The Ontario Ombudsman can now investigate the role municipalities played within the Midhurst Secondary Plan fiasco.

December 10, 2014

Provincial law was exempted to green-light the Midhurst sprawl plan. “Who did what, when” is now open with a simple telephone complaint to Mr. Marin’s office.

Andre Marin3

With the passage of Bill 8 Tuesday, Ontario ombudsman André Marin’s sights are particularly set on municipal councils, which he described a year ago as being addicted to secrecy.

The Toronto Star reports in Ombudsman André Marin looks forward to his new powers:

“As of the implementation of this bill we’ll be overseeing 443 municipalities . . . as well as 83 school boards and 22 universities representing roughly $30 billion in provincial expenditures that up until now have been going under the radar,” he said…

Marin’s sights are particularly set on municipal councils, which he described a year ago as being addicted to secrecy.

It is no surprise that there are strong forces (direct and indirect) that resist this oversight of public money and policies.

“I think history has shown . . . that municipalities need all the help they can get. This is an area fraught with controversy, conflict of interest, low oversight, whether it’s Brampton, Mississauga, Toronto, Sudbury and London. The list goes on,” he said.

As recently as July, municipalities made it clear they didn’t want Marin to stick his nose in their business.

Notably, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) highlighted on its website that municipalities will be able to apply to a court to determine whether the Ontario Ombudsman has jurisdiction to investigate a complaint.

Opportunism in public or private enterprise relies on two things: self-interest and deceit.

Mr. Marin has a public reputation for sincerity and fearless truth-seeking.

What legal duty of care does Springwater Township CAO Robert Brindley have to the citizens of Springwater Township?

July 6, 2014

Virtually none.

Robert Brindley Springwater Township CAO

His job as Chief Administrative Officer is to implement the will corporation’s Chief Executive Officer, Mayor Linda Collins.

If a breach of duty exists, it rests on the CEO and the elected officials who passed the motion (see Bill French on AWARE Simcoe: A dark day for Springwater). Oddly if they are so sure of themselves, not one of the current elected officials has registered as a candidate in this fall’s municipal election. Mr. French does not overstate the imminent danger to our beautiful rural “community of communities”.

Not Within Mr. Brindley’s Job Description: sky-high future property taxes, continued bullying by developers, unprecedented use of debt financing which will be used to trigger a “useful crisis” (goal: Barrie annexation), and destruction of the Minesing Wetlands. He does the television interviews and makes very, very strong and breathtakingly broad statements because (presumably) he was told to do so the current council leadership.

My Promise (no Golden parachutes): If elected as deputy mayor in the fall, I would not interfere with any senior staff”s decision to leave for greener pastures. Of course if there are contracts in place which pay the exiting executives big $ for little or no value to the Corporation, I may have to write about that so as to assign more accurately everyone’s reputation for accountability, transparency, and “truthiness”.

I support the future provincial investigation (judicial enquiry, ON Ombudsman, etc.) into the events leading up to the Midhurst Secondary Plan.

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The Ontario Ombudsman’s powers to investigate municipal governments may become vastly expanded.

March 10, 2014

Some municipal governments seem to operate without any accountability between elections. 

ontario ombudsman

Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin speaks at a news conference at Queens Park in Toronto on Feb. 4, 2014. Aaron Vincent Elkaim/THE CANADIAN PRESS

If your mayor or councilperson does not return phone calls, acts in a hyper-partisan way, or refuses to listen to ratepayers’ concerns there has been very little you can do but vote them out of office every four years.

A potential boost to democracy from the provincial governmentOntario set to strengthen Ombudsman’s powers:

Ontario is set to vastly expand the powers of the provincial Ombudsman, allowing the independent watchdog to investigate municipalities, universities and school boards, The Globe and Mail has learned.

Ombudsman André Marin has long argued that the province shields too many agencies from his scrutiny, giving people who have problems with them no independent office to call for help.

The bill will at least partly satisfy his demands. It will not, however, allow him oversight of the health-care sector, something he has long sought. Instead, the law is expected to create a different transparency mechanism for health. A hard-biting watchdog with a knack for drawing public attention to problems and mistakes in the province, Mr. Marin has long been a thorn in the side of the government, which may help explain why Queen’s Park has often been reluctant to grant him more latitude.

But giving him the right to look into municipalities and local agencies, in particular, will represent a massive expansion of his role, allowing him into a whole new level of government. Most municipalities in Ontario do not have independent watchdogs of their own, meaning the new rules will expose them to an unprecedented level of scrutiny.

There seems to be so many municipal government controversies:

The province’s move comes on the heels of several major municipal controversies in recent years. London Mayor Joe Fontana is facing fraud charges. In Brampton, Mayor Susan Fennell is the subject of an audit after she and her staff spent $185,000 on airfare and hotels in the past five years. Brampton councillors, meanwhile, are also in the spotlight for using tax money to pay for symphony tickets and home security systems.

And in Toronto, Mayor Rob Ford was nearly ejected from office for using city letterhead to solicit donations to his football team from lobbyists.

Mr. Marin has accused some municipalities of secrecy for holding meetings behind closed doors. In one particularly damning report last year, he concluded that a group of London councillors had violated provincial law by holding a “back room” meeting at a restaurant a few days before a budget vote. Mr. Marin currently has some limited powers to investigate municipalities, but councils have the right to opt out of his oversight.

On Jan 21, 2013, the current Springwater Township council met secretly to stop Jack Hanna, Midhurst councillor from communicating with his constituents.

December 27, 2013

It resulted in a complaint.  The Council then chose to (and forced us pay extra taxpayers, btw)  for their self-chosen investigator rather than use the no charge services of the Ontario Ombudsman.

Springwater Township

Perry Ritchie, Dan Clement, Dan McLean, Linda Collins, Rick Webster, Sandy McConkey, Jack Hanna (l to r)

This is called “oversight shopping” and Globe and Mail thinks it must stop…immediately See: Municipal government: Why so many hush-hush meetings?:

Full Excerpt:

Ontario Ombudsman André Marin’s report into secrecy in municipal government contains good news and bad news. The good news? Citizens across the province are increasingly upset about local governments that conduct democratic business behind closed doors, and they are complaining in growing numbers. The bad news? Many municipal governments are still flouting the province’s open meeting law – without penalty.

In 2008, Ontario’s Municipal Act was amended, to give the ombudsman power to investigate complaints of unnecessary and undemocratic secrecy on the part of the province’s municipal governments. The new rules on openness are known as the Sunshine Law. This past year, Mr. Marin’s team investigated 96 council meetings, finding that 19 of them were illegal. That figure likely underestimates the problem, since municipalities can pick a body other than the ombudsman to oversee their Sunshine Law obligations – a practice known as oversight shopping. Mr. Marin also found some meetings that appeared to violate the spirit of the law, such as the time city councillors in London, Ont., met in private at a local restaurant just before a budget vote. Sixty citizens complained.

Mr. Marin recommends that the province take four steps to ensure that the sun really does shine in. First, end oversight shopping. This year, Sudbury council voted to fire the ombudsman after he was critical of their behaviour. Fewer than half of the province’s municipalities have chosen to be overseen by the ombudsman. Since when do we allow an accused to fire the judge?

Mr. Marin also recommends that lawbreakers be punished – the law currently contains no sanctions – that all meetings be recorded, and that any meeting found to have been conducted illegally have its proceedings invalidated. All excellent ideas. And we can’t imagine why any of the three parties at Queen’s Park wouldn’t agree. Pass these reforms, pronto.

To Do in 2014:

  1. Contact your MPP and tell him you agree oversight shopping must end. Now.
  2. Find out who voted for gagging Mr. Hanna and throw them out at the fall 2014 election.
  3. Vote for candidates promising to use the Ontario Ombudsman’s services only.

PS: The investigation found that trying to gag Mr. Hanna was a violation of provincial law.

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NOTE: A very similar article appeared in the Springwater News on January 2, 2014. pdf

Ontario municipalities are in a state of democratic decay: Ombudsman

December 13, 2013

One symptom is an addiction to secrecy. Another is that the council that is being complained about, gets to decide who investigates the issue.


André Marin, Ontario Ombudsman explains in Ontario municipal councils “addicted” to secrecy, ombudsman says:

“There is, in my view, a putrefactive decay in democracy at the municipal government level due to the insistence on officials to continue conducting city business secretly and illegally,” Marin told a Queen’s Park press council.

Marin said not only are there no consequences in the law for holding secret meetings, he accuses the province of enabling the practice by not introducing penalties. And he added that municipalities that don’t like him sticking his nose into their business can opt out of his jurisdiction.

And the result of this “putrefactive decay in democracy”?

“Meanwhile, hanky-panky continues to take place in the backrooms, and councils are continuing to cling to cloak-and-dagger old-school boardroom politics,” he told reporters.

And when a complaint is lodged  does council “shop” the investigation to someone or call on the Ombudsman to investigate?

Of the 444 municipalities in the province, only 191 have agreed to ombudsman oversight. Sudbury dropped out after Marin took council there to task publicly for secret meetings.

Solution: Springwater Township and County of Simcoe politicians must have the Ontario Ombudsman investigate: no one else.

Does basic responsible government exist in Springwater Township nowadays?

August 1, 2013

I and others have warned that the suspension of basic democratic rights seems to be escalating.

Springwater MayorAndCouncil

(l to r) Perry Ritchie, Dan Clement, Dan McLean, Linda Collins, Rick Webster, Sandy McConkey, Jack Hanna

In the Editor’s Musings in the August 1, 2013 edition of the Springwater News:

There have been some unexpected fumbling at the Springwater Council meetings. Dan McLean asked for an apology and when he did not get it, the mayor asked one of the councillors to leave.

When one reads the Municipal Act, it would appear that if one member of councillor is upset at another, you go to the Ombudsman for a ruling. Nowhere could I find does it say that the Mayor can eject one councillor at the willingness of another.

The Mayor of Midland suggest that Linda Collins can not demand a councillor leave the chamber. he said that a councillor is elected to duly represent the people so by ejecting a councillor, democracy was not being served.

Another former councillor said he once called the Mayor a piece of –(manure)– knowing full well there is no power with the Mayor to be able to eject him.

If that power did exist within council, think of the scenario. A few members of council want to pass a motion but they know they do not have the support. All one has to do is to complain about 2 or 3 of the council members who possibly opposed the motion. When they would not apologize, the Mayor could boot them from the chambers. The opposition is gone,. The motion is passed.

One wonders why anyone on Council would create such a problem.

One wonders why there has been a breach of quorum that the Township’s hired Ombudsman had to report on.

One wonders if there is a member or two of council who has negated their chances of being re-elected.

One wonders why some members of council do not want other members to communicate (in the paper) with their constituents. Councillors in Barrie do it, members of parliament do it. it is called transparency.

Rick Webster, Perry Richie, Sandy McConkey and Jack Hanna have written articles for the Springwater News.

Assuming the editor knows who writes in his own very important, local news outlet, the following other members of Springwater Township council have not chosen to communicate with their voters via the paper: Mayor Linda Collins, Deputy Mayor Dan McLean and Councillor Ward 1 (Elmvale) Dan Clement.

There seems no end to the school yard drama.

Two questions about this distraction from the catastrophe that the Midhurst Secondary Plan (MSP) represents:

  1. Who are the few that benefit (now and future: $ and non-$ value) and
  2. The many that it costs (same)?

I seem to recall that Mayor Collins’ Council decided that a MSP cost/benefit analysis was not needed to protect the current and future taxpayers.

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