Saunderson trolling for votes

Two-facedAfter four years of deception, secrecy, more closed-door meetings than the previous four councils combined, and avoiding public scrutiny at all costs, Brian Saunderson and his Block minions have suddenly decided that they want to be “accessible”. I know, I know: stop smirking.

On the threshold of a municipal election, desperate to sanitize their grubby reputation, they’ve called for live streaming of all meetings – years after moving many committee meetings out of town hall to deter that very public accessibility, and refusing to live stream as early as 2015.

Amazing how some politicians can do an about-face when an election looms and they realize they are despised by a large number of voters. Consistency was never their strong suit, of course. If it’s self-serving, they’ll do whatever it takes.

As a story in the Connection notes:

“This makes our meetings more accessible to the public,” said Deputy Mayor Brian Saunderson. “It makes our governance more accessible. It’s a good time to be pushing forward with this.”

I know, I know: I too laughed aloud when trying to imagine Brian doing anything about governance instead of his own agenda. And as for pushing forward – after four years of secrecy and closed-door meetings, you haven’t exactly been pushing all that hard on anything to do with openness and accessibility. Yes, I know: the hypocrisy, it burns…

But let’s be clear: for all his huff-n-puff, this isn’t a town issue. The coverage is provided by Rogers TV, not by any town department or service. Even the newly created and very, very expensive IT department (operating at FOUR times the expense it cost the town last term with plans to hire more staff and spend several millions more…) doesn’t do it: Rogers does. Brian and his buddies just want to take credit for what Rogers has offered all these years.

Rogers complained when The Block first voted to move meetings away from town hall, in 2015, because Rogers doesn’t  have any recording equipment in that building. Which, of course, all of The Block knew when they moved meetings there to get away from the public eye. Meh, the Block waved them off.

And now they pretend they want to be open and accessible? Simply to fool the public. Brian and his puppets ask Rogers pretty please to provide more coverage but not, of course, take responsibility and apologize for the secrecy in the first place. 

Ain’t hypocrisy grand? (Yeah, I know: where was the local media when this hypocrisy was spouted? Not wanting to embarrass their friends at the table, of course…)

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Collingwood’s Reichstag fire

Reichstag fireThe Reichstag was the home of the German parliament until 1933, when it burned down just one month after Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor. The Nazis immediately blamed the fire on the Communists – their main political rivals – and used the event to suppress their opponents, repress opposition and dissent, consolidate power, while deflecting public scrutiny from their more hideous acts.

Many historians believe that the Communists weren’t involved, but rather the Nazis set the fire themselves to help promote their own agenda and enable their vendettas. They used propaganda tactics to enrage the public, and consolidate their position.

The Reichstag fire became a worldwide symbol of those in power: using a “false flag” attack which Wikipedia describes as, “…a covert operation designed to deceive; the deception creates the appearance of a particular party, group, or nation being responsible for some activity, disguising the actual source of responsibility.”

Sound familiar? Sound like something that recently happened here in Collingwood with a CBC exposé about alleged wrongdoing? A story with no wrongdoing but a lot of sly allegations and innuendo? A distraction from the real, important stories?

That’s Collingwood’s own Reichstag fire. Or its false flag, if you feel more comfortable with that name.

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Innuendo, not guilt, in CBC story

False allegationsBy now I expect you’ve read the scurrilous CBC story written by Dave Seglins or at least one of its local spin-offs. For me, the best line in the CBC piece is the description of Seglins by David O’Connor, a “veteran criminal defence lawyer,” who called Seglins a “… f—— sleazeball.”

Eloquently said, and certainly an opinion shared by others in town. I would have added a few other expletives, but I already stand guilty of egregious verbosity, so I’ll let the description stand on its own merit.

It’s a story full of allegation and innuendo, but not guilt. The story cunningly tells you some of the details from the 219-page OPP report, just enough to make readers think someone was guilty without actually saying so. And what it does say is couched in language that seems designed to further the interests of a group of council candidates, the unemployed Steve Berman in particular. (Berman has long been the easily-duped catspaw for others who also have interests in the upcoming municipal election).

In their book, The Elements of Journalism, third edition (2015) authors Bill Kovach and Tom Rosensteil say the purpose of journalism is “to provide people with the information they need to be free and self governing.” Well, this story doesn’t even get close to that lofty goal. They add (p. 9) that the first of ten items journalists need to fulfill this task is, “Journalism’s first obligation is to the truth.” Not selective truth, not opinion, not sly innuendo or unfounded allegation: truth. Another miss, it seems.

Start at the top with the headline. It’s misleading and incorrect, but it sets the oleaginous tone for the rest of the piece: “Ex-MP received ‘secret’ cut of $12.4M deal in resort town run by his sister, OPP probe alleges.”

Sandra Cooper is mayor. She isn’t a mafia boss. She doesn’t “run” the town: council and the town administration do collectively. In fact, Sandra voted against many of the initiatives of Lord Voldemort Deputy Mayor Brian Saunderson and his marionette Block minions, including sidelining the hospital redevelopment, privatizing our electrical utility without public consultation, twice extending the contract of the much disliked interim CAO, calling for a judicial inquiry that could cost taxpayers $6 million or more, and the last two budgets. All of which passed because of The Block’s unanimous votes.

Yes, that’s right: they mayor voted AGAINST the town’s budget and pretty much all of Saunderson’s initiatives. But they passed anyway. So how can she be said to “run” the town? You’d think a reporter would ask those questions. But maybe the CBC doesn’t follow that sort of journalism these days.

And, no, the OPP probe doesn’t allege anything about the mayor. The story makes it guilt by association.

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Ecclestone’s laughable campaign literature

BumblestoneWhen I saw Cam Ecclestone’s self-aggrandizing flyer, I was strongly reminded of the opening of Chapter 24 of the Tao Te Ching, which in my latest translation reads,

Blowhards have no standing,
The self-promoting are not distinguished,
Show-offs do not shine,
Braggarts have nothing to show,
The self-important are here and gone.
(The Dao De Jing: A Philosophical Translation, trans. Roger Ames & David Hall, Ballantine Books, Jan. 2003)*

As the least active member of council, the vain Ecclestone’s main contribution to the process this term has been to make the motion to adjourn at the end of a meeting. True, we’re thankful that he calls for an end to a painful, and often unethical process, but it’s hardly noteworthy.

In fact, he is so silent and unmoving that some council watchers often wonder if he is even awake during the meetings. And when he does speak – a rare occurrence – it’s usually to stutter and stumble through his unflagging if sometimes incoherent support for something from his leader, Brian Saunderson. 

Pompous gitIt’s amusing to read this brochure for several reasons, not least is his taking credit for things he had nothing to do with – and some that this council didn’t start, simply watched continue. If you didn’t know better, from reading his flyer you’d think he was mayor, or at least someone who actually did something.

Most of the credit for positive things on his list goes to the previous council. In his egotistical way, Ecclestone fails to give any  credit to town staff for actually doing the work while he sat at the table, nose in the air, consuming precious oxygen. 

In retrospect, the entire list of things Ecclestone has raised or initiated this term, has championed or advocated for is coincidentally equal to the number of times he has voted independent of Brian Saunderson this term: none. His contribution to the greater good has been equally lacking in substance.

As a writer and editor (albeit retired), I also wonder who did his brochure’s editing because it’s so full of grade-school errors, bad capitalization and punctuation, and clumsy phrasing that I suspect a grandchild had a hand in it. If Ecclestone himself was responsible for the atrocious writing, then he desperately needs some remedial English lessons.**

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Really? Another sole-sourced lawyer?

William McDowellCollingwood hires lawyer for judicial inquiry. That’s the headline on a story in the Connection.

Do I understand this story correctly? The same sole-sourced lawyer who encouraged Brian Saunderson and his council puppets to launch a judicial inquiry that may cost taxpayers $6 million or more has been appointed to to be “legal counsel for the judicial inquiry”?*

Anyone remember this promise by Brian Saunderson to…

Change the purchasing policy to ensure there can be no sole sourcing of any contract for goods or services over $25,000, no exceptions.

And yet there was no RFP for a position that could be paid hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars? Even though Brian PROMISED residents there would ALWAYS be an RFP for any contract over $25,000, there was no RFP. “No exceptions,” he promised.

Well, he forgot that promise about 15 seconds after he was elected. Every municipal contract seems to be an exception for Brian if it furthers his agenda.  Under Brian’s watchful eye, this council has handed out sole-sourced contracts like party favours, more than all the councils in the past 30 years combined.**

And he wants to be mayor?

And it is a coincidence that another lawyer benefits from a sole-sourced contract on the council that lawyer Brian dominates? Or that the decision came after another closed-door session, one of the too-many-to-count this secretive council has held this term? Those campaign promises of openness and transparency? More bullshit.
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Corruption, Saunderson and the CBC

J'accuse!It’s a seven-year old story about the abuse of power, of corruption, of personal ambition thwarted, of an insatiable sense of entitlement, a craving for attention, and a clique of ruthless people determined to exact vengeance for a perceived slight. And it’s still being told today.

It began in 2011 after the former council refused to build Brian Saunderson’s proposed $35 million “Taj Mahal” rec centre with public money and give it to the YMCA. Instead, an alternate staff plan was approved: two new, state-of-the-art rec facilities were erected at a fraction of the cost, and kept in public ownership. That annoyed Sanderson  began a seven-year vendetta against everyone involved. Street protests were organized with Saunderson as their loudly vocal spokesperson. Deborah Doherty’s partner paraded in front of a town hall with a sign demanding officials “inpeach” council (Doherty is now on council).

And in 2014, several election platforms were built on stories produced by one reporter at the CBC.

CBC reporter Dave Seglins, is back in town, sniffing around for another story that will no doubt again discredit those associated with that 2011 decision, plus others who have been targets of various council motions and actions this term (the airport, the sale of Collus, the judicial inquiry, for example).

In between is our sordid tale about revenge, and a determined smear campaign using taxpayer-funded resources. Corruption is defined as “the abuse of entrusted power for private gain.” Who stands to gain by any of this? Look to the council table.

The story that Seglins is writing will rehash what he published in 2013; pieces that discredited incumbent politicians, residents and town staff without anything even resembling evidence of any wrongdoing. (more on that, below).

The question you need to ask yourself is when reading this is: Cui Bono? Whose good? Who benefits from these stories and the harassment? Whose campaigns will wave them about in the municipal election and without a hint of the hypocrisy, decry this “corruption”?

Seglins has approached at least five people here in the past week, alleging he has “court documents” about some of them. These include Mayor Sandra Cooper, former MP Paul Bonwick, former Deputy Mayor Rick Lloyd, former Collus utility CEO Ed Houghton, and myself. There may be others who have not contacted me about it. 

All but Cooper are all private citizens, not politicians or public servants today. To date none of these people have told me they have seen the alleged documents, nor been contacted by the police for any wrongdoing or investigation, nor served documents for court appearances. Their lawyers, I’m told, have not seen them, either. Are we going to get another story based solely on unfounded allegation and innuendo? 

In Canadian justice, an accused has the right to know the name and see the face of the accuser. Not, apparently, in the CBC: anonymous attackers can discredit and smear their opponents from the shadows. 

Where is the accountability?

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