More Ontario municipal conflicts of interest allegations involving politicians taking care of their corporate friends.

November 24, 2014

The publics’ tolerance for the  way corporations influence politicians is changing. At least for the dumb and dumber varieties.

As fords

A good story from CBC.ca drawing in my old franchising friend, Canada Bread and Maple Leaf Foods and wastewater, is called As Fords exit mayor’s office, conflict probes intensify:

The proposed fee hike would have raised Maple Leaf’s wastewater surcharges by between 35 and 75 per cent, according to city estimates, potentially representing a total yearly increase of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Both Ford brothers voted against, helping defeat the proposal 22-18.

Coun. Mike Layton, who was pushing for the fee hikes, said it would have been straightforward for the Fords to declare an interest without complicating council’s deliberations.

“You declare a conflict of interest, you leave the room for that vote, and no one pays any attention to it,” he said in an interview. “It’s not rocket science.”

As usual, it is the single voice that sounds the alarm.

The third complaint, a court action under Ontario’s Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, alleges the Fords voted on and tried to influence agenda items at City Hall affecting their company, Deco Labels, and some of its customers. Even with Doug soon to be out of office and Rob in a lesser role, the civic activist who brought the case said her plan is to “see it to its end.”

“The vagaries of an election don’t give you a pass for past behaviour,” said Jude MacDonald, who noted the stakes are high: She’s asking the judge to ban both Fords from holding municipal elected office for the maximum seven years.

And one of the Fords wants to be the Ontario tory leader?

 


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.


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


Is Linda Collins’s Springwater Township administration any less toxic to us than Mayor Rob Ford is to Toronto?

November 16, 2013

No: what she is doing is worse, if the first imperative of any government is its (1) continued survival as a legal entity and (2) delivering responsible government.

Rob Ford Toronto

Despite Mayor Ford’s shortcomings, no one had dreamed that he could destroy The Corporation of the City of Toronto. This is precisely what Mayor Linda Collins is doing; either intentionally or unintentionally. Destroying via bankruptcy or annexation an independent legal entity called “The Township of Springwater”.

If the current administration continues to refuse to cancel the Midhurst Secondary Plan and related sprawl which will result in the township’s death by annexation to Barrie/imminent bankruptcy, then Premier Kathleen Wynne should immediately place Springwater Township under 3rd party management as a first step toward investigating the events that have lead us to this fundamental failure of representative government.

If Mayor Collins and Deputy Mayor McLean refuse to invite the Province of Ontario to assume administrative control of Springwater Township, each councillor should resign and re-run in the next municipal election if they want to. Currently the five councillors are enabling what may prove to be a corrupted municipal institution and may be judged in the future of knowing or having reasonable grounds to know of this breach of democracy.

The five councillors should contact the Premier’s office, ask her to give them the powers to stop all development and provide testimony to an inquiry.

Cross-posted on SpringwaterParkcc.org.


Almost half of the public believe politicians lie 50% of the time

December 19, 2011

Allan Gregg from Harris/Decima has some good advice for politicians today.

The Globe and Mail, Telling the naked truth is good politics:

Yet, it’s the truth and authenticity we crave, more than anything. Citizens have become saturated with authenticity in their day-to-day lives. Consider the explosion of technologies and the freedom and control they provide: We’re no longer limited to “banker’s hours,” can access video on demand and get breaking news in real time. TripAdvisor and Chowhound have replaced travel agents and restaurant critics, while Facebook and Twitter have increased the intimacy and immediacy of our connections with one another.

Feeling more knowledgeable, connected and in control of our personal lives has also directly reduced our reliance on authority. As a result, we have little incentive to uncritically swallow the claims of political leaders who don’t seem to understand our concerns, share our experiences or speak in a way we find authentic. Our political leaders have not only failed to adjust to this new reality, they also avoid honestly and directly engaging on our most pressing issues. And that’s what we desperately need.

Two recent CDN municipal examples:

And yet I believe that, in today’s environment, telling the naked truth can be good politics. How else do you explain a socially progressive Muslim being elected the mayor of Cowtown, and a leather-lunged know-nothing capturing the imagination of Canada’s cultural and intellectual epicentre?

It was the unapologetic uniqueness of Naheed Nenshi and Rob Ford that made them seem more authentic and believable. Even more remarkably, in both Calgary and Toronto, the percentage of eligible voters who went to the polls increased by almost two-thirds over the previous municipal election. In fact, low turnout is a rational voter response to choices that matter little. If politicians stand for nothing and avoid the truth, why would you bother voting? When politics is made to matter by politicians who represent an authentic alternative to the other available choices, the evidence suggests that voters engage.

 


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