Gibb looks to Lambton Shores to push feds to solve harbour dispute

Grand Bend Harbour

Grand Bend Harbour

Archie Gibbs is looking for Lambton Shores’ help to push the federal government to settle a 30 year old land claim.

And his lawyer says if the municipality plays its cards right, it could gain control of the Grand Bend Harbour in the deal.

In the 1980s, Gibb sued the then village of Grand Bend saying he owned the main beach. By 1995, an Ontario Court of Appeal agreed. Gibbs received a financial settlement and the municipality regained control of the beach.

But Gibbs still has an outstanding land claim with the federal government over the Grand Bend Harbour. Gibbs’ lawyer, Phillip Walden, told council recently the federal government made an offer to settle 10 years ago which was too low. But in the last 10 years, negotiations have dragged because the federal department in charge of small harbours moved to Winnipeg.

But Walden believes there is a chance to solve the long-standing dispute now. “The federal government wants to get rid of all the local little harbours. They did make substantial millions of dollars for restoration of the harbours available to the municipalities.”

Walden says believes the federal government would be more interested in settling Gibbs’ claim if the municipality expressed interest in taking over the harbour.

“We want to get this resolved and the circumstances, both political and financial, are lined up to do something,” Walden says.

Walden added if Lambton Shores took control of the harbour, conditions would improve. “If you don’t do something about it here, the feds aren’t going to put any money in and you’re going to lose that great facility.

“The federal government does recognize that we have title interest; we want to get this thing resolved once and for all…It’s an asset and it should be included in your portfolio; you’re paying to the federal government for the asset now, you should keep it.”

Council is being cautious about the possibility of approaching the federal government about ownership of the harbour. “I think we’re sticking our fingers in here before something needs to be resolved…we’re putting the cart before the horse,” says Councilor Martin Underwood. “I think we have to be careful …getting involved when it could cost money.”

The newly formed harbour committee will look at Walden’s request. Meantime, council has agreed to send the federal government a letter asking it to move on it.

Walden says the letter is likely not enough to restart negotiations, but it is a start and a sign the municipality wants the issue resolved. “I sense there is possibly some interest to do something here,” says Walden.

– Heather Wright