I see Collingwood Council wants the province to end the lockdown, but hasn’t said anything about improving public safety or accelerating the vaccinations if that happens. That suggests to me they are okay if the coronavirus spreads again, and strains our hospital’s already stretched capacity to deal with it. At least, that’s the message I got from the latest facepalm-worthy discussion and motion by council this week. As reported on CollingwoodToday:
Collingwood council is demanding an explanation from the province for the local lockdown and asking for the town to be returned to red zone (or lower) restrictions effective immediately.
Council is also calling on business owners and residents in the town to start a letter-writing campaign calling on the province to lift the lockdown in Collingwood and allow local businesses to reopen.
I chuckled to read that a small town is “demanding” anything from the province. That’s like an angry toddler having a temper tantrum in a box store because their parents won’t buy them a big toy they see on the shelves.
Municipalities are not independent: they exist at the province’s whim and tolerance: they depend on the province for funding and authority. A more mature, more politically-astute council would have realized that you do not demand anything of the province: you ask. And politely. You maturely present facts, develop an argument based on logic and reason, make a report, dress it up with some pie charts, and you present it respectfully. You don’t whine and cry and demand.
Logic. Reason. Respect. Okay, I think I see the problem…
But they also want local businesses to join them in making demands of the province, likely so they can shift the blame when something goes wrong. Like an upsurge in the number of COVID-19 cases and the overwhelming of our hospital’s ICU when restrictions are lifted without appropriate safety measures (like ensuring mandatory masks and social distancing) are in place. Sure, we all want to get back to normal, to shop and get haircuts like we did in 2019, but not all of us want to do so at the risk of a highly-infectious, potentially fatal, and still very active illness.
I suspect our council thinks it should emulate Texas and just end everything done to curb the spread of the virus and let it run rampant*. Yippee kay-ay! We’ll just take care of it ourselves, without all those inconvenient rules and restrictions. Not even going to wait for the vaccine rollout! As Councillor Hamlin commented (and not even facetiously):
“We know how to keep ourselves safe … we just need something simple for our residents, our businesses, our visitors and everyone who works in surrounding municipalities.”
Sure: like we know to pick up after our dogs when they crap in public, but hundreds of dog owners don’t bother and just leave it on the sidewalk or in the park. Like we know not to litter our cigarette butts on the street so their toxins don’t get into our drinking water, but smokers do it anyway. Like we know not to take dangerous drugs, or drink too much alcohol, or drive under the influence, or to stay within speed limits, to obey traffic lights, not steal shopping carts… come on, Yvonne: even with the restrictions and lockdowns, you can still see people every day in local stores with no masks, or masks pulled down under their nose, walking the wrong way up a one-way aisle, handling everything without gloves, not using hand sanitizers at the entrances and exits, standing too close to others in lines. EVERY DAY. So you think that if we lift the lockdown, people will suddenly get less selfish and more considerate of others? Facepalm.
There was another bemusing twist in the tale: Councillor Steve Berman declared a conflict and didn’t vote. As far as I am aware, outside of his council role, Berman is unemployed and has been for many years: he doesn’t work in any local business or could have any financial benefit from the motion. Why he declared a conflict is baffling. But wait… Councillor Bob “Lapdog” Madigan who does own and run a retail business in our downtown, and could have a direct financial benefit from the motion, DIDN’T declare one.
Did these two get their marching orders mixed up, each one picking up the others’? I know we’re not dealing with the sharpest pencils in the box, but, seriously? Couldn’t they work this out?
Now, I know the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act allows for an exception for issues that communally affect the residents (not that I expect Madigan has actually read the law):
“interest in common with electors generally” means a pecuniary interest in common with the electors within the area of jurisdiction and, where the matter under consideration affects only part of the area of jurisdiction, means a pecuniary interest in common with the electors within that part;
I’m not sure that really applies here because Madigan is the owner and operator of a business in the BIA, and whose income is tied to the performance of the business. To be on ethically solid ground, a declaration of conflict would seem appropriate. And the judge’s report for the Saunderson Vindictive Judicial Inquiry (aka the SVJI) chastised participants for (emphasis added),
… a failure to appreciate the importance of avoiding conflicts of interest and of disclosing real and apparent conflicts of interest to maintain public confidence.
And further recommended (emphasis added):
14 The Province of Ontario should amend the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act to state that the real and apparent conflicts of interest of the expanded group of family members are also deemed to be the conflicted interest of the Council member.
50 Council members who hold positions on municipal corporations at the Town of Collingwood may be in a conflict of interest position. Council members who believe they might have a potential, real, or apparent conflict of interest regarding their responsibilities and obligations to Council and their responsibilities and obligations to the municipal corporation should seek the advice and guidance of the integrity commissioner.
Now, I’m not a lawyer, but it sure seems to an outsider that Madigan has at least an “apparent conflict” in voting for something that would benefit his own, downtown business and his income. So I can only assume from him not doing so that Madigan has the same respect for the report’s recommendations about apparent conflicts of interest as his leader, Mayor Saunderson has: do as I say, not as I do.
Then Deputy Mayor Hull chimed in with an even more bizarre demand:
Deputy Mayor Keith Hull said the province and medical officer of health owe both Collingwood and The Blue Mountains residents an explanation and an apology. Hull also pointed out it’s the businesses with a local customer base, such as gyms and salons, who are the most impacted and seem to be “targeted” by provincial shutdowns and lockdowns.
An apology from the people responsible for the health of millions because people can’t work out or get haircuts easily? I’m sure the local doctors and nurses will thank him later for consulting them on the pandemic.
I guess the town feels it can make such demands from health officials because we have so many epidemiologists, doctors, virologists, and nurses on council and staff that we know better about how to manage a pandemic than those the province employs. Oh, wait…
This comes from a council that has contributed nothing financially to help local businesses survive the lockdowns, but spent at least $9 million (and perhaps more than $10 million if the actual costs were released) on a digital report, with often spurious, redundant, and irrelevant recommendations, and continues to spend our tax dollars lavishly to promote it. Does anyone else smell the stench of hypocrisy here?
It’s also noteworthy, too, that the motion included this gem:
Reinstate the Economic Support and Recovery Task Force that was struck at the beginning of the pandemic with members of the business community meeting to provide advice to council.
So while the world suffered a raging pandemic that has infected and killed millions, closed schools, businesses, industries across the county, run rampant through long-term healthcare facilities even here in town, our council shut down the only advisory board it ever created to look at these issues and offer advice? Instead of listening to the advice of the community’s business leaders, they’ve been… what? Listening to the voices in their heads? And it only took a year to figure out it might be time to reinstate it?
Brilliant. An absolutely brilliant way to deal with things. Who’s on first?
Collingwood deserves better.
PS. It was brought to my attention that attempting to look like he is supportive of local businesses could be just another part of Saunderson’s job-hunting campaign to get out of his commitment as mayor and take a better-paying job in Toronto. But if he was REALLY supportive, he wouldn’t have disbanded the Economic Support and Recovery Task Force, and would have helped those businesses financially, instead offering mere words. He’s had a year to do both, but failed to act.
* Texas is reporting more than 200 deaths a day from Covid-19, and the number of cases there have actually been increasing. More than 6,000 people are in Texas hospitals with Covid-19, while only 6.5% of Texans have been fully vaccinated.