On Tuesday, July 17, the Strategic Initiatives Standing Committee held a meeting. Its sole purpose was to retreat behind closed doors (as this council does at every opportunity) and discuss the sale of our publicly-owned airport.
To date, this council has already held 16 in camera meetings about the airport. And during these secretive meetings, our council not only decided to sell our airport, but not to hold any public consultations about that sale. Not once this term has anyone on council said WHY they wanted to sell a successful, busy, publicly-owned airport. Not once has anyone at the table or in the administration presented a business case for selling it, or compared the pros and cons of ownership.
It’s all been done in the shadows. Backroom deals. The airport sale will be authorized July 23 without having had any public consultation.
This ongoing secrecy was poorly received by our municipal partners on the airport board who weren’t even informed about the move. So alienated were they that both Clearview and Wasaga Beach decided to stop contributing funds to the airport’s maintenance, and to withdraw from the airport services board.
Not that Brian Saunderson and his Block minions care a whit what others think about them, about Collingwood’s reputation or how the public feels about the deception practiced by this council.
Our council chose to ignore the 1,000-plus jobs waiting there, and instead kill our economic growth. No thought was given to the accelerating economic value of airports that our county neighbours recognized.
Why? No one knows. They won’t tell the public why they are selling it, or why they won’t ask for public input. But it gets worse.
Tuesday, they went a step further. You can read the agenda here. It’s very short, with only five items on it, and only one – the closed door session – of any significance. Notice carefully that there is no mention of a public meeting, or opportunity for anyone to address the committee about the sale.
This is the agenda published days before the meeting so that anyone with an interest in it can, if the agenda permits, participate as a delegation. Yet it lacks any reference to public participation.
But a few minutes after the meeting started, one of the Block made an amendment to the agenda. They declared that this session would constitute a public meeting. No warning, no advertising, and of course no one there to speak. An oversight in the agenda that it was not included.
I call bullshit.
How disingenuous to declare it a public meeting when there was very clearly no one in the audience. We suffer another act of the utmost unethical, corrupt behaviour.
The clerk reported to me that,
There were no deputations registered for the meeting, and normally we include a section on at the end of standing committee meetings for unregistered ‘public delegations’ that can speak to any matter that is under the Committees mandate. Therefore it was noted that the agenda was adopted as amended to permit anyone that attends that wish to speak to committee on any matters they could.
That’s a lame effort to rationalize the deception. Council could see there wasn’t anyone in the audience to come forward and speak before they made the amendment. They knew very well that the published agenda didn’t mention anything about delegations, registered or otherwise. They knew there were no advertisements in advance about speaking at the meeting.
No deputations came because no one knew that they could come and speak about it. Tacking this on to the agenda after the meeting began is a sly con.*
PLUS, even if they had, council puts the delegations at the END of the meeting, after the committee has gone behind closed to make its decisions. That’s another slap in the face of the electorate!
Saunderson is under mounting pressure about his lack of openness from his rival for the mayor’s seat. In a campaign letter widely circulated about town, John Trude’s team is publicly castigating this council for being so secretive this term:
Perhaps you are disillusioned and/or disappointed with the behaviour of town council over the past four years. We certainly are. We believe that council is in desperate need of a fix. In contrast to open and thoughtful governance, we have been witness to:
- the aggressive and obstructive interference by council with our desperately needed hospital re-development the alienation of our once friendly and supportive neighbouring municipalities
- a record number of closed door council meetings
- the proposed sale of our share in our public utility, with no public consultation
- the proposed sale of our municipal airport, again with no public consultation
It’s both a shame, and completely unnecessary.
If any of The Block now claim to have held a public meeting about the airport at this SISC meeting, you know it’s a lie. They’re selling our airport without any public consultation. All we’ve had from them is secrecy and deception.
Collingwood deserves better.
* In a follow-up email, the clerk wrote:
It was noted as an omission in the agenda to include the public delegation section at the end of the meeting, however, if anyone in attendance or joined the meeting wished to speak to the committee about any matter within the Committee’s responsibilities we would allow them time at the end of the meeting. I believe that there was only person in attendance.
We apologize for the error and our staff will ensure that all standing committee agendas have this section listed, so its (sic) clear that anyone who may not be familiar with the system understand that anyone can speak at standing committees in accordance with our procedural by-law.
It was a disservice to the town not to me. An apology to the entire community would be more appropriate. The better move would have been to adjourn the meeting and advertise it properly, then resume. But no, The Block kept on.
In other circumstances, such a blatant move would discredit the Block’s decision to continue negotiations and sell the airport, had they not already discredited themselves – and disgraced the town – with the egregious secrecy and deception about it many, many times this this term.
My sources also tell me the only person in the audience was from the media. And I reiterate: putting the public comment section at the end of the meeting after council has made its decision behind closed doors is abysmally disingenuous. It’s not openness, it’s not transparency, it’s not accountability. It’s The Block.