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

Monday, December 27, 2010

Council Resolutions for the New Year...Do they have any?

“Eye on City Hall”

A column of Information, Analysis, Comment, and unfiltered opinion
reprinted from Oshawa Central Newspaper

Bill Longworth, City Hall Reporter
December 27, 2010

When Mayor John Henry got elected on October 25, 2010, just about two months ago, stealing a line from Barack Obama, he brazenly promised us 100 days of action.

So far we’ve had 60 days of inaction and so the Mayor better get on his high horse and whip up some action to avoid disappointing Oshawa voters. He’s only got 40 days left of those 100 days and so far not a damn thing has happened!

Shortly after the election, Henry stated, “This city is poised for greatness and I’m excited to get started.” For a guy anxious to get started, he sure is slow off the mark.

He said Council was going to start to work on a vision statement once the term of council got underway. With those sixty days already gone, we haven’t heard anything more about the city vision statement. So far city council seems leaderless and rudderless. Hopefully there is more to Henry’s leadership than a few glibly uttered quickly forgotten words.

In Toronto, the new Mayor Rob Ford, whether you like him or not, has gone about business like a bull in a china shop.

In the first few days of his mandate, he announced expense account cuts for city councillors, announced a cancellation of the vehicle registration tax saving Toronto taxpayers $60M, announced initiatives to declare the TTC an essential service to prohibit employee strikes, filled all of the committee chairs with his chosen appointees, scrapped Metrolinks “Transit City” plans for street level light rail transit lines in favour of subways and elevated transit lines...and all of this was done within days of assuming office.

In Oshawa, committee chairs/vice chairs were decided at a private meeting convened by Nancy Diamond in return for block voting for Roger Anderson as Regional Chair as speculated in one of my recent Central columns.

In the only bit of Council business in these first 60 days, city council on a motion by Nancy Diamond voted to receive and file Mayor John Henry’s only initiative so far, that was to assign city wide councillors to ward responsibilities...a deft sleight of hand by Henry who voted to remove ward councillors with his consistent support for the general vote and the election of city-wide councillors.

It’s amazing that council utterly rejected Henry’s first and only initiative in these first 60 days, when he had promised to move the earth and the sky during his first 100 days in office.

So much for empty words....hopefully we’ll get some action soon or Oshawa is in for a very long and fruitless four year council term.

Henry did not really present a platform in the election campaign but did give some vague statements about respect for voters, transparency, spending restraint, and keeping a firm hold on taxation.

He has yet to present any real vision for the direction he wants to take this city. Guess he’s just going to have the city drift along with the wind.

In terms of respect for taxpayers, there have been many reports of him failing to reply to telephone calls, emails and text messages sent to him....all things he seemed quite diligent about prior to his election as Mayor. Maybe now that he has reached the pinnacle of his political career, he feels he can disregard communication with the voters.

In terms of holding the line on taxation, John Henry was vocal in attacking fellow Regional Councillors who didn’t support 8% increases in water and sewer rates.

With this flagrant disregard for the principles he espoused leading up to his election, I shudder to think about city tax increases resulting from the city budget council will approve in February.

Henry has made so little impact as Mayor of Oshawa that Durham Region Chair, Roger Anderson, in a recent Freudian slip mistakenly referred to Councillor Nancy Diamond as Mayor Diamond, perhaps in a not so subtle reference to Mayor John Henry’s weak leadership.

Perhaps by way of a not so subtle editorial comment, some enterprising entrepreneur has started selling T shirts emblazoned “Shwatarded.”

And hell, I was hoping the election of our new council would start to change the reputation of this city!

May I wish all my readers a wonderful Christmas Season and a Healthy and Prosperous 2011.

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

Monday, December 20, 2010

“Government of the people, by the people, for the people"---Oh yeah!

“Eye on City Hall”

A column of Information, Analysis, Comment, and unfiltered opinion
reprinted from Oshawa Central Newspaper

Bill Longworth, City Hall Reporter
December 20, 2010

Everyone in the free world treasures the thought in Abraham Lincoln’s eloquent Gettysburg Address, “That Government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall (should) not perish from the earth,"

In looking out at our current world, though, it is easy to believe that Lincoln’s thought would have been more accurate had he deleted the descriptor “for the people” from his speech.

With the memories of police action in Toronto during the recent G20 summit in which police brutality was widely evident, with as yet, no serious discipline being meted out to those responsible, I came to think about two wildly competing ideas about our system of government and the contrasts with what we see all too often.

We have a government by the people for the people as those words would have us believe....but often upon the assumption of power, the high ideals of that famous statement often run off the rails.

Honesty is lost, deception is rife, and personal ambition and entitlements become the order of the day.

Too some extent we are seeing this in Oshawa with the promises by some politicians being discarded so early in this council term.

We are all familiar with the statement that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely which was first written in 1887 by Lord Acton who opposed Pope Pius IX’s 1870 promulgation of the doctrine of papal infallibility ultimately causing a split in the church.

Acton wrote, "I cannot accept your idea that we should judge Pope and King different from ordinary men with a presumption that they can do no wrong. If there is any presumption, it is the other way, against the holders of power, increasing as the power increases. Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority.

With some exceptions, the truth of those words seem to apply increasingly to the governing classes in this modern world.

In order to enjoy the perks of power, which in this modern age seems in every way to rob from the poor to give to the rich, and to some degree is creating a police state not so different from those we’ve been taught to despise.

Wikipedia describes a police state as one in which the government exercises rigid and repressive controls over the social, economic and political life of the population. A police state typically exhibits elements of totalitarianism and social control, and there is usually little or no distinction between the law and the exercise of political power by the executive.

The inhabitants of a police state experience restrictions on their mobility, and on their freedom to express or communicate political or other views, which are subject to police monitoring or enforcement.

Political control may be exerted by means of a secret police force which operates outside the boundaries normally imposed by a constitutional state.

As for the totalitarianism mentioned as a characteristic of a police state, how is that much different from the one man show being carved out by the current prime minister when even most of his cabinet ministers have to seek out permission of the PMO to utter a few words to the press.

And the definition given implies social control over mobility of people and political expression. Were these not witnessed by the corralling of citizens and the subsequent police thuggery over many of those corralled during the recent G20 summit? And weren’t all ”security” actions ultimately under the direction of the PMO?

The police state implies the use of Secret police, a police agency which operates in secrecy to protect the power and authority of a political regime or state.

Secret police forces are associated with authoritarian regimes, as they are, by definition, used to support the political power of an individual government or regime rather than upholding the common rule of law.

A police state???? Didn’t we have secret laws about arrests within 5 metres of the G20 perimeter fence and arrests for failing to produce personal identification to the police upon demand? And weren’t these police “secret” in that their faces were covered by eerie one way masks and many with their names and police numbers removed from their uniforms so they couldn’t be identified and thus could get away with illegal assaults in the name of ensuring the level of control demanded by the authorities? A police state indeed!

Instead of transparently enforcing the rule of law and being subject to public scrutiny as ordinary police agencies do, secret police organizations are specifically intended to operate beyond and above the law in order to suppress political dissent through clandestine acts of terror and intimidation . This sure sounds like many of the G20 policing actions to me.

Striking fear in the minds of its citizens is common to all authoritarian regimes. It has been ever thus and since time began, citizens have always had to work to keep authorities in check.

Citizen rebellion seems to be a growing trend in the free world and even in dictatorial regimes, citizen safety has been often discarded in favour of fighting for freedom.

Those in power in many quarters of the world use their public positions as much for their own benefits as well as for the benefits of the governed.

Even in these tough economic times with high number of job terminations, the tough times never seem to affect those in the public service. With 8-10% unemployment in the Province, the Provincial Government has recently announced a heavy hand to stamp out public servant’s golf and health club memberships and undocumented travel expenses.

Being at the top of the Provincial food chain, the Provincial Government is putting a clamp on public servant’s excesses but I’m wondering if they are now going to limit their own giant excesses at the public trough.

Entitlements are rampant at every level...The Regional “Entry by Invitation Only” Inaugural Meeting at which food fancies were undoubtedly served to the invitees at taxpayer expense is a classic example. Hell, food and refreshments are even served to Oshawa City Councillors at the 8 pm Council pee break while those footing the bill are left in the council chambers awaiting the return of the blessed.

At the Federal Level, even the Prime Ministership seems an entitlement to Stephen Harper. Why else would he proroque parliament when his party was about to lose a non-confidence vote? This action was against all democractic traditions of our parliamentary system.

Without proroguing parliament that first time, he wouldn’t have been able to do it the second time a year later so that his parliamentary responsibilities would not interfere with his enjoyment of the Olympics, which cost taxpayers $90,000 for return air flights alone, every time Harper decided to fly to Vancouver to see a hockey game.

If this is government of the people by the people and for the people, how come it is the office holders who enjoy themselves with all of the expensive perks and entitlements of office that we, the common citizen, are paying for at an average of $1.3M yearly for every MP and Senator, about $500M in total. Government for the people...for sure!

But hey....this travesty just doesn’t happen here. It happens everywhere no matter what the form of government. Rulers everywhere stash all the jewels of governing.

Look at the British Government that has served its people by tripling university tuitions to £9000 ($14250 Canadian) to keep all of the ordinary slobs from good education and good jobs thus retaining these for the snobbish monied class. After all, the class systems in Britain do have to be maintained to keep everyone in their place, as the Lords and Ladies do require “working people” to serve their every need.

No wonder this service of giant tuition fee increases for the people rustled up protests and riots among the working classes who see the actions of the politicians as keeping the “rude classes” in their place.

And then, just to rub salt in the wounds, Tuxedo Clad Prince Charles and his bejewelled, but less than prim and proper wife, the former Mrs. Camilla Parker Bowles, but now Princess of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall, Duchess of Rothesay and Countess of Chester took through the mobs in the streets in their Chauffered Vintage Rolls Royce to attend a Royal Variety Show at the Royal Palladium, a show no doubt paid for by ordinary taxpayers who no doubt were barred from attending the show.

Maybe Charles and Camilla drove through the jeering mobs just wanting to get a sympathetic idea of the plight of ordinary people. But hell, these ordinary people screaming “off with their heads” were so upset with the way the government “for the people” served them, Charles and Camilla were lucky to get out of there alive. They wouldn’t have in earlier ages. The vintage car though had windows smashed, doors kicked in and got splattered with paint bombs.

Probably for the first time in their lives, these privileged “royals” were reduced to fearful everybodies fearing for their futures just as most common folk do every day.

This ruffling of the Royal feathers reduced these haughty, contemptuous, and pretentious “royals,” used to burning through the common folk taxes to fund their every activity, from their pompous, aloof, and imperilous waves and smiles, through the bullet proof windows of their vintage Rolls, to the level of real people with real concerns confronting real people every day of their existence.

Yes there are risks associated with governing and we’re seeing this throughout Europe and America with its Tea Movement, and even in places like China where people’s voices are screaming, “We want a government to serve us.”

Perhaps that was the reason we had a record change in local government here in Oshawa...and City Council better pay attention!

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

Monday, December 13, 2010

Signs of the devolution of democracy and freedom surround us

“Eye on City Hall”

A column of Information, Analysis, Comment, and unfiltered opinion
reprinted from Oshawa Central Newspaper

Bill Longworth, City Hall Reporter
December 13, 2010

There are many attacks on our democracy and freedoms, these cherished rights won by countless struggles, countless persecutions, countless wars, and countless deaths going back over the centuries.

Democracy and freedom are devolving on many fronts at home at the very time our soldiers are fighting and dying, as they’ve done on many fronts, to bring these human rights to people as they’re doing in Afghanistan today.

All citizens have a responsibility to work to preserve our freedoms….to monitor the actions of governments at all levels….and to speak out when they feel the rights of Canadians are being compromised. Losses of freedom can come imperceptibly slowly causing disastrous results….and once lost, are hard to be regained. Just ask the East Germans and citizens of the other Eastern European Countries.

This was brought close to home once again by a group of Oshawa Citizens, led by Bill Steele, who wanted to watch the initiation meeting of Durham Regional Council last Wednesday.

The meeting was in the Regional Council Chambers, a public meeting in a publicly owned hall in which the public is ordinarily entitled to attend.

Steele and the other citizens were interested to watch the vote for Regional Chair, the most powerful regional position, which is appointed, rather than elected. They were also interested in viewing the votes for leadership of the various regional committees whose important role it is to perform the preliminary review, and hold hearings, and discussions in order to recommend action to Regional Council.

The Oshawa assemblage wanted to witness their elected representatives’ votes for Regional Chair since this is the same group that strongly and verbally supported John Mutton for Chair. They had also supported most elected Regional Politicians from Oshawa in anticipation of their support for Mutton.

They were gravelly disappointed as all Oshawa votes went to Anderson. He was even nominated by Oshawa Mayor, John Henry, for the job.

Henry had not previously disclosed his vote but probably felt compelled to vote Anderson for fear of alienating the powerful Nancy Diamond alliance who had met privately a few weeks ago divvying up Council Committee Chairmanships in return for their Anderson votes. There will probably be the same payoffs at the Regional Level for the Anderson supporters.

All of the foregoing just demonstrates the power of the backrooms despite all of the elected politicians campaigned on a promise of transparency and accountability. It’s amazing how politician’s personal ambitions interfere with promises they make to people during elections.

Steele, and the other Oshawa supporters, were denied entry to the “public” meeting. It is unclear at the time of writing whether there were “Standing Regional Policies” denying access to inaugural meetings, or whether special orders were given for this day because of the extraordinary interest generated by the “contested” run at the Regional Chair position by “outsider,” John Mutton, who ran an ambitious campaign to oust Roger Anderson. Anderson has served in the powerful position ever since being defeated as a Regional Councillor 13 years ago.

While visitors were barred from this Regional Meeting, they are entitled, subject to available space, to view Canada’s Federal Parliament from the public gallery.

Access to special meetings like the “Speech from the Throne, that signifies the opening of every new Parliamentary Session is denied even to Members of Parliament who must cluster in the small alcove just inside the Senate Doors, since by British tradition, the House of Lords is only accessible to the Nobility...or in Canada, those “nobles” so anointed as Senators. Maybe this inaugural Regional Meeting had that significance---and thus common folk were denied entry!

All citizens have a responsibility to work to preserve our freedoms….to monitor the actions of governments at all levels….and to speak out when they feel the rights of Canadians are being compromised. Losses of freedom can come imperceptibly slowly causing disastrous results….and once lost, are hard to be regained….and so we commend Bill Steele for his leadership on this.

News reports of the last week indicate several threats to other aspects of our freedoms and democracy which depend so much on access to information provided by investigative reporting of a free and independent press.

Recently, we had the wikileaks releases. None of the releases indicated any “top secret” information like weaponry or other strategic technology in development, or any military deployment or strategy secrets, or details on the existence of any spy networks, or any secret economic strategies potentially to be implemented to retain American worldwide economic dominance, etc. They did seem to release a lot of “name calling” much as you’d find around the office water cooler. While there were some embarrassments, there were no earth shattering revelations.

The inventory of documents were provided weeks in advance of their wikileaks.com release to The New York Times, Britain's Guardian, Der Spiegel in Germany, El Pais in Spain and France's Le Monde all of which participated in simultaneous publication of some of the more enlightening details of the “so called” secret communications.

Governments claim to operate with transparency and accountability and one of the main functions of newspapers is investigative reporting to insure this, and they are guaranteed “Freedom of the Press” to report fact and opinion to do just that. In this internet age, the journalistic freedom of fair comment and opinion has been extended by the courts to bloggers and other forms of online reporting.

Much of what has so far been released by wikileaks is far less damaging to governments than we find in major newspapers, magazines, or on television newscasts any day.

The media functions, in part, to ensure an informed public to allow us to retain our freedoms and control and keep the actions of government in check. Otherwise politicians and governments could run wild. Everywhere the press is muzzled, freedoms are lost.

And yet, wikileaks founder, Julian Assange, founder and spokesman for wikileaks, whose personal philosophy is in opposition to secrecy-based, authoritarian conspiracy governments, obviously, like you and I, and many in the conventional press, supports more openness and transparency of governments worldwide….he believes in freedom of the press, no censorship, and investigative reporting---not at all radical ideas.

The powerful, though, have now had him imprisoned without bail on trumped up charges for his apparent consensual sex in Sweden, the land of free love. Such is the price for his release of documents embarrassing to the American Government.

This co-operation of governments is striking in that governments oftentimes fail to co-operate on the return of suspected criminals for quite serious charges. I guess there are extra pressures to co-operate with governments that have been embarrassed.

Around the world, political prisoners are imprisoned for speaking out against authoritarian regimes.

Assange’s release of the documents is not near as radical as calls for his assassination like Republican Rep. Peter King of New York who stated that Assange should be charged and terminated under the Espionage Act, Sarah Palin who called him an anti-American operative with blood on his hands, and past Republican Presidential Candidate Mike Huckabee who called for him to be tried for treason and executed, and former Top Aide to Stephen Harper, Tom Flanagan, who called for his assassination on a CBC political talk show in which he said, President Obama should take out a contract on Assange.

One outraged Canadian citizen flew off an email to Flanagan objecting to his remarks at which Flanagan’s immediate email response was, “Better be careful. We know where you live”.

Maybe this kind of communication is acceptable from a Prime Minister who prorogues Parliament when he is in danger of losing control or when Parliament would endanger his enjoyment of the Olympics. But I figure Parliament is a place that serves us and represents Canada’s values, neither of which were shown by these actions by Harper or Flanagan.

In term of citizen’s freedoms, the US has even threatened government job loss to those who read the wikileaks documents.

All of these government actions threaten our freedoms and our democracy and we all have to be diligent in protecting our hard won rights at every turn. Societies have suffered where their rights have been compromised.

A most serious challenge to our rights was confirmed this past week by Ontario Ombudsman, Andre Marin, who released his report entitled “Caught in the Act” regarding policing violence during the G20 summit. Marin exposed what he called “the most massive compromise of civil liberties in Canadian History” and which he further defined as “likely unconstitutional.”

While the Premier hardlined initially on the police actions, after the media reporters wrote what most of us knew from the outset, the Premier belatedly admitted that the G20 law he invoked was not likely in keeping with the balance of public safety and freedom of expression that he would want to strike. Let’s hope not, as the policing thuggery and the high profile world wide television coverage gave Canada a black eye that will take a long time to erase. And Canada is not alone in the "free world" in actions of police brutality.

And then we got the largely incorrect election backroom musings by the Oshawa Newspapers about their election choices which would best serve their city advertising revenues. While their backroom musings were hugely wrong in terms of politicians actually chosen by the people, they did, in all likelihood, tilt the balance towards those elected. Their role in the election was undemocratic and wrong---their unbalanced and biased reporting worked to influence public opinion rather than doing polling to report on public opinion which is the approach of all professional news organizations.

Newspapers which take this approach miss the important historic role of journalism by being simply propagandists for the politicians. Such reporting is a danger to democracy which depends upon an accurately and fairly informed public.

But hey, there’s still a twinkling of democracy here in Oshawa. Council in its first meeting turned down John Henry’s idea of assigning politicians to wards in something Henry defined as a “Community of Interest,” an action contrary to every principle of democracy we know, the right of voters to choose their own representatives. Hopefully Henry’s idea is now trashed and confined to the dumpster where it belonged.

And hopefully Mayor John Henry has brighter ideas to advance for the governing of Oshawa in the future.

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

Monday, December 6, 2010

You broke the election system….now fix it right!

“Eye on City Hall”

A column of Information, Analysis, Comment, and unfiltered opinion
Bill Longworth, City Hall Reporter
December 6, 2010

On Monday, December 6, at the first council meeting of the new term, city council will be considering John Henry’s idea to introduce a concept he calls “community of interest” to assign councillors to look after constituency concerns of the various city neighbourhoods.

This is an attempt to distribute the constituency workload among the various councillors and to make sure that every neighborhood has a voice at the council table.

In other words, Henry’s idea is to institute a plan to re-introduce the ward representation that he voted to eliminate.

This is a rather asinine suggestion not at all keeping with democratic principles of representative government whose basic principle is that voters determine their own representatives.

The idea of assigned representatives suggests a movement away from democracy and a move toward a system where the autocratic elite divide the spoils among themselves…they divvy up the political landscape in backroom deals and decide who is going to represent the people. This is wrong and the complete antithesis of everything we know about democracy. It is more like the warlords divvying up the spoils in Afghanistan, much of Asia and the Middle East, and many parts of Africa and South America.

We have not seen this kind of feudal governing in the free world since the bishops, on behalf of the people, wrested absolute power from the British Kings close to one thousand years ago with the signing of the Magna Carta.

The real question if John Henry wants to re-introduce the semblance of ward representation is why he voted to eliminate it in the first place? Does he only now realize that he made an error? Or was his vote, as a “still wet behind the ears” “green political pup” highly influenced by the Council power brokers like Gray, Pidwerbecki, and Kolodzie that he wanted to please? Did he not understand the issue? If he did, did he not have the honesty and integrity to vote for what he knew to be right?

He should have been paying more attention to my presentations to council where I identified all of the short comings that have since materialized. He was so disinterested in what I had to say, or indeed under pressure from the power brokers on council, that he voted every time to deny me opportunity to provide him and council additional information.

John Henry and his council bosses didn’t want to expose my damaging information to the public any more than they had to for fear of it upsetting the self-serving plans they had to introduce the system not used in any large city in the country.

And what is more, the city newspapers, probably also under the influence of city politicians, in fear of jeopardizing their handsome city hall advertising contracts, were irresponsible in not taking up the communication and information mantle abolished by city hall. The Oshawa Times, in contrast, a Thompson Newspaper Chain Daily, unfortunately shuttered due to a labour dispute in 1994, featured my battles for ward elections on their front page almost every day for four years.

In supporting the move to the general vote, Pidwerbecki suggested that ward voting meant that politicians were only interested in their own wards to the exclusion of all others. His other assertion was that Oshawa was “just too large for ward voting,” an abject insult to the intelligence of Oshawa voters.

The idea of parochial politicians is a red herring that has been floated about by the opponents of ward voting, mostly the CAW and CAW retirees, even prior to 1985 when I brought ward politics to the city with the work of my “Ward System Now” political action group. At that time, Cliff Pilkey, former city councillor, MPP, city resident, and president of the Ontario Federation of Labour, took out giant ads in the newspapers denouncing ward voting.

As former manager of NDP Leader, Ed Broadbent’s Oshawa Constituency Office, Pidwerbecki is now the chief city council spokesman for the Labour Movement and thus took a leading role, in strategizing Oshawa’s return to the General Vote.

The auto workers union and the union movement has traditionally been against ward voting since it divides their city wide union membership reducing CAW and CAW retirees influence in the running of this city.

If Pidwerbecki was right about parochialism of councillors, the general vote didn’t improve the problem. Rather, it gave the city a more unequal concentration of political power.

The recent elections produced 3 reps in each of wards 3 and 4, 2 reps in ward 6 (both in the same political polling subdivision), one rep each in wards 1, 5, and 7, and none in ward 2…too bad ward 2 and the other underserviced wards, you don’t have many votes representing your interests at the council table…but congratulations 3 and 4, according to Pidwerbecki, with your combined majority vote, you’ll have parochial politicians looking after your every whim, and each of you has as much power now as the combined power of more than half the city (4 out of 7 city wards).

For Henry to assign ward responsibility to councillors, because of the unequal representation elected, he will have to assign responsibility to some that is outside their residential communities. Of course, no matter how wards are assigned, you can never dismiss the fact that all politicians will be more in tune with the needs of their home communities and more interested in delivering service there.

A major problem with the assignment of wards is that politicians will not be accountable to the residents of the wards assigned. Politicians are only held accountable by the vote and are not held accountable to voters of any single community in a city wide vote. Even when ward responsibilities are assigned, politicians will still demonstrate more interest and expertise in their home communities, perhaps giving second class lip service to the assigned communities they are less interested in.

The bottom line is that, because of low voter turnout, the plebiscite result was not binding on council.

Nevertheless, council members argued that the vote had to be honoured as the “will of the people.”

Council failed to consider its very flawed plebiscite process that denied voters the opportunity to understand and debate the issue. They did not provide any documentation to households explaining the meaning of the question, what it would mean to voting and council representation in the city, or why the question was asked.

Worst of all, they schemed to catch voters “cold” in the voting booth with a question they didn’t understand, had never heard or considered, and worded in a difficult and convoluted way compelling voters to vote “NO” to retain a system they were happy with since no public concern had ever been publicly raised about ward voting.

In short, politicians asked an unnecessary question, and then rigged the question and the process to trick the people into voting for the system preferred by the politicians.

The question of an accurate measure of the “will of the people” is highly suspect. It is clear though, that if council wanted an accurate measure of that “will,” they would have insured an informed electorate. Because they failed to inform the people, they showed they didn’t care!

With council’s arguments to implement general elections as the expressed “will of the people,” it would now be extremely unethical for them to introduce John Henry’s assigned ward responsibilities as that is inconsistent with the reasons they forwarded for implementing the general vote.

Are they now going to reject what they adamantly called the “will of the people?”

Council must complete the present term under the election system they signed up for and they must honor any increased workload that results in representing the entire city. They argued before that citizens wanted to vote for all and be represented by all at council. It is too late to change the rules of the game.

John Henry’s ludicrous "community of interest" idea should be abandoned and council should mount a giant communication program to fully inform the people during this term. Following the information campaign, they should conduct an online poll, supplemented by mail in ballots for those who prefer, to get a true measure of the voting system the people want with a promise to introduce that system for the 2014 election.

The election system has to be fixed this term…and any attempts by John Henry or Council to postpone fixing the system with Henry’s plan which is rife with faulty logic and an affront to democracy will not serve this city well.

Henry’s system will only perpetuate the problems we’ve seen with Oshawa’s system of voting not used in any large city in the country.

Any attempt to assign political responsibility to communities misses the vital democratic components of choice of representation and political accountability to the represented group.

Don’t put off the problem…fix it now…and fix it right!

POSTSCRIPT---Thank goodness. Common sense prevailed and city council voted, on a motion from former Mayor Nancy Diamond, to receive and file the staff report seeking direction on Mayor John Henry's "Communities of Interest" Idea. This effectively puts an end to the idea. It is significant that Council did not support Henry's first leadership initiative as Mayor. Wonder what this forebodes in the future for Henry's leadership.

Hopefully a condensed form of this column sent to all council members on the morning of the vote and the full version of the column available to them by the time of the vote had some influence in their decision.

Now we just have to get council on board to organizing an information campaign and an online vote to get citizen approval for returning to ward voting for 2014.

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