On January 15, Councillor Bob Madigan made a motion (seconded, of course, by his puppetmaster, Deputy Mayor Saunderson) to limit the progress of the Indigo/Eden-Oak/McNabb development at the south end of town.
Madigan’s motion demanded that,
…council provide no further approvals to the Eden Oak/McNabb development until such time as council as a whole has the opportunity to review the concerns expressed by the neighbouring residents and agree upon any mitigation options.
(Yes, I wondered who wrote it for him, too… whoever did it wasn’t very bright because he or she failed to identify what those mitigation measures should entail, who would oversee them, or if there was any deadline or timeframe for approvals – or what would happen if one councillor went on vacation and couldn’t “review the concerns” for several weeks. Very sloppy and nebulous; an amateur’s wording.)
This motion sets a very nasty precedent for the town: in future, any NIMBY group of neighbours who don’t want a development to go ahead, can stall it indefinitely as long as they can get someone on council to side with them. Or to say they don’t agree with any “mitigation options.” Or isn’t available to review anything.
In this case, there were seven on one side, as you might expect from the groupmind Block. But just one person in opposition or away would mean council “as a whole” isn’t in agreement – that’s what the motion reads – and can hold up a development.
Second, it puts the town in a significant financial and legal liability. If you were the developer and found your work was being held up for weeks or even months while councillors hem and haw over an approval (one they clearly don’t comprehend), all the while you are paying for workers and equipment to sit idle – think you might want to sue the town for the costs? Or if you’re one of the buyers and had planned your move-in date, but now found it delayed for an indefinite period, and had to find new accommodations and storage for your belongings while you wait – get enough buyers together and you have a class action suit against the town.
And that means taxpayers will have to shoulder the costs of any OMB or legal challenge by the developer, or its prospective homeowners (councillors have taxpayer-paid insurance against these lawsuits). Yes, I know: The Block don’t care about how they spend your money or what it costs to get their private agendas embedded in town policy. They’ve been spending like drunken sailors on leave in a whorehouse throughout this term, so why stop to think about it, now?
Madigan needed to get around the bylaw that requires motions to first have proper notice so everyone is prepared and can do their homework before it gets raised at the table. It’s that pesky openness thing again. Well, as you know, The Block despise protocol and process, almost as much as they hate openness, so he asked to waive notice. This cunningly bypasses any chance of public scrutiny or rebuttal beforehand, so for the Block it’s doubly blessed. At: 2:08:55, Madigan (seconded again by Saunderson) asks that notice of motion be waived. He reads the motion itself at 2:09:26.
All of The Block knew this was coming, as you might expect of any cabal. The CAO learned about it a mere two hours before the vote; Mayor Cooper and Councillor Lloyd were blindsided by it. But you never expected anyone on The Block to actually let others into their little schemes, did you? Neither courtesy nor openness are their style.
At 2:10:10, Councillor Lloyd suggests this motion is “premature” and says, “we should allow the homeowners and the builders to come to a resolution themselves.” After all, there is a meeting scheduled between the developer and neighbours on Feb. 1 to examine outstanding issues.* Why not wait the two weeks to see what happens? But that would be common sense and The Block will have none of it (why would they allow anyone to talk to the engineers and builders when they can simply ignore facts and pontificate?).
Blockheads Doherty, Jeffrey, Fryer and Saunderson spoke out in favour of moving forward. The entire Block (plus, sadly, the mayor) voted to waive notice. Saunderson said an agreement will be worked out to “the satisfaction of all parties,” which is false: the motion only says the neighbours and council have to be satisfied – neither the developer nor the buyers are included in that satisfaction.
The discussion over the motion starts at 2:16:12. It’s important to note that during this whole kerfuffle of lickspittle support, ONLY Councillor Lloyd said he made the effort to visit the site and speak to the engineers and builders to examine what has been and will be done. But ignorance doesn’t stop the Blockheads from bloviating.
Let’s stop for a second and consider what is involved in approving a subdivision. First there is provincial legislation like the Planning Act that sets the standards and rules, plus provincial, county and local policies and guidelines about density, infrastructure, services, road widths, flood plains, fill, grading, traffic, etc. Development proposals are examined by engineers, by architects, by planners, by lawyers, by the conservation authority, by the school boards, by the town, and by the county. Nothing can be done without a mountain of paperwork and approvals by at least a dozen specialists, authorities and experts.
And The Block – a group that doesn’t like to read its own agenda let alone a complex, lengthy planning document – thinks they have more expertise than all of these people and authorities. What a slap in the face of staff, what an insult to the people who actually do the work!
This is just what The Block did when they illegally fired our experienced, professional water utility board and placed five inept, inexperienced Blockheads in their place. And what they did when they illegally fired and replaced the Collus board with their puppets. What a bunch of ultracrepidarians (if I can use an archaic, but appropriate term).
I’m not dismissing the neighbours’ concerns, but they should not be politicized: there are experts, planners, engineers and experienced staff to make sure the work meets all the standards and codes. There are laws, policies and processes that must be followed. The developer has a $1 million deposit with the town to ensure that if something isn’t done right, that the town has the funds to fix it.
Making a planning process political, contingent on a vague touchy-feely “satisfaction” and the approval of a group of ignorati is risibly puerile. But, hey, that defines this entire term.
I have no respect for politicians who cave in to populism, however loud and noisy it gets. Governance should be about and for the greater good, not whoever whines the loudest. And this group showed by its heckling during the meeting that it doesn’t respect democracy or due process: it only wants to have its own way and tolerates no dissent.* That’s simply bullying, and only spineless politicians cave in to it.
Yes, I know: The Block have lost almost all their community support since they took office, and since most residents are holding their noses at the ripe stink of this term, these seven will cling desperately to any bunch of whinging residents in the hope to garner some of their votes next election.
And I’m only too aware that even the concept of “greater good” is alien to The Block; a foreign, inhospitable place they will not enter. They have one and one only concern: their own wellbeing. The rest of the community, as far as they are concerned, be damned. But simpering self-interest doesn’t make this right: an ethical council puts the community’s interests ahead of personal wants.
It was too much, I suppose, to expect any of them to actually go to the development site, to speak with the engineers, the staff, the planners, the builders and ask what is being done to address concerns before these nabobs nattered negatively about it. It’s too late now for them to actually do what they were elected for and are paid to do – you know, all that ‘due diligence’ stuff they spout. They acted prematurely, hastily and foolishly. No surprises there,
Madigan’s motion puts in limbo a development of nearly 400 units, making its progress contingent on the approvals of a group already notorious for not reading, for making bad, community-hostile decisions (think of the hospital, airport, Collus, water utility, shared services agreement, Block Nine…), for their blatant self-interest. That is not how our government should operate.
There’s another, equally troubling aspect to this motion and, of course, it has been ignored by local media to avoid embarrassing their friends on council: conflict of interest.
Does a person whose property value or property status could potentially be affected by a planning change or council vote have a conflict of interest when they demand that change, make the motion and vote? I think so. As I understand it, that’s a direct pecuniary interest.
And what about a property belonging to a father-in-law? Or a common-law spouse? The town’s own Code of Conduct (approved unanimously by The Block) identifies in-laws as “immediate relatives”:
“immediate relative” “Immediate relative” shall mean a parent, spouse, child, sister, brother, sister-in-law, brother-in-law, daughter-in-law, son-in-law, father-in-law, mother-in-law as well as step-relationships and half relationships; spouse shall mean the person to whom a person is married or with whom the person is living in a conjugal relationship outside of marriage; this definition shall also include any other person(s) that are living with the employee on a full-time basis whom the member/employee (appropriate to the document) has demonstrated a settled intention to treat as an immediate relative.
And the Ontario Conflict of Interest Act defines spouse as:
“spouse” means a person to whom the person is married or with whom the person is living in a conjugal relationship outside marriage.
So what affects the pecuniary interest of a common-law spouse is a conflict, by provincial law. And what should you do when a conflict arises? The Act notes:
Duty of Member
When present at meeting at which matter considered
5 (1) Where a member, either on his or her own behalf or while acting for, by, with or through another, has any pecuniary interest, direct or indirect, in any matter and is present at a meeting of the council or local board at which the matter is the subject of consideration, the member,
(a) shall, prior to any consideration of the matter at the meeting, disclose the interest and the general nature thereof;
(b) shall not take part in the discussion of, or vote on any question in respect of the matter; and
(c) shall not attempt in any way whether before, during or after the meeting to influence the voting on any such question. R.S.O. 1990, c. M.50, s. 5 (1).
So as I understand these laws, the property owner should not be involved in the discussion or the vote, and should have stepped away from the table. But that clearly didn’t happen.
As I have been led to believe, Madigan and his common-law spouse, as well as Madigan’s father-in-law, all live and own property in the adjacent neighbourhood, a street or two away from the new development in question. As I read the provincial conflict of interest act and the town’s bylaw, I can’t see how this isn’t a conflict of interest. I suggest readers might want to ask the provincial Ombudsman to investigate if they, too, believe this is the case.
Those troublesome legal questions don’t seem to have bothered anyone in The Block when Madigan made his motion, although I suspect at least some of them were aware of his residence. But laws are for others, right? Who needs laws when you control seven votes at the table?
Collingwood deserves better.
* In the video, you can hear Lloyd being jeered at during his comments by the residents who gathered in the council chamber. They expected – and were easily able – to pressure council into doing their bidding. They brooked no debate, even when it was informed and considered. Among the group was the chair of the Committee of Adjustment, who, I suppose, was not concerned that her presence would signal to observers a potential lack of objectivity in any of the committee’s decisions regarding this development, should they arise. Lloyd and the mayor courageously didn’t vote in favour of the motion.