Sadly, it’s business as usual

Missed targets
I suppose you expect I am disappointed that not a single one of The Block had the spine, the moral compass, the ethical guts to resign after killing the hospital redevelopment. After all, I called on them all – plus the interim CAO – to resign immediately. Not doing so, I said, would prove everything I ever said about them. They didn’t budge.

Well, my compensation is that I get to say “I told you so.” Again. I suspect I will repeat those words several more times this term.

People only disappoint you when they don’t live up to your expectations. My expectations for this group are low. Abysmal, really, based on the reality of their performance to date. They constantly strive to reach mediocrity, but consistently fail to achieve it. If you expected from them secrecy, conniving, backroom deals, conflict of interest, inflexible ideology and rigid self-interest, then I suppose your expectations have been met.

I didn’t really expect any of them to actually resign. To resign would take courage, commitment and a deeply held caring for the community. Attributes that are most notable in their absence among this group. They would have to take responsibility for their own acts instead of blaming others. I hardly expected them to start doing something so antithetical to their natures now. Hyenas can’t change their spots, can they?

It’s not as if they and they alone killed my faith in humanity. After all, they are not the first politicians to be unethical, and more concerned about feathering their own nests than about the community. Nor will they be the last. There have been other politicians before them who lied to their constituents, who put personal agendas over the greater good, who used their office to conduct vendettas and who handed out sole-source government contracts to friends and family. There have been politicians before them with closed minds who refused to consider other viewpoints or to learn anything. This group won’t be the last of them, either.

Failing to resign, it will be business as usual for them, continuing to lurch and fumble and stumble their way along, tearing down as much of our town as they can along the way.
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The Block killed the hospital. They MUST all resign. Now.

The actions of The Block and the town’s administration have resulted in the Collingwood General & Marine Hospital losing its chance for redevelopment. The province didn’t include funding for the local proposal in its budget. The next opportunity for such funding will be at least a decade away, if one ever comes along.

If any of these people have even a shred of decency, of honour, they will all resign immediately. If any of these people felt even a twinge of shame for misleading the community while they pursued their own personal – and very destructive – agendas, they would resign.

There is a flaccid story about this appalling situation in the Collingwood Connection. In it, the hospital CEO blames the failure on a “lack of alignment” between the town and the hospital board. That’s his polite way of saying – as was made abundantly clear at two public meetings – the Block and the administration continued to put up roadblocks and red tape to prevent the hospital from moving to its preferred site.

Why wasn’t the mayor asked to comment in the newspaper article? She speaks for the town, not the interim CAO. Just more yellow journalism.

And as expected our interim CAO didn’t take responsibility, but expressed “surprise” that the hospital’s CEO would suggest the two were not aligned. No one who watched or attended either of those council meetings where the hospital board was confronted, grilled like felons, shown great disrespect would be “surprised” at this claim of non-alignment. Their only surprise might be at the cautious, reserved language the CEO used in describing this debacle.

They, and they alone, killed the dream.

And right after he received the news, the hospital CEO quit his job. Coincidence? After The Block killed his dream project? I don’t think so either.
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The DM’s height of hypocrisy

There’s a story in this week’s Connection with the misleading headline, “Town asks hospital for public meeting”. The online version has it as “Collingwood asks hospital for public meeting.” Neither is correct. The “town” wants nothing of the sort. The mayor – who speaks for the town – has never expressed that on behalf of council. Actually, she voted against the request. But the real headline is buried in the opening: “Collingwood’s deputy mayor wants council and the hospital to put out a united front on the redevelopment plan.”

Well, it’s clear to see why the Connection is being called “Saunderson’s campaign headquarters” these days, don’t we? Saunderson does not speak for the town or for council and the paper should know that.

This is the same deputy mayor who was disrespectful, adversarial and confrontational towards the hospital on March 2 at a public meeting. Now he wants to be buddies. Not going to happen.

And at the next public meeting a few weeks later, the interim CAO was even more adversarial and confrontational. But it seems Brian has conveniently forgotten those meetings or the public’s reaction.

This is the height of hypocrisy: pretending that they want to make kissy face with the very people they showed such open dislike and disdain for. The only “united front” he wants is for the hospital board to bend to his will, and stay where it is.
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Another imaginary roadblock for the hospital

Hissy fitIn the April 24 addendum to the agenda there is a report by the interim CAO about the hospital redevelopment you should read. It seems another council hissy fit is in the making.

Your first question should be: why is the interim CAO writing and signing a report that ought to come from the planning department? It’s a planning issue – was the planning department reluctant to submit it? Didn’t agree with the conclusions? It’s a political document and written in political language. Perhaps no one in the department felt they should take ownership of it. Planning issues should be objective, not political. To me this is suspicious.

The interim CAO’s hostility towards the hospital board, representatives and the redevelopment proposal was made very evident at the March 27 council meeting. Well, it doesn’t appears he’s softened his stance.

A Municipal Comprehensive Review (MCR)* is required if a municipality wants to change its designated “employment lands” to non-employment zoning (usually retail or residential). That isn’t the case here (read this post for more). The hospital wants similar land-use approvals provided for Georgian College.

And what’s the big deal? The proposed site is a two-minute drive from the current one, has better access for emergency vehicles, more room for future expansion and growth, serves the region better, and is on a small part of a very large bank of unused land, about a tenth of the available “employment lands” available in this town. And it won’t cost the municipality a penny.

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Why is this man still working for Collingwood? – part 2

Why is he still here?Almost a year ago, I posed the question: why is the interim CAO still working for Collingwood? After his behaviour and aggressive, disrespectful grilling of the hospital board chair and foundation head, March 27, 2017, that question has even more significance.

And, you might ask, why hasn’t council dealt with it? After all, his behaviour reflects on them – and poorly.

The interim CAO’s relationship with the mayor is at best strained, at worst abrasive and unproductive. In a recent email she accused him of bullying and suggested he resign. Councillor Lloyd has made similar comments and recently blocked his emails. The last time the interim CAO’s contract was extended (at $226,000 a year), it was a 5-4 vote, suggesting a loss of confidence in him even among his former supporters.

How can any CAO operate effectively if at odds with one or more of his bosses? If he or she doesn’t have the full respect and support of all of council?

I have been copied with emails sent among residents and even some sent to the local media and council chastising the interim CAO for his behaviour, calling his tactics bullying and aggressive. This is not the way the town’s top bureaucrat should be seen by our residents. It is not the way ANY top bureaucrats should behave anywhere. Or should I say misbehave?

In an email sent to the mayor and council, one writer commented: “The CAO should be instructed to be more deferential to the Chair during the meeting. We did not regard his conduct to be very professional last evening.”

One letter to the local media about the evening noted in general the tone towards the bureaucrats at the meeting: “Nobody likes to be lectured to by high-priced consultants or government officials, especially when it appears to any reasonable person that the real motive is to further slow down and obstruct the hospital decision-making process. And making matters worse, we all know that it is us, the taxpayer, who is paying for most of those speakers and their underlying work.”

There were more remarks I won’t repeat, but they continued the general sentiment.

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The hospital, the trolley and political ethics

Trolley problemIn its decision about the redevelopment of the Collingwood General & Marine Hospital, Collingwood Council is evidently taking the track less travelled, trolleyology-wise. Seen as an ethical issue, our council has chosen to act against the greater good.

Trolleyology is the somewhat humourous name given to philosophical intellectual exercises or thought problems about our ethics and ethical choices. As Wikipedia describes it, the basic problem (and there are many, many variants) is simple:

There is a runaway trolley barreling down the railway tracks. Ahead, on the tracks, there are five people tied up and unable to move. The trolley is headed straight for them. You are standing some distance off in the train yard, next to a lever. If you pull this lever, the trolley will switch to a different set of tracks. However, you notice that there is one person on the side track. You have two options:

  1. Do nothing, and the trolley kills the five people on the main track.
  2. Pull the lever, diverting the trolley onto the side track where it will kill one person.

Which is the most ethical choice?

I first wrote about the “trolley problem” back in 2014. I’ve since been reading about it and learning more about what the answers say about our morals and ethics. My current reading is Would You Kill the Fat Man? by David Edmonds (Princeton University press, 2014). Edmonds takes the reader through a wide range of trolley scenarios – the title derives from one of them – and elaborates on the ethical nature of each.

But let’s stick to the base scenario: one person versus five. A minority versus the majority. As Wikipedia also points out, “The trolley problem has been the subject of many surveys in which approximately 90% of respondents have chosen to kill the one and save the five.” And yet, contrary to that statistic, Collingwood Council – or more specifically, the Block of Seven – has chosen not to pull the lever. They chose the minority.

All political issues, all political decisions are basically trolley problems. In every one, politicians have to choose between the special interests, friends, relatives, neighbours, lobbyists and the greater good – what is best for the community. Do they put aside petty ideologies and make decisions in the best interests of the community at large, or do they pursue their own personal agendas, power grabs, and vendettas?

It has always been thus. The father of utilitarianism, Jeremy Bentham, wrote, “It is the greatest good to the greatest number of people which is the measure of right and wrong.” And it is the greater good – the action that serves the betterment or interests of the greater number – that is always viewed as the proper choice, the moral choice. Anything else is viewed as elitism, entitlement and corruption.

Given the polarizing nature of politics, however, “do nothing” is seldom a real choice. It’s seen as weak, spineless, vague – like deferring a decision when a crowd is present simply shows you’re too cowardly to make a stand in public. There are consequences and liabilities even when you do seem to nothing.
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Council continues to attack the hospital

BizarroIf I had the choice between spending eight hours in a dentist’s chair having oral surgery without anaesthetic and spending two hours in a council meeting listening to the bureaucratic bullshit, the administration’s unfocused mumbling and meandering, the councillors’ self-justifying, self-aggrandizing, self-righteous grandstanding, boasting, empty platitudes, and argumentative whining palaver, after last night, I’ll choose the dentist’s chair any time. It’s less painful.

That’s because Monday night I spent two hours in an audience of more than 325 people listening to council trying to justify its war on our hospital, simply to support The Block’s shrunken base of supporters, all 12 of whom were also in the audience last night. It was like old home week for VOTE (Voters Opposed to Everything).

The vast majority, however, was there to support something positive: the hospital’s proposed redevelopment on the Poplar Sideroad site.

A war of words it is, and an increasingly nasty one at that. Monday night The Block and the administration marshalled their biggest artillery yet: a very expensive lawyer (the same one who recommended the interim CAO to his “temporary” position in 2013, by the way), a very slick PR consultant from out of town (sole-sourced, of course) and planners from the county and even a bureaucrat from the Ministry, all to justify their anti-hospital stand, and to make it appear that the issue isn’t about them – but about process.*

It isn’t. Let’s clear that up right away. The MCR is a canard. Don’t be distracted by it. The problem is with The Block and the town administration, not any report.

An MCR (Municipal Comprehensive Review) is a document required by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH) when a municipality changes employment lands (a loosely-defined term open to interpretation) to another purpose, for example from industrial to residential. That isn’t happening here, so it shouldn’t be required. It’s also a useful tool for identifying land use designations throughout a municipality.

And that’s what the hospital’s planning report – presented to council with a covering letter, Monday afternoon – noted. It was, of course, ignored by the very few at the table who actually read it.

But even if and MCR is required, so what? It’s just paperwork.

Every municipality has to have an Official Plan, and that plan must be reviewed every five years. Ours is due for review in 2017 and has been budgeted for. So why not conduct an MCR during that process as part of the OP review? Makes sense, doesn’t it? After all, an MCR is not just for the hospital: it’s for our future land-use planning for every property, business, growth and settlement area.

So just do it and move on. Stop putting up imagined roadblocks.

It’s not a big deal to locate hospitals in so-called “employment lands.” Other municipalities (Oakville and Windsor for example) have located hospitals in them – we can too. All we need to make is happen is simply paperwork.

But the administration says it’s a problem, so the Block thinks it is, and they all run about like headless chickens screaming the sky is falling. I’ll get back to that.
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The Blame Game

Blockheads playing the blame game
Remember The Name Game – that song from the Sixties that had those crazy lyrics: Shirley! Shirley, Shirley/ Bo-ber-ley, bo-na-na fanna/ Fo-fer-ley. fee fi mo-mer-ley, Shirley! Not the most intellectual lyrics of the era, I admit, but not forgotten and clearly suitable for local tastes. In Collingwood town hall, for example, they even sing their own version, The Blame Game:

Bloggers! Bloggers! Bloggers!
Bo-ba-loggers, bo-na-na fanna
Fo-fer-loggers fee fi mo-mer-loggers, Bloggers!

And so on. It’s part of the “not my fault” mindset that infuses The Block and the administration this term: blame everyone else for the mess you made yourself. Sort of like being in a five-year old’s heaven: it was broken when I found it. Not my fault! I wasn’t even in the room. She started it. I don’t know how it got in my pocket. Someone musta put it there. I didn’t do it! Wah, wah, wah!

It has been sadly amusing watching The Block and the administration fumble and bumble and stumble along their rocky ideological road, while eagerly pointing their fingers at everyone else as the source of their misfortunes. They never once take responsibility for their own decisions and actions. But instead of extricating them from the quagmire, all this flailing about and blaming others has only stuck them deeper in it.

Here are some of the people, groups and services The Block blames for the misfortunes they have done to themselves, the town, its staff and our reputation this term. You can see how many opportunities have created for themselves in this song:

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Which do we need more?

Dialysis machineThink about all the many and varied kinds of equipment a hospital relies on to provide modern, efficient patient care today. It’s the sort of equipment we want – we NEED – our own hospital to have to provide us and our visitors with the best treatment possible, so none of us have to leave the region to get that care.

Try to imagine all the types of lifesaving and diagnosis equipment that we should have – not only new items, but replacement devices for when machines need service or repair. You can search online for information about hospital inventories and make your own list. But here are some ideas…

You would likely include devices like a dialysis machine, or modern diagnosis equipment like a CAT scanner. Or an ECG machine. A spirometer. A nebuliser. Vacuum autoclaves. Surgery couches. Examination lights. Ophthalmoscopes. Otoscopes. Oximeters, cauterizers, dopplers., ultrasound scanners. Ambulatory blood pressure monitors. EKG machines. Anesthesia machines, sterilizers, defibrillators, patient monitors, surgical lights, beds, X-Ray processors and viewers, gastroscopes, colonscopes, ventilators, pulsoximeter, oxygen concentrator, gynecology couch, delivery beds, fetal monitors, uterine aspiration kit, microscopes, blood analyzers, centrifuges…

And this is just a cursory sample. A modern hospital needs a huge array of equipment today. Every item is something someone will need, sometimes simply to survive.

Pile of reportsNow ask yourself, which does the hospital need more? Any of these devices, tools or machines – or a pile of paper? Which will best serve the needs of providing patient care? Which will save lives?

You see, the Block on Collingwood Council, and the town’s administration, don’t want the hospital to redevelop on the preferred site, a mere two-minute drive from the current site. And to make that location more difficult, this group have thrown up bureaucratic roadblocks and procedural hurdles. Delaying tactics. One of those is to demand more reports. More paperwork. Mostly unnecessary work for outside consultants, but costly stuff. Hundreds of thousands of dollars. And they want the hospital to pay for them.

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GIS for CGMH

I wanted to give you a graphic comparison for your consideration. It’s one you can do for yourself with very little effort – so little in fact, that even The Block could do it. If, that is, they had any interest in doing something that might challenge their rigid ideology. Or take their attention away from their witch hunts for even a nanosecond.

But you, dear reader, are smarter than they are, and I can sense you are already intrigued. So let’s get started. Open your web browser and go over to Simcoe County’s map site at maps.simcoe.ca/public and zoom in on the Collingwood General and Marine Hospital. Get close enough so you can see the property outline.

General and Marine HospitalNow use the site’s measurement tool (click the ‘advanced’ tab on the left or the word ‘advanced’ on the upper right of the status bar). When the advanced toolkit flies out, click tools at the top, then measure. The third item on the toolbar allows you to draw a polygon on the map. Use your mouse to trace around the G&M property. It should look like the image on the right of this column. More or less – it really shouldn’t include the road allowance at the top of the property as I did, but you can leave it out.

Double click to complete your drawing and the property will be shown as a blue overlay. By the way, you can click on my small maps to see a full-size version.

The area of the property is shown on the toolbar to the left. It should read about 12.8 acres or 5.2 hectares, give or take, depending on the accuracy of your lines (you can improve the accuracy by zooming in closer).

Now clear the overlay (the red “x” on the toolbar). This time, try to figure out where the property lines would be if the hospital/town expropriated enough land to equal the 12 hectare (ha) site that is the hospital’s preferred location for its redevelopment, on Poplar Sideroad.
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Council in panic mode

The Block in panic modeCollingwood Council has graduated from inept bumbling and stumbling to fully-fledged, sky-is-falling, Henny Penny panic mode, it seems. A special meeting has been called to try and do damage control over the Monday night fiasco about the hospital.

The Block divided the community, alienated their supporters, and fostered division and acrimony. No bandage will heal those self-inflicted wounds. So they panic.

The meeting was called today for tomorrow, Saturday, March 4. It is another in-camera meeting – this council LOVES to go behind closed doors to discuss everything and avoid public scrutiny. The agenda says:

4. IN-CAMERA
THAT this Council proceeds in camera in order to address a matter pertaining to:
* a proposed or pending acquisition or disposition of land by the municipality or local board; (a)
* advice that is subject to solicitor/client privilege, including communications necessary for that purpose; (a)
Items for discussion: a) Hospital Redevelopment

Deputy Mayor Saunderson spoke about expropriation in his argumentative cross-examination of David Finbow, Monday. I inferred from his comments that the town was eager to start legal proceedings that will oust residents from their property in the vicinity of the hospital. My guess for this meeting: The Block will scream “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” and demand staff start panic-expropriating homes around the hospital. They will then try use that to bribe the hospital board into choosing the current site for its redevelopment.

But why would they propose expropriating ANYTHING until the hospital had made a planning application? Like the two reports that set up the initial roadblocks to the hospital redevelopment, this is another pointless, premature action sure to further annoy the hospital board. It sure won’t make the Ministry of Health look more favourably on Collingwood’s intransigence towards the redevelopment.

And it will mean more legal fees YOU have to pay because apparently a lawyer will be in attendance: “…subject to solicitor/client privilege.” Wasting taxpayers’ money on Machiavellian schemes cooked up in secret has never given The Block cause for thought in the past, so why should it bother them now? After all, tax money grows on trees, right?

Given the notice of motion filed this week by Councillor Lloyd for inclusion in the March 13 council meeting, this will likely be a waste of time, too. He is requesting staff include the hospital in the “employment lands” category, and to support the G&M’s proposed Poplar Sideroad location.

They can’t do both – expropriate and support the greenfield site – no matter how hard The Block try to suck and blow at the same time. They have to decide. It’s a shit-or-get-off-the-pot motion.

Saunderson’s disrespectful performance

Perry Mason“Your honour, I object,” shouted Perry Mason as he leapt from his chair and approached the bench. “This line of questioning is simply badgering my client.” “Sustained,” roared the judge, pounding his gavel.

Didn’t you just wish someone would have done that Monday night? I certainly did, while watching the embarrassing, disrespectful way that Deputy Mayor Brian Saunderson grilled David Finbow, the volunteer delegate from the hospital board. Cross-examined Finbow as if he were a criminal. That is NOT the way we expect our elected representatives to treat delegates. It was embarrassing and, frankly, childish.

As I read it, it’s also in violation of our own Code of Conduct:

Members shall conduct themselves with decorum at all meetings in accordance with the provisions of the Town’s Procedural By-law or the applicable procedural by-law of that Local Board. Respect for delegations, fellow Members and staff requires that all Members show courtesy and not distract from the business of the Town during presentations and when other Members have the floor.

Where was the courtesy? The respect? Grilling a delegate and implying he isn’t being honest is not what I call respect. And the Procedural bylaw says:

Delegates shall respond to questions from the Members only through the Chair…

Which Saunderson clearly ignored in his aggressive, verbal jousting.

You can watch the whole event on Rogers TV, here, staring at 0:55:00 and continuing on through to 1:57:00. Saunderson’s attack-style questioning begins at 1:26:23 and lasts until 1:44:45. That’s longer than delegations are allowed speaking time (10 minutes)!

You’ll also see how often he ignores proper protocol, speaking without going “through the chair.” And at 1:44:30 he apparently thinks he’s the mayor: he tries to set up a meeting meeting with the hospital board and council, and says staff will take care of it. What bloody arrogance.

(NB: the time stamps shown may be off by a second or three either way. The Rogers online video does not have a user-friendly method to move to specific or exact times in the feed)
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