snowmobile, ATV and Vessel Enforcement.  The OPP vessels police those areas with no road access.  The OPP uses a seasonal schedule to patrol the lakes which is developed based on uses in the lake, complaints and officer experience.  The marine program works through patrols, community engagement, like attending AGMs, outreach events, and media messaging, responding to calls and investigating marine events.   Dave reminded everyone that to reach OPP use 911 for emergencies only, like reporting a drunk driver and otherwise use *OPP for non emergency calls.  If you are making a complaint, they need to know who, when, what, where and why, so be prepared with that information.  Finally the advice for cottage owners is to post the phone number for the local OPP detachment along with the instructions to get to the cottage beside the telephone.  See FOCA’s template for this on its website.

Safe Quiet Lakes is a not for profit volunteer organization.  Their website is

Their goal is to make lakes in Muskoka safer and quieter and to ensure sustainable enjoyment of a treasured shared resource.  Their research indicates there is a direct correlation between enjoyment and safety, noise and boat traffic.  Their strategy is to use dialogue, education and advocacy  to reach their goals.  They have already developed a “Boaters Code” which is available on their website and was freely shared at the meeting.   They have posted the code on a large permanent sign at public boat launches in  Muskoka.  They are now working on developing “no wake zones “ and “decibel limits” for boats.  They have posted speed regulation signs and no wake signs at strategic areas on the lakes.  They continue to call for enforcement of existing laws and regulations and for the use of lake load tools for development assessments.  Greg Wilkinson reminded everyone that in order to reduce the wake a boat must not only slow down, but also get the bow down.  He also pointed out that they are working on safety issues, such as who has the right of way.  He concluded by saying that it is all about setting community expectations!


The meeting then broke up into 3 smaller groups to hear about one of the following issues:

  1. Cottage Succession Planning and ways to keep the cottage in the family for the next generation.  This is a favourite presentation by estate lawyer Peter Lillico and access to his slides is available through the FOCA website. 
  2. Association Governance/Organizational Planning—best management practices for non-profit volunteer led associations.  This is a very useful presentation by Ted Hyland a non-profit governance lawyer and access to his slides is available on the FOCA website.
  3. A Deeper Dive into Boating Issues—a  continuation of the earlier discussion on boating issues.

I attended the smaller group discussing boating issues.  John Bowlby who sits on Transport Canada’s Ontario Recreational Boating Advisory Council joined the group along with representatives from Cade Associates Insurance Brokers.   John spent considerable time discussing “load capacity” which is a tool being developed by Transport Canada in conjunction with local municipalities to limit boat size and traffic and is intended to be incorporated into the development process.   He also confirmed that a lake can be declared as a “no motor lake” under the regulations to the Canada Shipping Act.  The regulations simply name the lake and says that no combustion engines are allowed.  He also reminded people of the Private Buoys Act  that permits you to place buoy markers in the lakes provided they comply with the provisions of the regulations.  FOCA has a link on its website. The next presentation was made by the OPP who spoke about reporting criteria for boating collisions.  A fatal collision must be reported.  So too must a collision be reported where there is personal injury.  There are no reporting instructions for a collision with property damage only.  The OPP also reminded everyone of the pfd requirements for stand up paddle boards.  If you are wearing your pfd you just need a whistle.  If you are not wearing a pfd but it is attached to the board you need a buoy line and a whistle.  If you are paddling at night you need a flashlight.

The final session of the day was the “Burning Questions” session.  Michelle Lewen of FOCA reviewed a number of questions that attendees had handed in during the course of the day.  Questions were posed about invasive species, mandatory septic inspections, fireworks, the Environmental Bill of Rights, and association engagement.  There are items on the FOCA website about these topics and watch the upcoming Elerts from FOCA where the discussion will continue.  Michelle noted the shift  in language from “cottager” to “waterfront property owner”  (WPO).  You will see this term being used by FOCA in its communications.

FINALLY, if you need some information on a particular topic, try FOCA’s website at  By entering your topic you will be directed to a list of materials on the FOCA website, only some of which are restricted to “members only”.  And remember, as a member of RLCA you are a member of FOCA and can have access to that restricted information.  Just call FOCA at 1-705-749-3622 to get the password.   And, while you are on the FOCA website be sure to sign up for FOCA’s Elerts by using the sign up button on the home page.  


Barbara LeVasseur

6 April 2019

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