Council: Disarray, Disunited, Disrespectful


Chris Pott’s latest blog post, titled “Council in Major Disarray” captures in part the stumbling, bumbling, and fumbling in-fighting that has become endemic in our council and is now on view for the public’s entertainment. Potts writes:

Collingwood, when council starts fighting amongst themselves, you know we are in trouble. We already knew we were on the brink of disaster but this now confirms we are heading down a bad path.

Dumpster fireThis dumpster fire has been ongoing for a while, although not as often in public. Those closed doors that our council loves to scurry behind are said to shield them from public scrutiny for egregious immature, unprofessional behaviour. Staff are said to be struggling vainly to contain these outbursts and deal with council’s tantrums. Shouting, accusations, swearing, insults, bullying, and frequent slander of members of the public are rumoured to be common in every in-camera meeting.

We’ve travelled more than two years down that “bad path” already and no residents should be surprised that we’ve ended up in this series of debacles and self-made problems like the water “crisis” and the jobs-and-revenue-killing ICBL. None of which, of course, anyone on council takes responsibility for, preferring to blame others, including staff.

In large part, it’s because the majority of council has spent this term obsessed with pandering to their Great Leader and lavishing our tax dollars on his personal vendetta. Now he’s cut them loose, and plans to leave them in the lurch. Forced to take the brunt of these failures, they’re acting like children in a kindergarten squabbling over toys. But this time they’re squabbling over power and presence. Without their Great Leader’s Purpose to fulfill, they’re in a pissing match to see which of them rises to the surface of the effluvium pond.

(Word on the street is that Saunderson has been grooming the ambitious Queen of the Unlimited Expense Account, Councillor Jeffrey, to take over when he leaves the office (which he has already abandoned but won’t give up the paycheque even though that would be the ethical thing to do). This has allegedly caused a rift with his longtime supporter, Councillor “Lapdog” Madigan who likely assumed he would be granted the vacated mayor’s chair as a reward for his unquestioning loyalty. And the deputy mayor? Completely ignored. Apparently, the public will not be consulted — again — on a matter that so deeply affects us.)

Having had no real role other than as sycophants since the election, most councillors find themselves incapable of acting in the role they were elected for: to serve the community, direct its course, and find solutions to issues and problems. So, unable to take responsibility, they blame others, accuse, insult, and once out of the light of public scrutiny, generally act like five-year-olds who don’t want to take their naps

Doing actual town business has been ignored for so long, they don’t know how or where to begin. Few even seem aware that they have other roles aside from shoring up Saunderson’s unpopular Vindictive Judicial Inquiry (aka the SVJI) and lavishing our money on it. Meanwhile, our streets crumble, sidewalks decay, businesses and workers suffer from the lockdowns, the waterfront is a mess, the terminals continue to fall apart, and a water crisis was allowed to develop from council negligence. It will take more than a little “cold patch” thrown into the potholes to repair this “bad path.”

Our mayor, whose job it is to manage council meetings and assure decorum*, seems not only incapable of doing so, but allegedly joins in the fray at times, especially when he’s out of the public eye and behind closed doors. As Potts describes what he has seen in these public, virtual meetings: 

…a councillor was eating their dinner, blowing kisses at spouses, completely unprofessional. There must be a prize for who has the biggest coffee mug, what really irks me is when they don’t even look like they want to be there, bring back the council chambers, the proper dress code, the professionals that we as tax payers elect to represent this community.

You can imagine how unprofessional and disruptive they become when they scurry behind closed doors. Staff are, I’m told, at wit’s end trying to make them act like adults, with no leadership coming from the mayor, whose attention is now focused on his provincial campaign.

The CollingwoodToday story notes the recent pissing contest was over Councillor Madigan’s motion to ossify in a bylaw “new rules to require council members ask questions of staff well in advance of council meetings if they require a response at the meeting. He also wanted to put a stop to councillors bringing forward motions for a vote without giving a heads-up to other council members.”

As unlikely as it may seem, I agree with Coun. Doherty, who is reported to have said, “formalizing this kind of activity would be “completely taking all spontaneity out of council meetings.” 

“Quite frankly, I think we run the risk of looking anything but transparent,” she said. 

Madigan and his ally, Berman, want the meetings to be run more like the Politburo’s, with everything scripted, nothing improvised, nothing spontaneous. Rigid structures, no thinking on your feet, no flashes of insight, no creativity, no innovation that might cause distress to their Great Leader or interrupt the appearance of his absolute control. Too late, Coun. Doherty: this council has never looked open and transparent. But I applaud your efforts.

In a democracy, however, we elect representatives to be responsive, to think, to be innovative, to creatively come up with new ideas and directions. Anathema, apparently, to the core sycophanti, who were evidently distressed at their failure to impose new strictures on their fellow councillors:

Councillor Steve Berman said Madigan’s motion “didn’t go far enough,” and is only the tip of the iceberg. 

Recall that this statement comes from the councillor who initiated censorship fact-checking on public comments, tolerating no dissent against the Official State Narrative from outsiders.

In the CollingwoodToday story, we read how far from facts —and indeed the moorings of reality — this member of council has drifted:

[Councillor Berman] noted a past council voted to sell 50 per cent of COLLUS during a one-hour meeting, and the last council voted to call a judicial inquiry (over the COLLUS sale decision) during a three-hour meeting. 

No council ever voted to sell the utility share after just a one-hour meeting. When the 2010-14 council finally agreed to sell the utility share, in Dec. 2011, it was the culmination of six months of investigation, discussion, public presentations, reviews, studies and analysis by KPMG, an RFP, and numerous reviews and meetings over that period by a ten-person strategic team that included the then-current CAO, utility CEO, the mayor, the KPMG advisor, a town lawyer, and members of the utility board. And how the public was informed and consulted at each step.

Berman, who wasn’t actually present in either council (2010-14 or 2014-18), conveniently neglects to mention the lengthy in-camera presentations to the previous council by the sole-sourced lawyer advising council to open an inquiry (the same lawyer who later was later appointed without tendering as required by bylaw to represent the town at that inquiry). Nor does he mention the numerous private meetings with a former CAO and select council members about an inquiry. Nor how the public was never consulted about this or anything else important that term.

But no one ever said Councillor Berman was elected for his brains or his adherence to the facts. Would that the reporter had actually questioned him on this and asked where he got his “facts” from instead of just printing his piffle. (You might note there was, predictably, no story in the Connection about this, likely to avoid blemishing the Great Leader’s reputation.)

The voice of reason at that meeting was Coun. Comi’s, but I’m afraid it went unheeded by the True Believers:

“I never once considered it night at the improv.” said Councillor Tina Comi. “We are in the midst of a water crisis and I find it surprising that at this particular junction any councillor would be seeking to put any type of limitation around our duty to ask questions on behalf of our taxpayers.” 

Duty on behalf of the taxpayers? Sorry, Tina, but the sycophanti beside you see their duty owing to their Great Leader, not the unwashed masses. They don’t want questions: they expect obedience. You’re a lone voice in this groupthink wilderness, but please keep it up.

Thanks again, Chris, for bringing to the public’s attention the latest adventures of our council clown car.

Collingwood deserves better.


* This is (revised) from the City of Burlington’s website (you can read similar descriptions of roles on many municipal websites, except, curiously, Collingwood’s):

Role of Mayor
The Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MAH) guide is the source of this shortened description of the role of mayor as the head of council:

  • to act as the municipality’s chief executive officer;
  • to preside over council meetings such that business is carried out both efficiently and effectively;
  • to provide leadership to council;
  • to provide information/recommendations to council on policies, practices, procedures, to ensure transparency and accountability;
  • to represent the municipality at official functions; and
  • to participate as a member of council for [Simcoe County]. 

Role of Councillor
This abbreviated description for the role of ward councillor is based on the guide published by MAH:

  • to represent the public and to consider the well-being and interests of the municipality;
  • to develop and evaluate the policies and programs of the municipality;
  • to determine which services the municipality provides;
  • to maintain the financial integrity of the municipality;
  • to ensure that administrative policies and practices are in place to implement the decisions of council;
  • to ensure the accountability and transparency of the operations of the municipality; and
  • to participate as a member of council [on committees, boards, task forces, and other agencies].
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  1. Immanuel Kant called it “self-incurred immaturity,” sometimes translated as “self-imposed immaturity” in his essay, An Answer to the Question: “What is Enlightenment?” from 30 September 1784. He wrote (emphasis added):

    Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-incurred immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one’s own understanding without the guidance of another. This immaturity is self-incurred if its cause is not lack of understanding, but lack of resolution and courage to use it without the guidance of another. The motto of enlightenment is therefore: Sapere aude! Have courage to use your own understanding!

  2. To paraphrase Michel de Montaigne from his essay no. 25, On Pedantry (in the Screech translation, it is titled, On Schoolmasters’ Learning):

    These [politicians] try to play themselves as the heroes of humanity but really what do they do for us? Not only do they not make us better, they actually make us worse. At least with a carpenter or a mason, they give us something practical. But these guys make us worse off and we have to pay them! A lot of these guys have got absolutely no common sense. You’ll see more humble but skilled men talk about things with common sense and humility. They stick to what they know but our [politicians] will never stop letting us know how much they know about everything. They’ll wow us with fancy words but behind them there is nothing.

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