The Hidden Agenda in the Strategic Plan

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Hidden agendaMy final comment for the next while on the town’s committee-based wishlist (the so-called community-based strategic plan, of which it is neither) has to do with biased and partisan comments made in the document’s introduction.

This material was presented to council in the recent versions (approved by a 7-1 vote, as expected, with one councillor absent) but not included in all earlier draft versions. I believe it represents the influence of the former VOTE (Voters Opposed To Everything) special interest group and their later followers in the deputy mayor’s special interest group, known locally (and humorously) as Better If I’m Elected, Collingwood.

What sort of strategic plan contains politically-charged and clearly partisan statements about former councils? The comments in the introduction expose the hidden agenda behind the wish list, and for council watchers this helps identify the shadowy players who pull council’s strings behind the scenes. This was less a community project than one manipulated by special interest groups.

For example, the document notes:

There have been in recent years, however, some challenges in the manner that Collingwood has managed its financial obligations and communication with Town (sic) residents. This has resulted in cynicism and a loss of faith in local politics within the public-at-large (sic).

This, or course, is complete malarky. There has been NO loss of faith was among the public at large (what survey, or what community-wide poll showed this?).

The small group of naysayers who worked their followers into a froth of vituperation and anger over the previous council do not represent the public at large. This small group never lost faith because they had none to start with, and was cynical from the very start.

Their raison d’etre is and has always been negativity towards anything they alone did not conceive, plan, or accomplish. True, they managed to garner a biased media’s support for their agenda later in the term, but the media ceased to represent the community, and instead represented the special interests – the point being made when the outgoing editor/reporter personally endorsed the current deputy mayor during the election campaign.

The facts about financial management are quite different. Last term, council was able to pay down its inherited debt by $8 million with only a single year of increased taxes (less than 1% blended rate), while building reserves, and constructing two beautiful, efficient recreational facilities without adding to the debt.

The financial management last term was superb – better in fact than any council I was part of previously and better than any I reported on as a reported and editor since 1991. What is there to challenge? That it was done so well, and so efficiently? This council’s first major act was to RAISE taxes in order to give itself a pay hike.

Hidden agendaThe introduction also says that previous priority-setting exercises and strategic plans have been completed, but were…

…implemented with varying degrees of success.

The last council had two non-partisan, priority-setting sessions, both open to the media and the public (neither of which bothered to attend). The first session, early in the term, set initial priorities decided upon by the collective effort of all nine members, the second re-assessed them and confirmed those that had been successfully accomplished.

Had the media made the effort to be at that session, it could have reported on council’s success. But that would not have meshed with the overt bias and partisanship it was by then married to.

That second session’s confirmation recognized that the majority of the goals set by the first session had been achieved and prioritized the remainder. All of those goals were met by the end of the term. In other words: council and staff were overwhelmingly successful in accomplishing stated goals.

That’s not a “varying” degree of success. It’s an unassailable, unquestionable success. No amount of Newspeak in the committee-based wishlist can alter that.

This council, instead, delegated its authority and responsibility for creating a vision, setting goals and priorities to an outside group of friends – the “strategic plan” committee. Did YOU elect anyone on this committee to tell council what to think? I know I didn’t.

The final paragraph in the introduction to the wishlist states:

If implemented in the manner in which it was designed, the CBSP document will be the key to staying on track to achieving the goals that the community and the Town (sic) have identified and that will being to restore the sense of pride that a great Town (sic) like Collingwood deserves.

That paragraph is so very, very wrong and insulting to its readers.

Let’s start with the wishlist. As I’ve written in the past, it is a vague collection of political statements with no measurable goals, an indistinct and vague timeline and no priorities. It CANNOT be implemented as such. It is not a document with vision, but rather a device for political grandstanding.

The wishlist claims that,

A key element of achieving an accountable local government will be that future Councils (sic) commit to the successful implementation of the CBSP.

Self-serving codswallop. It might be fair to say that, having recently passed its revised code of conduct which removes considerable public scrutiny and oversight from council behaviour, the current council is certainly less accountable and less open than the former one. However,  the wishlist has no actual content about accountability per se.

It has commentary about continuing the financial and asset management initiatives begun last term, for which this council cannot take credit, merely concede were the correct course. But the rest of the document has nothing to do with governance or procedure. Implementing or continuing any or all of it will not contribute to, or detract from, accountability.

In fact, the majority of the items identified in the wishlist are those either implemented or initiated last term, and have been ongoing ever since. These were not “identified” by anyone except in recognition of last council’s efforts and vision.

The town and its residents did not lose their sense of pride. Despite the egregious efforts of the special interest group and its sycophant bloggers helped mar our reputation to outsiders, people here and elsewhere still believe in how great this community it. Never lose sight of the simple fact: the bloggers’ goal was to tarnish this town’s reputation and blame it on the former council. It fooled some folks at election time, but few are fooled now.

The introduction’s statement about restoring “… the sense of pride that a great Town (sic) like Collingwood deserves” suggests that Collingwood itself doesn’t deserve anything, but some other place that is like Collingwood does. What town is like Collingwood?

But we have a sense of pride because we have a great town. Despite the efforts of some naysayers to besmirch and destroy it, to ruin our reputation for their own political goals, this document won’t change that.

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