An Open Letter to Premier Scott Moe Upon the Occassion of the Callous Destruction of My Community

This letter is intended for Premier Scott Moe, but I have made it an open letter so anyone who cares to read it will be aware of what has been done to my community of Lone Rock, Sk.

Mr. Scott Moe, I have emailed you previously on this issue and was sent a response from a representative who spoke on your behalf. You have not chosen to respond on this matter, no matter how urgent it has become. Instead, you have had your representative inform us that the Rural Municipality of Wilton is acting within their rights, and that you will not interfere in the matter. This communicates to me that you support what the RM of Wilton is doing to Lone Rock, and you condone their actions. Can you, Mr. Moe, please respond to me on this matter? What I mean is that I would like a personal response, rather than one from a representative.

To give you a quick reminder of the background, this all began with the RM of Wilton skyrocketing the tax rate quite unexpectedly. At this time there were 38 households in Lone Rock, with over 100 residents living in them. My taxes more than doubled, spiking to $7000, and this was with no forewarning. Community members were naturally concerned about the sudden rate change. At the time the RM seemed compassionate about the position the spike put the rate-payers in, suggesting that a reassessment of homes might result in a reduced rate. Most home owners, not having any intention of moving therefore not having any immediate concern about the value of their home going down, agreed to have their homes reassessed. My home value was adjusted from $350 000 to $145 000, which did provide some tax rate relief. The adjuster even took it upon himself to shave ten years off the age of my home. He seemed more than eager to assist residents in devaluing the on-paper value of their property. Imagine all our surprise when the next year a private numbered company began trying to purchase homes in Lone Rock. It wasn’t long after that the RM of Wilton announced that they were alarmed that the value of the community dropped from four million dollars to two million in one year. They said that based on this drastic drop in value, they could not justify continuing to support the dying community. They announced their intention to close the water plant, cutting off access to hygienic and potable water, as well as ending sewer services. It was around this time it came to light that the numbered company that had been trying to buy houses was in fact the RM of Wilton, and they were offering “Fair Value,” but based on the assessments of the previous year. My mortgage was more than the readjusted value of the house. With a reminder of this context, I will proceed.

I am going to cite some correspondence between the people of Lone Rock and the RM of Wilton. Please confirm if you, Mr. Moe, agree that the RM is acting in good faith and the best interest of the rate payers of the RM of Wilton, who include the people of Lone Rock. Please confirm that by saying you will not interfere, you are implicitly condoning this. Why not be a little more explicit about it? I plan to share your response, or lack thereof, as widely as I can my my voice reach. I believe that people should know what you, Mr. Moe, stand for, or sit on the sidelines and allow to happen, if that is the case. If you believe that tax dollars should be spent in the ways those in power at the RM of Wilton have chosen to, the people of Saskatchewan should be aware of it.

First:

In a letter from the Saskatchewan Health Authority, the SHA state that legislation says access to potable water needs to be “ensured,” but does not give details how this needs to be accomplished. The RM has chosen to interpret this to mean that they have to confirm access to the phone number of water truck companies is provided, and that bottled water can be purchased at places like Walmart and Culligan. I would like you, Mr. Moe, to confirm that you agree these are acceptable substitutes to having piped water for sanitary and potable purposes. Keep in mind, Lone Rock was not a community with no piped water. A person could say that someone who chose to move to a community with wells or cisterns has no right to expect piped water. That was not the case for Lone Rock.

My question to you is that if the RM of Wilton are not required to provide water, only to ensure residents have access to places where it can be purchased, and that was always the case, how do you justify tax payer dollars being used to destroy my town? If this is legal, and has always been, and the RM of Wilton has never been legally required to provide water, and have never been required to provide the residents of Lone Rock with the “difficulties” that would arise from the legal disconnection of the water supply, how do you rationalise the RM of Wilton using approximately two-million tax payer dollars (possibly more since no true transparency on the numbers has been provided) to purchase and destroy homes that had people living in them and paying taxes? Couldn’t they have told the residents of Lone Rock that they’d have to dig a well with their own money at that time, as they are doing with the people who remain, and saved tax payers two million dollars? Are you, Mr. Moe, telling me that this sounds rational? That I should believe all of this was legal even though the RM of Wilton used two million tax payer dollars to drive people out of their homes and community when they could have just given them the numbers of well drilling companies?

I have to question where this money came from. Are you, Mr. Moe, saying that the RM of Wilton are not required to provide transparency on this spending? Why was this spending deemed the appropriate, and indeed, the only course of action by the RM of Wilton? Where is the data to support this spending? There should be some kind of fiscal analysis that was done before it was deemed appropriate to drive people out of their homes and destroy a community. Why aren’t these available to the public?

Will you, Mr. Moe, go on record as saying that you think driving rate payers in good standing out of their homes and community was the appropriate course of action in this situation? Can you, Mr. Moe, explain why it was deemed a better course of action than finding a permanent solution? Four years ago I suggested to the RM that a pipeline could be established between Lloydminster and Lone Rock for water. The RM said that it would cost about a million dollars, thus would be cost prohibitive. Of course, that was without considering any grants that could be applied for, and that the RM of Wilton have consistently prevented Lone Rock from applying for. In the 2018 meeting where the RM informed the residents of Lone Rock of their intentions, the Reeve of the RM, Glenn Dow, stated that the only grants available were dollar-for-dollar matching grants. Of course, this means that if five-hundred thousand dollars were put in, grants would cover the other half-a-million dollars. I need to pause to point out that to date approximately two-million tax payer dollars have been spent to buy and destroy the homes of other tax payers, which is much more than the five-hundred thousand dollars that could have provided a permanent solution. Mr. Moe, are you ready to say you think it was an appropriate use of tax payer dollars to drive people out of their homes and destroy a community rather than provide a permanent, and simultaneously cheaper, solution to the water problem? That it was better to use tax payer dollars to reduce the tax-base than to help rate payers stay in their homes?

The RM of Wilton have tried to justify their actions by saying they were cleaning up the community, removing dilapidated homes. Below is a picture of the first property the RNM destroyed. It was built in 2016. The RM took a backhoe to it, salvaging nothing. Would you call this property dilapidated, Mr. Moe?

This building was used as a tea house and restaurant. The owners enjoyed a loyal customer base. The RM bought the building for $150 000, and then used even more tax payer dollars to destroy it. Mr. Moe, are you saying you agree this is the kind of structure a community is made better by destroying? How was the community made better by destroying a hub of social life, removing a tax payer, and incurring debt to do it?

Second: 


The RM of Wilton has said that they have made offers of assistance to all rate payers. At the bottom of this paragraph are screenshots of a couple of the emails between my low income senior parents and the RM or Wilton. After three years, during which the RM opened secret companies to buy our homes, made false promises of public meeting that never happened, and of us all watching our community literally be torn down around us, my parents are terrified of the RM. We reached out to you, Mr Moe but you did not respond. You had a representative respond, offering zero help. 

Third: 

The RM refuses to speak openly to all rate payers. Instead, they have closed-door meetings at their RM office in a room wired with cameras and audio. Before they will discuss anything with residents, they require them to sign Non Disclosure Agreements. I have included evidence of this at the end of the paragraph. The NDA forces the signer to agree not to speak about the “Personalised Offer,” or lack thereof, that the RM is willing to offer the resident. If the signer breaches the NDA(gag order) the RM will take them to court and make the resident pay all the expenses. At this point I have to assume they are hoping to get at least one property for free from breach of the NDA or late payment, since they seem to have a continued interest in removing more properties. It is worth noting that there has not been one standard offer. This is a “Personalised Offer.” People appear to be getting different offers, seemingly based on how much they have resisted the RM plans. Some have been offered wells for free, although it is worth noting that in at least one of these cases the RM get the well when the property goes into probate. I have to assume that means the RM also gets the house to tear down at that time as well. Some residents have been offered $7000 off the cost of the well. Other people get nothing. As I stated before, the offer people have received seems to have been based on how much the RM of Wilton council like you, since they are deciding who gets which offer. I take it you, Mr. Moe, condone this as well? Before you answer this, I would like to draw your attention to one resident who asked for assistance from the RM to get a well. They were told it would be $17000. No deals for them. They then asked if the RM would buy their house. The RM agreed to, for around $70000. This deal is closing end of September. So while we who choose to remain are being forced to buy $17000 wells, the RM is continuing to use tax dollars to buy more houses for demolition. This is after the RM have insisted that the SHA have supported the legality of them not having to do anything to provide water. The RM continues to demonstrate they’d rather spend $70000 to destroy a tax payer’s home than spend $17000 to keep them in their home, continuing to pay taxes. You condone the unmonitored expenditure of tax dollars to eliminate rate payers, with no expectation of accountability, but you don’t support the assistance to keep tax paying family’s in their homes? This is the public position you wish to take, Mr. Moe.

I am also including a copy of a recent text from Glenn Dow himself to a resident of Lone Rock. At first he offered this resident a “Special Deal Just for Him.” Dow never states that the deal is meant to be private, and something like this should not be private! Government dealings should be open and transparent. However, when I publicly posted the text so everyone could see how this RM does their business with our tax dollars, Glenn Dow sent another message to withdraw the offer! The RM is playing perverse power games with scared and desperate people’s lives. They are playing this sadistic game with OUR tax dollars. You are ALL elected by US! YOU are all accountable to rate payers. Mr. Moe is this how you run this province? Is this the type of operations you condone/support? I can and will keep pushing and posting this information along with other emails from your office. Mr. Moe, you and other governing agencies have chosen to turn their backs on this issue and claim they have no power or influence in this situation. Please contact the residents of Lone Rock immediately and start publicly and transparent process that will work towards a mutually satisfactory resolution. I will remind you that about nine households are currently without water. There are kids and elderly people living in these homes. 

(transcription of the text between the Lone Rock Resident and Glenn Dow) :

Dow – “Everyone who does not have a well seems to be waiting to see if the RM can actually turn off the water or not. If they cannot then the water will just carry on. But if they can turn the water off then a well is important. I talked to council about your situation and this is what they could offer you. A well costs $17,000.  The RM would pay the first $7000. So you would need to pay $10,000 for the well. To help you pay this $10,000 the RM would offer you a loan for the $10,000 at no interest. You would pay back the loan to the RM at $100 per month. The loan would be for 8 years, and 4 months (100 payments). You could pay it out anytime. This is a special deal just for you. It will not be offered to anyone else.If you’re interested, the agreement will be available after 3 pm tomorrow. Once the agreement is signed the RM will call the well driller and have him come as soon as possible to drill you a well.  It will take 1 to 2 weeks to have your well drilled and connected. If this is of interest to you just text be back, and I will have the RM prepare the agreement for tomorrow afternoon. Thanks, Glen Dow.”

Once Dow discovered I had shared this communication on social media, this is what he sent the resident :


Dow – “I see our private conversation has ended up on social media, and is being used to discredit both the RM and myself. My only goal was to help you. The RM has no requirement to offer you financial assistance. The offer of assistance is withdrawn.” 

I sent this message to Glenn Dow. No response was given:

“Hello. This is Melissa Heney. I got your number from Steve. He let me know that you have now decided to withdraw the offer to assist him in getting water hooked up at his property in Lone Rock because he shared the information regarding the offer with other residents who are also in a bad situation, having no water, in an effort to help them. He’s trying to be a good neighbour and person! It’s something you appear to know nothing about. So for that you withdrew his offer? He did not know it would be shared publicly. And frankly, why the hell would it matter? What kind of operation are you running there? You are a publicly elected government representative who took an oath to act in an honorable, ethical and fair way to do what is right by ALL the people you were elected to represent. How do you figure making private and personalised offers and behind closed-door deals with scared/desperate residents who are literally at your mercy is in anyway okay? Seriously you should be in jail!”

I also sent this, after Dow declined to respond?

“No comment? Nothing to say for yourself? How do you sleep? Very hypocritical of you advertising subsidies for farmers on your website, when you have made it very clear to the residents of Lone Rock how you feel about anyone being subsidised by anyone else. To be clear, I’m in no way opposed to subsidising the farmers. I just find it incredibly one-sided that the RM publicly supports farmers in their time of need but turn their backs and claim no responsibility when it comes to residents of Lone Rock, who also have done absolutely nothing wrong themselves; always paying their taxes, and did not cause the issues that are upon us any more than farmers did.”

The above open letter was written by my sister, Melissa Heney, who has been struggling to make people believe that things are exactly as bad as they seem. People don’t want to believe elected officials could treat the people they represent as badly as Glenn Dow and the RM of Wilton have. Unfortunately, everything they are doing sets a horrible precedent. What happens to the water security of small communities all over Saskatchewan if the RM of Wilton get away with what they have are doing?

The other question a lot of people have is the motivation. Why would they do this if there really were better options? Here is where I am going to offer some speculation. Glenn Dow is a land owner in this area who profits off of oil on his property. The RM of Wilton is an oil rich municipality, although they say they are not legally allowed to spend that profit on the communities within the RM. Glenn Dow has also publicly stated that Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage (SAGD) is the future of oil extraction. SAGD obviously requires a consistent source of water for the steam. Most rivers, like the Battle and Saskatchewan, have grandfathered water claims on them, and any new company has to follow stringent guidelines. However, the river that runs UNDER Lone Rock, Saskatchewan only has the community of Lone Rock claiming usage. My speculation is that Glenn Dow wants to clear the way for one or more SAGD company to get on the ground floor in claiming usage of that river.

UPDATE (August 13th)

People have been asking how they can help the people in Lone Rock. In an email from Jill, who works in the RM of Wilton office, she said we can request a meeting. We did that already. We were responded to with the email in the open letter to Scott Moe that stated the RM or Wilton did not need to talk to us, and they would not unless we signed a Non-Disclosure and Without Prejudice Agreement in advance of the discussion. Further, they demanded my mother apologize for “threatening” them. The email my mother sent to them was also included in the open letter to Scott Moe. Perhaps I missed the part where it was threatening, unless maybe you consider a scared elderly woman a threat. We responded that we wanted a meeting as a community to find a resolution that met everyone’s needs.

Over the last couple of days, the RM of Wilton has been showing signs they have taken notice of the open letter to Scott Moe, and the emails sent to governing agencies and the media. They appear to be softening to the idea of dealing with us in a more fair, transparent, and reasonable manner. If you want to help us, let Jill Parton at the RM of Wilton know it is time for the RM to deal with us in a fair, transparent, and reasonable manner. Emails can be directed to Jill Parton at cam@rmwilton.ca and Premier Scott Moe at scott.moe@gov.sk.ca to demand a public meeting with the community of Lone Rock to resolve this matter, as well as the withdrawal of the non-disclosure and without prejudice agreements that were coercively imposed upon scared and desperate residents to strip them of their rights.

Thank you for all for any help you are willing to give. We would also appreciate it if you could share the open letter to Premier Scott Moe to continue putting pressure on those in power to push for a more equitable resolution to this matter.

Melissa Heney

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