Toronto Star: Brampton correct in calling in the Ontario Ombudsman to investigate development deal.

May 6, 2015

A $500-million development triggers a call for an independent investigation.

Andre Marin

Andre Marin to look into a controversial development deal.// TORONTO STAR

The province will have to agree but in today’s Toronto Star: Brampton city council is right to ask Ontario Ombudsman André Marin to investigate a controversial development

It was supposed to shine a light on Brampton’s murky business dealings, but a $269,000 report by a high-profile municipal lawyer has only generated more smoke.

Brampton residents, city council and Mayor Linda Jeffrey have every right to be outraged. Instead of supplying credible answers, lawyer George Rust-D’Eye’s report raised further questions about a controversial $500-million development deal, and about his own investigation.

Council was correct in unanimously voting to ask Ontario Ombudsman André Marin to launch an inquiry into the city’s procurements. Indeed, municipal leaders had little choice given what they were handed — a document repeatedly called a “whitewash” in Brampton’s council chambers on Monday.

As reported by the Star’s San Grewal, Rust-D’Eye exonerated city staff of any misconduct in a deal that had raised concern about how some developers were being treated. Council critics noted that he reached that finding through heavy reliance on claims made by the very staff he was investigating. That’s not good enough to maintain public confidence in the fairness of the process.

Concern was also expressed about Rust-D’Eye’s previous work for the law firm WeirFoulds, which was involved in the development deal’s initial stages. Rust-D’Eye said that connection did not pose a conflict of interest, since he hadn’t worked on this specific development file. But, according to WeirFoulds, he was head of the firm’s municipal law section at the time.

Even if Rust-D’Eye wasn’t technically in conflict, he should have known this connection might raise a troubling suspicion of potential bias — one that would likely undermine community trust in his findings. And that’s precisely what has happened.

Adding financial insult to the mix, the cost of his report was initially pegged at between $50,000 and $60,000. Rust-D’Eye said he worked as efficiently as he could and gave the public a break by charging less than his usual rate. Despite that, his analysis arrived with a bill to taxpayers of more than a quarter of a million dollars.

It’s a disappointing outcome on every level. But, to their credit, Brampton’s leaders aren’t abandoning their search for answers and have turned to Ontario’s ombudsman.

Mr. Marin, it’s your turn to shine the spotlight.

The Midhurst Secondary Plan has been estimated to be worth 80 times as much as the Brampton development.


Will any honest people bother to contest the 2014 Springwater Township election?

December 7, 2013

Or will they simply watch as Midhurst, Elmvale and the rest of the former Flos and Vespra township communities be destroyed?

Ayn Rand destroyer

Why?: The Ontario development industry likes the toothless Ontario Municipal Act too much. They want their interests (acting through a puppet majority) to deliver them the zoning for the land they want in south Simcoe County so they can have Springwater Township ask for a friendly annexation from Barrie.

And the raw land controllers (eg. the endangered forests Ministry of Natural Resources and  County of Simcoe and the blind ambition of the City of Barrie and the Premier’s office) will profit by looking the other way (see some of the institutional land holdings in south Springwater Township). Delivering these forests and green spaces helps top up any serving politician’s RRSPs.

  • See the colourful land areas below that we as citizens own but elected politicians control? When ownership is separated from control and those in control use self-interest and deceit, this defines the word “opportunism“. In a government setting, this is old-fashioned definition of the word “corruption”.

Springwater land use map

Springwater Park: This is how you establish $2-million estates on the park’s ponds and give the township, county, City of Barrie and province a big chunk of land for their administrative mausoleums. See Map 1 as to what our past, current and (likely) future politicians get from re-zoning the former tree seedling compartments south of Highway 26 inside the park to “Administration/Government” (blue areas) 

Map 1

(see the blue areas within the green and tan “Environmental Protection I and II” areas?)

Land use cropped  1

Map 2

(carving up Springwater Park since 2008)

Map 3

(the grey rectangles just above the “A”: lots more building, lots less trees)

Springwater Park and provincial forest lands

Source:

No wonder it took some time to validate the clearly illegal Midhurst Secondary Plan: the county needed their vig. Corrupting the Midhurst ratepayers’ leadership would come some time later.

Cross-posted on SpringwaterParkcc.org.


Can municipal bylaws be used to SLAPP an elected official’s fundamental rights and freedom away?

December 7, 2013

Yes and when it is done, every constituent’s democratic rights are degraded.

Andrea Horwath

Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath was the first to table a bill aimed at banning SLAPPs, dubious lawsuits often brought by deep-pocketed companies with the specific aim of silencing resource-poor defendants.

A “corrupt” municipal government could pass a bylaw, say, making it an offense punishable of a $10 fine to go to talk to the media.

Initially, a “rogue” councillor would object privately but be liable for fines and then contempt of court charges if they refuse to pay the nominal fines on the original, “trumped up” offence..

In any case it would cost the councillor many thousands of dollars to have a lawyer argue his case at the Superior Court and Appeal Court level.

Of course, a councillor makes only a very modest, part-time salary and would be risking their entire net worth in a bitter fight with multi-million $ corporate interest. This is where the rogue councillor self-censures themselves.

This lack of anti-SLAPP legislation makes this a very real situation for every elected Ontario politician.

An opinion article by representatives from the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, Centre for Law and Democracy, Greenpeace Canada and Fundamental Freedoms Program of the Canadian Civil Liberties. Association.


What signal has Toronto mayor Rob Ford sent to all the “corrupt” Ontario municipalities and their public and private supporters?

December 7, 2013

If Big Money has taken over from representative democracy, the provincial government will not step in.

Rob ford

This makes the developers, publicly-owned (eg. Ministry of Natural Resources, Ontario Parks, County of Simcoe, Township of Springwater, Canada) and privately-owned land speculators in south Simcoe County, smile.

Marshall McLuhanOnly puny secrets need protection. Big discoveries are protected by public incredulity. Marshall McLuhan


Ratepayer says Springwater Township council “not representative of people”

June 20, 2013

Fully, “democracy is under contempt with this council” and deserves police investigation.

Springwater Township

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

The full letter to AWARE Simcoe by Joe Shocrylas :

I am following the continual disregard that Mayor Collins and her Council displays to her electorate with regard to the unbridled expansionary plans they have for us in Midhurst and Centre Vespra.

Democracy in the distant past was described by leaders that were elected to essentially implement the wishes of the people. This Council appears to have no regard for that. They are heavily pro-development and seem to have no regard for those of us that care for quality of living and the environment.

It really occurs to many of us that the entire process has been corrupt, and not properly held up for public scrutiny, or debate. Why hasn’t a referendum been called?

I feel Council is definitely not representative of the people and deserves a full investigation by a higher power such as the RCMP. Why is there such a hurry to rush through with process?

Democracy is under contempt with this Council.

Sincerely,

Joe Shocrylas


Who is guarding the guardians: Big time corruption in secrecy-heavy, backwater towns.

December 13, 2012

Shakedown for 50% of a company revealed by a  Radio-Canada TV and the Toronto Star joint investigation.

Tom Miller

Tom Miller, the former chief administrative officer of Lamont, Alta., is approached by the Star and Radio-Canada with questions about an alleged kickback scheme. He refused to answer questions. The allegations, which have not been proved in court, are the subject of lawsuits and an RCMP investigation.

Click here for video.

Julian Sher writes in today’s Toronto Star: Intrigue in the oilpatch: Quebec builder who hoped to cash in on Alberta’s oil boom caught in mulitimillion-dollar controversy involving alleged shakedowns, secret recordings and revenge:

Like many Quebec construction developers, Gilles Filiatreault is no stranger to kickbacks and extortion.

But he never expected to find trouble in a small town in Alberta’s industrial heartland eager to cash in on the riches of the oilpatch boom.

Now Filiatreault finds himself embroiled in a multimillion-dollar controversy involving clandestine recordings of alleged shakedowns and revenge, an ongoing RCMP criminal inquiry and a secretive town council forced to call on the province to investigate its activities.

A joint investigation by the Toronto Star and the Radio-Canada TV program Enquête into one Alberta community raises wider questions about transparency in small towns across Canada, where there is often little oversight into how and why money is managed and spent.

Excessive secrecy is well-known flag for wrongdoing.

“More often than not, we don’t know what is going on in these small towns,” says Jim Lightbody, chair of the University of Alberta’s department of political science and an expert in municipal politics. “It’s only when someone’s ox is gored that it becomes public.”

Still, a review of the minutes of town council meetings in recent months shows there are regular sessions behind closed doors in Lamont to discuss “personnel and property” issues — a secrecy that is allowed under provincial legislation, which critics say is open to abuse.

“The problem is that everything city hall does is personnel and land,” says the University of Alberta’s Lightbody. “These small town councils are so used to doing everything in private. Who is guarding the bloody guardians?”

A provincial government investigation into corruption:

Two days later, (Nov. 17, 2011) another secret council meeting — this one lasting almost two hours — concluded with the announcement that the town had requested the provincial Municipal Affairs department inspect “any matters connected with the management, administration and operations immediately.”

“If a town makes the request, something is really amiss,” says municipal affairs expert Jim Lightbody. “That means the problem is really out of hand — the cow pie is on the fan.”

And Mayor Bill Skinner denies former town manager Tom Miller was fired over kickback allegations.

Many believe there are way too many in camera sessions in Simcoe county area municipal governments.


Montreal mayor Gerald Tremblay

October 2, 2012


Aislin, The Montreal Gazette, October 3, 2012


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