The Real Facility Costs

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Another misleading statement was made during one of the all-candidates’ meetings last week: that our new recreational facilities – the Central Park Arena and the Centennial Aquatic Centre – cost $20 million and that the pool was 30% over budget. Neither is correct. According to our treasurer, Marjory Leonard, who replied to my emails this week, here are the actual numbers: The original quote for the building alone: $3,425,000. Council later approved an increase of $1,300,441. This included the therapeutic pool approved October 15, 2012 in Staff … click below for more ↓

Your Election Choices

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As the ballots start to trickle in, the campaigns wind down. The Collingwood election is essentially over – we’re just waiting for the results now. But if you haven’t cast your ballot yet, here are some things to consider before you make your choices. This municipal election has been polarized along several lines, but your basic choices are fairly simple: binary choices, if you will, about what sort of local government you want for next term. Choices between good and bad. The primary axis has been: Positive … click below for more ↓

Clarifying Municipal Taxes

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Some candidates seem confused about municipal taxes this election. I thought I’d clear up a few facts about property taxes for your (and their) benefit. Property taxes are made up of three components: the municipal portion (roughly 60%), the county portion (24%) and the education portion (16%). The rate (also called the mill rate) for each portion is set independently by its own body (the province sets the education levy). The total rate is called the blended rate. The town’s portion is the town-own rate. Usually the blended rate … click below for more ↓

The Myth of Block Voting

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I was amused by a recent comment I had voted “95%” the same as others on council. This was followed by the inevitable accusation of “block voting.” The complainer apparently wants everyone to vote in some helter-skelter manner. God forbid we should all agree on anything. It’s a tired old campaign tactic: to accuse your opponents of being a “voting bloc” simply because they can agree on things. Oooh, scary: people voting alike. Don’t vote for those people: they agree instead of fighting and arguing. Damning politicians for getting … click below for more ↓

Their Shoddy Potemkin Villages

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In 1787, the Empress Catherine II took a long trip to the Crimea along the Dnieper River. She wanted to see how her subjects lived. Not wanting her to see the actual poverty and hardships of the peasants, her lover – and the region’s governor – Grigory Potemkin, had pretty, fake villages of canvas and clapboard built along the way, with his own people acting and dancing the roles of happy peasants. After she visited one, the village was disassembled and rushed down river by … click below for more ↓

Promising to do What’s Already Done

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It’s good for councillors to know we’ve already accomplished so much that everyone wants to emulate us. Listening to the all-candidates’ speeches and reading the campaign literature is a real boost to the ego. A lot of new people are promising to do what’s already been done. Incumbents can comfortably sit back and say, “been there, done that, accomplished that already.” We don’t seem to have left a lot for the newcomers to accomplish. It’s been a very productive term – remarkably so given that we … click below for more ↓

My Speech at the All-Candidates’ Meeting

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Here’s the two-minute speech I gave Wednesday night at the Collingwood Legion, plus the wrap-up: In two minutes, I can’t list everything this council and staff have accomplished on your behalf. But here are some highlights: We answered your demand for more ice and water time. Parents no longer have to drive their kids to other towns for meets because we built two beautiful new recreation facilities right here. And we paid for them without going into debt or raising your taxes. In fact, we … click below for more ↓

A Buddhist Guide for Voters

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While it was intended as a general ‘charter of free inquiry,’ the Buddhist Kalama Sutra (or sutta) contains wise words that all voters – especially local voters – should heed during the municipal election campaign. The Kalamas were a people in ancient India. Gotama visited them and stopped in a town called Kesaputta, where he gave a sermon, now referred to as the Kalama Sutra. At first the citizens came to him with a deep problem: how to trust what people were telling them. They had been visited by many … click below for more ↓

Misconceptions About the Town Debt

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Yesterday members of council received a letter from our auditors that should clear up any misconceptions floating around about debt and debentures. It is clear and succinct. I was also forwarded an email from a candidate (sent to his supporters) with misleading statements about how much debt there is. I don’t know if it was deliberately meant to be misleading – I suspect rather that the candidate simply doesn’t understand municipal finance. But it isn’t really a complicated process. And no candidate should make claims based on misunderstanding … click below for more ↓

Ke Ji Feng Gong

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Back in 2007, I first wrote about those Chinese symbols in the image above. They spell “Ke ji feng gong.” This is an update to that older piece, because it seemed appropriate to raise it in the midst of our current political campaign. It’s an ancient Chinese saying that means: “Work Unselfishly for the Common Good.” An alternate translation, but similar in intent, is “Self-restraint and devotion to public duties; selfless dedication; to serve the public interest wholeheartedly.” Typically in the translation of Chinese characters, the … click below for more ↓

Montaigne: The Depravity of Our Morals

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“Our judgments follow the depravity of our morals and remain sick,” wrote Michel de Montaigne in his essay On Cato the Younger (Essay XXXVII, Book I, Screech translation, Penguin Classics, 2003). That’s quite a condemnation.* Montaigne opens that essay by quietly commenting, “I do not suffer from that common failing of judging another man by me.” Would that we all had his strength, not to judge others by what we think of ourselves. But he was born long before the age of selfies. In our … click below for more ↓

On the hustings

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I’ve been going door-to-door for the past few weeks in my campaign for re-election. Stumping on the hustings, as it’s called in Canada. Or at least that’s how I’ve always heard it used. Hustings is an odd, old word, an anachronism that survives, seemingly, only in the world of politics. It comes from the days when England was a series of small kingdoms suffering frequent invasions by the Danes and Vikings. A few of the old Germanic and Norse words have managed to survive in … click below for more ↓

My Rogers’ Cable TV Speech

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Each candidate was given three minutes to speak for a spot on Rogers Cable TV recently. Here is what I said (in about two minutes): Municipal politics is really quite simple. It’s all about people. Caring about the people you live and work with. Caring if seniors can afford their taxes. Caring if the sidewalk in front of your neighbour’s house is in good repair. Caring about parents who had to drive for hours on dark, snowy roads to get their kids to hockey practice … click below for more ↓

My BIA ACM Speech

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This is the speech I gave at the BIA-ACO all-candidates’ meeting, Wednesday evening. The question all candidates had to answer was, “What is your vision to ensure that Downtown Collingwood thrives as a vital economic and cultural part of our community?” We had two minutes to respond. Here’s what I said: For our downtown to thrive, it needs people. The town can help bring them here. But it is up to the businesses to draw them in. People come to any downtown for two main … click below for more ↓

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