The 49th Annual General Meeting of the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC) took place this past weekend in Mississauga and members found out that there may be some light at the end of the tunnel concerning trail closures due to Bill 100. Over the summer, Bill 100 was entered into the books as the law of the land in Ontario. Presentations were made to the Ontario government before that happened by the Conservatives, the OFSC and the Ontario Landowners Association (OLA). As a result of these presentations, the Liberal Government made changes to the bill to clarify the wording to make sure that landowners’ rights were protected and it was clear that any permission for trail use would be voluntary in nature.
At the OFSC AGM, the first speaker was The Honorable Eleanor McMahon, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport. During her presentation, she reviewed the highlights of Bill 100, the advantages it provided both landowners and trail groups, and the important message that landowners rights would not be affected by this bill.
The second speaker was Steve Clark, MPP Leeds-Grenville, Deputy Leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party, and Critic for Tourism, Culture and Sport. He reviewed his party’s position on Bill 100 saying that he urged the Liberals to pull the bill off the table for further study but when that did not happen, they made presentations to the Liberals to clarify the wording of the bill so landowners would be clear that this legislation would not put their landowner rights in jeopardy. He was happy to report that as a result of the presentations by his party, the OFSC, and the OLA, the clarification to the wording did happen.
The floor was opened to questions and comments and there were members from across the province who stated that most landowners have reopened their land for snowmobile trails however there were still pockets of resistance, mostly from OLA members and landowners who follow OLA. OFSC District 9 staff attended the August meeting of the Saugeen Regional Landowners Association (OLA member). Elizabeth Marshall, research director for the OLA, also attended this meeting and was asked for her thoughts on whether or not she would allow a snowmobile trail to cross her land using the current Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs landowner memorandum of understanding (MOU). She said she would, if some modifications were made to the current MOU. The changes Ms. Marshall said she would need are: a start date and end date, not an agreement in perpetuity; for the agreement to be non-transferable and non-registerable; change MOU to ‘agreement’; remove the term ‘occupier’ and make it strictly ‘owner’; and make it known that neither the snowmobile club nor the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC) is a nominee or agent on the agreement. This news from the meeting was reported in the Manitoulin Expositor newspaper on September 7, 2016.
As these changes don’t impact landowner or club insurance protection, the OFSC has created a modified MOU designed to incorporate any or all of these suggestions as necessary. At this time, Paul Shaughnessy, Executive Director of the OFSC recommended clubs add these clauses to the existing agreement form to be used with landowners who are still reluctant to let the trails back on their land. The membership was quite relieved to hear that there is significant progress in satisfying the OLA with an agreement that is mutually acceptable with the OFSC. Fall is arriving and the volunteers will soon be getting trails set up and ready for the coming snowmobile season. The generosity of the landowners is needed to make these trails happen and a good agreement that takes away landowners concerns is a big benefit. The clubs are hopeful that this will clear up the remaining landowners who are reluctant to let them back on their property.