Last night, our council contemptuously appointed a replacement for former councillor Tina Comi, who had been bullied out of office by the Gang of Six of the eight currently at the table. The man they chose was former mayor, Chris Carrier, who also:
- Is a registered lobbyist in Collingwood for a major property developer and an insurance company (potential conflicts of interest);
- Donated money to the 2018 election campaigns of five of the six who voted for him to be the new councillor: Brian Saunderson ($1,200), Keith Hull ($1,200), Deb Doherty ($250), Bob Madigan ($500), Mariane McLeod ($500);
- Allegedly advised Saunderson on his 2014 deputy-mayor and 2018 mayoral campaigns and may have advised some of the others at the table on their campaigns;
- Is a personal friend of several members at the table;
- Represents an insurance company* that has twice been voted a sole-source contract to bill residents for receiving fire service after they have a fire in their homes;
- Has never been publicly identified as a friend or campaign donor by those at the table when council voted for those sole-source contracts;
- Is considered by some residents to be the worst mayor Collingwood ever had** before Saunderson took the title from him;
- Has been out of municipal politics since 2010.***
Councillors Kathy Jeffery and (surprisingly, given his past lickspittle behaviour towards the mayor’s whims) Steve Berman were opposed, but then, Carrier never donated to their election campaigns.
And, of course, the discussion about candidates and the selection process was held entirely in-camera, where, I suspect, Saunderson put his foot down to ensure his friend got the position.**** But this council just loves to scurry behind closed doors to avoid public scrutiny.
The democratic and most ethical choice would have been former councillor Tim Fryer, who came in eighth in the election with 3,492 votes; clearly a public favourite. But Fryer is intelligent, unlikely to be bullied into toeing Saunderson’s line, and stood up for himself in front of them this term. Worse: Fryer exposed hidden costs in the town’s misleading accounting of Saunderson’s vendetta (aka the SVJI). He produced evidence that the town secretly agreed to pay $250,000 to cover EPCOR’s legal costs over the SVJI (the total costs for the inquiry have climbed well over $10 million and taxpayers’ money is still being spent on it through BLG; Saunderson’s former employers).
Fryer has experience on council, serving from 2010-14, and has extensive experience in municipal administration and utilities: he was CFO for our public utility, Collus, before Saunderson and his cronies privatized it to an out-of-province, for-profit corporation.
Most recently, in February, shortly after they bullied Comi out of office, Fryer sent a letter to council about the selection process. In that letter, Fryer wrote:
With my background, it would be a very seamless and simple transition, That experience especially in regards to municipal water, which I believe is the most important problem council is currently engaged in, in my opinion, really made this a simple decision.
I can’t imagine if any one of you were in the same position as I am, you wouldn’t believe the most obvious and democratic solution is what I have put forward.
Well, doing the right thing, in fact doing anything ethically, has never been this council’s strong point. And doing it democratically? You have to smile at his naive optimism that they would even consider the democratic option.
Instead of the democratic choice, six members voted to give the position to a friend, a lobbyist and campaign donor. And you thought they couldn’t lower the bar any further.
I don’t think it gets any more corrupt and contemptible than this.
Collingwood deserves better.
* Fire Marque is the company. Also read my posts from July 12, 2017, and July 19, 2017 to learn about the practice of billing people for a service they already pay taxes for, And then read the update from April 6, 2021. During the discussions and votes to grant this sole-source contract, no one at the table mentioned their personal relationship with the salesman, Carrier, or his campaign contributions. Ironically, in a 2019 interview, Carrier said:
I think people should know I strongly believe that our current council is very ethical and honest. I’m proud of the support they’ve given to the judicial inquiry.
I would think council members (including the mayor) not declaring their personal relationship with a lobbyist, friend, and campaign donor isn’t the sort of support anyone should be proud of.
** Having served as a councillor in 2006-10 when he was mayor, I concur with that conclusion.
*** In 2014, Carrier ran again for mayor, but was trounced by Sandra Cooper, who received 4,636 votes to his 2,273, and became Collingwood’s first female mayor.
**** Mencius wrote an appropriately in Book 3 (T’ang Wan Kung), Ch. 1.4:
What the leader likes. his subordinates like even more. It is like the wind and grass: when the wind blows, the grass bends.
In our council, the grass doesn’t merely bend: it flattens itself in abject subservience to Saunderson’s wind.