The costs of the Block’s conspiracy theory

Wasting our money$6.2 million. That’s how much it cost Mississauga to have a judicial inquiry into its utility Enersource, back in 2011. That inquiry was initially estimated to cost $2 million but the costs more than tripled, according to a story in The Connection.

Imagine what The Block’s judicial inquiry is going to cost us in Collingwood. Millions and millions more.

They’ve already admitted it will cost taxpayers around $2 million. But none of them have even the slightest idea of what’s involved, who has to be called, who pays what, or what the process is. They just swallowed the bait on the hook of the lawyer hired by the former interim CAO without hesitation. But then, none of them care about the costs because it will have to be paid next term, by a whole new council since no one in their right minds would re-elect a single one of this corrupt lot.

After all, it feeds their conspiracy theory – and like all such conspiracies is based on wild, alt-fact imagination rather than anything resembling truth. But it also helps them pursue their vendettas against former council and staff for not building the $35 million Taj Mahal for the Y at public expense. (Remember: some of these are the same people who cooked up the phony OPP investigation that found nothing wrong in five years – but still cost Ontario taxpayers millions to run).

The Mississauga inquiry interviewed nearly 100 people and collected about 35,000 documents and held hearings where 35 people testified over a period of 38 days. And cost the city $6.2 million.

Collingwood’s inquiry is going to be remarkably similar. At least 100 people were involved in the original share sale, including former councillors and many staff from Collingwood, former board members and staff of Collus and PowerStream, lawyers from municipalities and utilities, current Alectra staff and board, the KPMG’s consultant, auditors, the councils and staff of the three Ontario municipalities that were shareholders in PowerStream who approved the sale, our former CAO, our former interim CAO, reporters who covered the public events in local media, PLUS officials and staff at the Ontario Energy Board and Energy Probe who investigated and approved the deal. And some of the current council will be interviewed, too.

PLUS the town will have to pay the costs of lawyers, auditors and accountants who get called (and likely those of people who come from outside the community or interrupt their jobs to testify). There will be town staff who can’t do their work because they will be in interviews. There will be the costs to retrieve and print thousands of pages of documentation.

Thirty eight days of testimony? I doubt it will be any fewer for us here given the number of people involved in the decision last term. I have already spoken to a half-dozen people who are preparing thick dossiers and their paperwork, each of whom will have 100 or more pages of factual documentation and reports to present (my blog posts about Collus are at least that long!). I suspect our own inquiry will require 40 or more days.

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The Block Bullies

BulliesLike all schoolyard bullies, The Block use aggressive tactics intended to intimidate and cow anyone who stands up to or disagrees with them. From their phony, trumped-up OPP investigation – which after five years hasn’t produce a single charge, nor have any of the alleged miscreants even been interviewed by police – through the debacle of how they handled the sale of Collus, to bullying the hospital, to their puerile judicial inquiry, The Block are hellbent on their vendettas.

This is a group that continues to set the bar lower at every turn. This latest bit of dirty politics shows they haven’t reached their lowest level yet.

Last week, Mayor Cooper, Councillors Lloyd and Edwards received letters from the county’s integrity commissioner saying that he cleared them of any wrongdoing in a complaint against them.*

What complaint? you ask. None of these three were even aware of one until the letter exonerating them arrived.

It seems the complaint was filed by a member of The Block only last month in an attempt to prevent these three from discussing in public or participating in council discussions the judicial inquiry, its costs and the waste of public funds ($1-$2 million of your money) – or comment on its cringe-worthy pettiness and spite.

No, The Block didn’t tell these three they were filing it. No, The Block didn’t raise any issues in public (that would require a spine). They did it as they always do – in secret.

No, they didn’t have the courage to speak up face to face to these three. That would be how mature, responsible, ethical people behaved – totally against the Block’s character. No, it had to be a cowardly, “anonymous” complaint. In other circles, we call it “backstabbing.” Very Block-like.

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Our treasonous council

If Collingwood Council operated at a higher tier or government – say the federal level – they would be called treasonous and taken to court for their culture of deception, their attacks on our democratic and civic institutions, and for their ongoing betrayal of the public trust. But because they are only a municipal government, they can merely be called despicable while we await the next election.

The latest act of desperation in the dungheap of this term is the recent motion to demand a judicial inquiry into the sale of 50% of our electrical utility to PowerStream last term. At a cost of at least $1 million.

Just when you think they couldn’t sink any deeper into the muck, The Block lower the bar again. And of course it followed yet another closed-door meeting during which public business was discussed and decided on in secret.

This is, of course, an attempt to head off the upcoming demand for just such an inquiry into this term’s unethical and secretive processes to sell ALL of our utilities to a private, for-profit, out-of-province corporation. Without, of course, public input.

The first sale happened SIX years ago. During that process they all had the opportunity to comment, to oppose the sale, to speak up. Which, of course, none of them did.

Let’s see how the processes stack up. Last term: open process, open meetings, public engagement, full media disclosure and coverage, transparency, all documentation published and available for public scrutiny, world-renowned consultants hired to oversee the process, all money accounted for, and a single in camera meeting held at the very end of the process to open the sealed RFPs. This term: secrecy from the start, deception, illegal acts, utility boards fired and replaced by puppets, OEB investigations into town actions, immoral and unethical behaviour, lies, obfuscation, personal agendashidden documents, rumours of big commissions, no public engagement, a sole-sourced lawyer, a secret deal to hand over our water utility to the same company without public input, the broken shared services agreement that cost taxpayers millions in new expenses, a promised savings of $750,000 a year from separating the water utility from the electrical but that mysteriously vanished at budget time, at least  37 closed-door meetings about the utility,  a secret contract to keep paying the interim CAO after he retired, and secretive terms of the sale the town won’t disclose.

Which one do you think most deserves investigation? Me, too. Secrecy, lies and the betrayal of the public trust this term SHOULD be investigated. 

And, I’m told, The Block secretly informed their pet CBC reporter of the impending motion head of time, so they could get media attention and play the same sort of smear campaign they arranged for last term with their phony OPP investigation (five years later and no charges, not even one police interview of an alleged miscreant: it’s long been proven to have been a hoax).

Hey! Guess who the CBC reporter – the same one who covered the phony OPP investigation – quoted and photographed? Why, our own Deputy Mayor Brian Saunderson! Are you surprised? Me either.

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Thoughts on local municipal governance

Representation?A popular political theory presents two basic and often contradictory models of how elected officials should (or do) behave as representatives. One is as a delegate: solely acting as a representative of the people who elected them. The other is as a trustee, serving (or attempting to serve) everyone under their governance. In practice, these are not absolutely discrete, but are practiced in combination with one another, as situations dictate or according to how vocal the electors are.*

How is this practiced here, in Collingwood? Yes, I know, the notion of The Block actually having or understanding a theory of anything, much less putting one into practice, is ludicrously surreal. That would, first and foremost, require they do the thing they despise most: read. Instead, they govern by blunder, bluster and blame, mostly the former, without any nod to conventional political theory. But bear with me.

In the delegate model, Wikipedia tells us,

…delegates act only as a mouthpiece for the wishes of their constituency, and have no autonomy from the constituency. This model does not provide representatives the luxury of acting in their own conscience. Essentially, the representative acts as the voice of those who are (literally) not present.

An example of the delegate model – albeit not a shining example of governance by any stretch of the imagination – was when Coun. Bob Madigan made a motion for council to supersede proper planning process, and ignore expert opinion and advice in favour of uninformed council opinion, in order to satisfy the NIMBY desires of a small, special interest group opposed to a nearby development. He thus acted as the mouthpiece of this group; i.e. their delegate at the table, rather than a representative of the greater community.

But what if you are your own constituency? What if the people who elected you are not those you choose to represent? What if you and your group’s interests are all that matters?
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Wasaga pulls airport support

facepalmAnother post where I get to say “I told you so.” Wasaga Beach pulled its support for the Collingwood Airport just like Clearview did a little earlier. Told you they would.

Why? Simple: because of The Block. Seven of our councillors resolutely stand in the way of growth, business, development, jobs, a better community, our healthcare – everything except their own wellbeing and personal advantage. I warned you that the combination of the roadblocks and the wall of secrecy erected by The Block would drive our regional partners away. And it did.

Even before this, I warned you the shoddy, hostile way our town and our council treated the hospital would infuriate and alienate our neighbours who are also regional partners in the hospital. And it did.

Wasaga Beach’s mayor, Brian Smith is quoted in the Connection blaming it on “Collingwood council’s apparent lack of support for the proposed aviation business park beside the airport.”

Apparent” lack of support? What a weasel word. I suppose I can’t expect better from local media.

The lack of support from Collingwood was EVIDENT to everyone on the airport board, in the public, on the councils of Wasaga Beach and Clearview. It was even pointed out to me by several people in the county council from other communities not connected to Collingwood. EVERYONE knew who on Collingwood Council didn’t support the airport, or the development, or the jobs it would bring in.

The writer lamely notes, “Collingwood’s position is council and staff are acting on legal advice to not sign an agreement,” without actually citing the source for that claim (and, curiously, not slavishly quoting his buddy, our deputy mayor, as he is wont to do). I would question whether any reputable lawyer would advise elected representatives NOT to explain their position to the voters who put them there. The reporter, doesn’t question the party line, though.

Collingwood got a staff report about the future of the airport, Feb. 12. The ever-unctuous Collingwoodliving.com notes the Deputy Mayor called it an “apparent” breakdown without taking responsibility for the EVIDENT breakdown The Block has caused:

Deputy Mayor Brian Saunderson expressed his concern with the situation surrounding the possible sale of the airport and the apparent breakdown of the regional cooperation with the Town of Wasaga Beach in addition to the withdrawl (sic) of support by the Township of Clearview…. he has been frustrated with the actions of neighbouring municipalities, namely the town of Wasaga Beach and Clearview Township.

He was so frustrated that none of The Block ever bothered to speak with our neighbours, with our airport board and explain themselves. So frustrated they never even informed them officially about the sale of the airport. And now he’s blaming someone else. What a hypocrite.*

Why aren’t local reporters pointing the finger at what everyone else sees, and asking the hard questions about Collingwood’s secret motives? About why so many closed door meetings on the airport? About why The Block are opposed to creating jobs and economic growth here? Why are local reporters letting The Block weasel their way out of responsibility? Oh right: they don’t want to embarrass their friends.
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