You’re not invited. Again.

Another closed door meetingYou, the public, get shut out again. Less openness, less accountability, more secrecy, more Block. The annual general meeting (AGM) of Collus-PowerStream on October 6 – the local electrical utility that you ostensibly own 50% of – is not open to the public. It’s another closed door, secret meeting.

Why?

Council will send its representative and its (illegally-appointed) pet staff (as board members, one of whom doesn’t even live in town, let alone within the Collus service area). But the public isn’t allowed to attend to hear what the utility plans, what is said by its representatives and what the future holds for our utility. The public won’t get to hear about the finances, the rates, the changes that affect us.

You’re the owners but you’re not invited. How’s that for openness and transparency? Shut out again.

Everything about the relationship between the utility and the town has been done in secret by this council and the administration. Their closed-door conniving and manipulation has already cost taxpayers more than $350,000, wasted in legal and consulting fees. But we can’t learn what our tax dollars have been spent on because we’re not allowed to attend.

We have already had far too many secret meetings already this term. Why another? Because that’s the way The Block operates.

Collingwood deserves better.

Another scathing email to council

Angry responseHere is the next scathing email from local businessman and developer Tom Vincent, sent to council following the debacle of Monday night’s ongoing effort by The Block to sabotage the hospital’s redevelopment. This is not the first time The Block have been severely chastised by the community over this issue.

To properly understand the context, you may want to read my previous posts about the Collingwood General & Marine Hospital’s redevelopment plans. But here’s a synopsis:

As I’ve written in the past, The Block opposes the planned redevelopment on Poplar Sideroad. The Block look for every opportunity to sabotage the plan, hoping to force the hospital to stay on its current site. That won’t happen, but as a result of The Block’s meddling, the Ministry of Health is likely to approve its move to Wasaga Beach where everyone seems to approve of the redevelopment. But perhaps this has been The Block’s intention all along.

On Monday, under the tissue-thin guise of self-righteous “due diligence”, The Block voted to spend $30,000 of your money to do a redundant “peer review” of the hospital documents. This is despite receiving just such a third-party peer review from the hospital, a few days earlier. The Block hopes to be able to present the Ministry of Health with some negative findings in an October meeting, which will scupper the move to Poplar Sideroad. And it may, but only to move it out of town.

In doing this, The Block have angered and alienated a huge portion of the town’s medical professionals (84% of them support the proposed site), our municipal neighbours, the hospital board and its facility committee, and thousands of residents. All for the sake of pleasing their small troupe of angry followers who oppose the move.

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Sabotaging the hospital (again)

Derailing the processLast night at council, The Borg Block again took another step towards sabotaging the Collingwood General & Marine Hospital’s redevelopment plans. Not unexpected: destroying the community is a key plank in their platform, as we’ve seen by their actions against the airport, water utility and Collus PowerStream.

Plus, they need to pander to their ever-dwindling group of supporters who want to stop the redevelopment on a site they don’t like (but which 84% of medical staff do). That handful of venomous folk – which includes some former politicians and former VOTE members – hold sway over The Block and thus town practices and policies.

Cast your thoughts back to the election campaign of 2014. Remember these words:

Change the purchasing policy to ensure there can be no sole sourcing of any contract for goods or services over $25,000, no exceptions.

No exceptions, eh? That’s a promise to voters Brian Saunderson made in an interview in the Collingwood Connection in October, 2014. No exceptions. He really said that.

He’s now the Deputy Mayor. This week he broke that promise for the second time: he voted to sole-source a $30,000 contract to an out-of-town consultant.

This first time he broke his word was in February, 2015: council provided a five-year contract for taxi service to Councillor Fryer’s brother-in-law without following any RFP process.

Are you surprised that he broke his election promises? Neither am I. Stop snickering.

$30,000 of YOUR money will be wasted on consultants performing a “peer review” of the hospital’s redevelopment plans. Ironic, since The Block has a well-deserved reputation of not reading anything, and instead just voting however the administration tells them to vote. Reading is too hard. It means thinking and thinking is work. Better to have someone else do it for you.

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Your $350,000 wasted

Your taxes at workA Freedom of Information (FOI) request I filed recently shows a disturbing abuse of your tax dollars. Money was wasted that could have been spent on doing something good, something positive, something useful for Collingwood. Download the report here.

In the two-year period between mid-2014 and mid-2016, the town’s administration spent $340,000 of your tax dollars on its efforts to destroy the relationship with our utility partner, Collus-PowerStream. And given the billing trends shown in the document, that amount now tops $350,000 and probably much higher.

What’s equally troubling is that this effort appears to have started under the radar in July, 2014. To the best of my knowledge, this was not an initiative of the last council, but appears to be the work of staff. Why? Who authorized it?

In 2014, $13,355.48 was spent, all of it on Aird & Berlis (then the town’s legal firm). In 2015, that total escalated wildly to $250,006.65 for a variety of lawyers and consultants (see below). In just five months of 2016 up to May 31, $75,929.13 had already been spent (or more: not all invoices may have been submitted by the time I filed my FOI). Expenses for June and later were not provided to me, but you can bet they will come in: the town has kept its lawyers busy pursuing its destructive goal (see below).

In totals, here’s who was paid in that period:

  • Aird & Berlis: $58,123.50 ($13,355.48 in 2014).
  • True North Consulting: $34,350.00 (all in 2015)
  • Miller Thomson LLP (the town’s current legal firm): $87,538.45 ($77,228.95 in 2015)
  • BMA Management Consultants: $24,521.00 (all in 2015)
  • Henley International: $33,730.50 ($26,781 in 2015)
  • Stevenson Whelton MacDonald & Swan: $3,000.00 (in 2015)
  • And the biggie, Borden Ladner Gervais LLP: $98,027.81. As far as I know, this paid entirely for the services of one lawyer: Mark Rodger. That’s almost $100,000 for one man in less than 10 months.

Total: $339,291.26

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Dilbert, Dogbert and Collingwood

I’ve often commented that the cartoon strip Dilbert, by Scott Adams, is closer to a documentary than it is to a cartoon. Not just about the quagmire of corporate life: Dilbert applies equally to the sodden bureaucracy of government. And here are some strips to prove my hypothesis, at least on the local level.

I culled these strips from around the web, from many, many sites, but the copyright and credit all belongs to Scott Adams. I hope he won’t mind me using his work as an example of how things work in Collingwood. It’s very, very instructive, after all. And true…

For this expository, I’ve chosen strips about lawyers, consultants and management. The former two reflect how our Council depends on these two species of barnacles to tell them how and what to think. The Block has opted to abdicate its responsibilities onto the shoulders of outsiders and let them do the work. But clearly, as the strips show, this is not unique to Collingwood. It is endemic in every poorly-run, top-heavy, bureaucratic corporation. See below if you agree…

Here, for example, is how town administration might have approached one of its chequebook lawyers to re-concoct the Shared Services Agreement with Collus PowerStream:

Lawyers 01

I’m pretty sure that’s why a simple 30-minute task is still not completed after two years. And this is how one of those lawyers might have reacted to the original Collus share sale agreement:

Lawyers 02

Then the lawyers work on it, busy little minions gleefully tabulating the hours they get paid, working to the pleasant musical hum of the cash register. And when they’re done, the administration dumps the result on staff.

Imagine, say, Collus staff being presented with the administration’s revised concoction about the share sale, a frightening dog’s breakfast of wild imagination, egregious fiction and paranoid fantasy:

Lawyers 03

And of course the staff have to live with the consequences when this toxic material gets into the media. Imagine Collus staff being subsequently ordered to manage that codswallop by town administration (for whom they do not work but who demand of their time and energy regardless):

Lawyers 04

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Wrinkles: a review

WrinklesAbandon all hope, ye who enter here. It’s the phrase that highlights the entrance to Hell in Dante’s Inferno. It could just as easily by carved above the entrances to many nursing and retirement homes. I recalled that phrase as we watched the 2011 animated film, Wrinkles, last night.

Susan thought it the most depressing film she’d ever seen. I rather liked it: it was honest and artistically interesting. But not uplifting, I’ll agree. There is a sense of redemption at the end, but it is not the happily-ever-after sort of ending that most film redemption brings. It’s more of the shake-hands-with-reality sort of acceptance that things don’t change.

From Wikipedia:

The story is set in a retirement home and revolves around the friendship between two elderly men, one of them in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

There aren’t many happy endings in any film about dementia or Alzheimer’s. The 2006 Canadian movie, Away From Her, captured it beautifully and poignantly. The 1981 film On Golden Pond did too, from another angle. But no matter how artistically rendered, it’s an uncomfortable, sad story in any situation.

Then there’s the whole matter of people putting their aging parents into nursing homes. Even when done for the best of reasons – care, safety, oversight, concern, love and the inability of modern, working adults to cope effectively with the demands of an ill or aging parent- it still feels to many of the elderly that they have been abandoned. Shuffled off to wait out their inevitable death away from all the people they knew, the places they knew and the daily routines of their lives to a place devoid of romance, of passion, of familiarity.

Is this what we live our lives for? That question haunts the film.

You can’t feel the same depth of emotion with an animated film, so perhaps it’s the better vehicle for exploring the theme. It doesn’t wrench the tears from viewers the same way human actors can. Still, it has its moments.

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