Let’s Play “Spread the Virus!”

FacepalmsI see Collingwood Council wants the province to end the lockdown, but hasn’t said anything about improving public safety or accelerating the vaccinations if that happens. That suggests to me they are okay if the coronavirus spreads again, and strains our hospital’s already stretched capacity to deal with it. At least, that’s the message I got from the latest facepalm-worthy discussion and motion by council this week. As reported on CollingwoodToday:

Collingwood council is demanding an explanation from the province for the local lockdown and asking for the town to be returned to red zone (or lower) restrictions effective immediately. 
Council is also calling on business owners and residents in the town to start a letter-writing campaign calling on the province to lift the lockdown in Collingwood and allow local businesses to reopen.

I chuckled to read that a small town is “demanding” anything from the province. That’s like an angry toddler having a temper tantrum in a box store because their parents won’t buy them a big toy they see on the shelves.

Municipalities are not independent: they exist at the province’s whim and tolerance: they depend on the province for funding and authority. A more mature, more politically-astute council would have realized that you do not demand anything of the province: you ask. And politely. You maturely present facts, develop an argument based on logic and reason, make a report, dress it up with some pie charts, and you present it respectfully. You don’t whine and cry and demand.

Logic. Reason. Respect. Okay, I think I see the problem…

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Berman’s Cowardly Comment

Cowardly lionLate last month, Collingwood council heard from the town’s inquiry legal team* justifying the cost of the Saunderson Vindictive Judicial Inquiry (aka the SVJI), which many residents feel was an exorbitant waste of our tax dollars. The Collingwood Connection reported that Councillor Berman engaged in a to-and-fro with Will McDowell (of Lenzcner Slaght**):

Coun. Steve Berman asked if the parties involved had been more forthcoming with information, would the cost have been less. McDowell said there were many opportunities for those involved to lay their cards on the table, but “they didn’t do that.
“I don’t think you and I are disagreeing with each other,” he said in response to Berman.

By not being “forthcoming,” is Berman slyly suggesting that witnesses lied while testifying under oath? If so, I wonder who put him up to it. This taints every witness with a patina of guilt. Apparently, he lacks the courage to be forthright enough to name whomever he believes was lying. 

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The Inquiry Cost $250,000 More? Were We Lied To?

Hidden costsFormer councillor Tim Fryer is back on the agenda this coming week, making another delegation to the Strategic Initiatives Standing Committee about the true costs of the judicial inquiry (aka the Saunderson Vindictive Judicial Inquiry, or SVJI). I admire Tim’s tenacity at trying to get the truth out to the public about this debacle. My respect for him has risen considerably since he’s been off council, but I wish he had been such a bulldog for the truth when he was at the table (I wrote about Fryer’s last appearance in front of the committee here).

At the very end of the agenda, you can read Tim’s letter, starting on page 161* and continuing through page 166. What’s most interesting is that he included a letter from the town to EPCOR, included on pages 163 and 164. That letter shows the town agreed to pay EPCOR’s legal costs over the SVJI of $250,000 or more. Yet those costs do not show up on the town’s most recent official accounting of the costs for the SVJI (read it here) **

For a council eager to censor “fact-check” residents’ comments and letters so they conform to the party line, it seems highly hypocritical to find that the town itself isn’t forthcoming about the facts. Yet we now learn that $250,000 was mysteriously left out of the calculations. As Fryer writes,

I figured if a $4 Walmart or $8 Tim Horton’s expense charge could be included then certainly something like the $250,000 or more of EPCOR’s legal expense coverage, as per the Side Letter Agreement terms established with council after the CJI was initiated, should be too.

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Still Can’t Escape the B.S. (Brian Saunderson)

no more BSIt’s late February as I write this and still our mayor, Brian Saunderson, refuses to do the ethical, the moral, and the RIGHT thing for the town and resign his office while he openly hunts for another, out-of-town, better-paying job.*

It’s been more than a month since he admitted he doesn’t want to be our mayor and instead wants to be the riding’s next MPP. Seems to me he desperately wants to be somewhere else, getting more money and out of Collingwood as fast as he can. But he’s still, brazenly taking the mayor’s paycheque while he campaigns for another job. I don’t know how others feel about it, but it seems to me he’s trading ethics for base personal ambition at the taxpayers’ expense.

And you must be asking yourself what about all those high-and-mighty recommendations in his beloved judicial inquiry (aka the SVJI) that say council members should avoid apparent conflicts of interest? After all, the town spent many millions of our tax dollars to get them (instead of spending the money on fixing roads and sidewalks). Does he think those recommendations don’t apply to him while he campaigns to get out of his commitment to serve Collingwood? It appears blatant hypocrisy to simply ignore those recommendations when they prove inconvenient. And it surely discredits the report.

I’m told Saunderson’s campaign to be the next MPP has the endorsement of a local blogger** who was cited in a 2007 human rights complaint against Maclean’s magazine over alleged racism. The magazine was “accused of publishing eighteen Islamophobic articles between January 2005 and July 2007.” Although the BC Tribunal dismissed the case in 2008, in its ruling it stated that the “article at the source of the complaint contained historical, religious and factual inaccuracies, relied on common Muslim stereotypes and tried to ‘rally public opinion by exaggeration and causing the reader to fear Muslims.'”

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Should Children be Recruited in Party Politics?

I found these lines in Brian Saunderson’s latest job-hunting email somewhat tone deaf:

It is also interesting that a 14-year-old can purchase a membership and vote in the Nomination process. If you have any family members who live in Simcoe Grey Riding who are interested, it is an opportunity for our youth to get involved in the democratic process.

I think it’s a questionable tactic to appeal to underage kids as if politics were a video game with no consequences. It also suggests a certain desperation: perhaps he’s not getting as many adults to back him as he wants, and needs to recruit their teenagers to his cause. I can only hope these kids can’t be dragged away from their smartphones or X-Boxes long enough to vote.

That any party allows children as young as 14 to vote in nominations is gobsmacking. I’m not suggesting teenagers are stupid or oblivious to issues, but at 14 they have had little if any formal education in politics and democracy, let alone the machinations of party politics and nominations. Younger kids will be barely out of puberty, and for the rest, I expect their interests will be more focused on what their hormones direct them towards. I doubt politics is high on that list. I’d be delighted to see more engaged teens like Autumn Peltier and Greta Thunberg in our world, but the sad truth is that they are the exceptions, not the rule.

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Seven years in politics? But where?

We have questionsIn his latest email letter asking for support for his job-hunting effort, Mayor Brian Saunderson says,

“Having served on Collingwood and Simcoe County Councils for 7 years…”

Saunderson was first elected in late 2014, but did not take office in Collingwood until December 1, 2014. The inaugural meeting for the county was also that month: December 9, 2014. That’s six years and two months, not seven years in office.

I’m curious where he served the other 10 months in office to make up that seven he’s claiming, because it clearly wasn’t in Collingwood or Simcoe County. He wouldn’t be padding his political resume, of course, because that would be unethical and dishonest.

So where did he serve those missing months? And why hasn’t the local media been asking him about his claim?

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The Hypocrisy Goes On

Anyone having supervisory responsibility for the completion of a task will invariably protest that more resources are needed.
Hacker’s Law of Personnel, coined by Andrew Hacker in The End of the American Era, Atheneum, 1970.

At the end of the Feb. 8 virtual meeting of Collingwood’s “Strategic Initiatives Standing Committee,” under “other business,” Councillor Jeffrey (~2:02:20) worries about the “lack of staff resources” the mayor has at his beck and call. She wants to “make sure he has the benefit of the resources he needs to do his job.” She wants the town to hire or appoint him another assistant. Ka-ching! 

Is that not the wildest hypocrisy? Jeffrey and our current mayor were both part of the council that stripped the former mayor of her executive assistant (a position in town hall for at least two decades previously) in mid-2018. Some of those on that council felt she didn’t need one. They turned the assistant out of her office and made it into the council mail room.

In her term, Mayor Sandra Cooper went to many meetings, in and out of town, attended hundreds of town events and community occasions, met face-to-face with business leaders and citizens every day, attended conferences, met with ministers at Queen’s Park and in Ottawa.

I have known every one of our mayors since 1990; I covered them for the media for a dozen years; I served on council under three of them, and in those three decades I never encountered a mayor who attended more events, or engaged the community more than Sandra Cooper. She was in the office almost every day (when not away on some municipal business). She was tireless in attending to her job, and not just the official responsibilities: she cared more about the people of this community than anyone I ever saw in the mayor’s chair before, and certainly after.

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Saunderson to Flog his SVJI at the County

On the County of Simcoe agenda for Feb. 9 is a motion from our mayor for the rest of the county to support the Saunderson Vindictive Judicial Inquiry (SVJI) and back his run-on motion:

…Collingwood’s efforts to advocate for the Province of Ontario to make review, and/or commence consultation with the municipalities of Ontario and other stakeholder groups, such as the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, to make changes to the municipal legislative framework including, but not limited to, the Municipal Act and the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act pursuant to the recommendations of Associate Chief Justice Marrocco in his report, “Transparency and Public Trust: Report of the Collingwood Judicial Inquiry”.

I have a suspicion this will lead to Saunderson later asking the county to help Collingwood pay for this $9-plus-million debacle. After all, if they support it, even in principle, they might be willing to pay for it. 

But for now, I have to wonder: how many of our county councilors will take the time to read the inquiry’s 900-plus-page, legalese-dense report and its 306 recommendations before voting? If they do read it, I expect they will not approve the motion.

A lot of those recommendations, as I’ve pointed out in previous posts and below, are redundant, or even irrelevant. Some are very specific to Collingwood, some are vague, and some are simply inexplicable. A representative from another community should not accept them all in some blanket motion: I expect a thoughtful politician will instead pick out those few that might be relevant to his or her municipality (or the province) and deal with them.

Saunderson, of course, will try to convince the rest of the county councillors this is a grand and glorious thing all about openness, accountability, and best practices. Piffle. For that, I can only warn you: caveat emptor.

As I see it, Saunderson is merely grandstanding: pushing for visibility and media coverage while he campaigns for the nomination as the PC MPP candidate. Not very subtly, either, but he can’t campaign on his record of putting up roadblocks to the hospital’s redevelopment, can he?

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Will Madigan Pay for Inquiry Costs?

lawsuit?In a recent story on CollingwoodToday about the Saunderson Vindictive Judicial Inquiry (SVJI), Councillor Bob “Lapdog” Madigan commented that he wanted, “…those who are responsible for this need to be held accountable.”

Since neither the inquiry nor the OPP found anything illegal or criminal in the proceedings (no charges have been laid, although the OPP began its investigation in 2014!), the basis for a lawsuit would be… what? Council’s opinion? Or just Madigan’s umbrage?

We assume from the story’s headline, “Council wants to know litigation options following inquiry,” that he and others at the table want the town to sue people involved in the events because they made decisions the current councillors don’t agree with. Or maybe because those whose decisions displeased their wannabe-autarch-mayor, who launched this inquiry. Or just because a former council wouldn’t cough up the $35 million handout for the YMCA Saunderson and his committee demanded from taxpayers in 2012?

Well, Bob, when we measure accountability for this ongoing debacle, we must include you and your fellow Blockheads who voted for the inquiry, back in 2018. All of you need to be held accountable because you five started this and who ended up wasting $9 million or more of taxpayers’ money on it. If you’re suggesting that those who are responsible for this debacle should be the ones to pay for it, then open your wallet, Bob, because you’re one of the five.

This inquiry was sneakily called for at a council meeting in Feb. 26, 2018, at a time when three of the nine members of council were absent and could not participate in the discussion or vote. It was approved by a razor-thin majority of five: Saunderson, Ecclestone, Jeffrey, Doherty, and you, Bob Madigan. This is who should be held accountable for the costs. You ordered it, you pay for it.

You and the rest of council were warned then that the costs could escalate very quickly.  Chief Justice Heath Smith – who was originally chosen to oversee the inquiry – provided the report on the Mississauga inquiry with a letter about the potential cost escalation to the town (it was shared with staff and all members of council) to “give some idea as to potential costs.” according to the newspaper. Council blithely ignored her warning. And at least one ditzy councillor back then rather dimly didn’t think it would cost anything at all! 

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Enough B.S. (Brian Saunderson)

no more BSYet another week has gone by and our mayor, Brian Saunderson, stubbornly refuses to do the right thing for the people of the town of Collingwood, and resign. He continues to pursue his personal political ambitions at the expense of both our taxpayers and the credibility of the office. Not to mention tarnishing the reputation of those on council and staff who refuse to stand up to him or call on him to resign.

Resigning would be the honourable and ethical thing to do, but I do not believe residents can expect that from Saunderson. You might want to take a moment and read what I’ve previously written about him and his campaign to be our next MPP here:

  1. An Honourable Mayor?
  2. Saunderson’s Role in Blocking the Hospital Redevelopment
  3. Why Saunderson Should Resign Now
  4. Saunderson’s Still Here

In announcing his run for the nomination, Saunderson essentially told voters he doesn’t care about the job of mayor he was elected to do. But he wants to stay in office sucking at the public tit and collecting his mayoral salary until he can walk away from it as MPP, in June, 2022. If that happens, I imagine he’ll shout “So long, suckers!” as he drives to Toronto.

If he doesn’t get nominated as the party’s candidate in April, 2021, he will be politically washed up in an office he didn’t want to be in, likely bitter and vindictive towards the people who failed to fulfill his ambition. That will be us, by the way: local taxpayers.

His refusal to resign shows how little he really cares about his $9 million judicial inquiry and its 300-plus recommendations about real and apparent conflicts of interest. It can now be seen as merely a tawdry ploy to get him votes in the last municipal election. He’s a do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do opportunist.

If this is how he mistreats Collingwood’s electorate after barely two years in office, imagine how many more opportunities he will have to mistreat Simcoe-Grey’s residents if elected MPP.

Do it once and do it right, Brian: resign now.

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