Friday, April 13, 2007

April 12, 2007 Letter to the Minister

If we are to think that democracy in Iraq or Afghanistan is an attainable goal - or even a goal at all - it would be best to see if we have a democracy at home right here in Oshawa first.

Dear Minister Gerretsen,
Ontario Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing

CC. To The Mayor and Council,
c/o Oshawa City Clerk

Local Press
Letters to Editor

I would ask the minister and his staff to review the video at the link This address to council resulted from my request on April 2,2007.

I would particularly ask that attention be given to the scrolling notes appearing at the beginning and end of the video to get a sense of what Oshawa City Council is trying to pull on the people.

In the case that is shown in the video, Council got caught up in their own petard...the staff recommendation that funding not be approved was written in the same convoluted style as the plebiscite question.

The staff recommentation put to council was "That the 2007 Partnership Grant from VOTES of $25,000 as outlined in Report ABCS-07-95 be denied as it does not meet all the criteria established within the Partnership Grant Policy."

In the case of the plebiscite, people had to vote NO to preserve ward voting and YES to reject it which confused many people...particularly as council refused to circulate any information about it and caught most voters "cold" in the voting booth where they were confronting the issue for the first time, never hearing any public debate or receiving information about the issue from council.

In the case of public funding for my VOTES group to do the communication job that council itself should have done, the confusing question put to council required them to vote YES to deny the funding and NO to provide it. Some councillors didn't understand the question (just like citizens on the plebiscite question) and voted the wrong way. They voted NO thinking they were denying funding. The way the question was worded, a NO vote supported extending funding to my group.

The result of the council confusion? While we have not yet received the funding, the item has been referred back to commitee and thus will have another day on the council floor.

The kind of plebiscite question council posed to the people who vote only every few years confused even the members of council who vote dozens of times at every meeting.

This is the same type of question that council members supporting the general vote still argue was straightforward, easy to understand, and not confusing. I wonder then why some council members were confused in voting on this question.

With the convoluted plebiscite question which confused the public along with the council strategy to refuse to provide public information or promote public dialogue and debate on the issue, I believe the plebiscite result should be declared completely invalid.

Since democracy absolutely requires an informed public, Oshawa City Council's refusal to deny public information signicantly flawed the whole process invalidating its result.

My request to you, Mr. Minister, is that your department should look into the shenanigans of Oshawa City Council and see whether the process they followed was fair and democratic and meets your approval as the way things should be done in this province.

I further ask, Mr. Minister, that you terminate Oshawa City Council's present actions to institute change to the general vote based on the unfairness of the process and direct them to put the question on the next municipal ballot if they so choose but only after promoting public debate and fully informing the public to insure an informed vote. I further request that your staff address Oshawa city politicians on organizing a fair and responsible plebiscite campaign to get a fair reflection of public opinion of the question asked.

In changing the rules to allow no citizen OMB appeal when municipal politicians act to change the voting system as long as they don't change the wards can result in politicans running roughshod over the electorate to change the electoral system to their own benefit...not the benefit of the people or the city.

I am sure this is an unanticipated problem that your ministry did not foresee when this kind of thing can happen in a large city of Oshawa which unfortunately is devoid of a daily press to inform the interested public.

If Toronto politicians tried to pull the same stunt, which would be difficult because of the strong press presence, I'm sure your ministry would intervene. I am asking you to do the same thing in Oshawa.

The council has proven itself to be irresponsible, undemocratic, and unprincipled and we need your intervention on behalf of the people of Oshawa.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. I look forward to seeing the kind of investigation and supervision of Oshawa's undemocratic process that your department carries out and to the kind of direction they get in terms of their responsibility as members of council to ethically uphold the benefits to the city of Oshawa and its people in all of their actions.

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