Does Collingwood Mislead its Citizens?

The town’s “engage” page  for the upcoming “public” (virtual) meeting about the Saunderson Vindictive Judicial Inquiry (aka the SVJI) contains a deception (emphasis added):

“The original estimated budget for the Collingwood Judicial Inquiry was $1.6 million. To date, the Town has processed and paid over $7 million. The costs will continue to be tallied through the completion of all associated bills and will be posted to the Town’s website.”

But the town’s own accounting of the costs to date that was made public late last year is actually much higher: $8,098,547.40. You can read the document here.  As long ago as last November, the town admitted it had already paid more than $7.7 million for the SVJI costs.  So how did that total become merely “over $7 million” on the eve of a “public” meeting about the costs when the town already admitted it was well over $8 million, and we all know it’s likely over $10 million?

Someone isn’t being honest about the costs, but then has this council ever been honest about them? Methinks not.

So the town now will censorfact-check” public comments when they don’t fit with the official storyline, but the town itself can get away with publishing deceptive figures? It seems no one in town hall has to “fact-check” what gets published on the town’s website. How very Stalinist of our council.

And even after that account was released in December, 2020,  the clerk admitted at a later council meeting in January that not all of the bills to date had been added into that $8+ figure (even though the final report had been handed in three months earlier). The clerk said in public to council:

“The costs have not been fully compiled. I think there were a few items coming in. I understand, at this point, it has not exceeded $8.5 million.”

So by mid-January, town staff knew the costs were already coming close to $8.5 million. That’s a LOT more than just “over $7 million” that the “engage” page shows.

Yet since the clerk’s statement, the town has NOT revised the total amount on its website in all these intervening months to reflect the actual and ongoing costs. And yet here on the “engage” page the town promises, “all associated bills and will be posted to the Town’s website.”

Someone’s not telling the truth.

Many of the costs associated with the SVJI are simply being ignored. Council waves its hands at them and hopes they’ll all just go away, and be forgotten. But readers here know the truth.

For example, the costs of recently bringing the former legal team and former CAOs to town have not been included in the total. Nor has the secret deal to pay EPCOR $250,000 to cover its legal bills at the inquiry. Nor has the staff’s $700,000-as-important-as-clean-drinking-water-report-about-the-report been included. The sole-sourced lawyers and consultants appointed without a proper RFP to set the stage for the inquiry (before the motion to call it, in Feb. 2018) have not been added in, either. The REAL costs, if council was honest about them, would likely exceed $10 million. But our obscurantist council will never admit that to the public. They want to downplay the expenses by reducing them to just “over $7 million” when we all know they are much, much higher.

You are not being told the truth about the actual costs and you should be asking why. Not that you’ll get any more answers than Tim Fryer and John Megarry have received from them to date. In fact, residents’ questions have routinely been ignored, and those asking been accused in public of “besmirching” council for asking them.

And you can be sure that local media won’t ask the tough questions.

Collingwood deserves better.

PS. Thinking of asking questions at this long-overdue one-time “public” event about decade-old process and events or why they cost so much? The “engage” page only allows ONE question per resident. Think that’s appropriate for open, transparent, and accountable local government? Or that you will actually learn the truth from such a restrictive process? Neither do I.

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3 Comments

  1. Jeffrey Brydges

    some initial questions were submitted through the portal over the weekend, however, they are not displayed on the portal and people can’t see them this time; people could see my submissions on previous topics; does this mean that it is a political black hole or local temporal anomaly?

    • Good point. An open council would allow others to see questions already posted. At the very least so that residents don’t waste their one question asking what has already been asked. But, apparently, they prefer to keep residents like mushrooms: in the dark and fed manure.
      But that’s nothing new with these Blockheads.

  2. I see the town had to change its “engage” page to correct the misleading information about the SVJI costs. It now says “To date, the Town has processed and paid over $8.2 million. The costs will continue to be tallied through the completion of all associated bills and will be posted to the Town’s website.”

    That is significantly up from the former $7 million the site misleadingly reported. However, it doesn’t provide an actual LINK to that tally, so residents remain in the dark about them.

    There’s still no way to ascertain whether the updated accounting is HONEST or not (i.e. includes the ACTUAL costs of all inquiry-related contracts and events such as the sole-sourced lawyers and consultants appointed without the proper procurement process to set up the inquiry, the $250,000 secret payment to EPCOR, or the $700,000 staff-report-about-the-report, or the costs to bring the former legal team and former CAOs to town to justify themselves to council.)

    Honest accounting would likely put the total well over $10 million. But do you expect THIS council to give you that? Me either.

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