Mayor Meets Premier: We Have Questions


Queen HamlinIn a municipal announcement, led with a screaming all-caps headline like a toddler in a toy store tantrum, the Town of Collingwood published a short statement from Mayor Hamlin about her recent meeting with Premier Doug Ford. Wait, you didn’t know about that meeting? Apparently, few in Collingwood did (and as of this writing, it has not appeared in any local media outlet). Read on.

While normally a meeting with the head of the provincial government would be a good thing and worthy of a lot of local publicity, we have to keep in mind that just a couple of weeks ago, our lacklustre MPP Saunderson (and much-disliked former mayor) warned the mayor that the premier’s words couldn’t be trusted or taken as an actual commitment. Yet the mayor wrote:

 During his visit I am pleased to say he repeated several times his pledge to build a new hospital on Poplar Sideroad.

After Saunderson’s dire warning, we’ll have to treat any such “pledge” as just more noncommittal codswallop from Ford. Tellingly, Hamlin did not repeat Ford’s exact words, so we only have her assurance that such a pledge was made. Maybe, like she apparently did previously, Hamlin misinterpreted Ford or at least was far too optimistic in her understanding of his ability to make commitments. And there has been no official statement from Ford’s office confirming anything relating to the hospital redevelopment.*

Hamlin’s statement opens with the risibly self-serving line, “Since my election as your Mayor, I have been working hard on behalf of our community.” Hamlin does her usual ME! ME! ME! routine: she used the word “I” six times in 219 words. After telling us how great she is, she writes she “took the opportunity to raise many other issues with him that are important to our Council and community.” But there is no transcript of that meeting, no independent media report. Not even a notice about the meeting on the provincial government’s official “newsroom” site.

The meeting took place in the mayor’s office, “along with our Chief Administrative Officer Sonya Skinner and MPP Brian Saunderson.” Notice that no other member of council was at the meeting, not even the deputy-mayor. Were they invited? Did council even know the premier was going to be in Collingwood? If not, that’s an arrogant smack in the face of the rest of our elected representatives. We already know why she didn’t alert the neighbouring mayors about the meeting: following in Saunderson’s footsteps, she doesn’t cooperate with any peers. She wouldn’t want to risk being upstaged. L’etat c’est moi.

Hamlin at the backIf the meeting raised the issue of the redevelopment of the General and Marine Hospital — a redevelopment that the ever-hypocritical Saunderson fought tooth and claw while he was on Collingwood council — did Hamlin first consult with the hospital board or redevelopment committee to determine how best to frame the issue? To decide what questions would be appropriate? To gather documentation or presentation material to help make the case? And why wasn’t a single person from the hospital or even the town’s medical community included in the meeting? Were they even informed about it? Once again, the mayor doesn’t say.

Some photographs online show the group seated at a table with documents in front of them, but Hamlin didn’t mention what those documents were. (Were these photographs shared with local media? Doesn’t seem so… another slap in the face…)

While Hamlin didn’t write anything about a tour, one photo following her statement clearly shows Ford, a noticeably chubby Saunderson, and some suits in the hospital. Hamlin herself is off in the background, following like a puppy on her master’s heels. Was there a tour or just the private photo op? Who was involved? Was there a separate meeting in the hospital? Why weren’t the media contacted? Was the proposed redevelopment site visited? Again, we aren’t told.

I have not seen a single media report about Ford’s presence here or his tour of the hospital. Why the secrecy about it? I find it hard to imagine politicians with such bloated egos as Ford, Saunderson, and Hamlin overlooking the opportunity for at least a photo op with local media. But that, too, would have meant alerting the rest of council, and from what I’ve seen this term, Hamlin doesn’t like to share the limelight with anyone else at the table; even if they are pushed into the background, they might get into a photograph.

And then the mayor claims she raised “many other issues” with Ford without telling us what those issues were or what his responses were.

Aside from polishing her own image, the mayor gives us little of any real substance in her statement. I realize that, lacking a communications director and a proper policy for communications, everyone in townhall merely fumbles and flounders when it comes to attempting any sort of effective announcement or engagement**, but surely the public — and especially our medical community — must receive more so we can properly assess the merits of the meeting and whether Ford’s statements during it actually amount to a commitment. We want a transcript and something in writing. And surely the rest of council has the right to know more, too, regardless of what Hamlin thinks of them.

Collingwood deserves better.


* Hamlin says she also spoke with Ford about the water treatment debacle caused by the ignorance and stupidity of Saundersonites on previous councils, and Ford “committed to looking into this.” You’ll have to excuse me if I guffaw at anyone politically naive enough to believe this is a “commitment” to actually doing something concrete. “Looking into” something is just weasel words for filing it in the wastebasket. Why wouldn’t Hamlin ask Deputy Mayor Fryer into the meeting? After all, he was CFO of the water utility for many years and has a lot more knowledge about it and its operations than she has.

** I’ve offered several times in my blog to provide a list of appropriate style, layout, and usage guides to improve their communication and grammar. So far, no one has taken me up on it. Perhaps the idea of reading them is too daunting.

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    From BarrieToday:
    Barrie is receiving $6,344,201 from Ontario’s Building Faster Fund, as the city has exceeded its 2023 housing target, breaking ground on a total of 1,716 new housing units last year.

    Ford stops in nearby Barrie and drops $6.34-million on the city during a public media announcement with all sorts of people and fanfare. He sneaks into Collingwood and only meets with the mayor, while eight members of council are blindsided, makes some vague statements our mayor thinks are promises, makes no media statement, then scuttles out. No money, no firm commitments. Anyone see the difference?

    Maybe since Collingwood has done *nothing* about housing aside from approving a 24-storey waterfront condo for millionaire seasonal residents, we can’t hope to get anything from the feds or the province. I think you have to actually build housing that meets peoples’ need, not just approve playgrounds for the rich.

    Ford also made what the hospital’s LinkedIn post called a “whirlwind tour… within our aging building.” This suggests no in-depth discussions took place with administrative staff or doctors. And no source has suggested he even visited the site proposed for the redevelopment.

  2. It has been suggested to me that Saunderson – the most disliked mayor in recent history, outpacing even Chris Carrier in overall dislike – may have not wanted to be addressed by the local media. Hence they were not invited to attend any of the events with Ford. Reporters might have asked Saunderson embarrassing questions, He’d then likely to do a PoiLIEvre on them, petulantly refusing to answer and storming out.

    Questions like “What have you done for Collingwood since you became MPP?” and “Why don’t you have an office here in your hometown? Is it because no one likes you here?” or “Why are you pretending to support the hospital when you worked so hard on council to block its redevelopment at the preferred site?” Or even “Have you put on weight?”

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