My responses to residents: 1

Questions? I have answers.NB: As a candidate for Deputy Mayor in the upcoming municipal election, I receive questions from residents about my stand on various issues and policies. I will post my responses here for everyone to read. My responses are in italics, below.

One of my main concerns is development in the area. I do understand that development is important for the economic growth of Collingwood and builds a tax base. My concern is the natural area that makes Collingwood beautiful is shrinking especially with the future housing plans.

Is this a priority for you? If yes, what will you do to ensure protected areas remain protected and the natural beauty remains? If not, please explain.

Response: I too am concerned, but there’s not much any municipality can do because planning is controlled predominantly at the provincial level. Collingwood was designated as a growth area several years back, as part of the provincial plan to limit sprawl in more rural areas. The county also supports this, by the way. It means we see more residential growth than most of our neighbours. And yes it means increasing loss of greenspace.

Compounding this is the shift in real estate that has driven many homeowners in the GTA to sell and move outside the city – and with it a demographic change because many of these new residents are older and retired. That has driven up the market for housing and accelerated the growth in some areas.

Although growth brings in new money – and for a council that manages its finances carefully, that helps keep taxes low – it also means more demands on infrastructure and services, which can also raise costs for them. And few if any of the new homes are in the “affordable” range for many of our residents (especially seniors and low-income earners).

The Planning Act, the county’s Official Plan and our own Official Plan lay out what can be developed and where. Since all of this land is in private hands, we can only regulate it according to these documents: things like servicing, density, setbacks, roads, tails, parkland, etc. We can slow growth down through bureaucratic means, but not stop it indefinitely.

We even have little to no control over things like style and design (although last term I did manage to get a change to stop the building of ‘snout houses’ here). Last term I also raised mandatory tree planting in new developments, but it didn’t gain traction (I’ll try again next term).

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Airport sold after secret deal, no public input

According to the Connection, Collingwood’s airport – owned by the taxpayers – was just sold to a private corporation after almost 20 closed-door council sessions. Not once was the public consulted. Not once was the public told WHY or even if selling the airport was good for the community. Not once did Brian Saunderson or his Block puppets warn the public last election campaign that they planned to sell our public asset. 

Not once did Saunderson or the Block or the town administration present a business case in the past four years to show that selling it was good, that it benefitted the town, or compare options for keeping it. It was all done in secret, behind closed doors. Just like everything Saunderson and his cabal do.

There it goes. Sold for $4.1 million – which, if I recall the last appraisal correctly, is $2 million LESS than it was valued at last term. And imagine how much more it would have been worth if Saunderson and his Block had not blocked the commercial development there, with it’s 1,000-plus local jobs!

And that won’t begin to pay the costs of the Saunderson Vindictive Judicial Inquiry. But that’s really why he’s selling our assets: to pay for his vendettas.

Saunderson wants to be your mayor and his minions want to be on council again. Yet they’ve sold another public asset without once informing or consulting the public, even after their numerous closed-door meetings. Is that REALLY the sort of government you want at the table for the next four years? Haven’t you had enough of their secrecy and deception?

Collingwood deserves better.

A response to Don May

In a recent email, Don May took several shots at me and my integrity. I expected this and similar attacks from Saunderson’s followers – and May is an admitted supporter of Brian Saunderson. I won’t bother to respond to his innuendo or unfounded allegations. However, I want to address one thing May said that is correct: he accused me of having a,

…desire to go back to our former governments of the past.

Leaving aside the obvious tautology (what else could a former government be but of the past?), he’s right: I do want to see Collingwood council return to the ethical, open, honest, publicly-engaged and moral government we had before Brian Saunderson and his cabal got elected. Yes, I want to see a council like the many we had before: one that the public trusted and that put the greater good above their own entitlements.

This term Saunderson and his minions have:

  • Put up roadblocks to stop the hospital’s much-needed redevelopment after meeting behind closed doors four times, and hired a high-priced lawyer and PR consultant to chastise the hospital board in public;
  • Met behind closed doors almost 50 times to decide to sell our public utility without once ever coming into the open to explain why, to present a business case for the sale or to ask for public input;
  • Met behind closed doors almost 20 times to decide to sell our publicly owned airport without once ever coming into the open to explain why, to present a business case for the sale or to ask for public input;
  • Raised our taxes four times while giving themselves a pay raise each time;
  • Raised our town’s debt;
  • Quadrupled the cost of the town’s IT services, hired three new staff and plan to hire two more for that department, plus spend millions to upgrade the system;
  • Launched Saunderson’s Vindictive Judicial Inquiry which will cost taxpayers $2 to $6 million and maybe more simply to satisfy Saunderson’s personal vendettas;
  • Voted an unlimited expense account for Kathy Jeffrey to fly around the country wining and dine at taxpayer expense pursuing her personal political goals.

So it’s little wonder any thoughtful person would want to return to the open, accountable and engaged governments of the past.

But May is entitled to his opinions and if he prefers the Putin-esque style of Saunderson, he’s allowed to do so. I just hope that you, dear reader, are somewhat more politically savvy and don’t want to continue the reign of secrecy, deception, public betrayal and abuse of power we’ve had these past four years.

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Channelling John Stuart Mill

In the opening few pages of his essay On Liberty, John Stuart Mill warned about the “tyranny of the prevailing opinion.” Anyone familiar with the mob mentality than can erupt on social media, its potential for divisiveness and the platform’s inherent weakness to be manipulated by outside forces (such as Russia) would consider Mill’s words as topical today. 

Mill was writing in this essay about, “…the nature and limits of the power which can be legitimately exercised by society over the individual” and how to contain the “tyranny of the majority.”*

He was passionate about individuality and the freedom of the individual, warning against state control (thought or otherwise)  by any means for any reason other than one, and would have, I suspect, been aghast at today’s social media as a tool for manipulating public opinion (in a way the late Neil Postman would have appreciated**):

…there needs protection also against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling; against the tendency of society to impose, by other means than civil penalties, its own ideas and practices as rules of conduct on those who dissent from them; to fetter the development, and, if possible, prevent the formation, of any individuality not in harmony with its ways, and compel all characters to fashion themselves upon the model of its own. There is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with individual independence; and to find that limit, and maintain it against encroachment, is as indispensable to a good condition of human affairs, as protection against political despotism.

The current rise of right-wing conformity to nationalist, religious and racist ideologies masquerading as populism poses a similar threat to individual freedoms. Populist movements threaten western democracies by attacking the fundamental principles of an open, free, inclusive and democratic society and replacing them with conformity to restrictive, exclusive nationalist and racist views.

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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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Running for office, 2018

This morning I filed my papers to run for Deputy Mayor in the 2018 municipal election.

I want to thank everyone who encouraged me to run, who endorsed my application, and who has promised to help my campaign. Your confidence in my ability to do the job and to provide open, ethical governance and return council to accountability is deeply felt. I promise I will not let you down.

I will continue to inform voters of the abuses of power and personal agendas this term, and expose for a larger audience the unacceptable amount of secrecy and deception this council has used to govern and to mislead the community. I will also underscore my opponent’s part in these decisions, from blocking the hospital’s redevelopment to privatizing our electricity utility and our airport, to raising taxes every year – all reasons you should not trust him to make decisions on your behalf in the future.

I will be publishing more shortly, with a fuller campaign platform.