Political Analyst and Observer, Bill Longworth's, Weekly "Eye on City Hall" Columns, as published in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada's Oshawa Central Newspaper

Monday, August 23, 2010

Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive

“Eye on City Hall”

A column of Information, Analysis, Comment, and unfiltered opinion
Bill Longworth, City Hall Reporter
August 23, 2010

The inspiration for this column came from the cover picture on last week’s issue of the Central Newspaper. It pictured Mayoral Candidate Louise Parkes with the Istanbul Mayor, with whom she apparently had “exchanged ideas.”

The Central Newspaper Cover picture and caption were “lifted” from Louise Parkes’ Facebook Page where she had informed her facebook readers that she had met and discussed and exchanged ideas with the Istanbul Mayor.

This column addresses the practice of politicians, like Louise Parkes, and others who will be specifically addressed later in this column, of deceiving the public with a fragile and complex weaving of the truth, half truths, lies and lies of omission, in order to get the public to believe something other than the truth. Sometimes the web is weaved to make the politician seem more influential, important, and a “big shot” to their ardent supporters.

This was the thought I had when I first saw the picture and did a Google search of the Istanbul Mayor, something you can do for yourself. You’ll note clearly that the good-looking, slim, young guy with lots of hair, pictured with Parkes and whom she claims is the Mayor of Istanbul is not the same old balding guy that the internet pictures as the current Istanbul Mayor.

Is this a tangled and dishonest web of deception to “sell” Mayoral Candidate Parkes as more influential and important than she is? Next she’ll claim lunch with Barack Obama.

I can’t imagine the Mayor of Toronto or Vancouver or Montreal devoting part of his busy day to Oshawa Local City Councillor Parkes, never mind the mayor of Istanbul.

But dishonesty knows no bounds by someone impressed with their own importance. They may stop at nothing to deceive their followers into believing the same thing. Trouble is, dishonest politicians use the same practices in everything they do. If they’re dishonest in one circumstance, you can bet they’re dishonest in most others as a matter of everyday practice.

Parkes missed the special council meeting on the Goodman Retention Pond Beaver Cull and the word at the time was that she was on a special mission on behalf of the city to Europe. Now that sounds important!

As it turns out, she was part of a UOIT delegation supporting a “twinning project” they had established with a Turkish university. Why she was part of the delegation, or more importantly, who paid her travel expenses, is probably a good question that should be investigated. She does seem to do a lot of travelling and earlier in this council term had made a pitch for increased political office budgets to cover travel expenses.

For a politician that jumped with both feet onto the MBA funding issue for the political opportunism presented, only after it had been exposed by private citizens, it seems odd that she would try to increase her own “travel entitlements” at the behest of the taxpayer. It’s almost like the pot calling the kettle black! We’d think any politician who was awake at the switch would have blown the whistle when the MBA issue first came to council attention in the budget documents which she voted for. Perhaps Parkes’s jumping on the MBA issue was retribution for Cullen’s role in exposing Parkes for leaving a downtown restaurant without paying her bill which resulted in the firing of Cullen’s son’s girlfriend who was Parkes’ waitress.

Louise Parkes also voted, in every possible instance, against my attempts to inform Oshawa voters of the ward/general vote plebiscite issue, and obviously was one of the councillors who supported the entire “secrecy” strategy to avoid public knowledge, information, and debate about the issue, which would have raised public awareness before the plebiscite vote.

When I mounted a facebook page, Oshawa O’Neill Community, and made the statement, “Both your city councillors, John Henry and Louise Parkes, are supporting the general vote which will steal your community city council reps from you, and In the event of a problem in your neighborhood, there will be no politician directly responsible and accountable to you and your neighbors,” Parkes made the statement televised at council that this was threatening and slandering her.”

Parkes didn’t want the O’Neill Community to know that she wanted to rob them of their guaranteed representatives on City Council---Some Slander! Some Threat! Some accountability from the “slandered” councillor! She didn’t want her community to know her vote!

With giant hyperbole, at an all candidates forum held at Durham College for the 2006 Federal Election, Federal Liberal Candidate, and local city councillor, Louise Parkes made the incredulous claim that she was responsible for bringing huge Federal and Provincial and GM Grants to UOIT for the establishment of a R&D Automotive Engineering Programs and Facilities there.

She also claimed credit for bringing a new hotel/Conference Center to the downtown which has since fallen through, and claimed credit for bringing in Glyn Laverick as owner/operator of the Regent Theatre which failed miserably, and she was the chief architect of the $250,000 city purchase of the Cullen Miniatures fiasco, and the chief proponent of the city spending milions more to develop a site to host the miniatures.

Incidentally, Laverick, who also operated the Music Hall on Toronto’s Danforth Avenue went bankrupt last Thursday. Parkes has a way of picking out “real winners.”

With a record like this, I think Oshawa would be better off without Louise Parkes in the political kitchen. She’d probably even turn a lunch with Barack Obama into another disaster.

Parkes is not alone in lying to or misleading the public.

Perhaps the biggest political lie of all time was Mayor John Gray’s pronouncement at the April 30, 2007 televised city council meeting, just prior to council voting to adapt the general vote. He stated that city council had no responsibility to inform the public about the details of the plebiscite question---what it meant, why it was asked, what difference it would make, why a change was needed, etc. He said the communication responsibility was that of the public who should organize and fundraise to run an information campaign if they felt strongly about the matter.

Amazing!!!! City Hall asks a question....and then the mayor says its the public's responsibility to inform everyone about it. Incredulous!

John Gray knew that informal third party citizen campaigns were illegal according to section 39 and 82 of the Ontario Municipal Elections Act. He also knew that section 39(8) of the same Act gave municipality’s unfettered spending ability to inform their voters about plebiscite questions. He would also have known that an accurate measure of voter opinion required an informed public. Because Council failed to inform the public, and promote public discourse and discussion on the issue, they showed they didn’t care.

Instead, council knew the result they wanted and fooled voters with a trick question designed to get the result they wanted---the General Vote which protected incumbent’s seats for life, if past Oshawa history with the General Vote is any indication.

John Gray’s sense of democracy is more like Stalin’s or Mussolini’s when Canada’s Supreme Court has ruled regularly that an informed public is a vital and necessary component of democratic rule.

In that same televised April 30, 2007 council meeting, Councillor Joe Kolodzie said he’d never heard of a government informing the public about a plebiscite question. That, shortly after the Ontario Government spent over $6 million informing the Ontario public about their own electoral reform question on the last Provincial ballot. Even then, the Commissioner of Elections was concerned that not enough money was spent to adequately inform the public.

In a press report following the plebiscite vote, Councilor Pidwerbecki stated that Oshawa needed a change because it was just getting too large for the general vote. What misinformation spouted by a 20+ year veteran councillor. He knew exactly the opposite was true. The bigger the municipality, the more it needs to be broken down into wards.

As an aside, Professor Andrew Sancton, the most respected expert on Municipal Governance in Canada, was in Oshawa a week ago, and stated without reservation that city council was absolutely wrong to impose the General Vote on a city the size of Oshawa.

For some, the position defines their identity. When Councillor Parkes mistakenly addressed Mayor John Gray as Councillor Gray at a recent committee meeting that was videoed and went viral among local facebook readers, he indignantly exclaimed, “I’m the mayor!” He exclaimed the same thing to me just prior to the recent Mayoral Debate when I greeted him as “John.” As a former part time bookkeeper, I guess John needs his fragile vision of self importance re-supported regularly by the “Mayor” or “Your Worship” titles, the same way Parkes reinforces her vision of glory and self importance from the people she’s said she’s met.

Is there no room for honesty, integrity, accountability, common sense and good old fashioned values in Oshawa City Politics?

Be sure to follow Bill’s radio broadcasts, “Eye on City Hall”,
every Monday, 6-9 pm EST, on http://www.ocentral.com/thewave/

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