Friday, January 29, 2010

Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics....
In Oshawa's case---Big Lies, Bigger Damn Lies, and Consultants Reports written to justify decisions already made.

City Hall said they had to demolish and re-build Council Chambers and City Hall "A" Wing because it had a leaking roof. Then they said that it was not handicapped accessible and then not energy efficient where they finally found a justification that they thought would stick. We were then told that the $25 Million demolition, rebuilding, and refurbishing of Rundle Tower would be paid for by energy savings at no cost to the taxpayer.

I have maintained that the project was an unneeded wastage of tax money. A leaking roof was a maintenance problem which is required for even brand new buildings, the accessibility issue is a minor renovation issue, and the energy inefficiency is a problem with every public building including Buckinghham Palace, Parliament Building, The Louve, The White House, etc. and will be the case of any recent construction in a few years as new standards and materials are developed.

The city, employs "hired gun" consultants, almost like the "expert" witnesses employed on both sides of a criminal trial, who will produce reports, or testimony in the case of expert witnesses, to support the "preconceived" positions of those paying the bills.

I know that energy efficient windows installed in my house may pay for themselves in "X" number of years but they would never pay for demolishing and rebuilding it as City Politicians claim of the expensive city hall project.

Without having access to all of the technical studies, I do have some common sense to apply and so I made some assumptions for the demolition and rebuilding of Council Chambers only and expect that the result would be the same on the entire project.

Suppose the Council Chambers cost as much to heat/cool as 100 homes. My house costs about $1500 to heat/cool per year so the Council Chambers would cost about $150,000 to heat and cool. Suppose the increased heating/cooling efficiency is an impossibly high 50%. The savings for heating/cooling the newly constructed $8 million council chambers would be $75,000 annually resulting in a cost savings of $75,000. At this rate it would take ($8M/$75,000) 107 years to pay off the construction costs with the energy savings not counting the debt charges on the money used to pay for the construction.

Now do you believe City Hall's Claim that energy savings will pay for the job? You don't? Me neither!

Now apply the same arguments to the complete project...the demolition and rebuilding of Council Chambers and "A" wing and the refurbishment of Rundle Tower at a cost somewhere around $25,000,000.

City Hall must think we're stupid!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Term Limits for Councillors

The following item is my Nov. 23, 2009 column “Eye on City Hall” published every Monday in Oshawa Durham Central Newspaper. I also host a 3 hour radio program under the same title every Monday from 6-9 pm. Both can be accessed at

This week I am going to focus on two ideas proposed by Councillor John Henry at a Committee Meeting this past week….Term Limits for City Politicians and his proposal to rectify the loss of local community representation due to City Council’s decision to adopt the City-wide general vote. Henry is suggesting that council appoint councilors as ward representatives in something he called "special interest" wards.

While the first proposal is outstanding, it will not get the support of council, and the second is ludicrous, but will probably be adopted by the next council elected in November, 2010.

The real question is why Councillor John Henry proposed these ideas knowing full well that neither has a hope in hell of succeeding. He is either naïve or just spouting wind proposing ideas that even he probably disagrees with.

Funny how things work in politics. So why would Henry do this?

The only criteria for election under the general vote is “high name recognition” and does not at all depend upon quality of input to city business or a high level of service to ward voters responsible for political success under the ward elections that are used in every large city in the country except for Vancouver which has Municipal Political Parties. These are illegal under Ontario Municipal Law. Funny that Oshawa City Council has abolished the system used virtually everywhere else and has adopted a system not used in any large city in the country. If Oshawa City Council’s system was best, wouldn’t it be widely used?

In requiring only high name recognition for political success and making every councillor a competitor for the same city wide vote, the general vote promotes a non-productive and dysfunctional city council. All councilors will backstab, bitch, bicker and grandstand to grab the press to enhance their name recognition. No councillor will support a good idea coming from a fellow councilor since they wouldn’t want to give any competitor a “leg-up” for the next election. So let’s use these ideas of the dynamics of a general vote council to see why Councillor John Henry would make his suggestions and why council would never support them leading up to an election.

Henry’s first idea is limiting councilors to 3 consecutive terms (12 years) for any single position on council. This idea is outstanding since we have 3 council members who have sat on city council in excess of 20 years and 9 of 11 councillors have sat for over 12 years. Wouldn’t it be useful to insure some turnover to bring vitality and fresh ideas to council? Term limits are not a new idea and are used with some frequency in Democracies around the world. Term limits guarantee that councils do not become dominated by senile“flat-earthers”

When the question came up for committee discussion, it was if the city council “truck” was stuck on the top of a manure pile…and you were asked to help push it off as city council drivers spun the wheels and shot it right back in your face. It’s time for city voters to reverse the spin!

All of the political “spin” was negative….but what would you expect. With the lucrative part time job on council, why would councilors vote themselves out of this windfall? It doesn’t matter what is best in producing vibrant leadership for the city. Opponents said, 1) in a democracy, no candidate should be denied the right to run for office, and, 2) turfing office holders out after 12 years would result in too many inexperienced members. They didn’t mention that shooting the idea full of holes would guarantee the positions of the council dinosaurs. Holy Cow…the most powerful politician in the world, the USA president is limited to 2 terms or 8 years and thus an inexperienced president is elected every 4 or 8 years….but inexperienced office holders are incapable in running Oshawa’s business? Get real!

In terms of democracy, I don’t know why politicians are so keenly jumping on this track when they failed to insure the most basic and fundamental democratic right in regards to the general vote plebiscite question, the right to be informed which Canada’s Supreme Court has indicated is a citizen’s basic right and a most basic requirement for democracy to function in Canada. They said it was not their responsibility to inform voters about the question. Ludicrous! What would be your reaction if your child failed a test because the teacher refused to teach the content of the test?

Politicians cannot tackle this question of term limits because of conflict of interest problems. The Ontario Municipal Act prohibits them from voting on issues in which they have a pecuniary interest. Now that the issue has arisen, I suggest that council must now hold a plebiscite on this question to let the people decide. The result would then be forwarded to the Provincial Government to encourage them to introduce legislation allowing term limits. The idea of term limits was discussed, but unfortunately not adopted, in government proceedings leading up to recently introduced revisions to the Municipal Elections Act.

The second idea introduced by Councillor John Henry would have politicians themselves divvying up the city and appointing themselves to their favoured wards. This goes against everything we believe in our representative democracy and also the chief rationale given by council for adopting the general vote. They said that ward voting led to councillor’s parochial views in only being interest and engaged in their own communities without taking a city-wide view, a red herring flouted by ward system opponents prior to 1985 when I brought ward politics to the city. I don’t know how new arenas downtown and in the north end, new firehalls in the developing parts of the north end, rebuilding and renovating city hall downtown, etc. squares with the idea of parochialism since these expenditures required majority council votes. Council then is unlikely to undermine the chief rationale they gave for changing the election system….they can’t very well appoint ward representatives now that they have just thrown them out.

And why would Councillor John Henry vote continually and on every question to throw out ward representation and want to return it now? With no ward responsibilities, Henry must realize that his workload will be substantially reduced as he won’t have to deal with any constituency problems and thus will be able to devote more time to his other endeavors.

The idea, though, is philosophically ludicrous. In a democracy, don’t voters directly elect their chosen politicians to represent their specific interests? It’s only in autocratic totalitarian police states that despots, dictators, fascists are appointed to look after the “people’s interest.” While city bylaw officers with police and locksmiths in tow raided UOIT student bedrooms rifling panty drawers for leasing documents might be close to these kinds of regimes, we’re not quite there yet!

So why would Councillor John Henry introduce these ideas to committee? He knew they wouldn’t fly. He also knew that none of his fellow general vote competitors on city council would support his or any other councillor’s good ideas.

Now the real question. Was John Henry really sincere about these ideas that he probably doesn’t support….or did he simply want to grab the press?

Good Ideas John…but no kudos from me! You just wanted the press!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Eye on City Hall

I am pleased to report that I have been asked to write a weekly newspaper column called "Eye on City Hall" to be published every Monday in the Oshawa/Durham Central newspaper. In addition, I have been asked to host an internet radio progam on the same topic which you can hear every Monday starting November 30 from 6 to 9 pm. My commentary will be interspersed with the regular top popular music that you can listen to anytime while working on your computer. If you don't get the newspaper, it can accessed at and the radio station can be accessed at

In both of these mediums, you will find Information, Analysis, Comment, and unfiltered opinion similar to the items you find on this website.

I shall continue to write on this blog as usual as time permits.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Letter to Minister regarding Review of Ontario Municipal Election Law

Hon. J. Watson,
Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing

Hon. D. McGuinty
Premier of Ontario

Mayor and Council,
c/o Oshawa City Clerk

Dear Sir:


I write to you once again regarding the general vote that Oshawa City Politicians have implemented for the election of our next municipal council.

This change was made following a convoluted plebescite question on the 2006 ballot in which the public were poorly informed. In point of fact, the Mayor publicly acknowledged at a Council Meeting that it was not the city's responsibility to provide voter information on this question, saying this was up to private individuals who felt strongly about the issue. This, as you know, is contrary to Municipal Election Law which prohibits 3rd party campaigns. Oshawa Politician's lack of interest in communicating basic details as to what the question meant, what difference it would make to voters, why a change was needed, and why the question was asked, and their failure to ask a straight-forward question certainly demonstrated 1) they were not interested in an informed voter result, and 2) they manipulated the question and the voters to get a desired result.

City politicians were able to implement this change unilaterally without review to any external body like the OMB because they kept their ward structure even though these will not be used for election purposes. Only changes to ward boundaries are appealable and so Oshawa kept its ward boundaries to avoid any external objective review of the change.

Federal Members of Parliament have an average constituency size of 107000 and serious consideration is being given to reducing this significantly with the introduction of up to 36 more seats across the country. Does it make any sense then, that Oshawa's Municipal Politicians should have constituency sizes of about 165,000 or 50% larger than those of our Present Federal Members of Parliament. For a government that is supposed to be closest to the people, this makes no sense at all and simply takes our local government farther away from the people than our Provincial and Federal reps.

In fact, as I have communicated to you in the past, this large constituency will make our local government less accountable, less representative, less responsive, less inclusive, and less democratic. The huge ballot will produce an impossible task for voters in making informed ballot choices. Name recognition rather than service to the public will be the chief prerequisite for election success. This, of course, will present huge benefits to the incumbents...which is the reason why they favour it. The general vote serves the politicians---not the ratepayers.

In my communications with you, I suggested 1) that ward elections should be mandated for cities in excess of 50,000, or 2) that municipal election law should be updated to allow for municipal political parties including fundraising/reporting provisions, as well as ballot party identification for party approved slates. As you know, municipal political parties, similar to Vancouver's, are necessary to allow the general vote to work in large cities if they are being allowed to implement that form of election. Democracy requires an informed public and Municipal Political Parties present the only way for citizens to become properly informed under such a system.

In communications with you, you assured me that reviews of legislation governing municipal elections were underway and further assured me that serious consideration would be given to reviewing this issue.

The deadline for information to get to Municipal Clerks is rapidly approaching for any legislative changes to be implemented in respect of the 2010 Municipal Elections and I ask you to postpone Oshawa's proposed change in voting system to the 2012 Elections if your department is unable to meet the presently mandated timelines.

Your action NOW is vitally needed to ensure a fair and democratic 2010 election process for Oshawa City Council.

I would appreciate feedback on the current state of review of the legislation affecting this very important question.

Bill Longworth,

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Position of Local Councillor should be wiped out!

The following story has been reprinted from Oshawa This Week

Oct 08, 2009 - 04:30 AM

By David Conway
Former Oshawa Regional Councillor

As an Oshawa taxpayer and presumably a municipal voter, you may recall the referendum in the 2006 municipal election regarding the choice to continue with the ward system or change to the general vote system in electing our councillors. It was worded in such a way that if you wanted to retain the ward system you had to vote "no" to the question.

It was clever on the part of councillors who wanted the general vote system and it worked, mainly because most voters do not like to take a negative approach to the polls and therefore are inclined to vote "yes" even though they may not realize it may be detrimental to their best interests.

Now voters will be going to the polls in 2010 to elect seven regional councillors and three local councillors on a city-wide "general" vote.

This brings me to my topic question -- if local councillors were elected to serve two wards each in addition to the individual wards served by regional councillors, and those wards are no longer significant, then why do we still need local councillors?

With a city-wide vote in place all seven regional councillors will be elected to serve the entire city. What, then, is the purpose in electing three additional councillors to do the same thing?

I remember when Bill Longworth worked so hard to bring the ward system to Oshawa that there was considerable opposition but eventually it was approved. With Regional council in existence at the time it was apparent that a regional councillor's work would have to be considered a full-time position.

This precluded anyone with a full-time job in their own careers from offering their services as councillors. For this reason, and I am sure I am correct in this, five positions were made available for "local councillors" who did not sit on regional council and could therefore serve on a "part-time" basis as most meetings were held in the evening hours.

That has now changed to the extent that local councillors are now basically "full-time" councillors and some meetings are now being held during daytime working hours. The intent to have local councillors serving on a "part-time" basis has been abandoned. The significant increase in pay to local councillors substantiates that statement as well as their claim that it was twice as much work to look after two wards so the pay increase was merited.

It would seem to me that there is now no basis for electing seven regional councillors and three local councillors in a "general" vote system when all that is needed is seven regional councillors who collectively will be looking after the needs of all citizens of Oshawa.

This result would not only mean a more streamlined and efficient City council but would save the taxpayers approximately $200,000 per year.

Since it is less than three months before potential candidates begin registering for the 2010 election, it is rather important that City council give some consideration to this issue at an early date.
David Conway is a former Oshawa councillor.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Gross Mismanagement of our City Business, Conflicts of Interest, and Adoption of the "At Large" Vote to Protect Politicans from Electoral Defeat

The following is a citizen letter sent to the mayor and council which appears on a recent Finance and Administration Committee Agenda. You can read the original copy of this letter by clicking the title above and see the news articles the writer refers to.

Sent: Wednesday, August 12,2009 12:30 PM
To : clerks

Subject: Fw: Tax Information

Attachments: Tax lnformation

Attached is a recently published article that should be forwarded to everyone on Council.

With respect to property taxes on a residential property assessed at $350,000, you will note that taxes in Vaughan, Markham and Mississauga are about the same in the $3,500 to $3,600 range. Toronto is lower.

Now let's turn to Oshawa, we are 106% HIGHER than Toronto, 68% HIGHER than
Vaunhan, 74% HIGHER than Markham and 73% HIGHER than Mississaum.

What is the secret to their substantially lower tax rates?? I believe it is primarily due to the fact they don't have the Oshawa Council managing their financial affairs.

I wonder if they purchase fancy and "showy" sports cars for their Mayor? How do you really think hard pressed taxpayers feel when they see or read about our Mayor driving around in his "fancy" new "wheels", while they are suffering financial hardships and paying excessive property taxes in the current very problematic economy?

Perhaps some recent negative newspaper articles may shed some light on this for you. If the Mayor is entitled to a vehicle, then by all means get him a new one at the appropriate time. That is not the issue - what is the issue here is why he would be authorized to purchase such a "showy" vehicle and set such a poor example in this economic environment? This is somewhat like "rubbing salt in a wound". Such a decision speaks volumes as to how you really care about how taxpayers
money is being spent. By the way, saying this "showy/fancy" purchase was made to show
support for GM and the Camero, which is to be constructed at the Oshawa plant, just doesn't cut it with me.

I wonder if the other municipalities in the GTA pay the educational expenses for Councillors - expenses for an elected politician who could very well be gone at the next election! How do taxpayers benefit from this? Councillors are not permanent high potential staff being trained for future executive level positions! If they wish to improve their education, I strongly feel they should pay for this themselves - after all, they are the only ones who benefit!

I would really like to see the related business case (cost/benefit analysis) presented to support approval of such expenses - if one actually exists.

A related area of concern is that I understand Council approved having hard pressed taxpayers absorb these costs - what we have here is Council approving expenses for the benefit of Councillors on this Council!!?? Isn't this commonly referred to as conflict of interest? In any event, I assume you must have checked with your
legal area to ensure this was, in fact, appropriate?

I could go on and on - and on and on - but what is the point - you just don't listen. The only thing that seems to get your attention is finding ways to get re-elected.

When challenged on taxation, the City of Oshawa normally responds by advising Oshawa is "in the higher range" of property taxation in the GTA. This is extremely misleading as well as completely inaccurate - and if you do this again, you will be challenged in an appropriate manner. Stop trying to hide the true facts - rather, do what you are getting paid to do by more effectively managing the City's financial affairs and reducing our property taxes so they are in line with the other areas mentioned above. Most important of all, stop wasting our hard earned tax dollars!

I have lived in Oshawa for nearly 4 years. I can assure you that if I had been aware of the excessive tax rates here, I never would have moved to this area. Oshawa sure doesn't deserve a "premium"!!

The numbers mentioned above and outlined in the attachment speak for themselves. There is something dramatically wrong in Oshawa. How do you people sleep at night or "look in the mirror" - the greatest test of all - and live with what you see?? If this was a private business, most if not all of you would be terminated.

Unfortunately, being "bullet proof' politicians, the only way we can get rid of you is to try to vote you out of office once every 4 years.

You are all pretty "cute" - somehow you have manipulated the voting process whereby local Ward representation will soon be gone at the next election and Councillors will have no specific accountability to taxpayers in the local Wards. What a great way to "hide in the bushes" and avoid accountability to taxpayers. I do not recall ever having had a chance to cast a vote on this change and I can assure you that I RESENT THIS CHANGE AND AM 100% OPPOSED TO IT !!

An extremely unhappy taxpayer
Ron Boulter

Editor's Comment...Do we need Oshawa City Council...Here is the dominant business decided at the last council meeting...and we pay a third of our high municipal taxes to discuss this kind of issue...City Council and the city administration should be disbanded because all significant business is done at the Regional Level. We could save a significant proportion of our tax dollars!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Why no upgrades to south Oshawa parks?
---It's a function of the

Jul 22, 2009 - 01:18 PM

To the editor:

Re: Two Oshawa parks to get millions in upgrades, July 19.

Upon reading Friday's article regarding provincial funding for park renovations in the City of Oshawa, I was slightly confused.

Why, when there are so many children who would benefit so thoroughly from a new park in the south of Oshawa, are millions of dollars being spent on upgrading parks in well-off areas of the city?

I would like to give Mayor John Gray and council members the benefit of the doubt given that I am not familiar with their politics.

Therefore, I will say that this must simply be an oversight.

For surely, had the city realized the socio-economic benefits of choosing a park in such a location, they would have outweighed the city's need for a tourism boost.

Once again, it just leaves me wondering, why?

Bonnita Herriott


Oshawa Speak's Editor's Comment:

Everyone in South Oshawa must know that the city has plans to demolish The Civic and Harmon Park Arenas and potentially Children's Arena replacing these south end and central arenas with the new facilities in Oshawa's north end. They have already demolished North Oshawa Arena depriving those children in the most densely populated part of Oshawa from their arena to match their planned deprivation to children in South Oshawa. This is to be expected under the General Vote since Council members expect lower voter turnouts in the older and often poorer sections of Oshawa and thus feel no need to service these areas. They put all of their investments in the richer and higher voter turnout areas neglecting the needs of children most in need.

Without ward representatives to fight for the rights of taxpayers in the South end, they will get shortchanged every time.

No city council member lived south of King Street during Oshawa's 7 term experiment with the General Vote prior to 1985 while 8 out of 15 council members lived in the old Ward Six North of Rossland while 3 out of 15 members lived in one polling subdivision of about 100 houses at the East end of Regent Drive.

Only the well-to-do areas get served under the general vote since that's where all politicians come from under that system. That's why the general vote is not used in any large city in Canada without the use of municipal political parties which are banned in Ontario.

A city is often defined by its deprived areas which is still often Oshawa's general reputation which we have yet to completely shed from the past.

The General Vote is widely used in the USA where every municipal jurisdiction is organized around Democratic and Republican Party Slates and Platforms which determine voter choices.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Oshawa's New City Center
Can't City Council Do Anything Right?

City Council irresponsibly destroyed these---

To give us this $17 million
Aluminum "Beer Can"
as the focal point of our City Square
surrounded by existing architectural treasures

Prepare to be amazed
as Oshawa becomes Canada's laughing stock!

if we aren't already...what with
a) Cullen Gardens Miniature purchase
b) Only large city in Canada to use the General Vote without political municipal political parties which are outlawed in Ontario
c) The gall to hold a plebiscite and keep the question secret from voters to avoid public debate and understanding of the issue
d) The highest property taxation in the GTA
e) Attempts to bar minors from purchasing spray paint and magic markers in a mistaken view that this will limit graffiti
f) Refusal to return Provincial Ombudsman documents and widespread distribution of these contrary to conditions by which the city was given the documents
g) Housing discrimination against College and University students
h) Discussions to demolish all existing older arenas except Donovan and replace them with new facilities in the North end thus depriving South end children from easily accessible arenas
i) A mayor who has publicly chastised councillors for refusing to implement 9% tax increases
j) Giant fee increases for the use of taxpayer owned recreational facilties that will insure the facilities are under utilized
k) A giant run up of public debt with the continual explanation that it will not impact on the tax rate (I'd like to know where the money comes from if not from taxpayers!)
l) A Mayor who claims the city is well positioned to be a leading growth center in Canada despite problems in the auto industry, record city unemployment, and record city debt
m) Discussions to sell public park space at give-away prices to developers
n) Rationale for destruction of public buildings is that they need repair or are energy inefficient---if all governing bodies used the same rationale, they would destroy the Parliament Buildings, the White House, Buckingham Palace and every other public building in the world. You would also destroy your house every time it needed a new roof!
o) City Council allowed destruction of the historic Rundle House which they featured on their Historic Walking Tours Brochure
p) Wastage of staff time and tax resources on such publications as Restaurants of the Downtown and the many other publications distributed widely simply to put out political messages at taxpayer expense
q) The Mayor and a staff delegation going to England for a week for the Sustainable Communities Contest to learn that Oshawa was the third best place of our size in the world in which to live---brag about that to your friends
r) The numbers of taxpayer paid political ads at Remembrance Day, Canada Day, Easter, Christmas, Labour Day, Valentines, etc.
s) The destruction of city council chambers and "A" wing without firm prices and designs for the replacement...also hiding giant expenses behind two city hall projects...the refurbishment of Rundle Tower ($10Mill) and the reconstruction of Council Chambers and "A" wing (presently $17Mill)....the only purpose of this giant expenditure was to provide larger and more palatial office space for the politicians!
t) A Mayor who calls some of his fellow council members "Stooges"
u) A council that is becoming increasingly dysfunctional and unproductive as it moves to the general vote where every incumbent will be opponents of every other council member
v) Oshawa's new downtown arena set to lose another $300,000 to be billed to the taxpayer
w) A Mayor arguing citizens must pay $1.50 per withdrawal for "the convenience" of having ABM's placed in public places...he believes everything should be a "profit center" for the damned the public interest
x) The city's use of an accounting system that is designed to hide the true costs of all projects since no master accounting ledger is used to track costs for any project and costs for individual projects are hidden across a myriad of ledger sheets with inadequate descriptors to obfuscate costs.
y) The city's wastage of countless tax dollars and staff time in preparing useless flyers, brochures, press releases, etc. and entering meaningless contests like the "Sustainable Communities" contest where every entrant is a winner
z) We could cite further examples of ineptitude ad nauseum

How will the "beer can" fit with these?

Click on following visual of buildings surrounding
"THE BEER CAN" for a larger view!