SVJI costs continue to skyrocket

BureaucracyAs I predicted earlier, the costs for Saunderson’s Vindictive Judicial Inquiry (SVJI) are going to climb through the roof. And of course you, the taxpayer, are going to pay for it.

Last month local media carried stories that the SVJI – scheduled to begin this month (November) – wasn’t going to meet its deadlines. It was delayed and would not start until the “new year” (apparently not until February, 2019). Bayshore Broadcasting notes in its coverage*:

The inquiry team had hoped they would start this fall, but Inquiry Counsel Janet Leiper tells us that won’t be possible and that it will be the new year before the public hearings can start. She says that’s because the rest of some of the necessary documents aren’t expected until the end of November.

Three more months of lawyers being paid $400-$700 an hour, plus travel and accommodations , plus the other staff, computers, phone, office space… That’s going to hurt the town’s budget but hey, it isn’t Saunderson’s money he’s spending. And it helped him win the election, so he doesn’t care what it costs you.

The piece also noted the inquiry had already received about 11,000 documents and interviewed more than 60 witnesses, some of whom may need to spoken to again. Ka-ching!**

Alectra – the company that came from the merger of PowerStream and other Ontario utilities – has already submitted more than 4,000 documents, sorted out from about 40,000 the company had from the time period in question. But that’s not enough: the SVJI wants more paperwork from more people.

Alectra’s lawyer, Michael Watson, said that could mean sorting through 100,000-200,000 documents from that period.  Big job. So why not do it twice? The Connection noted:

(Judge) Marrocco suggested the company provide the documents and allow inquiry staff to do a search while Alectra does the same.

Okay, let’s do some cost and time estimates on the effort required to search through 100,000 or more documents.
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Robocalls and smear campaigns

Attack ads

Have you received the robocall yet? Many Collingwood residents have, and every one I’ve spoken to thinks they are in appallingly bad taste. And they are right.

It starts out pretending to be a survey asking who you will vote for in the municipal campaign, but after three questions it turns into a nasty attack ad against mayoral candidate John Trude.

As nasty as the candidate for whose campaign it was created. How low, how cheap and immature a tactic this smear campaign is. Well, not inexpensive – these are a huge campaign expense for a small-town candidate. But money is like politics: it gets dirty when it gets into the mud. And this campaign is in the depths of the mud.

Personal attacks like this – ad hominem attacks – are made against people with principles and ethics by those who lack them. These attacks are crass, low-class, vicious and slimy. Do we really want the sort of person who condones them for our next mayor? Someone who can’t run on his own merits, or on the issues, but instead has to attack his opponents through anonymous phone calls?

If nothing more, this shows how unsuited for the position of mayor Trude’s opponent is. Your election choice is so much clearer now. Collingwood deserves the best and the best doesn’t descend to cheap attack ads or sniping at opponents from the shadows.

Saunderson’s abject desperation

Begging for your votesI’m not sure whether I pity Brian Saunderson most for his lack of principles or for his lack of shame. Or maybe both.

Desperation makes people do things that common sense would suggest won’t work. Monday we saw desperation replace both principle and shame when Saunderson made a motion to support the hospital at the end of the meeting. It was an abject, grovelling effort. Embarrassing to watch.*

Brian Saunderson is, of course, desperate. He faces not one but two credible candidates for the position of mayor, in a town where he and his five Block minions on council are widely despised as an unethical, spineless lot more concerned with their own entitlements than the community.

Their biggest challenge – Saunderson’s albatross – is their active role in opposing our Collingwood General & Marine Hospital’s plan for redevelopment on another site. Opposing the redevelopment has been a rock-solid pillar in Saunderson’s ideology for the past two years. And his puppy-like minions have eagerly tagged along.

But in light of his campaign challenges, Brian is both desperate and shameless. This Monday Brian tossed out a “Hail Mary” motion – along with his principles – to try and stop some of the bleeding. His motion pledged full support for the redevelopment and to send a letter to the Ministry taking back all the negative, nasty things they said and did about the hospital in the previous two years. And pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

It won’t work. The public isn’t fooled. No one has forgotten Saunderson and his group’s numerous attacks on our hospital. The medical community knows all too well what Saunderson has done to their livelihoods and to local healthcare. This is just a last-minute effort to pull the wool over voters’ eyes.

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You’re being lied to. Again.

DeceptionOn Tuesday, July 17, the Strategic Initiatives Standing Committee held a meeting. Its sole purpose was to retreat behind closed doors (as this council does at every opportunity) and discuss the sale of our publicly-owned airport.

To date, this council has already held 16 in camera meetings about the airport. And during these secretive meetings, our council not only decided to sell our airport, but not to hold any public consultations about that sale. Not once this term has anyone on council said WHY they wanted to sell a successful, busy, publicly-owned airport. Not once has anyone at the table or in the administration presented a business case for selling it, or compared the pros and cons of ownership.

It’s all been done in the shadows. Backroom deals. The airport sale will be authorized July 23 without having had any public consultation.

This ongoing secrecy was poorly received by our municipal partners on the airport board who weren’t even informed about the move. So alienated were they that both Clearview and Wasaga Beach decided to stop contributing funds to the airport’s maintenance, and to withdraw from the airport services board.

Not that Brian Saunderson and his Block minions care a whit what others think about them, about Collingwood’s reputation or how the public feels about the deception practiced by this council.

Our council chose to ignore the 1,000-plus jobs waiting there, and instead kill our economic growth. No thought was given to the accelerating economic value of airports that our county neighbours recognized.

Why? No one knows. They won’t tell the public why they are selling it, or why they won’t ask for public input. But it gets worse.
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Update: closed door meetings in Collingwood

SecrecyLast November, I documented the unacceptably high number of closed-door (aka secretive) meetings held by this council since it took office. More than all of the past three councils combined. Back then I documented that by Oct. 2,  2017, council had held:

  • 14 closed-door meetings about our airport
  • 4 closed-door meetings about our hospital redevelopment
  • 37 closed-door meetings about Collus-PowerStream (plus three potential that were vaguely identified in the agendas).

And in all that time, the number of comments or editorials in the local media about this abuse of power and egregious secrecy by our council: zero.

I thought I’d update readers on how many more of these secretive meetings have been held since Oct. 5, 2017. I have only included the airport and Collus (formerly Collus-PowerStream) sales because Saunderson and his Block accomplished their task by putting up enough roadblocks to the hospital’s redevelopment that it has been delayed by anywhere from three to ten more years (and under the current provincial government, it might be sunk entirely).

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Saunderson trolling for votes

Two-facedAfter four years of deception, secrecy, more closed-door meetings than the previous four councils combined, and avoiding public scrutiny at all costs, Brian Saunderson and his Block minions have suddenly decided that they want to be “accessible”. I know, I know: stop smirking.

On the threshold of a municipal election, desperate to sanitize their grubby reputation, they’ve called for live streaming of all meetings – years after moving many committee meetings out of town hall to deter that very public accessibility, and refusing to live stream as early as 2015.

Amazing how some politicians can do an about-face when an election looms and they realize they are despised by a large number of voters. Consistency was never their strong suit, of course. If it’s self-serving, they’ll do whatever it takes.

As a story in the Connection notes:

“This makes our meetings more accessible to the public,” said Deputy Mayor Brian Saunderson. “It makes our governance more accessible. It’s a good time to be pushing forward with this.”

I know, I know: I too laughed aloud when trying to imagine Brian doing anything about governance instead of his own agenda. And as for pushing forward – after four years of secrecy and closed-door meetings, you haven’t exactly been pushing all that hard on anything to do with openness and accessibility. Yes, I know: the hypocrisy, it burns…

But let’s be clear: for all his huff-n-puff, this isn’t a town issue. The coverage is provided by Rogers TV, not by any town department or service. Even the newly created and very, very expensive IT department (operating at FOUR times the expense it cost the town last term with plans to hire more staff and spend several millions more…) doesn’t do it: Rogers does. Brian and his buddies just want to take credit for what Rogers has offered all these years.

Rogers complained when The Block first voted to move meetings away from town hall, in 2015, because Rogers doesn’t  have any recording equipment in that building. Which, of course, all of The Block knew when they moved meetings there to get away from the public eye. Meh, the Block waved them off.

And now they pretend they want to be open and accessible? Simply to fool the public. Brian and his puppets ask Rogers pretty please to provide more coverage but not, of course, take responsibility and apologize for the secrecy in the first place. 

Ain’t hypocrisy grand? (Yeah, I know: where was the local media when this hypocrisy was spouted? Not wanting to embarrass their friends at the table, of course…)

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