Sunlight is the best Disinfectant.

December 28, 2013

The press has always been a check on government wrongheadedness.


With the internet, self-publishing on weblogs allows cheap, fast and very narrowly-focused coverage of municipal government. Their usefulness is why  there were 156 million of them by 2011.

There was some early attempts at gagging bloggers via lawsuits (SLAPPs) but that has been sorted out. The law and practical politics favours free speech, notwithstanding the impotent saber rattling and simple-minded fearmongering.

I have some experience with internet-based SLAPPs so am not easily intimidated:

  1. Tupperware dispute is no party, James Daw, The Toronto Star, September 18, 2004.
  2. Tussling with Tupperware, Andrew Mayeda, The Ottawa Citizen, September 28, 2004.
  3. Judge issues order in Tupperware dispute, John Saunders, The Globe and Mail, September 29, 2004.
  4. TupperWars- Revenge of the Courts, Owen Smigelski,, September 30, 2004.
  5. Tupperware to ask court to shut down critic’s website, John Saunders, The Globe and Mail, September 27, 2004.
  6. Distributors fight final bill, firm threatens suit over ‘untruths’ from plastics, Edmonton Journal, September 28, 2004.
  7. In court, distributors contend Tupperware is a franchise, Christine Selvaggi Baumann,, October 10, 2004.
  8. TupperWars Update, Owen Smigelski,,October 2004.

 — Louis Brandeis 1856 – 1941

Are the Midhurst Ratepayers’ Association and Environmental Defence either incompetent or co-opted financially as activists?

December 7, 2013

Was today’s event a bought-and-paid-for publicity stunt to increase the next Conservative candidate’s profile in new Barrie-Oro-Springwater (Midhurst) riding with the first federal election being in Oct 2015? MRA Nuttall Strachan1 Did money donated to the Midhurst Ratepayers’ Association, MRA and Environmental Defence Canada, EDC go toward the cost of this event or was the money from another source? Are either or both of them shills for a political party that represents pro-development or can any interest group buy their brand? I recall the MRA accusing the Township of Springwater for calling  short notice and scheduling information sessions at unbelievably difficult times for citizens to attend. They then said there were “extensive good faith consultations”. Who paid for the show today?

1. Extremely Short Notice: I received the bulk email from the MRA last night 11:18 pm (Dec 6th). That would have given me 13 hours to re-arrange my Saturday afternoon. Oddly, the  EDC media advisory also had a very short media fuse as well: out  Dec 6th.

And, to boot, the ED communique mentioned a federal MP (Mr. Patrick Brown Barrie) would be attending although (1) Midhurst is in the Simcoe-Grey riding (Hon. Dr. Kellie Leitch MP) and (2) growth and sprawl are a provincial not a federal jurisdiction. Shouldn’t Jim Wilson MPP Simcoe-Grey who is the 2nd most powerful Conservative in the Hudak caucus (or even Rod Jackson), be explaining growth issues to his own constituents?

I would have gone to it because I would have loved to ask some questions of David Strachan, president of the Midhurst Ratepayers’, Alex Nuttall, City of Barrie Ward 10 councillor (farthest south and east ward in Barrie, rumoured MP hopeful) and EDC. I believe I am a member in good standing and have contributed financially to both the MRA and EDC. 2. Missing Article: In fact, I wrote the only article about the Midhurst Secondary Plan for EDC at the request of their Claire Malcolmson. It was called Midhurst Secondary Plan: Village to grow 10 times? and was published on their weblog on February 13, 2012. When I tried clicking through on the URL that I had listed as a pdf this is the image that came up:

ED Search1

So as an author I no longer have access to the article? I also tried searching ED’s blog with the title and my name, but no luck. Click here for a pdf copy of the article or here for a post that I wrote called: Land speculation and other confidence games have always relied on human, February 14, 2012. David Donnelly 3. ED’s legal counsel is listed as David Donnelly.

He was Executive Director of Environmental Defence Canada from 1988 to 1996 in addition to having been  very involved in the Big Bay Point SLAPP situation as well as many ongoing First Nations issues.

The only federal issue that I am aware of that links Mrs. Brown, Strachan and Donnelly are the ladies at Springwater Park – Camp Nibi Cross-posted on

Les Stewart Gets Results!!

Dec 11, 2013 Update: To give credit where credit is due, Mr. Aidan Grove-White, Environmental Defence Canada, EDC contacted me directly and we had a very productive conversation. He promised to look into the misplaced weblog article and we discussed the lessons I’ve learned about being the subject of two SLAPPs (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)and the reason I resigned as president of the Midhurst Ratepayers’ Association (before Dr. Paul Fleming and the current Mr. David Strachan), and other local matters. Full marks for transparency and accountability to EDC and internet monitoring.

This is the only response to this specific post or these two related ones:

Geranium’s Friday Harbour Resort: A project thousands have worked to make a success.

October 1, 2012

“This is a project for all Ontarians. It’s a benefit to the province. That’s why we had to fight so hard,” Rumm said, and why so many “thousands” have worked to make the project a success.

Earl Rumm, at the site of the new Friday Harbour Resort – formerly Big Bay Point Resort, in Innisfil – on Friday, September 28, 2012. In background, work proceeds on widening the mouth of the new marina. MIRIAM KING/QMI AGENCY

In today’s Barrie Examiner, Friday Harbour mega-development digs in Word pdf:

Dateline Innisfil:

Earl Rumm’s dream of a resort on the shores of Lake Simcoe is another step closer to reality.

The head of Markham-based Geranium Corporation was showcasing Friday Harbour — known tentatively for 10 years during its creation as Big Bay Point resort — on Sept. 28 while backhoes dredged the mouth of the new 1,000 slip marina for the massive development.

A thank you for everyone involved:

“It was an idea that turned into a dream,” Rumm said on Friday. “The harder they (opponents of the resort) pushed us back, the harder Mario (Giampetre, of Geranium) and I dug in.”

He said he was prepared to drop the project “if it was economically not viable, if it environmentally was not viable, if engineering-wise it couldn’t happen, if planning-wise it couldn’t happen,” but not because “a group of people didn’t want this in their world. I wasn’t going to allow a small group to deter us.”

Now that the resort has passed all of the hurdles, Rumm thanked his former opponents for helping to make Friday Harbour an outstanding resort. “They drove us to make this great,” Rumm said. “They really helped us get to where we are today.”

Claire Malcolmson of Environmental Defence:

…said lawsuits she referred to as Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs) were filed by Geranium against opponents of the projects and were intended to intimidate people from speaking out on an issue of public interest. But all were withdrawn by the developer, dismissed by the court for inactivity or settled in favour of the defendant, she said, adding that none of the nine lawsuits ever made it to trial.

“SLAPPs dissuade well-meaning members of the public from pointing out the harm something will do to water, wildlife or natural spaces,” she said. “We have public processes so these voices can be heard, but people need to be able to participate freely.”

SLAPPs and the Big Bay Point controversy

April 10, 2012

Removing inefficiencies or destroying democracy?

Justice at the Supreme Court of Canada

You decide.

In the Februrary 26, 2008 Toronto Star article (Democracy suffers under barrage of strategic lawsuits), Rick Smith and Devon Page talk about SLAPPs:

This type of litigation could be characterized as Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (“SLAPP”) as the phenomenon has been recognized by some legislators and judges in the United States and British Columbia. An action which effectively silences any and all criticism.

According to the SLAPP Resource Centre at the University of Colorado, a “SLAPP” is a civil complaint or counterclaim filed against individuals or organizations arising from their communications to government or speech on an issue of public interest or concern.

SLAPPs often are brought by corporations, real estate developers, government officials and others against individuals and community groups who oppose them on issues of public concern. SLAPP filers frequently use lawsuits based on ordinary civil claims as a means of transforming public debate into lawsuits.

And further…

While most SLAPPs lose in court, they succeed in the public arena. This is because defending a SLAPP, even when the legal defence is strong, requires a substantial investment of money, time and resources. The resulting effect is a “chill” on public participation in, and open debate on, important public issues. This chilling effect is not limited to the SLAPP target(s): fearful of being the target of future litigation, others refrain from speaking on, or participating in, issues of public concern.

In this case, the focus of interest seems to be the Innisfil District Association.

SLAPPs were perfected in the franchise industry as a way of stopping criticism

April 5, 2012

Starting in 1986, McDonald’s U.K. didn’t like the pamphlets that two London Greenpeace activists were handing out.

The “McLibel case” was born.

McDonald’s Corporation v Steel & Morris [1997] EWHC QB 366, known as “the McLibel case” was an English lawsuit filed by McDonald’s Corporation against environmental activists Helen Steel and David Morris (often referred to as “The McLibel Two”) over a pamphlet critical of the company. The original case lasted ten years, making it the longest-running libel case in English history.

A feature-length documentary film, McLibel, was made about the case by Franny Armstrong.

Although McDonald’s won two hearings of the case in English courts, the partial nature of the victory, the David-vs-Goliath nature of the case, and the drawn-out litigation embarrassed the company. McDonald’s announced that it did not plan to collect the £40,000 award that it was awarded by the courts.

Following the decision, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled in Steel & Morris v United Kingdom that the pair had been denied a fair trial, in breach of Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights and that their conduct should have been protected by Article 10 of the Convention. The court awarded a judgment of £57,000 against the UK government.[3] McDonald’s itself was not involved in, or a party to, this action, as applications to the ECHR are independent cases filed against the relevant state. This judgement, given on 15 February 2005, represented the end of the pair’s 20-year battle with McDonald’s. Wikipedia

See McDonald’s legal casesChilling effect, SLAPP, Fast Food Nation.

From 1998 to 2001, I worked with a Sault Ste. Marie politician named Tony Martin. As an expert witness, founder of the Canadian Alliance of Franchise Operators and industry analyst we were successful in getting Ontario’s first franchise law: Arthur Wishart Act (Franchise Disclosure), 2000. The United States has had franchise industry-specific legislation since 1956.

Nationwide, business format franchising involves the control of 76,000 franchisees and $100 billion in retail sales (ON: 40,000, $40-50 billion). The franchise industry was (and largely still is), the “wild west of the business world”. I work as a consultant to Canadian independent franchisee associations, some of the time in pre-trial case preparation utilizing Wishart. I have been sued twice because of my work.

The Ontario Attorney General is considering enacting anti-SLAPP legislation. [2011 advisory report]

Certain real estate developers oppose this legislation.

Torstar daily newspaper calls Guelph development lawsuit strategic, if not a full SLAPP

February 27, 2012

Lawsuits against residents seems to be just a cost of doing business in Ontario’s municipal world.

On Sunday, the Guelph Mercury newspaper editorial, City lawsuit was strategic (Word pdf) said this about the recently dropped lawsuit:

…It was most definitely strategic. It came about amid a high stakes game of political football with a group that had significant support — albeit substantial opposition as well. If it wasn’t designed to limit public participation of a certain variety of protest, it certainly was delivered just before the five seemingly tireless activists in this matter — and several of their peers — pulled back on conspicuous advocacy efforts that might further delay development efforts at the site. Local radical activists suggested the action chilled them by the economic intimidation they perceived it to represent.

Increasingly, public money is being used for chilling citizens.

Behind closed doors at city hall, this legal action must be regarded as a winning play. For about $60,000 in legal fees, the municipality helped eliminate a pesky and very costly impediment to making progress on a pivotal civic economic development plan.

Attorney General John Gerretsen says the government is reviewing the Advisory Panel on Anti-SLAPP Legislation. Let’s hope the report is followed and isn’t derailed or diluted by the municipalities, developers, planning consultants, construction firms, real estate, and municipal law attorneys.

Torstar Corporation owns the Guelph Mercury as well as the Toronto Star which is Canada’s largest circulation daily newspaper.

City of Guelph and developer drops $5-million lawsuit against protestors

February 24, 2012

Let me get this straight:

Business park protesters Activists Will Dubois, Shabina Lafleur-Gangji, Matt Soltys, Sam Ansleis and Cailey Campbell speak to the media outside what was then the proposed Hanlon Creek Business Park site on Aug. 13, 2009. The City of Guelph has withdrawn a lawsuit filed against five park protesters. Guelph Mercury file photo

A lawsuit that benefits directly a single for-profit corporation is funded in an unlimited way by public taxes but the public is kept ignorant of the details because of the often-used reason/excuse “solicitor:client privilege”.

Who to believe in Rob O’Flanagan’s article,  City of Guelph drops lawsuit against business park protesters. Word pdf

A developer-responsive municipal government?:

Ward 2 Coun. Ian Findlay said that at the time the lawsuit was launched there had been some disruption the construction schedule at the business park. The protest was underway and the city’s contractor on the site had to withdraw its services.

“There were a lot of uncertainties as to the extent that the protest might take,” he said. “To protect the interests of not only the contractor, but the city’s interests as well, we did launch this lawsuit, that if any damage were to occur to the site or any delay in costs that we would be incurring, that we would have a mechanism for recovering those costs.”

Some protestors?:

In a Mercury column last week, activist Matt Soltys, an organizer of the Hanlon Creek Business Park occupation, characterized the lawsuit as a form of punishment.

“The city wanted to punish us with their lawsuit – after all, we made the city look terrible, and we set a Canadian precedent by winning an injunction that stopped construction,” he wrote. The protesters secured a limited injunction preventing work on the site until it could be determined if it was a habitat for the Jefferson salamander, an endangered species.

“But besides punishing us, the lawsuit was designed to scare away opposition to the business park,” Soltys further wrote, adding that the strategy worked. Opposition to the project ended and the land “has been ravaged.”

This explains why a new municipal government is EXACTLY the same as the old one: the municipal law bar and development communities are in the power (economic and information superiority).

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