The Town of Collingwood’s Facebook page has a post that shows photos of our council members grinning at the camera while holding a piece of paper with a word handwritten above a printed text. I am not aware that this bit of self-promotion has been covered in any local media (but then, so little is, these days).*
This paper they are holding comes from a County of Simcoe initiative called “#itsstarts” which, the county’s website says, is, “a public awareness campaign designed to take a proactive step towards addressing racism and discrimination in Simcoe County… to promote a unified community that encourages collective action against racism and discrimination.”
Which all sounds well and good, because we should be doing something to combat racism and discrimination, but it looks like our council is using it as a platform for their own self-aggrandizement, mixing it with not a little of their usual hypocrisy and disinformation.
The county website says that participants should also “Perform acts of inclusivity (host a multicultural lunch, learn about different cultures, ask questions, read international authors).” Which, as far as I’ve been able to discern, no one holding those cards has bothered to do. Being proactive and doing something for the community instead of for themselves was never council’s strong point. But they sure can hold up printed papers well, can’t they? Look at the words each holds and consider what they’re saying about themselves.
Our mayor, for example, holds up the word “empathy.” Well, he sure didn’t show any empathy towards former councillor Tina Comi when she was dealing with the stress of a missing child. And his supposed empathy was distinctly lacking when, instead of showing a glimmer of leadership and compassion, he joined the Gang of Six Bullies to sign a complaint to the town’s integrity commissioner (for the story on Saunderson’s and his cabal’s unprincipled, amoral, and vicious attack on Councillor Comi, see here). This drove Comi to resign in frustration over council’s petty, hypocritical, and misogynistic behaviour. But even though she was no longer on council, Saunderson let the IC’s report castigating her be presented in public so she could be further bullied even though she had resigned.
Empathy? Saunderson? Don’t make me laugh.
He didn’t show any empathy for Councillors Comi or Hamlin when his favourite sycophant, Coun. Madigan, treated them to boorish, misogynistic behaviour several times (in fact, Saunderson made Hamlin apologize for calling out Madigan when the latter made faces while she spoke.
Saunderson showed no empathy for residents when he voted to privatize our electricity utility to a for-profit corporation last term without even the pretense of public consultation. Nor has he shown any empathy for local taxpayers, of whose hard-earned money he has wasted more than $10 million pursuing his personal vendetta against people who hurt his fragile ego a decade ago (public money he continues to spend on his former employers in sole-sourced contracts, by the way).
He showed no empathy for the tendering process or conflict of interest policies in the judicial inquiry report when he voted numerous times to sole-source his former employers to do the legal business of pursuing his vendetta, neither stepping aside nor declaring his previous employment with them.
Saunderson didn’t show any empathy for local builders, construction workers, developers, or potential homeowners when he failed to discuss options about our water service with them, didn’t even warn them about the looming interim control bylaw (ICBL) that killed jobs, revenue, and growth here for years to come over a fictitious water “crisis” that was created by council’s ineptness and his stunning lack of leadership.
He didn’t show any empathy for the democratic process and the voters’ wishers when he voted to appoint his mentor, friend, campaign donor, and lobbyist to the vacant council seat when the ethical choice would have been to give the position to the next person in the voting lineup, Tim Fryer.
Saunderson didn’t show any empathy for those who voted for him, either. Instead of doing the job he was elected to do, he has shirked his responsibilities, and in January, 2021 —only halfway through this term — announced he wanted to leave the mayor’s job to get a better-paying one as MPP in Queen’s Park. Since he couldn’t win the riding nomination fairly, he showed no interest in pursuing in the democratic process, and let Doug Ford appoint him to the position over a better-qualified, leading candidate. After that, he basically gave up even the pretense of leadership in council. But he still takes the town paycheque for a job he doesn’t want to keep doing.
Empathy from our mayor? That’s beyond disingenuous; it’s almost Putin-esque.
And then there’s Councillor Berman, who holds up the word “facts” (looking like it was scribbled in crayon). This is from the councillor whose sole legacy this term is his motion to censor (“fact-check”) public comments on social media and in public documents so that there can be nothing posted to contradict the official narrative about how good, brave, wise, and forward-thinking this council is. The town assiduously deletes any online comment that doesn’t hew to the approved storyline. Nothing negative, not even facts, are allowed to tarnish the reputation of our council, kept polished bright and shiny daily by town staff. This is also the same councillor who prior to being elected ran a blog that angrily spewed disinformation and virulent criticism at the 2010-14 council but now can’t stomach being treated in the same way he treated others. Not at all hypocritical, eh?**
Councillor Jeffrey’s word “me,” on the other hand, is a pretty good description of her focus these past two terms: me, me, me. From voting herself an unlimited expense account so she can galivant around the country at taxpayers’ expense, to voting for council raises and hikes to council expense accounts, Jeffrey’s ambition to grab the brass ring of entitlement has shown no limits. Given what little she has contributed to the good of the community at large during her time in office, and her participation in the complaint about Coun. Comi, “ME” is quite appropriate for her sign. One thing she wasn’t selfish about this term, however, was her plan to give away a large portion of our waterfront park to an outside-the-community group; offered for free without, of course, any public consultation.
I’m not sure which ‘community” the leering Coun. Madigan is referring to with his sign. It’s certainly not Collingwood, because in two terms he has done little if anything for the town aside from being slavishly defensive of The Great Leader’s ideas and whims. He’s not nicknamed “Lapdog” because he’s been independent, shown initiative, fought for the greater good, or brought to the table anything for the betterment of Collingwood. But even though he exhibits puerile, boorish behaviour towards female members of council, he has mastered well the art of knowing what to kiss and when, and has never been too shy to heap egregiously unctuous praise on The Great Leader during council meetings. So Saunderson lets him get away with his misogyny. Considering Madigan’s essentially unproductive but always-eager-to-provide-subservient-flattery role on council, he should be charged for the oxygen he uses up in town hall.
Coun. Doherty’s sign reads “open-mindedness,” which of course is risible, given her closed-minded participation in the gang who bullied former councillor Tina Comi into resigning. Instead of being open and considering Comi’s circumstances and her concern over a missing child, Doherty was instead eager to hop aboard the Bully Bandwagon and condemn Comi when Comi’s 11-year-old son inadvertently interrupted a secretive council training session to say his sister wasn’t home. But Doherty has always been one for bandwagon rides when the mayor is steering it. Open-minded? Not to anyone not already on her bandwagon. But she is certainly open-minded about wacky WTF ideas like building a magic forest in a park already full of trees. And she was open-minded about her magical money fairy who was going to pay for Saunderson’s vendetta rather than taxpayers (spoiler alert: taxpayers are still paying for it to the mayor’s former employers).
Coun. McLeod’s poster reads “education,” by which I assume she means her form of education for residents who dare to publicly speak up, to ask difficult questions, or (gasp!) criticize council. Ask residents John Megarry and Mark Stewart how she treated them this term: she shrieked that council’s reputation was being “besmirched” at Megarry and interrupted Stewart to sneer that he was “impugn[ing] the credibility of council.” Or when she sneered at homeowners who found themselves trapped by incoherent, inconsistent, and confusing heritage district rules. I suspect our council’s most vocal harpy wants to educate townsfolk to be more deferential, to tug their forelocks and tip their caps when in her presence. Let them eat cake should be her motto.
And Councillor Hamin’s sign reads’ reaching out.” I expect that means reaching out to vote at least twice to sole-source her former employers (and the mayor’s) to do legal work on the mayor’s personal vendetta, but not reaching out to the public to disclose she had worked for that law firm for 22 years. And not reaching out to the judicial inquiry recommendations that members of council avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest when contracts for friends and former employers were on the agenda (apparent conflicts are a big bugaboo in the report, yet neither she nor Saunderson seem to pay attention to these recommendations). And not reaching out to suggest that, the town having already wasted more than $10 million of taxpayers’ dollars on his petty revenge scheme, maybe it was time to stop spending money on it and spend money on the community itself. But she’s always been a good soldier, marching in lockstep with The Great Leader.***
These signs are not merely ironic; they are deeply hypocritical, disingenuous, and shallowly self-serving twaddle.
Collingwood deserves better.
* Perhaps the story wasn’t covered because even our local media felt it was too oleaginous to attempt polish these tarnished reputations with such obvious tactics.
** On Facebook I had written several comments after town posts about council’s bullying Comi out of office, and how hypocritical it was to hoist the pink anti-bullying flag at town hall afterwards. I also commented on how hypocritical it was for them to “celebrate” International Women’s Day when the mayor tried to remove the name of our first female mayor from Comi’s presentation about the day, and when Coun. Berman walked out of her presentation because Comi used Mayor Sandra Cooper’s name in it (so much for the credibility of Mr. “Facts”). And how Coun. Madigan’s boorish behaviour towards female colleagues was indicative of his misogyny. Every comment I made was deleted by town staff, probably to protect the reputation of our councillors from themselves. Neither truth nor criticism shall pass their gates. Hardly Stalinist at all, is it?
*** It is to her credit that Hamlin not only didn’t sign a complaint against Comi to the IC (the sole person on council at the time who didn’t), she apparently warned Comi that a fellow female councillor was canvassing the rest to get them on board. However, she also voted to appoint Carrier to the vacant council seat, rather than Tim Fryer, and I would find it difficult to believe she did not know she was voting for a close friend of the mayor and other councillors, and a lobbyist who also donated to five of their previous election campaigns. So cross out ‘reaching out” to the democratic, ethical process. She also voted to revoke the order of Collingwood award from Ed Houghton, a contemptible, amoral act for all of them.
PS. We’re still waiting for the mayor to state publicly why he’s being sued, and for the whole of council to state publicly whether they each have a criminal record and if so for what. Maybe we should ask why some of them were fired from previous jobs, too. The public has a right to know about the pasts, however scurrilous, of their elected officials.