Our treasonous council

If Collingwood Council operated at a higher tier or government – say the federal level – they would be called treasonous and taken to court for their culture of deception, their attacks on our democratic and civic institutions, and for their ongoing betrayal of the public trust. But because they are only a municipal government, they can merely be called despicable while we await the next election.

The latest act of desperation in the dungheap of this term is the recent motion to demand a judicial inquiry into the sale of 50% of our electrical utility to PowerStream last term. At a cost of at least $1 million.

Just when you think they couldn’t sink any deeper into the muck, The Block lower the bar again. And of course it followed yet another closed-door meeting during which public business was discussed and decided on in secret.

This is, of course, an attempt to head off the upcoming demand for just such an inquiry into this term’s unethical and secretive processes to sell ALL of our utilities to a private, for-profit, out-of-province corporation. Without, of course, public input.

The first sale happened SIX years ago. During that process they all had the opportunity to comment, to oppose the sale, to speak up. Which, of course, none of them did.

Let’s see how the processes stack up. Last term: open process, open meetings, public engagement, full media disclosure and coverage, transparency, all documentation published and available for public scrutiny, world-renowned consultants hired to oversee the process, all money accounted for, and a single in camera meeting held at the very end of the process to open the sealed RFPs. This term: secrecy from the start, deception, illegal acts, utility boards fired and replaced by puppets, OEB investigations into town actions, immoral and unethical behaviour, lies, obfuscation, personal agendashidden documents, rumours of big commissions, no public engagement, a sole-sourced lawyer, a secret deal to hand over our water utility to the same company without public input, the broken shared services agreement that cost taxpayers millions in new expenses, a promised savings of $750,000 a year from separating the water utility from the electrical but that mysteriously vanished at budget time, at least  37 closed-door meetings about the utility,  a secret contract to keep paying the interim CAO after he retired, and secretive terms of the sale the town won’t disclose.

Which one do you think most deserves investigation? Me, too. Secrecy, lies and the betrayal of the public trust this term SHOULD be investigated. 

And, I’m told, The Block secretly informed their pet CBC reporter of the impending motion head of time, so they could get media attention and play the same sort of smear campaign they arranged for last term with their phony OPP investigation (five years later and no charges, not even one police interview of an alleged miscreant: it’s long been proven to have been a hoax).

Hey! Guess who the CBC reporter – the same one who covered the phony OPP investigation – quoted and photographed? Why, our own Deputy Mayor Brian Saunderson! Are you surprised? Me either.

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La Bohème at the Galaxy

La Boheme
Starving bohemian artists living in drafty Paris attics in the mid-19th century, struggling to produce their art, falling in and out of love, sharing and suffering, living and dying, all done while singing. That’s La Bohème in a nutshell.

I am embarrassed, even ashamed to admit I’ve never been to the opera. Not to a live performance that is. For someone who has long enjoyed opera as music, and has a fair collection of opera on CD, that’s inexcusable.*

I’ve seen a few of the “big” operas on video – I had Madame Butterfly on VHS and still have Boris Godunov and Tosca on DVD and I’ve had a few others (including operetta) – but before this weekend, I had only seen Bergman’s 1975 production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute at a theatre. And that was back when it was current. That’s going to change.

This weekend we went to the Metropolitan Opera’s live broadcast of La Bohème at the local Galaxy theatre. And all I can say is wow. Three and a half hours that passed by like 10 minutes. The music, the sets, the voices… wow. Why hadn’t I done this sooner?

The sheer power of the presentation on the big screen is hard to describe. There’s a closeness that being at a live performance can’t provide. The cameras capture the actors in an intimate way that someone in the nosebleed seats (the kind I could afford) cannot see. Plus the intermissions provide a behind-the-curtain look at how the sets are constructed and moved into place, at how the backdrops are furled and unfurled, at how many people are involved in the performance who you never see on stage. In the theatrical version you have a sort of third-person-deity seat to see the performance unfold.

I have at least three versions of La Bohème on CD, and its major arias on several opera collection albums. I’ve heard it dozens of times. But it never moved me like this.

Wow. Just wow.

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Reading as a forgotten art

ReadingEarlier this month (February, 2018), the Globe & Mail published an essay by author Michael Harris titled, “I have forgotten how to read.” In it, he recounted how he recently tried to read a single chapter of a book, but failed. Frustrated, instead turned to TV:

Paragraphs swirled; sentences snapped like twigs; and sentiments bled out. The usual, these days. I drag my vision across the page and process little. Half an hour later, I throw down the book and watch some Netflix.

Which, I think, is the poor choice of alternatives. Giving up doesn’t improve the skill set or fix the problem. As the American politician Claude Pepper is alleged to have said, “Life is like riding a bicycle: you don’t fall off unless you stop pedaling.” Harris, it seems, stopped pedalling before he was even through a mere chapter.

If, as Harris also writes, “mind is plastic,” and he believes his reading skills have diminished, then I would think the solution would be to retrain his mind, to relearn those skills, to strengthen the neural pathways associated with reading and comprehension, rather than continue to encourage them to atrophy. Get back on the bike and pedal harder. Read more, not less. As Groucho Marx quipped: *

I find television very educational. The minute somebody turns it on, I go to the library and read a good book.

Harris hadn’t become illiterate or dyslexic: his reading habits had changed as he immersed himself deeper into today’s social-media-driven technology; a medium that encourages short, emotion-filled, reactive – even knee-jerk – content, the stuff of immediate response, outburst and instant memes, rather than the stuff of deep thought. It’s a self-inflicted wound:

When we become cynical readers – when we read in the disjointed, goal-oriented way that online life encourages – we stop exercising our attention. We stop reading with a sense of faith that some larger purpose may be served. This doesn’t mean we’re reading less – not at all. In fact, we live in a text-gorged society in which the most fleeting thought is a thumb-dash away from posterity. What’s at stake is not whether we read. It’s how we read… The words I write now filter through a new set of criteria. Do they grab; do they anger? Can this be read without care? Are the sentences brief enough? And the thoughts? It’s tempting to let myself become so cynical a writer because I’m already such a cynical reader.

I think the many of us who share part of our lives online and are in constant communication with the social media world through devices understand. Even a passing attempt to keep up with the sheer volume of material on a Facebook timeline or Twitter feed runs in opposition to depth and focus. It becomes the Red Queen’s Race – you run as fast as you can in order to simply stay in the same place. But surrendering to it isn’t the answer.
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Thoughts on local municipal governance

Representation?A popular political theory presents two basic and often contradictory models of how elected officials should (or do) behave as representatives. One is as a delegate: solely acting as a representative of the people who elected them. The other is as a trustee, serving (or attempting to serve) everyone under their governance. In practice, these are not absolutely discrete, but are practiced in combination with one another, as situations dictate or according to how vocal the electors are.*

How is this practiced here, in Collingwood? Yes, I know, the notion of The Block actually having or understanding a theory of anything, much less putting one into practice, is ludicrously surreal. That would, first and foremost, require they do the thing they despise most: read. Instead, they govern by blunder, bluster and blame, mostly the former, without any nod to conventional political theory. But bear with me.

In the delegate model, Wikipedia tells us,

…delegates act only as a mouthpiece for the wishes of their constituency, and have no autonomy from the constituency. This model does not provide representatives the luxury of acting in their own conscience. Essentially, the representative acts as the voice of those who are (literally) not present.

An example of the delegate model – albeit not a shining example of governance by any stretch of the imagination – was when Coun. Bob Madigan made a motion for council to supersede proper planning process, and ignore expert opinion and advice in favour of uninformed council opinion, in order to satisfy the NIMBY desires of a small, special interest group opposed to a nearby development. He thus acted as the mouthpiece of this group; i.e. their delegate at the table, rather than a representative of the greater community.

But what if you are your own constituency? What if the people who elected you are not those you choose to represent? What if you and your group’s interests are all that matters?
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Wasaga pulls airport support

facepalmAnother post where I get to say “I told you so.” Wasaga Beach pulled its support for the Collingwood Airport just like Clearview did a little earlier. Told you they would.

Why? Simple: because of The Block. Seven of our councillors resolutely stand in the way of growth, business, development, jobs, a better community, our healthcare – everything except their own wellbeing and personal advantage. I warned you that the combination of the roadblocks and the wall of secrecy erected by The Block would drive our regional partners away. And it did.

Even before this, I warned you the shoddy, hostile way our town and our council treated the hospital would infuriate and alienate our neighbours who are also regional partners in the hospital. And it did.

Wasaga Beach’s mayor, Brian Smith is quoted in the Connection blaming it on “Collingwood council’s apparent lack of support for the proposed aviation business park beside the airport.”

Apparent” lack of support? What a weasel word. I suppose I can’t expect better from local media.

The lack of support from Collingwood was EVIDENT to everyone on the airport board, in the public, on the councils of Wasaga Beach and Clearview. It was even pointed out to me by several people in the county council from other communities not connected to Collingwood. EVERYONE knew who on Collingwood Council didn’t support the airport, or the development, or the jobs it would bring in.

The writer lamely notes, “Collingwood’s position is council and staff are acting on legal advice to not sign an agreement,” without actually citing the source for that claim (and, curiously, not slavishly quoting his buddy, our deputy mayor, as he is wont to do). I would question whether any reputable lawyer would advise elected representatives NOT to explain their position to the voters who put them there. The reporter, doesn’t question the party line, though.

Collingwood got a staff report about the future of the airport, Feb. 12. The ever-unctuous Collingwoodliving.com notes the Deputy Mayor called it an “apparent” breakdown without taking responsibility for the EVIDENT breakdown The Block has caused:

Deputy Mayor Brian Saunderson expressed his concern with the situation surrounding the possible sale of the airport and the apparent breakdown of the regional cooperation with the Town of Wasaga Beach in addition to the withdrawl (sic) of support by the Township of Clearview…. he has been frustrated with the actions of neighbouring municipalities, namely the town of Wasaga Beach and Clearview Township.

He was so frustrated that none of The Block ever bothered to speak with our neighbours, with our airport board and explain themselves. So frustrated they never even informed them officially about the sale of the airport. And now he’s blaming someone else. What a hypocrite.*

Why aren’t local reporters pointing the finger at what everyone else sees, and asking the hard questions about Collingwood’s secret motives? About why so many closed door meetings on the airport? About why The Block are opposed to creating jobs and economic growth here? Why are local reporters letting The Block weasel their way out of responsibility? Oh right: they don’t want to embarrass their friends.
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