Category Archives: Municipal politics

The polls to end all polls… #CwoodVotes2014

These will be the final three polls I’ll be running for this campaign; they’ll be open until 8 a.m. on the 20th, so lots of opportunity for plumping.

And for now, I’m off for the rest of the week… Councillor Chadwick has even blocked me from following him on Twitter – because that’s what an Open and Accountable™ councillor would do – so I can’t even keep up on how this current council was the light and the hope, and a change would be a gathering darkness on the land, with the nine council members becoming ringwraiths…

FINAL: Who's your choice for Mayor

  • Chris Carrier (59%, 175 Votes)
  • Joe Gardhouse (22%, 65 Votes)
  • Sandra Cooper (14%, 42 Votes)
  • Undecided (6%, 18 Votes)

Total Voters: 299

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FINAL: Who's your choice for Deputy-mayor

  • Brian Saunderson (85%, 251 Votes)
  • Rick Lloyd (13%, 38 Votes)
  • Undecided (2%, 6 Votes)

Total Voters: 295

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FINAL: Who are your choices for council (up to seven)

  • Tim Fryer (63%, 202 Votes)
  • Rick Crouch (61%, 196 Votes)
  • Steve Berman (55%, 177 Votes)
  • Kathy Jeffery (50%, 160 Votes)
  • Bob Madigan (44%, 141 Votes)
  • Deb Doherty (41%, 132 Votes)
  • Gail Michalenko (40%, 128 Votes)
  • Jim Gosnell (34%, 108 Votes)
  • Mike Edwards (26%, 83 Votes)
  • Cam Ecclestone (25%, 79 Votes)
  • Dale West (23%, 73 Votes)
  • Kevin Lloyd (10%, 32 Votes)
  • Betty Donaher (9%, 29 Votes)
  • Ian Chadwick (8%, 24 Votes)
  • Sandy Cunningham (7%, 21 Votes)

Total Voters: 319

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The #IceBucketChallenge… and other stuff…

Thanks to Matt McLean and Patrick Bales for the challenge, and Doug Measures and Drew Werbitsky for helping out behind the camera. I know Dale West and Danielle Lafreniere have done their challenges; just waiting for Saunderson to step up to the plate.

Along with the challenge… yes, I also donated to the cause…

* Am I the only one who thinks it’s kind of inappropriate the town is hosting a ‘coffee with council‘ at the Economic Development office less than two months before a municipal election? “Yeah, look at this wonderful initiative we’ve accomplished – Yea us! And don’t forget to vote…”

What does the Code of Conduct say? From Section 8…

Members of council will… in an election year, not use facilities, equipment, supplies, services, or other resources of the town for any election campaign or campaign-related activities.

Having an event, with two weeks left in the nomination period, is pretty borderline in my eyes. In the interest of goodwill, all candidates should be invited to take part…

* Very amusing to read Dr. Mike Lewin’s response to Councillor Chadwick’s response to the Better Together Collingwood questions.

I noted the commenter to Lewin’s letter made a couple of relevant observations, though reference to the councillor’s ‘due diligence’ is kind of ironic given everything we now know about the Sprung decision.

But then again, Chadwick has never met a ratepayers’ group he liked, and usually labels them as ‘special interest’ to get around the sticky business of being held accountable. Here’s what he said about VOTE in 2007 (granted, he was referring to pre-2006 VOTE, which had the appearance of being a ratepayers’ group, not post-2006 VOTE, which suddenly developed blinders to everything the 2006-2010 council did):

While I often disagreed with their perspective, I actually didn’t mind having a watchdog group outside the media keeping tabs on council’s activities and decisions. That helps keep council focused and cognizant of community opinion.

Yes, Collingwood is where irony goes to die…

 

 

Time for a harbour master plan…

Some of you will probably be reading John Edward’s piece in this Thursday’s Connection, and saying, “WTF Scoop…”

For one thing, I need to make it clear – I cannot write about the harbour in the pages of the E-B; I have a very clear conflict of interest on the matter, and it would not be ethical of me to report on the issue.

John had to edit some of my remarks down, because, you know, once I get yakking about the harbour it’s kind of hard to get me to STFU. I should probably make it clear that I, and the canoe club, are not against docks, per se. We agree that there’s a need for transient boater space… but…

We don’t believe it should come at the expense of other user groups: us, the rowing club, the yacht club, anglers, etc.. I guess it would help if I present my full comments to John, in response to the so-called Collingwood Municipal Marina Coalition:

“Our position has always been that we believe the harbour to be a shared facility. We recognize that it’s a finite space, and trying to balance the needs of the yacht club, rowing club, our club, and a multitude of other users is a delicate line. It’s also important that each user group respects the rights of others to the use of the harbour, and that one group is not granted any rights or given any advantage that could have a detrimental impact on the others.

“To that point, it’s always been our opinion that the municipality needs to embark on a proper harbour master plan that incorporates the needs and issues of all groups. Citing a study from 1988 completely ignores that since 2004, the use of the harbour has changed dramatically with the introduction of the two recreational clubs. While the Baird Report from 2009 did a fair job of documenting these different uses, where it fell down – substantially – was it focused on dock development while presenting recommendations that would have essentially pushed the rowing and paddling uses to the fringes of the harbour.

“Our board was disappointed council decided not to move forward with a harbour master plan this year, as it could have taken the necessary steps to resolve, or at least minimize, some of these potential conflicts and address the matter of shared use. We remain hopeful it will be part of the next council’s planning process early in the term.

“It’s all well and good to cite potential revenue numbers, but without some sort of solid economic or business case, there’s no way to justify the revenue projections put forward by the coalition. A waiting list does not necessarily translate into customers; a waiting list also does not justify the need to develop a facility that could potentially discourage the use of the harbour by other groups.

“We are a growing club, as are the rowing club and the sailing school, and it is vital to the development of those sports – especially for young people – that the harbour is a safe and accessible place. Creating a ‘parking lot’ of docks is not conducive to that goal.”

To add to that, a bit of my own opinion (which may or may not reflect the opinion of the board of the Collingwood Dragon Boat and Canoe Club)…

The ‘build it and they will come’ attitude is something I’ve been battling for the last five years of being a member of the town’s harbourlands committee. The Baird report was short-sighted, with no economic basis to back up the need to create a parking lot of docks in the harbour — and essentially making it unusable for anyone else. And the coalition is incorrect — it was not accepted by the Harbourlands Committee in the form that it’s presented in. The committee made several recommendations to revise some of the report’s conclusions, but those were never put in place because the money needed to prepare the final report was shifted to another municipal priority. What’s being passed around is a draft report — not a final report, and for the Coalition to present it any other way is disingenuous.

The same goes with the introduction of the transient day-use dock in the launch basin late last year; earlier this year, during municipal budget discussions, four councillors were quite willing to drop another $130,000 to extend that dock, even though a pattern of use hadn’t been established yet (because the existing docks had been installed in November), and there was no business case. There are five spots (approximately, depending on the length of the boat) at the existing dock; I can think of one weekend, Elvis Festival, when the dock was full; the rest of the time, I think I see one or two boats on a consistent basis.

And I’m not even getting into the environmental issues, and promoting healthy, active living (I find it amusing that municipal policy discussion on active transportation seems to stop at the town’s shoreline), which were tossed around as I circulated my comments to the rest of my board prior to providing them to John.

So… I go back to my (and the canoe club’s) original proposition – before any more capital dollars are spent in the harbour, the municipality needs to get an understanding of how the facility is used, who uses it, and how it can be properly shared between ALL user groups. The last three years has been spent with certain individuals attempting to ‘divide-and-conquer’ on the harbour – it’s time for ALL the user groups to speak with a common voice to develop a shared vision.

Tomorrow’s ranting… today!

Here’s my column in tomorrow’s treeware edition of the Enterprise-Bulletin; I’m pretty certain it will get me back to the top spot on the Enemies List

No meaningful way to measure ‘transparency’

‘Open and transparent’.

It’s become the favourite phrase of Collingwood town councillors the last couple of months, as if saying it enough actually makes it so.

At a recent special council meeting held on a Tuesday — without the Rogers TV cameras rolling, and only two people in the audience aside from local reporters — it was said three times, as if us scribes would dutifully make note.

We did not.

Truth be told, I was just about ready to jam a pen into my carotid artery if I heard it uttered again.

A few weeks back, Councillor Ian Chadwick noted on his blog that this current crop of municipal politicians is the “most productive, engaged, open and dedicated council I have served on, and reported on while I was reporter in the local media.”

Dedicated is a point I would never argue when it comes to talking about any member of municipal council. Most of the councillors I’ve reported on the last 20-plus years (that’s 32 people who have served as mayor, deputy-mayor, reeve, deputy-reeve, and councillor) have shown a dedication to the job.

However, to say this crop of municipal politicians is any more dedicated than others is mere hyperbole on the councillor’s part.

Most productive? Perhaps. While Terry Geddes was mayor, millions were invested in the town’s sewer infrastructure, and a plan was laid out for replacement through user fees rather than the general tax levy; a new public works building was constructed; the west-end commercial zone was developed; the first bylaws for pesticide use and vehicle idling were implemented. The master development agreement with Fram-Slokker was signed, and work began to redevelop the Shipyards.

One of the final acts of council under Geddes was a decision to expand the public transit system from two buses to three.

Mayor Chris Carrier’s council redeveloped the downtown and First Street, and saw through the construction of the new library, as well as a couple of sewer projects. And, contrary to what the public may glean from the latest piece of municipal advertising to reach local mailboxes, this council had little to do with the opening of Georgian College’s Collingwood campus; that project was started during Carrier’s term.

By development numbers, in Geddes’ final term of council, there was $140.5 million in residential construction, $45 million in commercial development, and $5.3 million in industrial building. In Carrier’s first three years of office, there was $150.2 million in residential development, $12.3 million in commercial development, and $8.3 million in industrial construction.

In the first three years of this current term of council, there has been $139.9 million in residential construction, $25.5 million in commercial development, and $2.9 million in industrial construction.

In terms of residential building permits, in those same time periods, it was 853 in Geddes’ final term as mayor, 827 in Carrier’s first three years in office, and 749 under the present council.

So from purely a development point-of-view, it would be hard to classify the current council as the most productive.

This council’s decision-making record? Yes, they built two recreational facilities (with considerable controversy), purchased the Mountainview property to widen the intersection at Hurontario and First (again, controversial), sold half of Collus to PowerStream (with controversy — and, notably, a loss of income). And yes, Council hired an integrity commissioner, not so much kicking and screaming, but certainly with mumbling and grumbling.

Council is finally acting on the economic development file, though I would hardly term ‘co-locating’ several agencies under one roof as “bold.” The municipality can only benefit from these groups working together, but its success will only be judged once it is put into practice and been operating for a year or so.

But the timing of it, along with the much-heralded ‘strategic financial plan,’ smacks of early electioneering, an effort to make this council appear it’s on the ball.

But ‘open’? As someone who’s covered eight terms of municipal council, I wouldn’t say this group is any more or less open than any other council. During the last council, the ongoing behind-closed-door discussion on Collingwood’s legal challenge of the school boards’ right to levy education development charges always disconcerted me.

This term, I’m astounded by the head-burying that has taken place on revelations the negotiations leading up to the decision to sole-source the largest single purchase made by the municipality were never disclosed to council.

And, the information they were given the night they made the decision, wasn’t correct.

(That the information was later communicated to residents in a newsletter from the municipality is a debate for another day.)

‘Engaged’? A passive-aggressive motion calling on someone to explain the actions of the citizens’ group he heads up I guess is a form of ‘engagement’, if it weren’t for whole 1950s Joe McCarthy ‘start naming names’ vibe.

Or the rather questionable timing of sending out a newsletter in the latest utility bill trumpeting this council’s ‘accomplishments’ at the cusp of a municipal election campaign, with two incumbents already stepping forth into the ring. That’s not engagement, it’s propaganda.

I guess you could ask the 49 people in the Paterson Street area who signed a petition about the location for the entryway to the Central Park Arena whether this is an ‘engaged’ council. Or the folks who live in the Forest subdivision, who probably feel like their concerns about a bed and breakfast operation potentially opening in their neighbourhood were casually swept aside on Monday night. Councillors wouldn’t even give them a tidbit, a request that council eventually be called upon to approve a site plan agreement.

So the next time a council member makes claims of ‘openness and transparency’, you’ll have to forgive me if I scoff, because there’s just no way to measure if it’s true.

The good, the bad, and the ugly…

Cue the Ennio Morricone soundtrack…

The good: Councillor Kevin Lloyd’s proposal to reinvigorate the town’s moribund (dead?) economic development department.

Formerly the home of aborted branding strategies ($45,000 of your tax dollars) and incomplete and shelved studies, Lloyd’s proposal to link the local agencies concerned with economic development is a positive initiative.

The last economic development study, presented to council in 2011, featured statistical information that was five years out of date along with a message that ‘smokestacks won’t be locating to Collingwood.’ Yes, we know — we’d been hearing the same thing for 15 years.

Lloyd’s proposal is the first, positive, tangible step I’ve seen on the file in some time, and harnesses the strengths of a variety of different organizations: the BIA, the chamber, Centre for Business and Economic Development, the Small Business Enterprise Centre. In the case of the proposed mandate of retaining business and targeting new business opportunities, the CBED and SBEC have both excelled, though the latter’s achievements don’t often get the credit it — or its executive director, Gillian Fairley — is due (SBEC is behind the very successful Summer Company program that encourages youth entrepreneurship).

It’s a great direction for the community…

The bad: Well, maybe not so much ‘bad’ as ‘perplexing’. Council’s reaction to Don May’s comments on the grain terminals last week; it’s not that I disagree with Don — in fact, I agree with him wholeheartedly — or disapprove of council’s new direction (I don’t).

It’s just that, well, I said pretty much the same thing more than a year ago, both here and in the E-B…

I realize it’s a sign of weakness for councillors to acknowledge what’s published in the Enterprise-Bulletin carries a modicum of reliability, but sometimes (just sometimes), I think we hit the mark.

Which leads me to…

The ugly: Councillor Ian Chadwick’s Cold-Shoulder War with myself and The Enterprise-Bulletin just demonstrates how bush-league and childish a municipal politician can get.

I was moderately amused when I suddenly found myself blocked from his Twitter account; after all, this is the same guy who mocked Chris Carrier when the former mayor pre-emptively blocked both Chadwick and me from following him. Now, as I discover, he also blocked The Enterprise-Bulletin from following him as well, and being able to read what he posts.

Is that the action of an accountable politician?

Or is this: in his book, Politically Speaking…, Chadwick writes:

Return calls and emails, and provide information as necessary in a timely manner.

To the E-B:

Chadwick did not respond to a request for comment, both by email and by phone, prior to the Enterprise-Bulletin’s presstime.

He may think he’s punishing the E-B, but in reality he’s only telling the readers of the Enterprise-Bulletin that he doesn’t feel he needs to be accountable to them.

I realize the councillor is unhappy with our coverage of Better Together Collingwood (the opinion of friends masquerading as front page news, as he puts it), and I’m certain he doesn’t like being chided for accusing Councillor Keith Hull for voting to raise taxes by voting against applying the Collus sales proceeds to the purchase of the Sprung buildings. As Chadwick wrote in his book:

Controversy and conflict can polarize the community. Be sure, or present a different, less confrontational message.

Or maybe how ridiculous he looks for pulling a graphic of the Sprung Shield from the Sprung website for the town’s flyer without determining whether or not it was relevant.

Maybe he needs to go back and read his chapter on Reporters: Allies or Adversaries?:

Grow a thicker skin: You can’t win every battle, you can’t always get the coverage you want, you can’t always expect praise or even recognition. Elected officials are always open to criticism, so learn to live with it…

Some politicians never get past being criticized…

If you show reporters respect, if you are open, honest, and accessible to them, you will in turn gain from them a level of mutual respect. This will not necessarily mean agreement, nor will it free you from criticism; it’s a much healthier relationship than an adversarial one.

I realize Chadwick has chosen political self-interest over our supposed friendship, which is fine. But I can’t help think that Chadwick, as E-B editor (he was editor about 15 years ago), would be outraged at the actions of Chadwick the councillor. As several people have pointed out to me, Chadwick needs to be thrown into a time machine and sent back to 1997 — where the editor could have a little heart-to-heart with the councillor…

Or, as he wrote in Politically Speaking…:

You may not be friends with your media contacts, but you should at least recognize that they are doing a job they care about. Find ways to help them do that job so that their work with you is not problematic. Respect will work both ways.

Lighthouse waits for its lifeline

lighthouse_webGEORGIAN BAY — The state of decay is startling.

The last two Mondays, I’ve taken advantage of the fact I’m not sitting at town council to head out onto the bay in one of the canoe club’s outrigger canoes.

While I generally eschew distance paddling when the bay is on the choppy side, I decided to challenge myself the last couple of weeks, heading in the direction of Nottawasaga Island in the face of waves a couple of feet high from crest to trough.

It’s not a route I usually take, even when the water is like glass. I usually head out to a green buoy about three-and-a-half clicks off the end of the spit, then across to a red marker about a kilometre northeast of the island, and back to the harbour.

But when I headed out last Monday, I took a turn northwest of the channel — and just kept paddling.

It’s been awhile since I’ve been close enough to the Nottawasaga lighthouse to get a sense of how much deterioration has taken place. The last time was 2007, while I was operating a safety boat for an adventure race and took the photo that accompanies this article.

The steel bands had only been installed a year or so prior, intended to prevent further deterioration of the outside layer of the 150-year-old structure.

Those bands had a five-year lifespan.

First, some history:

The lighthouse, built in the 1850s and staffed until the late 1950s, was powered in later years by solar energy. While it was no longer maintained by the Coast Guard as a navigation building, the light was still working until 2010.

I haven’t seen the light on in some time, and suspect it has either since burned out, or the solar panels are no longer functional.

The 32-metre tower — one of six Imperial Towers erected on the Great Lakes — was a frequent target for lightning strikes, superheating water that had worked its way past the limestone exterior and into the interior core.

That generated steam that pushed out and widened cracks in the wall — which in turn would allow more moisture inside.

In 2004, a piece of the section facing Collingwood slid away, necessitating action by the feds — at the urging of local officials, and, most notably, Jim Kilgour.

Hence the steel bands, which cost $400,000.

Jim, who passed away last year, was like a dog with a bone when it came to the lighthouse. He lobbied politicians at all levels to step up to the plate, to come up with the nearly $4.5 million needed to restore the lighthouse to its former glory.

In 2003, when Kilgour brought the lighthouse’s condition to the attention of politicians, Fisheries and Oceans estimated the cost to restore the tower would have been about $600,000.

In a letter to the town’s Parks, Recreation and Culture Committee in 2010, Kilgour warned the tower could “collapse with no further attempts to stabilize the structure.

“A significant part of our town’s marine heritage could be lost,” wrote Kilgour.

In 2010, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans declared Canada’s more than 1,000 lighthouses surplus. The Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act, passed in 2008, would normally protect the lighthouse and require the government to maintain them; ironically, the Act excludes lighthouses that are declared surplus from being designated under the Act unless a community group or private owner commits to acquire and protect their heritage character.

In a story written by Emily Innes last year, Fisheries and Oceans Canada said the Nottawasaga lighthouse is by far the lighthouse in the worst condition in Georgian Bay, but that they will do “nothing at this time.”

This Monday, I again paddled to the island, just to confirm what I’d seen the week previous. The bands have begun to loosen their hold on the lighthouse’s exterior, and have started to sag.

More bricks have fallen, even from the most recent pics posted to the Help Save the Nottawasaga Lighthouse Facebook group by Nick Brindisi.

A local group has been trying to find a way to preserve the lighthouse, but without any money or political will behind them, it’s hard to say what kind of impact they’ll have.

I’m no engineer, but I would be very surprised if the lighthouse is still on Collingwood’s horizon past 2014.

The question remains: will someone throw the lighthouse a lifeline before it’s too late?

Credibility means never having to say you’re sorry…

Yeah, literally – that’s what it means…

According to my handy-dandy Oxford – Credibility (noun): the condition of bring credible or believable.

Or Wikipedia, which has far more credibility than it’s sometimes given credit for: the objective and subjective components of the believability of a source or message.

Wikipedia goes further, noting the “credibility has two key components: trustworthiness and expertise, which both have objective and subjective components. Trustworthiness is based more on subjective factors, but can include objective measurements such as established reliability.”

So, when I see an online poll posted by Councillor Ian Chadwick asking whether local media lacks credibility, I have to admit I’m a little confounded.

Plus, it’s wrapped up in vague expressions; one of the poll options asks if ‘only some (local) media’ lack credibility of late. Are we referring to newspapers, and not radio, or radio, and not newspapers? Maybe we’re referring to only one newspaper and one radio station. Or maybe it’s a reference to only one newspaper.

I guess I could run a similar poll, asking the question whether all of council lacks credibility, only some councillors lack credibility, or whether council still has its credibility intact. That might make for some interesting results…

Have we recently published a string of lies? Is the newspaper riddled with typos and inaccuracies? Are we communicating unreliable information? Are we plagiarists? I would say both newspapers in town do a pretty good job of reporting the news fairly, honestly, and accurately, given the resources available. Yes, the occasional typo does work its way through, if only because of limited sets of eyes and tight deadlines.

If there were constant transgressions in our reporting, you would see a regular parade of corrections, clarifications and apologies in our pages; at this point, I can only think of two or three since I returned as Managing Editor four years ago.

If there was one criticism, it would be that we can’t cover everything, though we do our darnedest. However, given there’s only two editorial people in my office (myself and a writer), we can’t physically get to everything (20 years ago, the E-B had an editorial staff of eight; 10 years ago, it had an editorial staff of four).

We don’t report on rumour and innuendo. I know there’s an element in the community who would suggest we ‘conveniently’ ignore certain stories, but I would suggest there’s no story, no matter how controversial, we wouldn’t do as long as we had the documentation, and the people willing to speak to us about it. But I can’t report on something that just isn’t there.

I know one of the things Councillor Chadwick questioned – on Facebook – is why we weren’t reporting on a matter of civil litigation between two individuals. I’ve had that put to me before, on another civil litigation matter, and my response is the same: we would need to follow it through to its conclusion (something we don’t have the resources to do), and invariably, civil disputes end in settlements that can’t publicly be reported on.

I also have to weigh giving priority to coverage of that against other stories that need to be reported on, and consider its overall impact on the people in my coverage area. Does it have broad implications for the community, or does it truly only affect the two individuals at the heart of the dispute?

There’s also a significant misunderstanding of how we report the news. When the CBC story on the OPP investigation broke, I recall reading a comment on Nobody’s blog about how it was odd the E-B hadn’t reported on the CBC story right away — the insinuation being we were ignoring it.

Here’s the thing: we need to do our own due diligence and interviews — we can’t merely report on what another media is reporting, regardless of the significance of the information. In respect to the CBC story, we posted the first iteration of the story about mid-afternoon (the CBC posted their stories in their morning) — after doing our own work (I think the Connection posted their version about the same time; again, after they did their own interviews and legwork).

Which brings me back to this issue of credibility. What exactly is the local media doing – or not doing – that would warrant such a poll on Councillor Chadwick’s blog?

Is it because we’ve reported on Better Together Collingwood in its criticism of council decision-making? The Connection has posted a story about BTC’s survey (our story on the survey goes online today). I would suggest that’s the role of the newspaper — to allow the community to air its concerns, as long as both sides of an issue are given the opportunity to comment.

Is it because we support the creation of an Integrity Commissioner position? If we could be accused of anything, it’s that we don’t take a stand more often on local issues; that’s only because writing a balanced editorial on a topic requires a significant amount of research and time – time we often don’t have in the hustle and bustle of putting together the newspaper.

And to be clear, our call for an integrity commissioner has been on the basis that it’s a tool available to municipalities through the Municipal Act, not because there is a police investigation into allegations of wrongdoing in municipal decision-making that to this point remain unproven.

Is it because I’ve been critical of some of his statements online and at the council table? Is it not the role of the media to hold local politicians to account for their comments if it can be shown there’s an inconsistency between their statements and actions — or a disparity between what a councillor says today, versus what that councillor may have said previously?

Perhaps we need to be more scrupulous in our scrutiny of municipal government. Maybe that will give us the ‘credibility’ that Councillor Chadwick must believe we’re missing…

Where there’s smoke…

… there’s, uh, more smoke…

Jeez, it’s getting smoky in here…

So, I’m reading Steve Berman’s latest blog post on Five Questions Collingwood Should Ask About Ed Houghton, thinking eventually I’ll get to the question of what shade of Just For Men is in Ed’s medicine cabinet (here’s a hint: only his stylist knows).

Unfortunately, we don’t get to that question, but we do get five questions that are either ridiculously easy to answer, or ridiculously so politically-charged that there isn’t any answer that I expect would satisfy the writer. Plus, as an added bonus, and extra-special sixth question just for the Surprise-Bulletin that is so blatantly insulting that I don’t even know how to answer it. It was not an article, but an editorial, and people are welcome to dispute or agree with its content… but if defending Ed Houghton’s record is ‘belittling’ the votes from an Internet poll and evidence of how the press has failed the community… well, you might as well dispute whether you paid for a five-minute argument, or the full half-hour (“No, you didn’t,” “Yes, I did,” “You most certainly did not…”)

But let’s start with Question 1: Whom does Mr. Houghton work for. That one is actually quite simple, and has never been secret: Ed Houghton is an employee of Collus, and is paid by Collus; Collus has an agreement with the Town of Collingwood to provide certain administrative and technical services, including IT and engineering – as well as Mr. Houghton – as part of its dividend payment.

Pointing out that council ‘appointed’, not ‘hired’, Ed as acting-CAO is just part of that aforementioned smokescreen, attempting to make people think there’s fire. Guess what: council ‘appoints’ all its employees – which is also the language used in the Municipal Act. By the way, just for your info, the previous council also ‘appointed’, not ‘hired’, the previous CAO:

THAT By-law 2009-081, being a by-law to appoint a Chief Administrative Officer for The Corporation of the Town of Collingwood, be enacted and passed this 13th day of July, 2009.

Shock! I really hope that council was held accountable…

It would probably be more appropriate to note that Ed didn’t get a raise when he took on the added responsibilities of being a CAO (not that he ‘does not receive remuneration’, when it is quite clear he is paid). Instead of a snide reference to him ‘volunteering’, a more suitable point to make would be that employees of municipally-owned electrical distribution companies should be subject to the Public Sector Salary Disclosure Act – which, just so you know, is a question I and the E-B have been raising for the last several years. You’re welcome…

Question 2: Well, I just answered that – Ed’s services to the town falls under the agreement the town has with Collus. See above…

As to the email from the deputy-mayor; well, that’s not the acting-CAO’s fault, but it’s also not exactly a ‘breach’ (assuming, of course, that the deputy-mayor does anything ‘knowingly’; having dealt with Rick Lloyd for the better part of 20 years, that gives him far more credit than he deserves). ‘Asking’ for a price is not quite the same as unilaterally directing staff to negotiate a contract for the supply of two Sprung buildings. I would suggest staff get ‘asked’ all kinds of crazy (well, not crazy) things, from the status of sidewalk repairs, to the whereabouts of missing stop signs. And, it’s no worse than, say, directing staff to spy on the email of other councillors…

Guess what – all council members send emails asking questions of staff, even the ones whom I suspect you support.

How about a relevant question: would it be considered best practice to have an individual who is president of a private corporation be the chief administrator of a public entity such as a municipality, especially when said public entity has control over said private corporation. That’s not a question I’m qualified to answer, and it’s not a question I would necessarily pose to councillors and expect an educated, off-the-cuff response; if it were worth pursing, given my extremely limited time and resources, it would be something put to public policy experts.

But no, we’d rather frame accusatory statements in the form of questions, couched in weasly phrases or bolding terms such as ‘code of ethical behaviour’ in order to make a point.

Ed is accountable, and he is held to that accountability under the Municipal Act  – as well as whatever policies are in place by the municipality (I suspect, because of the relationship, Collus maintains similar policies). Just because you say there’s nothing there to make Ed accountable does not necessarily make it so…

Is Ed responsible for undertaking due diligence? Ed – and all municipal staff – are responsible for providing councillors with the information they need to make a decision; the buck stops with them. If there was a concern about information, or lack thereof, then it was council’s responsibility – if there was an issue, council should have voted to defer… and as such, will ultimately live or die in 2014 by their choices.

As to the fourth question, as to when Collingwood will have a full-time CAO, of course the documentation of when the town will hire one is not there; if the town is currently looking, then yes, there would be a document that outlined educational requirements, etc., etc. A more relevant query would have been for the town to provide the advertisement posted when the position was previously vacant, and whether council members are satisfied that the acting-CAO’s credentials conform to the job description as previously published.

The deputy-mayor’s email about making Ed a permanent CAO? Well, again, see above…

And, to the final point, again, Ed’s recommendations aren’t to blame for protest marches, or the anger expressed at the Friends of Central Park meeting at the Legion. Again – those events are the consequence of council’s decision-making.

So… does the public have a right to know the answers to a series of accusatory, biased questions? Or is it more possible that the public has the right to a balanced discussion of public policy issues (as the ones I’ve suggested). And if it’s the latter that council refuses to entertain, then they deserve to be trounced at the next polls…

But filling up the Innernets with dubious postulations clearly based on discussions with people who have certain agendas? Not cool…

The facepalm moment…

So Monday night’s council meeting was 50 minutes, which wouldn’t be so bad had it not been for the fact that agenda-wise, it should only have been about 10.

The topic that seemed to draw so much angst, it seems, was the motion on the table to hire an architect/consultant for the Central Park project; one councillor in particular, Councillor Ian Chadwick, seemed to think council needed to have an analysis of the public information collected to date and an update from the committee.

“It’s premature to go get drawings when we’ve had no report from the committee,” he said. “We don’t know the alternatives or the costs.”

Which would be fine, however, if council hadn’t passed — unanimously — this motion back in June:

THAT Council receive for information, an update on the Central Park Concept Development process and approve the revised project timeline;

AND FURTHER THAT Council approve the Steering Committee’s recommendation to obtain the services of an Architectural Design Firm to develop and cost preliminary design options.

It was a recorded vote. If you follow the link, you will note Chadwick voted in favour of that recommendation (hence the term, ‘unanimous’).

Which either means he didn’t pay attention to what he voted for a two months ago, or he was purposely playing silly bugger — which, in the case of this project, a project a lot of people in town want to see move ahead and not get caught up in silly politics, is just a stupid tactic…

A truly open and accountable municipal government would totally do this…

I’ve had a couple of calls today — in response to our story on local public employees earning more than $100,000 (can’t remember if it’s online or not yet) — about Ontario’s Public Sector Salary Disclosure legislation, and why Collus employees aren’t listed (or, at least, why ‘one’ isn’t listed. But anyway…).

Well, here’s the scoop…

Back in 1996, when the Conservative government passed the legislation, Ontario Hydro employees were included. However, municipally-owned entities such as Collus that fall under the Ontario Business Corporation Act didn’t have to reveal salaries (even though, in a sense, they’ve public employees as well).

Now, when the provincial government changed up the electricity marketplace and created three corporations to replace Ontario Hydro, those companies fell under that same Act and were no longer required to publish salaries — that is, until the Liberals came along and decided a light needed to be shone…

However, when the Liberals revised the Public Sector Salary Disclosure Act, they only applied it to the provincial electrical entities, and not municipally-owned electrical distribution companies.

Here’s where our municipal government comes in…

The Town of Collingwood does not have the ability to unilaterally reveal the salaries (if they’re over the $100,000 mark) of Collus employees, because of the Ontario Business Corporation Act (or, at least, that’s what I’m told). However, town council does have the ability — nay, the responsibility, the moral obligation, etc., etc. — to consider a motion asking the province to revise the Public Sector Salary Disclosure Act to include municipally-owned electrical distribution companies. Said motion could then be forwarded to every municipality in Ontario, as well as the Minister of Finance…

Let’s see which councillors “has the guts, has the nuts,” as Councillor Joe Gardhouse once commented at the council table, to put forward that particular notice of motion…