Without any fanfare or media coverage (no surprises there!), last September Collingwood Council approved a significant change to the policy regarding the Order of Collingwood that would pave the way for Mayor Brian Saunderson to launch his cancel-culture attack on someone he despises for hurting his feelings. But the real history goes back to the spring of 2021.
It began with a CAO report presented to council in April, 2021. That report included two neo-Stalinist suggestions to erase and revise Collingwood’s history to suit the official narrative developed under Saunderson (aka his cancel culture):
Council consider the removal of the plaques recognizing and replaced with simple and honest “Town of Collingwood, 2013” so that the town and the community can heal and move forward? The names of those who did the Town a dis-service should not be celebrated, enshrined, or immortalized.
That Council consider revising the Order of Collingwood and the Companion to the Order of Collingwood policy (the ‘policy’) with respect to individuals that have received such municipal award(s) and include a revocation procedure that would revoke or rescind such award(s) if the individual was found to do a disservice to the Town of Collingwood either before or after an award has been received.
As you’ll read, the Order of Collingwood recommendation did not come from the public. The report adds:
Council should have the ability to revoke an award should it become known that a recipient has been convicted of a criminal offence or confirmed to have engaged in unethical conduct, whereby the ongoing association with the recipient will negatively reflect on the Town.
Since we know no criminal offence occurred and “unethical conduct” is undefined we can see this translates to “at the mayor’s whim.” (I shudder to imagine how this secretive, corrupt, deceptive lot on council would define “unethical”…) And equally vague is the undefined term “do a disservice,” which is again open to whatever interpretation the mayor wants to apply. As I wrote in April last year,
…I know the CAO wrote the report, but the mayor sets the agenda and approves everything in it before it gets published. He discusses the content with the CAO first. The CAO is merely acting as his megaphone in this report. Saunderson’s fingerprints are all over this…
And this guy will determine the ethics and morality of others? That’s ironic. It would be farcical, if not tragic. Who would have thought that this town would descend to Stalinist cancel-culture tactics like this?
Yes, I realize none of you are shocked that I think our puerile, obsessed mayor is behind this. He has pursued his personal vendetta at taxpayers’ expense since he was elected, at a cost that has topped more than $10 million to date and he keeps flogging it. Yet the motion to re-write history by removing records failed. I suspect Saunderson seethed over the fledgling signs of independence shown by a few minions and did some private dressing-down with them later.
But the curious thing… the appendix to the CAO’s report showed NO public recommendation about revoking the Order. Pages 14-20 include all the comments and questions from the public regarding the SVJI, yet none of them refer to the Order of Collingwood. In other words: this came from within, and likely from Saunderson himself, not via public request.*
The report sat dormant until Sept. 7, 2021, when a revised policy (C2021-15) for the Order of Collingwood was presented to the Corporate & Community Services Standing Committee. At 0:03:39 in the video of that meeting, the clerk discusses the “update” to allow council to revoke the Order. Keep in mind that to date there has been NO public engagement or consultation in this process, as one would expect from an open and accountable council (the report says it was “reviewed by Department Heads on August 31st, 2021” but does not reference any public consultation or the previous CAO report).
Further, the report says on page 2:
During the Collingwood Judicial Inquiry Public Engagement it was suggested that Council consider an inclusion in the policy that addresses rescinding / revoking Order of Collingwood/Companion of the Order Awards…
NONE of the SVJI’s 306 recommendations suggest that; in fact, the Order of Collingwood is NOT even mentioned once in the SVJI’s final report, much less recommending revoking it. Nor is any person identified in either the SVJI report or the clerk’s report as making those comments to the inquiry. Think this smells awfully fishy? So do I. Again, I suggest it likely came from the mayor himself.
The clerk says revocation is “one of the updates we’re proposing…” but doesn’t say who the “we” are. Staff? Since when did staff make policy without direction from council? Where else would this come from but the mayor’s office?
At 0:03:52 she references ‘feedback” that “we” received at the end of March and beginning of April. She also says at 0:03:57 that a “question came up” about revoking the Order from anyone “involved” in the judicial inquiry. Yet no evidence of that suggestion can be found in the CAO’s report. None of our councillors questioned the clerk’s statement or asked where that question was to be found. Did they even READ her report?
But then the clerk mentions a “member” who received an Order. The term “member” in municipal parlance means a “member of council” not a staff person or outsider. So the comment is even more mysterious since no one on the 2010-14 council has ever received an Order of Collingwood.
At 0:04:52 the clerk explains the policy that “council has the authority to rescind or revoke an award from a recipient at their own discretion when a recipient’s conduct deviates significantly from recognized standards and is seen as undermining the credibility, integrity, or relevance of the Order.” Yet in the policy there is NO definition or description of what “recognized standards” are, who gets to set them, who determines a deviation, what is significant or not, or even the hint of public engagement or consultation to determine what those vague standards are.
Since a recipient’s subsequent criminal charges don’t deviate from those standards (as the clerk notes at 0:05:27), you have to wonder what does. But she does admit at 0:06:20 that there was NO formal finding of misconduct from the judge in the SVJI, which indicates that misconduct isn’t an issue here, either. So all we’re left with is the mayor’s personal dislike of one particular recipient.
Nor is there any definition of how an award can be undermined or who determines if it has been.
The clerk says staff are “leaving it up to council” (0:06:27) to decide whether to revoke an award. Given the many slavish sycophants on our council, that’s a mere subtext for saying the mayor’s whim determines who gets to keep their award. And again, NO ONE on council questioned this (0:08:46 – not a single comment or question is raised), while the local media just looked away from it.
Not surprisingly, accepting the clerk’s report was moved by Coun. Madigan and seconded by coun. Berman, two of the mayor’s tamest lapdogs.
The policy next moved on to the full council (Yes, I know: a hideously redundant, backwards, and inefficient process. The committee system has long been broken but since it was implemented by a former CAO much beloved by most of our council, it remains as a testimony to his ideals. Besides, changing it would require imagination and bold thought, neither of which are in large supply among our council members). It showed up on the Sept. 20, 2021 agenda when it is brought back for approval (01:37:30 in the video). There is no discussion, not even from the members who were not part of the standing committee. Yes, that might require challenging the Great Leader.
Of course, it got passed unanimously. NONE of our members of council questioned a single word of either the clerk’s report or the revised policy, NONE asked who initiated the change or why, NONE asked if it was moral or ethical to revoke an award given to one individual 24 years ago for voluntary service to the community. And I’m sure every one of them knew it was Ed Houghton who was Saunbderson’s target.
They all simply shrugged off their responsibility to be stewards of the community and empowered the mayor to launch his petty vendetta against Ed Houghton’s 1998 receipt of the Order (no surprises; the sycophants have empowered his $10 million-plus vendetta since the beginning).
All done quietly, cunningly, without fuss, with staff and all of council letting it pass; done without comment or questions from local media (as, of course, we have come to expect). And the mayor will likely get his way with it before he buggers off to pursue his personal ambition to be out of his mayoral responsibilities while getting a bigger paycheque doing nothing worthwhile in Queen’s Park.
Collingwood deserves better.
* Question 14 in the report referred to the bronze plaques mounted within the new rec facilities:
Legacy, Truth and Reconciliation: will any “cornerstones” or “plaques” dedicating the two multi-million dollar temporary plastic bubbles (sprung structures) be removed and replaced with simple and honest “Town of Collingwood, 2013” so that the town and the community can heal and move forward? The names of those who did the Town a dis-service should not be celebrated, enshrined, or immortalized.
That this was sent by a Saunderson minion (or, given the clumsy ideological way this was phrased, the lazy run-on question, the inappropriate use of quotation marks, unnecessary hyphen in disservice and multimillion (but missing before dollar), and incorrect capitalization of the company, was possibly even posted by Saunderson himself) is evident by the immature description of the structures as “plastic bubbles,” a term Saunderson and his cabal have frequently used to incorrectly describe the buildings.
The CAO responded to the question:
Your suggestion will be included in the Staff Report for consideration by the Strategic Initiatives Committee in May.
This is a senior staff person publicly agreeing with an anonymous (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) source’s unfounded and deeply biased allegation that members of council did the town a disservice. A single individual’s comment made into a policy recommendation. Wildly inappropriate! You might note, too, that the CAO did not answer several questions that treated the SVJI and its out-of-control expenses negatively, but instead listed them as merely “comments” at the end of the report. Likely an honest answer would have shone an unflattering light on Saunderson and his sycophants, so they went unanswered.