Posted on: November 23, 2014 | General News
We are experiencing a brisk response to our Email-Blast for membership renewal. One positive result is a huge increase in the number of members who are discovering our rejuvenated website at www.whiteshellcottagers.com. Large numbers of cottagers are registering on the site and renewing their memberships there as well!
This is a very good result in itself, since up to now, the only ways we could contact our membership were via the Echo and by Canada Post mailings. The Website and our membership email list, now represent important new avenues for us to keep in touch with our members, and for members to keep in touch with us.
On exactly that point, I want to update cottagers on some of the feedback we are getting from members with respect to our campaign for membership renewals.
First and foremost, almost all of the messages are positive, reassuring us of ongoing support and encouragement from the vast majority of members.
But we acknowledge a few members who have responded to our campaign with some frustration. Let me air some of their views, and try to answer them forthrightly.
One member accused us of behaving just like the government by raising fees without justification. To that member I answer that there is a world of difference on a number of counts. First and foremost, it is hard to equate a one-time increase of $10 per year in our dues to the accelerating increases of hundreds of dollars each year for 10 consecutive years that the government has arbitrarily announced. Second, we are an open, volunteer organization, and the decision to increase fees was made openly by our Executive and Directors. While the government will be spending our service and lease fees without consultation for many purposes over which we have no control or interest, the Cottagers Association has clear objectives in mind to improve our effectiveness, broaden our communication with our members and strengthen our position with government and the public. Our very ability to publish this response on our Website speaks volumes about our new capacity to respond to our members. Strengthening our organization comes with a small price tag all cottagers should be willing to support. Our new membership fee seems a small price to invest in a vigorous campaign to rein in the Government’s extravagant ambitions to pick our collective pockets. There is no guarantee of success, but is there any of our membership who thinks that we shouldn’t try?
One cottager asked why we aren’t just using our reserve fund to cover our everyday expenses? We acknowledge that we do have a reserve fund devoted to the very expensive legal and public relations tasks we are engaging in. However, we don’t want to dig into the reserve, and risk hampering these other critical priorities, just to cover the regular operating costs of our organization. The small increase in WCA annual fees targets our everyday expenditures. We need to be able to answer your phone calls and emails, send out updates on our committee activities, recruit members for important tasks, maintain liaison with other cottagers in Manitoba, keep our website updated, publish and mail the Echo, improve the public image of our organization etc. etc., In other words we need to focus on tasks designed to ensure we are an organization prepared to defend the interests of cottagers in a difficult environment.
Another cottage owner asked why we haven’t already taken action against the government, implying that we have been doing nothing in the past couple of years to address cottager concerns. Let me assure all cottagers that we have not been foot dragging. We have been laying our plans to implement a multipronged approach to meet the government’s challenge head on. We have been working diligently with our lawyer preparing our case against both the service fees and the increasing lease rates. On these grounds we have a strong case, but our best advice has been that our legal position will be strengthened if we also address public and government relations issues before we launch a lawsuit. So we have hired a public relations consultant, and are working on the production and delivery of a strong message to the public and media about who we are and what we want from the government. We have orchestrated a petition that clearly states our case that will be presented to the Legislature as part of our campaign. Also underway is a political action program to make our case directly to legislative members, so that word of our demands for fair and transparent policy will filter up via caucus and cabinet to government decision makers. And we have made contact with other Cottage Associations in the Province, all of whom are being victimized by the government. They have told us that when we go to court, they will be at our side.
So we appreciate the concern that we have been slow off the mark. Up to now, our external communication has been sparse, for which we apologize. But our approach is better described as being strategic, keeping our powder dry, and waiting to strike when conditions are optimal. We are also being prudent with our members money; a lawsuit may cost more than $100,000! We have already spent a large sum in preparing our case, and are nearing a point of readiness.
That having been said, the current government uncertainty opens up many opportunities for our message to gain attention. So please be patient and stay tuned on that front. We will need volunteers for some of our political action steps and we hope that many of you will be prepared to step up.
I urge all members to take a positive view of our activities and be optimistic about the chance our message will be heard.
Keep up your memberships, register on our Website, encourage your neighbors and friends to join us, including the negative nannies, and rather than grumbling in the background, step forward to help fight these unfair fees and rates!
Our message is simple:
Cottagers are ordinary Manitobans.
We are prepared to pay our fair share of Parks expenditures.
We are prepared to pay reasonable rent for cottage lots. But we will only do so when these costs are apportioned and the rents determined fairly and openly, as required by the Parks Act.
We will be pleased to take our place with government and other stakeholders to establish a sustainable funding formula that respects the needs of the Park and the interests of cottagers and all stakeholders
We simply want the government to be accountable.
We insist on our democratic right to have a say in the expenditure of our money.
Daniel Klass, President, WCA.
November 23, 2014