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I found it! I stumbled across the secret manifesto The Block is using to destroy Collingwood. It’s in a book called “13 Ways to Kill Your Community” (Frontenac House, 2010) by Doug Griffiths and Kelley Clemmer. And pretty much everything in it outlines The Block’s not-so-secret plan to turn this community into rubbish.
I know, you’re going to object, “But Ian, you know The Block doesn’t read! How can something as big as a book be their secret manifesto when they won’t even read Municipal World or their own budget?”
Because, dear reader, the book was written in 2010, before they came to power. No doubt their handlers reduced its contents to simple sentences and one-syllable words, then wrote them out in crayon for The Block to digest before the 2014 election campaign. Trust me: once you see what’s in it, you will realize this is the path The Block have followed since they were elected.
Here for example, is the list of chapter headings:
- Don’t have quality water.
- Don’t attract business.
- Ignore your youth.
- Deceive yourself about your real needs or values.
- Shop elsewhere.
- Don’t paint.
- Don’t cooperate.
- Live in the past.
- Ignore your seniors.
- Reject everything new.
- Ignore outsiders.
- Become complacent.
- Don’t take responsibility.
See? This list precisely lays out what The Block have been doing since the election. And I’ll get to each in detail, a bit further along. Call it the Thirteen Commandments of The Block.
Of course you will also object, “But Ian, this list doesn’t cover The Block’s destruction of Collus PowerStream, the airport industrial development, or their sabotage of the hospital redevelopment. It doesn’t mention The Block’s secrecy, their sense of entitlement, or raising our taxes needlessly.”
And that’s sort of true, but contained in those chapters is the seed for all these activities. Plus, as the authors note, their list isn’t comprehensive. There are other ways to destroy your community, and – trust me – The Block is very ingenious in its efforts to turn everything they touch toxic. They have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.
And it was all laid out for them in this book!
In his book’s introduction, Griffiths writes,
Communities have to make a conscious choice if they want to be successful or not… No rules, no legislation, no government, no amount of money, has more impact than a group that chooses to make something happen.
And isn’t that true here in Collingwood? Our community chose NOT to be successful by electing The Block. We collectively chose, as voters, to fail. And we succeeded! Once in power, The Block chose to kill the community. Relentlessly destroying the facilities, institutions, reputation, vitality, economic growth and relationships that made this town great. And they are doing it with gusto.
So let’s look at each chapter in more detail, shall we? Then I think you’ll agree that this has been The Block’s secret manifesto for a long time. I’m surprised I never found it before this. But I’ll make it up to you below.
1. Don’t have quality water.
This council fired the experienced and professional water utility board and replaced its hard-working members with five members of The Block who had no experience or education in anything to do with water, wastewater, stormwater, source water protection or water treatment. And still don’t. Not that they care. It’s all about collecting their per diem expenses. The actual state of your water system? Meh…
What better way to downgrade and deteriorate our once-great water system than by handing oversight to a group of inept amateurs with a strong sense of their own entitlement and no concerns for the residents? Well, you could also drive away your top staff people, including the COO of the water utility – oh, which they also did.
And then The Block tore our water utility away from the effective and efficient, 150-year-old working partnership with our electrical utility. This at a time when the rest of the world is struggling to bring those two utilities together for greater cost savings and safety. Collingwood’s move will cost us more and reduce efficiencies and cooperation. And, of course, cost you, the taxpayer a shitload of money.
So we’re well on the way to losing our quality water this term. I can hardly wait for the boil-water advisories…
2. Don’t attract business.
This council has rolled up its sleeves to undermine the $300-million-plus industrial development at the airport, making sure that its 400-plus jobs never develop here, and that the 1,000-1,500 construction jobs to build it are never fulfilled. Plus, to help undermine the airport itself, The Block and its pet administration have alienated our municipal partners in Wasaga Beach and Clearview to the point none of them plan to contribute funding to the airport in the future. And then they schemed to sell it without any public input.
And to make sure our own Economic Development department isn’t effective, this council has a stranglehold on its funds to prohibit any significant initiatives in business attraction and retention.
You already know about The Block’s secret plans to sell our electrical utility in order to see our electricity bills skyrocket 10-15%. Plus this council raised the water rates and taxes twice. Nothing like making it economically un-viable to run a business here to scare away new business.
Number of times the CBSP mentions economic development: two. Once to “Continue to implement the Town’s Economic Development Strategy and undertake a public review of the results achieved within each term of Council.” Well, the economic development strategy was last term’s initiative and a public review isn’t a goal, it’s a staff task. But you can thank the last council for having and implementing our ec-dev strategy.
The second reference is “Advocate for at least 2 meetings to be held between local health care and wellness practitioners and community groups to coordinate awareness campaigns about health care services in the community,” which is noted as “…supported as economic sector growth area.” That’ of course, is poppycock. Advocating a meeting isn’t a goal or a strategy or a plan or a growth area. It’s a phone call on a to-do list for a staff person.
Face it: local economic development isn’t nearly as high on The Block’s list as building a giant ship-in-a-bottle on the waterfront.
3. Ignore your youth.
Name just one thing this council has done for local youth. The second arena and covered swimming pool, the year-round Eddie Bush arena and the redeveloped skateboard park are all thanks to the former council. Try again.
Oh, right: nothing.
How about the increased property taxes and utility bills? Coupled with slim job prospects for better than minimum wage service jobs, these will raise rents and help drive away young people who cannot afford to live here. Which is what this council wants.
So little does The Block care about youth in Collingwood that its vaunted “community-based strategic plan” (CBSP, which is neither strategic nor a plan…) only once mentions youth and then it’s only in a non-action for third parties to engage in:
Encourage discussion between Georgian College, other potential educational and business partners, and youth groups to increase awareness of career opportunities and facilitate mentorships or workforce apprenticeships.
Who needs youths, anyway, when you can attract rich city folks here? Especially rich, old ones.
4. Deceive yourself about your real needs or values.
Deception is The Block’s forte. It is their strength and modus operandi. They deceived you, the voters, about their intentions. They deceived us about their intentions at the airport, to undo the water utility and fracture Collus-PowerStream. They deceived us about their intention to hire a permanent CAO. The only ones left to deceive are themselves.
The Block’s real needs are to fulfill their personal agendas and vendettas against current and former council and staff. Their values? In the same wastebin as their ethics and morals. Of course, it’s hard to espouse values when your goal is simply to destroy everything in your path. Kind of like asking Attila the Hun if he really meant to rape and pillage that town his horde just passed through.
And then there’s the granting of the unlimited expense account to “Senator” Jeffrey so she can pursue personal political ambitions around the country in her quest to become Queen of FCM. It was a wholly unprecedented entitlement. The Block simply shrugged away the legal requirements of the Procedural bylaw to grant her a blank cheque.
Values? Ethics? Instead we got empty platitudes from The Block about how the money would be well spent. Wasted was what they really meant. It’s your money of course, but you didn’t get any say in it. Her efforts provide no benefit to you, the taxpayer, but your money grows on trees, right?
Just in case you might suspect their true motives, you can bet one of The Block will make a speech about doing their “due diligence” when they vote to sabotage something or other. And some folks are gulled into believing it. A smaller circle, true, but they still have their kool-aid drinkers.
And as for the community’s needs… come on, do you really think The Block cares a whit about the rest of us? Just ask the hospital board what they think of The Block’s commitment to the community’s needs.
5. Shop elsewhere.
It took almost two years of pressure to get this council to even appoint a council representative to the Downtown BIA board (and then they chose one with potential conflicts of interest…). Collingwood was the first town in Ontario not to appoint one to the BIA. It was left without any relationship with council.
Why? Because The Block doesn’t give a damn about the downtown or local businesses. Why else would some been seen eating with staff at a restaurant in Thornbury rather than in town? Why else would members of The Block be MIA at events like our own Elvis Festival or other events? Sure, they’ll show up for free food and booze or at the last minute to get into the photo op, but otherwise where are they?
And what about their fabulous “Shop locally” campaign? Oh, that’s right: there isn’t one. Local shopping is not even mentioned in their non-strategic anti-plan CBSP.
Town hall often buys trucks and vehicles out of town, instead of choosing a local dealer. We hire many out-of-town lawyers and consultants. Not that we give locals the opportunity to bid: The Block loves to grant sole-source contracts to outsiders without the inconvenience of having to go to an RFP.
6. Don’t paint.
“Painting isn’t the only factor included in this concept,” write the authors. It’s all about keeping your community vibrant and growing to meet the needs of its residents. Consider redevelopment as one of those factors. As in the Collingwood General and Marine Hospital. The Block is trying to sabotage that redevelopment and they are very aggressive in doing so.
But then there’s the airport development they are also trying hard to kill, because it will see jobs and growth out there. They despise the airport so much they have been secretly trying to sell it ever since they took office. So what it if would mean hundreds of good jobs here? Jobs aren’t mentioned in the CBSP.
And selling our share in Collus PowerStream is another act destined to hurt the community. Rather than partake in the exciting growth of PowerStream and its three partner LDCs, we’re getting out. And it will cost the town at least $500,000 a year in expenses to pay for what we got from the shared services agreement. That’s another $500K a year YOU have to pay out of your taxes. But your money grows on trees, right?
7. Don’t cooperate.
And why should they? Cooperation is clearly for losers, at least in The Block’s playbook. They haven’t cooperated with anyone yet, so why should they start now?
The Block has destroyed Collingwood’s once-excellent relationships with Clearview, Wasaga Beach, Town of the Blue Mountains, the airport developers, the hospital board, PowerStream, Elvis Presley Enterprises and New Tecumseth. They have alienated the former members of our water and electricity boards by firing them all, and angered a very large portion of the town’s medical professionals.
Not bad for under two years in office. Plus, Council and the administration have been investigated by the former Integrity Commissioner, the Information and Privacy Commissioner, Ombudsman and Ontario Energy Board for unethical and improper behaviour.
How many times regional cooperation appears in the CBSP: none.
8. Live in the past.
The one thing The Block cherishes is the Heritage District; a zone of picayune and sphincter-clenching rules and regulations so tight you can’t even paint a birdhouse roof without the permission of the Heritage Committee, granted only by a permit signed in triplicate signed in triplicate, sent in, sent back, queried, lost, found, subjected to public inquiry, queried, lost again, and finally buried in soft peat for three months and recycled as firelighters.
The committee is, of course, populated with The Block’s buddies who just love making rules. And their stated goal is to expand the Heritage District even more, bring more and more residents under their control. Making more and more people labour under their rules and restrictions, even those living in non-heritage homes. Eventually the whole town will be incorporated into their scheme.
Doesn’t sound like a repressive Soviet-style system at all, does it? A whole town turned into a giant Potemkin village. Number of times the word heritage appears in the CBSP: seven!
9. Ignore your seniors.
Like the youth of Collingwood, its seniors are victims of The Block’s war on residents. Raising taxes and water rates makes it more difficult for people on a fixed income to live here. Raised taxes and utility costs will mean raised rents, less money for food, heating, clothing, transportation… driving many lower or fixed income seniors away. Which will suit The Block just fine: those houses can be bought by developers and torn down to make room for another Toronto couple to move into a $750,000-$1M home on the site. And drive up neighbours’ property values in the process.
Think that’s not happening? Check the properties under development right now in the town. There are eight within a three-minute walk of my home alone.
During the election campaign, The Block got a lot of support from rich neighbourhoods like The Forest and Blue Shores. That’s who they cater to: the well-heeled NIMBY crowd who don’t read local newspapers or listen to local radio and live in exclusive suburbs. They don’t need folks who eke out their lives on fixed incomes, working as Wal-Mart greeters or crossing guards just to make ends meet.
Number of times seniors are mentioned in the CBSP? None. That says it all, doesn’t it?
10. Reject everything new.
That actually started pre-election when The Block got on the “Better Together Collingwood” bandwagon. BTC opposed building our new arena and covering our swimming pool instead of building an old-fashioned bricks-and-mortar $35 million Taj Mahal recplex at taxpayer expense and then giving it to the YMCA (at no cost, of course).
But BTC wasn’t just about living in the past: it was about electing Brian Saunderson to replace Rick Lloyd: the former deputy mayor was an effective, hard-working deputy mayor and who actually accomplished things for the community and its residents during his time in office. It worked.
Since the election, the number of new projects, facilities, developments, upgrades or initiatives The Block has championed? None.
But they are working behind the scenes to get the money to build the Y a Taj Mahal by selling public assets like the airport and our utility – without public input (but the costs are now MUCH more expensive than the original $35 million…). Not a new idea, merely one The Block never let go of after election, even though it will cost you, the taxpayers, many millions.
A new idea might seriously challenge The Block’s fixed ideology.
11. Ignore outsiders.
If by outsiders you mean our neighbouring municipalities: The Block didn’t just ignore them, they made them angry, too. Ignored a developer wanting to build a $300-million-plus industrial development at the airport, too. Because he isn’t a local, I suppose. Or perhaps because he isn’t one of their tiny (and dwindling) inner circle of supporters and camp followers. Ignored thousands of Collus PowerStream customers in Thornbury and Stayner, not even bothering to inform their councils that The Block was secretly scheming to sell their utility.
The Block has also ignored the outsiders who have been investigating them since they took office: the integrity commissioner (whom they fired for doing so), the closed-meeting investigator (who told them to stop the secrecy, but they didn’t), the Information and Privacy Commissioner, the Ombudsman and lately the Ontario Energy Board. There may be others. But the Block shrugs its collective shoulders and continues its business as usual: killing Collingwood.
By outsiders, the authors actually meant newcomers, immigrants and attracting/retaining new residents. And those groups are mentioned exactly zero times in the CBSP.*
12. Become complacent.
When you control six (and quite often seven) of the votes at the table, you really don’t need to care what anyone else thinks or says. Local developers who aren’t in-laws? Hang up the phone. High taxes and utility rates driving people out of town? Who cares? Rich folk will move here in their place. People upset that you broke your election promises almost from day one? Let them eat cake. Hospital board begging you not to scuttle their redevelopment plan? We’ll call it our “due diligence” and then sink them anyway.
Screw ’em. That’s the message The Block sends at every council and standing committee meeting. They can afford to be complacent: they hold the council table and the administration in their tight little fists, so why should they care what others think?
True, The Block was probably annoyed when one of its Borg recently voted against the hive mind over sabotaging the hospital redevelopment, but no doubt remedial discipline was taken to bring her back in line.
13. Don’t take responsibility.
No one ever uses the terms “The Block” and “take responsibility” in the same sentence. They don’t fit together. It’s not in their genetic makeup, not part of their platform or ideology to take responsibility, let alone admit mistakes.
Stuff like openness, accountability and transparency are just natter words for The Block. You have to be responsible to be open, and The Block prefers secrecy. Or rather, they love it. They cannot operate without it.
If something’s wrong, it’s always someone else’s fault. They don’t like the shared services agreement with Collus PowerStream? Must be the utility’s fault. They don’t understand the share sale of Collus? Must be last council’s fault. They can’t get personal and confidential payroll information to share with their friends? Must be Collus staff’s fault. Being chastised for improper behaviour? Must be the integrity commissioner’s fault: fire him!
So you see? This is how The Block destroys our town. Read the book and tell me if I’m wrong (here’s an excerpt).
Collingwood deserves better.
* Did you even read the snorefest, I mean report for the “Community Engagement Strategy” approved by Council last November? No one did, apparently, especially not those at the council table, because it says:
Community engagement can be as simple as informing the public about decisions, changes and services, or it can be as empowering as voting in an election or referendum.
Keep those words in mind: they were approved by The Most Secretive Council Ever. The same ones who made decisions about public facilities and policies via email and in camera, without public input or even informing the public about their intentions. Ain’t hypocrisy grand? And what have you heard about that grandiose “strategy” since? Right: nada.
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