I wonder if our mayor, Brian Saunderson, gave any thought to what last night’s vote to kill construction in Collingwood might do to his dream of becoming our riding’s next MPP? I’d say both went down the tube when the draconian, interim control bylaw to stop providing building permits (the ICBL) was passed.
In one meeting, our mayor and his cabal managed to alienate pretty much every developer and builder who was a potential supporter and donor to his campaign. And with them went the local real estate business, whose lifeblood is in the new home industry. Everyone in the building trade, too. Construction workers who expected to be employed this summer will have to look elsewhere for jobs. Think they’ll want to vote for the man who killed their jobs?
Voters in the south end of the riding where the municipalities depend on Collingwood’s water will remember him as the man who strangled their water access and tried to bully their municipalities into accepting unfair terms. So will voters in the east side of Blue Mountains where Collingwood’s water is also vital. Alliston depends on our water and they’re crucial to getting support for any candidate. Tottenham was supposed to get our water in 2022. But that may not happen if the water in the pipeline is cut back. How will voters there think of Saunderson while their rusty brown water continues to flow through their taps?
I expect developers here will initiate a class-action lawsuit, at least those with approved subdivisions on the books. Maybe the 165 new homeowners who paid their deposits and expected to move into Wyldewood this coming year will join them. As will homeowners in other subdivisions under development who are now unable to move in.
Regardless of its success, a lawsuit will drag on and be big news for a long time. Local taxpayers will not be pleased to have ANOTHER big legal bill on their shoulders (after the $10 million already spent on the Saunderson Vindictive Judicial Inquiry, aka the SVJI). meanwhile our roads decay, our sidewalks crumble, the terminals rot, and the town does nothing to help local businesses and workers affected by the pandemic lockdowns. Who would want to vote for a “do-nothing” mayor as the next MPP?
And guess what? As noted in CollingwoodToday, our council again scurried behind closed doors to avoid public scrutiny while they discussed the ICBL with (emphasis added) “most council discussion occurring in closed session.” So much for those campaign promises of openness, accountability, and transparency. Do voters want someone so secretive, who conducts so much public business behind closed doors to represent them in Queen’s Park?
All this happened because Saunderson and his council have been so obsessively focused on the SVJI that they let the town’s most important contract (the water deal with New Tecumseth) lapse a year ago (May, 2020)! This isn’t a failure in infrastructure or technology: this is the responsibility of the people at the council table for not paying attention.
Even though most of them have known it was due for renewal since they were elected in 2014, and even though staff have presented them with updates and reports about the water service and the impending contract end since this term began in 2018, they still managed to drop the ball so badly that it became a crisis of epic proportions. This lot couldn’t organize a one-float parade without it crashing and burning along the way.
Where was the leadership? Where was our mayor? Why wasn’t he at the forefront, making sure the contract didn’t expire and that we didn’t suddenly end up with a water crisis? Right: too focused on his job-hunting campaign to be rid of his mayoral responsibilities and get a better-paying job in Toronto as the riding’s next MPP. Well, that dream crashed last night.*
One has to wonder why our mayor (a real estate lawyer) and our deputy mayor (a real estate agent) didn’t declare a conflict of interest when discussing a bylaw that clearly affects the real estate business (their careers and their livelihoods) in Collingwood. Oh, that’s right: they’re do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do politicians. And what will they do when developers come to council to plead their special case for an exemption to the ICBL?
That whole business about “apparent conflicts” and all the recommendations against it in the judicial inquiry report doesn’t apply to them, I guess. As one writer put it in a letter to CollingwoodToday:
The mayor has also decided not to step down from his role as head of council while actively campaigning [for a nomination] to be the MPP for our riding. Mayor Saunderson continues to assure the community there is no conflict of interest to stay in his position and that this is not taking away from his full-time leadership of the town.
I don’t know which is more concerning, the idea that this is the state of our town under his full-time dedicated leadership or that we are to believe that dealing with developers pleading for an exemption for their development’s water needs while running for higher office doesn’t present some puzzling conflicts.
We simply can’t continue under the half-hearted efforts of a mayor who can’t even be bothered to finish his first term in office before jumping at a chance to head to Queen’s Park and now – a water crisis. I shudder to think what could be next.
Collingwood deserves better.
* Which means we’re likely stuck with him until the end of a term; a mayor in a job he really wanted to be rid of, likely bitter and vindictive over his failed political career, and blaming others for his failure to grab the brass ring.