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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Tim Fryer’s fictitious candidate

maskYou have to wonder who is being described on Tim Fryer’s campaign website when you read about claims of:

  • Transparent and Trustworthy Leadership.
  • Responsible and Accountable
  • Creative and Open Minded
  • Socially & Environmentally Conscious

Is Fryer advertising for another candidate? One not so deeply joined to Brian Saunderson and his personal agendas? One who actually stood up and fought for open, accountable meetings and public consultation when privatizing our electricity utility instead of shambling into almost 50 closed-door meetings to plot the sale?

One who refused to sideline our hospital redevelopment and delay it three to ten years? One who demanded an open process when council decided to sell our publicly-owned airport instead of sneaking into one of 16 closed-door meetings to plot its sale? Who fought against the unethical process and administration’s harassment when council fired all members of both our water and electricity utility boards and replacing them with malleable puppets? Who voted against twice extending the contract of the $200,000-a-year interim CAO?

Obviously it wasn’t Fryer. Or any of his servile co-minions. Maybe it’s someone not even on the ballot yet? Maybe his imaginary friend?

I can’t think of a single way any of those words describe Tim. I can’t think of a single initiative he has launched this term. I can’t think of a single cause for the greater good he has advocated this term. None. I can’t think of a single example of Tim’s being creative or environmentally conscious like he claims.

Maybe those are all things he thought he could be while he sat in the many, many secretive, closed-door meetings this council has held. In public, though, Tim should be saying, like Bob Dylan sang, “It ain’t me babe.”

Think hard: what does Tim actually stand for? Aside from supporting Brian Saunderson, that is. What are his causes, his issues, what does he advocate for on your behalf? Time’s up… no, I couldn’t name one, either. And yet he wants to be deputy mayor.

That position requires experience, initiative, acuity of thought, a clear strategic vision, financial and political savvy, the ability to work collaboratively with municipal and county staff and councillors, and the ability to communicate coherently and clearly.

None of which attributes he has shown at the council table this term.

Fryer claims that being a lifelong resident in town “…and my former role as Chief Financial Officer for Collingwood’s utility companies, will provide the tools to help me enhance the Fiscal Policies of Council.”

(Yes, I too grimaced over the wacky, random capitalization in his text there and elsewhere on his site). How would being a “lifelong resident” help anything in governance? Does residence alone confer wisdom? Skill? Talent? Clearly not. And one wonders why – if indeed he’s singing his own praises – he never used those “tools” to help enhance anything THIS term?

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A cop on every corner and in every backyard

JeffreyCouncillor Kathy Jeffrey wants to get tough on crime. Serious crimes like throwing birdseed on your deck, not cutting the grass on the boulevard in front of your house, and riding a bicycle on a sidewalk. I suppose and we’re all at risk from imminent social collapse if they aren’t curtailled and the malfeasants brought to justice right away.

And charged. Big, hefty, bankruptcy-threatening fines.

Getting tough on crime is always a hot button topic around election time, so there’s little surprise Jeffrey is on that bandwagon now, and was silent about it the previous three-and-a-half years.

The Connection reported that in a recent council meeting, she said,

“If we can’t enforce them, why do we have rules?… It would definitely require more staffing, and it would have to pay for itself somehow…”

“If we can’t enforce them, why do we have rules?” That’s an ironic comment coming form a member of The Block who voted against her own town bylaws to fire the members of the town’s electricity and water utility boards. They’re sure a do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do bunch at the table this term. Everyone else has to obey the rules, just not The Block.

Adding more staff to the bylaw department? We’ve already learned this term that hiring more people for town hall is something The Block just love to do. So what that the latest accommodation review says that The Block’s willy-nilly tactic of hiring more and more staff will cost taxpayers between $20 and $25 million? After all, it’s not their money they’re wasting.

And they sure do waste it.
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More costs pile onto the SVJI

Pie in faceIt seems Saunderson’s Vindictive Judicial Inquiry (SVJI) is eating up taxpayer money rapidly, with a little help from other town departments. It was originally estimated to cost taxpayers between $2 and $6 million – and now it seems that could be much more thanks to this latest farcical chapter.

Saunderson’s Vindictive Judicial Inquiry needs space, not just your cash, to conduct its business. Lots of space, it seems. The SVJI crew had set up shop in town hall, and were occupying office real estate therein, but it wasn’t enough: they needed room to expand. With space in the building already at a premium, they looked around town for some larger, commercial space to occupy. Space to spread out all that paperwork and put up posters of Saunderson’s Most Wanted (aka the previous council).

And last month, the SVJI people found just the space they needed in the Sheffer Court building. The town sighed a quiet ‘hooray’ and promptly signed a lease for them. Everyone in town hall eagerly looked forward to the move so they could get their desks and copiers back. Until someone in the Saunderson  cabal caught wind of the new address.

It seems that’s the building once occupied by the Block’s antichrist, Paul Bonwick. And even through he’s long gone, the Block fear Bonwickism is a transmittable ailment that might lead to brotherly associations with the mayor – one of The Block’s principal targets of their bile and hatred this term. Or maybe it’s his Liberalism that could be catching. Heaven forbid: the SVJI members might start hanging pictures of Justin Trudeau or even Jean Chretien on the walls.

Either way, someone had a hissy fit over the closeness of the SVJI to the ghost of Bonwick past.

In full Blockish “sky-is-falling” mode they ran into town hall screaming hysterically, and demanded the move be stopped. Now! This instant! Cancel the deal! Cluck, cluck, the sky is falling! 

But the landlord said, No way. We had a deal. You signed a lease; the offices are yours for the year. And he wouldn’t let the town off the hook. So tenant or not, taxpayers still had to pay for the offices. And the SVJI still needed space.

The solution was worthy of the Marx Brothers : move the town’s entire treasury department and staff out of town hall and into the offices instead. That’s right: take all of the people, furniture, phones, computers, copiers, files, chairs, desks,filing cabinets, Rolodex cards and printers they needed to function and move them down the block. Then install security locks, new phone lines, and new internet and network cables both there and in town hall for the SVJI folk. And, of course, we taxpayers shoulder the moving and installation costs.

It’s not Saunderson’s money, so why should he care? After all, he and his minions have raised your taxes four times this term already – another four years of him will provide the opportunity for another four tax hikes to pay for their wild spending habits. And, of course, for their mandatory pay raises they vote themselves each time they raise your taxes.

Surely the treasury department is as vulnerable to the taint of Bonwickism as the SVJI staff, but the Block don’t seem to have noticed that little inconsistency in their plan during their collective cluck, cluck, clucking.

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Doherty’s Magic Money Fairy

the money fairyAt 3:55:20 in the video of Monday’s Collingwood Council meeting, Councillor Deb Doherty utters the self-congratulatory claim that she is “glad” the costs of the upcoming judicial inquiry to pursue the Block’s maniacal conspiracy theories are not coming out of “taxpayer funds on an annual basis.”

I can hear your head shaking. Where does she think money comes from? And since taxes are calculated yearly, is there any other sort of taxation aside from an “annual basis”? Well, read on…

This bit of financial wisdom comes from the same councillor who last year expressed bafflement over what dividends are and complained that the town wasn’t getting one from the utility to which it had caused excessive operating costs. This from a person charged with helping manage the town’s financial well-being.  Maybe she has other talents.

The costs of this inquiry were estimated at $1.4-$1.6 million in a staff report presented to council April 30. That estimate was vague because it didn’t include the costs of staff time to prepare reports, gather documents and appear at hearings, and possibly other expenses. A similar inquiry held in Mississauga was also estimated around $1.2 million ended up costing the municipality $6.2 million instead!

Doherty made her comment during a discussion on how to pay for the judicial inquiry that Deputy Mayor Saunderson demanded – without anyone (including him) bothering to figure out how to pay for it or even include it in the current year’s budget (Saunderson himself wasn’t at the meeting to answer questions, and my sources tell me he didn’t bother to inform anyone he wouldn’t be there!). So the costs get passed on to the next council (one that will, mercifully, be shorn of Blockheads).

Well, we all know finance has never been The Block’s strong suit. Or ethics, responsibility, openness, public consultation, fairness – but they are huge in conspiracy theories. Yuge, as Trump would say.

So how will the town pay for the inquiry? By taking the money from reserves. And how does money get into reserves in the first place? Yes, you’re going to tell me it gets funded from taxes which we, the taxpayer shell out every year. But clearly Councillor Doherty doesn’t understand that rather basic concept. I suggest she likely believes a Magic Money Fairy flies by at night and with a touch of her wand refills the coffers The Block have depleted.

As soon as she had uttered these words, Councillor Edwards corrected her, noting that “any money we spend comes from the taxpayers’ pocket.” *

True, but that apparently escaped Deb, who retorted that it wasn’t coming from taxpayers’ funds “this year.” So it seems no tax revenue went into reserves in 2018, at least in her mind. Need I tell you how utterly incorrect she is? Or that The Block initiated a fixed, extra 0.75% added to annual taxes to fund reserves? For which she voted? Which has been in the annual budget three times? For which she voted each time ? Okay, stop laughing.

It seems her Magic Money Fairy will simply fill up those reserves regularly so The Block can continue their spending-like-a-drunken-sailor-on-shore-leave-in-a-brothel tactic of financial management. While giving themselves a pay hike every year.

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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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