Our Arrogant Mayor is At It Again

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L'etat c'est moi and screw the hospital...For me, I didn’t see the need for another letter at this time. Things could change,” Mayor Yvonne Hamlin sniffily replied to CollingwoodToday in her best “Let them eat cake” manner. “For me.” It’s always about me, me, me. It’s almost like she took selfishness lessons from Councillor Jeffrey.

Hamlin was responding to a question about why she, representing Collingwood, refused to sign a letter about our hospital being sent to “provincial health minister and deputy premier Sylvia Jones indicating the desire to see the new hospital built at the Poplar Sideroad location.” A letter Hamlin didn’t want discussed openly and slunk behind closed doors to discuss it, even though that, to me, violates both the Municipal Act’s rules about in-camera meetings, and the spirit of openness and transparency that, like that of Dickens’ Bob Marley, apparently, no longer haunts town hall (well, to be fair, Saunderson had even the vestiges of the ghost of openness and transparency exorcised from the building).*

Why should our mayor deign to sign a letter requesting the province take action on the proposed hospital redevelopment? After all, it was already tainted by the signatures of all the other mayors of the catchment area: Wasaga Beach, Clearview, The Blue Mountains, and Grey Highlands. Inter-municipality co-operation? From Collingwood? Don’t make me laugh. Not since Brian Saunderson was at the council table has any such cooperation been even whispered about in those fusty halls. And Hamlin, ever the ardent Saundersonite, is still walking in his “L’etat c’est moi” footsteps.

And why shouldn’t our mayor just flip the bird at all the local doctors, the nurses, the support staff, and the community volunteers who have worked so hard and diligently to make this redevelopment happen? After all, Saunderson flipped it to them many times; the least she could do to honour his memory is to do the same. And why should she care how they and the other mayors who signed the letter feel about being stiffed again by Collingwood? It’s not like a hospital is important to the community, right? Not so important that our mayor should unbend just a tiny bit and sign a letter to support it.

In late 2023, Doug Griffiths — co-author of the excellent book, 13 Ways to Kill Your Community, which proved a blueprint to Saunderson’s community-maiming approach to governing our town —  wrote an article called Inter-municipal Cooperation: A $10 Phrase For A Priceless Idea. In his piece, Griffiths wrote (emphasis added),

As Municipal Affairs Minister I told Alberta communities the best form of cooperation is voluntary, and I still believe that today. You can’t ensure a good relationship when you are forced into one, but the results are still better than communities that remain fiercely independent for no reason but fear, ignorance, and ego. The best relationships are the ones we choose and invest in, willingly… The need for cooperation and collaboration within and between municipalities is more important now than ever.
Some communities look at inter-municipal cooperation with suspicion. They see municipal relations as a zero sum gain where any gain won by a neighbour must mean a loss for themselves. That was the thinking in the 20th century. It was as small minded and naive thinking back then. It cannot be the mindset of the 21st century if we truly want success and prosperity.

More fools those other mayors for cooperating. Greater good? Community benefit? Regional cooperation? Diaphanous piffle to our Collingwood’s mayor.

Chapter 7 of 13 Ways to Kill Your Community is titled Don’t Cooperate. The authors note that to kill your community, you should not only avoid cooperating with others, but should actively refuse to do so and fight against it. It’s a chapter I suspect Hamlin knows by heart and has “Don’t Cooperate” in giant type on a poster in the mayor’s office. On their website the authors say (emphasis added):

One of the essential requirements for success, in anything, is cooperation. What you can do right now is to refuse to meaningfully cooperate with other organizations, businesses, agencies, boards or other communities. That is a purely passive way to try to kill your community. If you want to be more proactive your group should actively fight others. Compete with them on similar projects, fight for the same grants, the same volunteers and the same fundraising dollars, until energy is depleted and nothing has been accomplished. However, others may catch on and avoid you like the plague, so there are even more devious methods to consider. The most effective way is not to avoid partnerships, but to enter into them and destroy them from the inside. Join forces under the guise of cooperation and then undermine all work that goes on. You can be assured of leading your community to failure if you are cunning enough.

Burning down the houseWhile you and I know the authors were being facetious, it seems Hamlin, like the other recalcitrant Saundersonites at the table, didn’t recognize the sarcasm and instead took these comments as political advice and direction. Success? We don’t need no steenking success in Collingwood!**

As you might have expected, the Borg-like bobbleheads on council merely went along with Hamlin, supporting both the deceptively secret discussions about the letter and the rejection of regional cooperation. I expected this from Saundersonite Councillors Jeffrey and Doherty, both eager participants in Saunderon’s strenuous efforts to block the hospital’s redevelopment in the past. I hoped some of the newcomers to the table might have shown just a teensy bit of spunk and protested, maybe even adding their own name(s) to the letter. But, spines are, apparently, like invisible pink unicorns, rather a rarity at our council table these days.

The letter itself noted:

Recently, we learned that the construction of the new hospital has encountered further delays and the Infrastructure Ontario Market Update has now extended the project timeline by 15 months. The approval of the greenfield build site for the hospital is the crucial first step in the process of realizing a new healthcare facility for South Georgian Bay. The move to a greenfield build for the regional hospital is, in our view, the optimal choice for the communities we serve.

To a mere resident and taxpayer, this seems important, and even pressing, don’t you think, especially when all the other mayors and councils in the area put their names to it. But Hamlin, apparently, disagreed and muttered her self-aggrandizing rationalization that (emphasis added) “I sent a letter I thought covered what needed to be said by our town. I didn’t see the need to send a joint letter at this time.” Ay, ay, ay, me, me, me: she’s singing that same old, tired Saundersonite song again.

Collingwood deserves better.


Notes

* Section 239 of the Municipal Act reads (emphasis added),

239 (1) Except as provided in this section, all meetings shall be open to the public.  2001, c. 25, s. 239 (1).
Exceptions

(2) A meeting or part of a meeting may be closed to the public if the subject matter being considered is,

  1. the security of the property of the municipality or local board;
  2. personal matters about an identifiable individual, including municipal or local board employees;
  3. a proposed or pending acquisition or disposition of land by the municipality or local board;
  4. labour relations or employee negotiations;
  5. litigation or potential litigation, including matters before administrative tribunals, affecting the municipality or local board;
  6. advice that is subject to solicitor-client privilege, including communications necessary for that purpose;
  7. a matter in respect of which a council, board, committee or other body may hold a closed meeting under another Act;
  8. information explicitly supplied in confidence to the municipality or local board by Canada, a province or territory or a Crown agency of any of them;
  9. a trade secret or scientific, technical, commercial, financial or labour relations information, supplied in confidence to the municipality or local board, which, if disclosed, could reasonably be expected to prejudice significantly the competitive position or interfere significantly with the contractual or other negotiations of a person, group of persons, or organization;
  10. a trade secret or scientific, technical, commercial or financial information that belongs to the municipality or local board and has monetary value or potential monetary value; or
  11. a position, plan, procedure, criteria or instruction to be applied to any negotiations carried on or to be carried on by or on behalf of the municipality or local board. 2001, c. 25, s. 239 (2); 2017, c. 10, Sched. 1, s. 26.

From Nelligan Law (emphasis added):

Section 239(2)(e) of the Municipal Act 2001 provides that “a meeting or part of a meeting may be closed to the public if the subject matter being considered is litigation or potential litigation, including matters before administrative tribunals affecting the municipality or local board”. A person reading this particular exception would be forgiven for assuming that the Province intended to grant municipalities a wide authority to close meetings to the public in situations where litigation is an issue. However, rather than take a permissive approach in its interpretation, Ontario’s highest court adopted a restrictive reading of the closed meeting exceptions in its decision in RSJ Holdings and The Corporation of the City of London 2005 (“RSJ Holdings”), which was subsequently endorsed by the Supreme Court of Canada.

From the Ombudsman of Ontario (emphasis added):

TOP 10 TIPS FOR MUNICIPAL OFFICIALS

  1. Make a commitment to open government and to promoting transparency, accountability and accessibility.
  2. Know and follow the Municipal Act, 2001 and your procedure by-law’s open meeting requirements.
  3. Make sure you have a procedure by-law that complies with the Municipal Act, 2001 – every municipality and local board is required to have one.
  4. Give adequate advance public notice of all meetings, including the time and location of all meetings. For electronic meetings, provide access instructions (including a link), monitor broadcast quality throughout the meeting, and have a plan to stop the meeting if there are technical issues.
  5. Keep meetings open to the public unless closure is specifically authorized under the Municipal Act, 2001 and there is a real need to exclude the public.
  6. Pick the right s. 239 exception before closing a meeting.
  7. Pass a resolution in public that includes meaningful information about the issue to be considered (not just the exception) before closing the doors.
  8. Record the meeting, including all decisions, by taking minutes, and preferably also by recording audio or video.
  9. Do not hold a vote in closed session unless it is for a procedural matter or to give directions to staff or officials.
  10. To the extent possible, report back publicly in open session about what occurred in closed session.

You can also read the town’s poorly formatted, reader-hostile Procedural Bylaw here. Section 5 is about in-camera meetings, but rather than clarify, merely parrots the Municipal Act’s restrictions. As you might expect, the town’s user-hostile, search-unfriendly website provides no explanations or further details about in-camera meetings. That would require communication and openness.

** Here is the full list of the thirteen chapter headings from the book. I’m sure you can recognize right away those sections that Saunderson and his disciples used in their eight-year efforts to make Collingwood a worse place to live (hint: he used them all…). Here’s a game to play at home: see if you can spot which methods are Hamlin’s favourites for continuing his agenda:

  1. Don’t have quality water.
  2. Don’t attract business.
  3. Ignore your youth.
  4. Deceive yourself about your real needs or values.
  5. Shop elsewhere.
  6. Don’t paint.
  7. Don’t cooperate.
  8. Live in the past.
  9. Ignore your seniors.
  10. Reject everything new.
  11. Ignore outsiders.
  12. Become complacent.
  13. Don’t take responsibility.

I would suggest that councillors read the book to try to avoid perpetuating Saunderson’s arrogant and self-serving mistakes, but I fear it’s too late.

Words: 1,927

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3 Comments

  1. https://www.collingwoodtoday.ca/letters-to-the-editor/letters-more-residents-ask-why-mayor-wouldnt-sign-hospital-letter-8374305

    Seems several other people are not impressed by Hapless Hamlin’s selfish behaviour… as one writer said:

    “I was a supporter of our mayor and now feel any mayor who does not see the advantage of her signature on a letter every other mayor in the area has signed does not represent the wishes of the constituents of Collingwood.”

  2. https://www.collingwoodtoday.ca/local-news/collingwood-mayor-pushes-province-for-regional-solutions-8296010
    Headline: Collingwood mayor pushes province for regional solutions

    Oh, the irony. Imagine those words coming from a mayor who has refused to engage with neighbouring municipalities over our much-needed hospital redevelopment.

    “Collingwood’s mayor wants the province to understand political boundaries are invisible and that municipal residents and governments often end up with a foot on each side of the line. …

    Second, Hamlin explained at the hearing how difficult it can be for South Georgian Bay to work together as a whole while straddling two different upper-tier governments: the County of Simcoe and Grey County. The line separating the two counties is the boundary between Collingwood and The Blue Mountains.

    “Because the boundaries of the towns to be served do not line up neatly with county boundaries, there is no one regional level of government to provide assistance in our case,” she explained.”

    The hypocrisy rains from Hapless Hamlin.

  3. Pingback: Hamlin’s Letter-Writing Debacle, Part Two – Scripturient

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