Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Thank You Oshawa!!!

Visits to this site are growing exponentially. Thank you Oshawa! Be sure to email all of your Oshawa contacts the link to our site.

So many Oshawa voters are finally becoming informed about the Ward/General Vote issue and the politician’s unethical and irresponsible attempts to change to the General Vote. The only possible explanation for this is to insure their political futures as the change cannot be justified by any other rational or democratic reason.

As we have reported, Oshawa’s history with the General Vote is that all change from the time Durham Region was formed to the time we secured Ward Elections in 1985, took place through death or resignation of council members.

With the 4 year term, and politician’s Local & Regional pay (2 salaries), 1/3 of salary and all allowances income tax free, auto allowance, expense allowance, benefits package, pension, severance pay upon their defeat, and other perks including their blackberries and city charge cards, office expense budget, entertainment expense, use of the city box for GM Place events, Travel costs to international conferences, etc., etc., etc. approaching half a million dollars, it is little wonder that the politicians would risk their integrity by wanting to change to a system that insures them a lifetime seat. Oh Yeah!....almost forgot hidden salaries for non-jobs like city or regional committee chairmanships, vice-chairmanships, etc. and being city/regional rep on some organizations like CLOCA, etc. because it's a huge responsibility to chair a meeting from a staff prepared agenda. Big bucks are involved and they keep double/triple/quadruple dipping into the taxpayer pot. Big bucks, big,big bucks indeed!

Since no reasonable explanation has ever been offered why the question was brought up in council in the first place in the absence of any expressed public discontent with ward elections, we can only assume that the whole question was self-serving for the politicians. Politicians were more interested in serving themselves rather than providing good democratic government for this city.

To insure that they got a referendum result that produced their desired result, they kept the question quiet so that unaware voters were not able to discuss and consider the question before being caught “cold” in the voting booth. To make the question even more confusing, voters had to vote “NO” to maintain the system that had served Oshawa well and citizens were satisfied with. Oshawa Council stacked all the cards in their flavor!!! City politicians desperately want the General Vote to insure their political futures.

Ward elections are vastly superior. That is why they are used in virtually every city in Canada. There are a few small municipalities that retain the General Vote…but no city the size of Oshawa in Canada except for Vancouver which has a system of political parties and so people vote for a slate of candidates…quite a different system than Oshawa would have. In Vancouver, citizen’s vote along party lines very similar to Federal or Provincial elections where people vote mostly for a party because of its platform with the individual candidate being far less important.

So Oshawa voters would have to ask themselves again, why would Oshawa politicians want to move to a system that is virtually unused in the country. If the General Vote was better, wouldn’t the majority of cities be using it?

There is still time to stop this lunacy of council if enough people write to the mayor and council demanding the retention of the Ward System, the system that serves the people and not the politicians.

The address for your letters addressed to the Mayor and Council is found in the right sidebar or is highlighted below. Simply click on the address and your email “send box” should come up so you can easily write and send your message. Your letter doesn’t have to be long…just something like “I am a resident of Oshawa at (address) and I demand that Oshawa City Council retain Ward Voting and drop all plans to move to a General Vote.” If you found the question confusing, weren’t provided enough advance information about it, or didn’t understand the issue, or now realize you voted the wrong way to retain the present voting system, you could also make those points. Letters addressed to the Mayor and Council will find themselves on the council agenda and council will have to officially “move” and “second” to receive the communication.

Stay tuned for our hit list of those self-serving and irresponsible politicians who continue to push for the general vote. We continue to monitor council votes and will make a decision to target some politicians for defeat once the pertinent votes are taken at city council.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

A little Fun

As you know, Mayor John Gray issued a challenge to nightly TV host Steven Colbert regarding the recent Saginaw vs Oshawa Generals hockey game played in Michigan recently. It started at "Teddy Bear" night at Oshawa's GM place when Colbert made light of Oshawa fans throwing teddy bears to the ice on his TV show and suggested Saginaw fans should throw GM Annual Reports to the ice at their recent home game with the Generals. In response, Mayor Gray issued a challenge regarding the return game. He challenged Colbert to wear an Oshawa General's Jersey on his show if Oshawa beat Saginaw in the game. If Saginaw beat the Generals, then Mayor Gray offered to declare Steven Colbert Day in Oshawa. Oshawa lost 5-4 and here is the TV result as reported on Colbert's show. Enjoy this link re-published on the website.

The Issue In A Nutshell!

As you know, Oshawa City Council is attempting to change our municipal elections from WARD VOTE to the GENERAL VOTE. This would be a severe disservice to the growing vibrancy and people of Oshawa as it only serves to insure the election of the present politicians. The general vote serves the politicians but not the people of Oshawa.

Under Oshawa's last General Vote era (before 1985), only one politician had been defeated at the polls from the time of implementation of Regional Government when Cy Elsey, the perpetually top polling local councillor decided to run regionally and he defeated perpetually lowest polling Regional Councillor, John McLauglin. All other change took place through death or resignation.

In the first election under ward voting, half of the council was defeated...because under ward voting politicians themselves have to appeal to the people...and high name recognition necessary for a win under the general vote just doesn't "cut it" with the people in ward elections.

Politicians are only accountable in serving the people to the extent they can be defeated in elections. If they cannot be defeated, they end up not being accountable. Under the General Vote, politicians campaign and run across the entire city so that local community (ward) representation is lost. Because of the expense of elections, all of the politicians come to reside in just a few richer areas of the city leaving most parts unrepresented. Under the general vote, there is no one politician accountable to you and your community. The general vote makes all politicians responsible for everything. In such a system, no one ends up being responsible for anything and therefore nothing gets done.

This was why in the past Oshawa developed a bad reputation and no one wanted to reside here. Commuters would stop at Whitby or carry on to Bowmanville or Newcastle even though housing was cheaper in Oshawa. The only kind of development we could attract were co-ops and subsidized housing...and we don't want to return Oshawa to the sleepy undesirable past when little happened.

The resolution of the ward/general vote issue is the most important decision for the future of Oshawa that will happen over this term of Council. It was irresponsible of the last council, most of whom still sit on this council, to vote to put the issue on the ballot and then not arrange for significant debate and discussion and the circulation of information so that voters could make an informed choice. It was doubly irresponsible for the council to decide on a convoluted and complex question where you had to vote "NO" to preserve the present ward system.

It would be helpful in getting our message out if you would forward our addess, to all of your contacts in Oshawa. Also ask your friends who receive the message to pass it on in turn to their contacts If we all do a little bit, we can potentially and effectively get these communications out to most residents of Oshawa.

Monday, January 29, 2007

A Citizen Letter Reprinted from WardSystemOshawa blog

Reuben N. Roth
30 Connaught Street
Oshawa, ON
L1G 2G9
Tel: 905-579-6578

January 23, 2007

Dear Mayor and Councillors:

I’m writing in support of retaining Oshawa’s ward system of representation and against switching to a general citywide vote.

The turnout for last November’s vote was well under the 50% turnout needed for a binding referendum vote. This means that the results of the ward vs. general vote referendum in last November’s municipal election are not binding and council need not act on these referendum questions in any way. To do so in the face of low voter turnout is to ‘playact’ at democracy – but it isn’t democratic. Oshawa is a large municipality that’s growing – this alone is reason to maintain the Ward system.

If we’re to encourage voter turnout in future elections, we need to simplify the municipal/regional ballot. A general, citywide vote threatens to confuse and further alienate voters. Moreover, the questions were badly written and confusing. I found that I had to reread the two questions to fully grasp their meaning. Cynics might interpret this as a ‘tactic’ rather than an honest attempt to solicit voters’ views on an issue. Lastly, a citywide campaign is expensive and has the effect of ‘shutting out’ potential candidates due to cost factors alone. Favouring wealthy candidates with deep pockets is anathema in a city whose roots are unquestionably working class. One argument in favour of a system that eliminates ward councillors is that this system relies on name recognition and tips the scales heavily in favour of incumbents. Surely the optics of this alone are going to be detrimental to local politics. If it’s still alive in 2010, this issue will threaten to dominate the next municipal campaign and distract voters from the urgent issues of development, services, and the environment.

Reuben N. Roth, Ph.D.

CC: Oshawa This Week

Mr. Roth was a member of the Oshawa Public Library Board of Directors and is currently an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Laurentian University. What does it say about the wording of the referendum questions when Mr. Roth, a Professor with a Ph.D in Education and Sociology and one of the brightest individuals I have met, indicates that even he had problems reading and understanding the question?

Oshawa & Area Political Blogs

A number of "political" blogs have surfaced recently in response to issues and concerns in the area. Besides this blog,, which is a communication and information website that at present deals chiefly with Oshawa’s Ward/General Vote issue, we have earlier brought to your attention another blog at which deals with the same issue.

These efforts co-operate but are independent and not linked in any way. The blog is published by Bill Longworth, Chair and Founder of “Ward System Now”, the organization that worked over 5 years to bring the ward system to Oshawa in 1985. At that time, Mr. Longworth personally designed and presented the 21 day case including cross-examining city witnesses representing the politicians who wanted to preserve the General Voting system despite a plebiscite victory for the ward system. The plebiscite victory came after a 4 year campaign of almost daily stories in the local daily newspaper (since out of business) and local radio and TV media. The 21 day OMB case was the longest of its kind in Ontario history. At the time, Oshawa voters were exceedingly well informed about the issue, something that didn't happen this time as Oshawa politicians refused to act on my suggestion that information brochures be sent to all Oshawa residents.

Other important blogs that are available now are Clarington Watchdog which reports on items of Regional Interest and which deals with the issue of whether the Regional Chair should be appointed as at present or elected.

Links to all of these sites can be found on the sidebar to the right.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

I Feel Good!

Thanks for the title to the late James Brown…but a story with a completely different twist.

I’m just come back from my thrice-weekly workouts at Oshawa’s recently opened phenomenal multi activity Legends Centre and while there was inspired to think about the theme for this article.

The Legends Centre, the new recreational facility in the south end, and the GM Centre as well as renovations to the Donovan Complex are tributes to Oshawa’s recent entry to the recreational and development “big time” which has occurred under the leadership of an Oshawa Council elected under the ward system…a system that guarantees that politicians have to deliver services and these kinds of amenities to the people to insure their election.

The development of this kind of infrastructure contributes to the quality of life for all Oshawa Citizens, contributes to rising real estate prices by making Oshawa a more desirable place to live, and contributes to Oshawa’s economic growth through attracting frequent Province-wide hockey tournaments and “big name” entertainment presentations. As Oshawa is the highest income census area in Canada according to the 2005 income tax statistics, it is fitting that Oshawa citizens should finally start to enjoy these “quality of life” features that are available in every “large-size” community in the country.

The existence of these facilities also has “big time” payoffs for our economy and for our health care costs as healthy and in-shape people are likely to have less time off and spend less time under medical care. So money spent on these centers has far reaching repercussions to society at large.

Because the city has ward voting with politicians accountable to all of the areas of the city, these facilities are also spread across the city making them convenient for all no matter where you live.

The development that has taken place under Ward Elections contrasts sharply with General Vote Elections where politicians were not accountable to the people and got elected only by generating high name profiles at the expense of real service to the people. There were two “disasters” under Oshawa General Vote Councils that illustrated their inactivity and even refusal to provide “quality of life” amenities for the people.

The first illustration has to do with the old Oshawa Arena. Built largely from funding by Col. R.S. “Sam” McLaughlin and home to the Oshawa Generals, it burned to the ground on Sept. 15, 1953 causing the Generals OHA franchise to fold. Oshawa’s “General Vote” Council took no role in a rebuilding which was left to Civic minded citizens like Terry Kerry, Dick McLaughlin, Bill Kurelo, Chris Mason and Robt. Nicol to start a “Build Ourselves for Ourselves” fund raising campaign for a new arena. At the same time, they arranged for Oshawa workers to contribute through payroll deductions to the build fund. This citizen effort culminated with the opening of the New Civic Auditorium on December 11, 1964 and the Generals were brought back to Oshawa. At the same time, Oshawa resident, Norm Wilton (Alnor Construction) salvaged the cooling plant of the burned out arena and moved it at his own expense to North Oshawa Park where he installed it as the basis for the up-to-recently existent arena.

The second illustration has to do with a story former mayor, the late Christine Thomas related to me when I visited her at home as I often did to listen to her interesting story-telling about Oshawa’s history. Following the loss by fire of the Oshawa Public Library, Oshawa’s “General Vote” Council repeatedly turned down the funding of a replacement library. At this inaction by the General Vote Council, Mayor Thomas was summoned to Col. Sam’s estate where he admonished Council stating that the citizen’s of Oshawa "deserved" a public library. In the discussion, Col. Sam offered to fund a new building if residents could sit in the library and look out a window on its east side to see the steeple of his church, St. Andrews United, which still stands on the east side of Simcoe Street just south of four corners. The agreement was made and you can still see the church steeple out of the huge stained glass window out of the main reading room.

While General Vote Politicians did fund a satellite library and Senior’s Centre adjacent to North Oshawa Park. It was left to members of the Hann Family to personally fund the rental of space in South Oshawa for a library to service those residents through the Jess Hann Branch of the Oshawa Public Library and recently the Ward Politicians have started to upgrade this library out of the tax base. General Vote Politicians built a new library and senior's centre in the north end since that is where they all lived. They did not invest in the south end since none of them lived there.

So the history of the General Vote in Oshawa is clear. General Vote Councils were an absolute failure for Oshawa. General Vote Politicians were reluctant to fund amenities for the people of Oshawa out of the tax base and it was left to private citizens to give this leadership to Oshawa. Under Ward System Voting, Politicians have provided these amenities and have distributed services across the entire community to serve all residents no matter where they lived.

Why ever would politicians want to change a system that is obviously working for Oshawa to the GENERAL VOTE, a system of demonstrated failure, if not for their own self interest in ensuring their own political futures? This is a question that every Oshawa voter should ask themselves.

Oshawa history shows that the only beneficiaries of the General Vote were the incumbent politicians. Oshawa experience proves General Vote politicians were guaranteed a permanent seat on council until their death or resignation. We need a system that serves the people and not the politicians.

Oshawa voters must resolve to work toward the defeat of self-serving politicians in the next Municipal Election.

A future article will publish our "hit list" of self serving politicians who do not deserve our support because they are more interested in their own interests rather than the interests of Oshawa. We will continue to publish this list over the term of council and actively organize to target these self-serving politicians for defeat in the next election.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Scoring the Politicians

This is strictly a mathematical viewpoint…it goes like this:

What makes 100%? What does it mean to give more than 100%? Ever wonder about those people who say they give more than 100%? We have all been to those meetings where someone wants you to give more than 100%. How about achieving 103%? What makes up 100% in life? Here’s a little mathematical formula that might help you answer those questions.

If A, B, C, D, etc. = 1, 2, 3, 4 up to 26, then:

HARD WORK = 8 + 1 + 18 + 4 + 23 + 15 + 18 + 11 = 98%
And ATTITUDE = 100%
But BULLSHIT =103%
And SELF-SERVING scores 136.

So one can conclude with mathematical certainty that while hard work and Knowledge will get you close and attitude will get you there, it is bullshit, ass kissing and self serving that will get you over the top.

Now lets look at the WARD SYSTEM vs. the GENERAL VOTE…The Ward System scores 148 while the General Vote scores only 124. …So by any measure the Ward System is better for Oshawa than the General Vote…and we can also confidently conclude that the Ward System is significantly better than the politicians, the majority of whom score in the range of 103 to 136.

Excuse my sense of humour…but from time to time we need to inject a little humour at the politician’s pathetic self serving attempts to return to the General Vote to insure their lifelong seat on council. They want to return to the days when virtually all change on Oshawa Council took place through death or resignation and all of the politicians came from a few "richer" areas of the city leaving most parts of Oshawa unrepresented. I guess in those days we had to wait for the politicians to fall off their chairs before we could replace them with some fresh blood and new ideas. Maybe that is the reason little happened in Oshawa for so many years. Finally, we are developing a vibrant community, the fastest growing in the GTA, and the self serving politicians want to turn back the hands of time.


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Problems With The General Vote

  1. Local Government is supposed to be the government closest to the people. Under the General Vote, the constituency of members of Oshawa Council would be significantly larger than our Provincial and Federal Members of Parliament. The politicians that are supposed to be closest to the people would become as remote as Federal and Provincial politicians.
  2. If the constituency of local politicians increased to the size of Federal and Provincial Ridings, politicians would start demanding salaries, status, and perks equal to those of The Ontario Legislature and the House of Commons and this extra cost would come from your local property tax bill.
  3. Because of the large size of General Vote constituencies, the politicians could not become expert in the finer details and smaller problems of your neighbourhood to properly represent the interests of your community. Politicians would only be interested in working on large problems affecting large numbers of potential voters leaving the small neighbourhood concerns untouched.
  4. Success under the General Vote depends upon high name recognition. Therefore developing high name recognition becomes the pre-dominant activity of General Vote politicians. They grandstand, bitch, and bicker in seeking media attention...and this is at the expense of real service to the community. Success in Ward Voting depends upon providing service to the constituents. To be elected, Ward Politicians must be effective workers for their community. Be clear that politicians will do what is required to get elected. Do you want city council members primarily working on increasing their "name profile" or do you want them working for you?
  5. The General Vote results in little politician turnover therefore politicians are not accountable to the people…under the general vote in Oshawa from the time of the formation of Durham Region to the introduction of ward voting only one incumbent had been defeated (John McLaughlin the perpetually lowest Regional vote getter to Cy Elsey, the perpetually highest Local Council politician, who was successful in moving up from Local to Regional Council). The principal reason for council turnover was the death or resignation of members. Politicians are only accountable to the extent that they can be defeated.
  6. With little council turnover under the General Vote, the average age of council members increases and few new ideas are introduced. As a result, Oshawa leadership becomes stale and less vibrant.
  7. Under the General Vote, politicians over time tend to come from only the wealthier sections of the city because these people have more money and are generally better known. Under Oshawa’s old general vote, no candidate living south of King Street had been elected in living memory. Ald. Margaret Shaw was the southernmost politician and she lived on the south side of King Street. The old ward 3 had 3 politicians (Ed Kolodzie, Pauline Beal, and Mike Armstrong) living in one polling subdivision of about 100 houses. The old ward 6 had half the council (John Aker, Mike Lisko, Ruth Bestwick, Jim Potticary, John DeHart, Jack Wiley, John McLaughlin, Bruce McArthur). While these politicians might have claimed to represent the whole city, human nature dictates that they would have been more interested in the immediate surroundings of their residence and the part of the city that they spent most of their time in.
  8. Under the general vote, large organizations like Trade Unions, GM, The Golf Club, Senior’s Organizations, Church Groups, and the Ethnic Clubs whose members live over the whole city had inordinate ability to influence voter choices through favouring candidates who would cater to the wishes of the large group…so council members become responsible to and representative of the wishes of the large groups because they want to insure the group support in delivering election votes. This is wrong! Council must continue to represent individual ratepayers and individual neighborhoods and not large organizations in the city.
  9. Under the general vote, all politicians are responsible for everything. In any system where everyone is responsible for everything, no one takes responsibility for anything. Therefore under a general vote, Oshawa would return to the sleepy “do-nothing” place that it once was rather then the vibrant place it is becoming. This would be similar to wiping out all responsibilities in your workplace. If you can imagine such a scenario, the workplace would quickly become non-productive...similar to a General Vote Council.
  10. Because people have little influence under the general vote, voter participation goes down.
  11. Under the General Vote campaigning takes place remote from the school gyms and church basements of local neighborhoods.
  12. Under the General Vote, voters cannot become familiar with the large number of candidates appearing on the ballot and thus vote only for the familiar names…the incumbents. The last General Vote had an 11X17 ballot with close to 100 names when all of the offices were included. How could you possibly make an informed choice. It is tough enough with the 3, 4 or 5 names appearing on the ward ballot.
  13. There is no jurisdiction the size of Oshawa in Ontario that has the General Vote. The General Vote in Oshawa would be similar to having all MP’s run on one ballot across the country and the makeup of the House of Commons being the top 308 vote getters from across the country on a giant ballot containing thousands of names. You would never get to know what the candidates stood for and you could well imagine that vast areas of the country would be unrepresented. Much vocal dissension, name calling, jumping up and down, and publicity campaigns would result so would-be politicians could promote their names to get re-elected. The result would be that the bulk of winning candidates would come from Ontario and Quebec, the populous Provinces, leaving most areas of the country unrepresented. That was what happened in Oshawa under the General Vote….dissension, dissension, and more dissension without any real progress with the council members residing in only a few sections of the city.
  14. In a General Vote Council, every member is an election competitor for votes with every other member. Therefore a General Vote Council can become very dysfunctional with each Councillor criticizing others and trying to outdo them for press.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Backwards, and Too Little...Too Late

The Strategic Initiatives Committee of Oshawa City Council today agreed to recommend to Council that, a) a public meeting be held to get citizen feedback about returning to the general vote, and b) to prepare a brochure to be distributed to all residents explaining the pros/cons of each system. We will publish the meeting date when it is set.

While these communication efforts are commendable, they should have been done prior to the recent elections when voters were confronted "cold" in the voting booth with a confusing question that required them to vote "NO" to retain the present system, never having before considered, discussed, or been informed about the advantages/disadvantages of either system. It appeared that Council strategized to keep the question secret as their "weapon" in best securing their preferred vote for a change to the general vote.

On such an important question having such significant impact on the vibrancy of Political Leadership in Oshawa and thus to the future of this city, no amount of effort should be spared to insure that voters are able to give a wise and informed vote. I suggested in a letter to the Mayor and Council well in advance of the vote that such a brochure should be written and distributed and even offered to write the "copy" supporting the ward vote. My suggestion and advice was never acknowledged or acted upon.

It seems backward to me that this public meeting and information brochure is after the vote has taken place. A much more logical chain of events would have been for each councilor to have a series of meetings in their own wards even to get input as to whether the referendum question should have been "put" in the first place. There was not a whimper of public concern regarding the ward system and therefore it is unlikely that even those "self-serving" politicians who wanted to protect their council seats through a change to the general vote could raise any public sentiment to their cause. In fact, I suspect such an attempt to blatantly serve themselves would have undermined their own campaigns in the recent election.

The incumbent politicians know well that the general vote secures their political future while the ward vote requires them to keep "on the run" serving their constituents. When I accused one politician, Nester Pidwerbecki, who is Council's strongest proponent of the general vote of simply wanting the change to secure his political future, he said, "At my age?” I replied, "Certainly at your age, you'd want the general vote because you could get elected simply on your name recognition without any campaign. You could go to Florida during elections, as prior general vote councilors members have done, and still get elected."

Many Incumbent politicians want the general vote because it guarantees their re-election. We don't want to return to the days where politicians grow stale in office and death or resignation is the dominant reason for change. We want vibrant and energetic leadership for this city and this is much more likely with ward votes where politicians are accountable to the neighborhood taxpayers and they are able to be defeated when they are no longer up to the job.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Essence of Leadership

I am amazed at how naively Oshawa This Week editorialists (pg 6. January 19, 2007 editorial) accept Oshawa Councilor’s “spin” that they “grudgingly felt obliged to vote to eliminate Oshawa’s Ward System” when most of them stated publicly in Council that they didn’t think it was best for Oshawa but they would vote for it anyway because of the plebiscite result on the question in the recent municipal elections.

This raises the question, “Is the essence of good leadership voting for something you say you don’t support and know to be wrong for Oshawa? Is this the kind of leadership we can expect from this council? I don’t think any Oshawa taxpayer wants this kind of leadership. The Oshawa taxpayer’s expect and deserve politicians who vote for what they know to be right. If they don’t think Oshawa should abandon the ward system, there is only one way to vote on the issue. Politicians who vote for what they know to be wrong deserve neither our respect nor our vote.

The staff report stated that “no clear mandate has been established with respect to changing the current system of election of councilors by ward to general vote” which should have been the dominant input to council decision making. Instead, quite apart from the spin councilors are trying to put on it, they voted purely out of self interest to adapt a system that virtually guarantees them a lifetime seat on council…a system that serves them rather than the citizens of Oshawa. Every step of the strategy toward a return to the general vote has been driven by politicians without a whimper of concern with the present system ever being raised by the taxpayers

Interestingly, at the same council meeting, councilors argued to work to preserve ward voting for the vacant trustee seat on the Durham District School Board because they want to insure Oshawa’s representation as they know that Oshawa’s voice on the school board is not guaranteed without ward voting. Too bad they didn’t apply these same principles to guaranteed representation for all parts of Oshawa as under the general vote, all representation will migrate to a few sections of the city leaving much of the city disenfranchised as happened under Oshawa’s previous general vote councils.

An interesting sidebar to council “In-Camera” discussion leading up to the council vote on wanting to adapt the general vote arose when one councilor asked, “How we divide the council workload in handling taxpayer issues under the general vote?” “That’s easy,” said an obviously more astute councilor, “We’ll simply put all of our names in a hat and draw to see who will be assigned to look after the problems arising in the various wards.”

Fortunately for Oshawa, this issue will be resolved by the OMB and retaining ward voting will be a “slam dunk” for my group. Unfortunately, taxpayers will have to foot the bill as some of our unprincipled politicians work to preserve their own electoral interests. To me, this seems to be the ultimate “conflict of interest”.

Why No Info on the Ward Vote?

Some jurisdictions believe in communicating with their ratepayers to insure an informed vote regarding proposed changes to their electoral systems. Oshawa councillors provided no information virtually keeping the ward question "secret" until voters were confronted "cold" in the voting booth never considering, discussing, or anticipating the complicated question where they had to vote "NO" to preserve the ward system, a system that they were obviously satisfied because there was not a whimper of expressed community discontent. This despite the fact that I wrote to the Mayor and Council suggesting an information flyer be sent to all Oshawa residences and even offered to write the argument for keeping the ward vote. It appears that Oshawa City Council politicians wanted to pull a "fast one" on the citizens to get an electoral system that would virtually guarantee their "lifetime" electoral success. I think as taxpayers in this city, we should be "mad as hell" at this lack of principle and this kind of political dishonesty offered as leadership in this city.

Here is communication from a council that wanted an informed electorate.

Ald. Pidwerbecki---Pushing for the General Vote

On Thursday, March 28, 1985, Oshawa MP Ed Broadbent’s assistant, Nester Pidwerbecki, was quoted on page 3 of the Oshawa Times as saying, “They are going to have to break up the country club and it is going to be the best thing that ever happened to Oshawa” in response to news that the OMB had ordered the Ward System to be implemented in Oshawa. “How can I describe our feelings,” he continued, “we’re elated.”

He said up to now Council had been composed of people who have had enough money to afford the high price tag of a general election campaign.

“Now people who are relatively unknown may figure they have a chance where there was none before,” he said. “Instead of spending a lot of money to cover the whole city, they can now concentrate on one area and reduce the cost factor.”

Describing the then “General Vote” Council as an “elite group”, Pidwerbecki said he expects some new faces on council after the next municipal election in November.

My how times have changed since Pidwerbecki joined city council. Now that he is a member, he introduced a motion to Oshawa City Council to include a plebiscite question about returning to the General Vote….the very system where he suggested it was impossible for an incumbent to lose their seat on council. He was supported by the majority of council, all of whom wanted to guarantee their future against electoral defeat. He, and the other councilors who voted for the plebiscite, all want to join the “country club” Pidwerbecki derided in 1985.

It is an abrogation of civic duty when politicians want to serve themselves rather than the citizens they are supposed to represent.

Mandate of Site

This blog will be "official voice" of VOTES. It will be active throughout the term of this council and will provide regular opinion and comment on it's proceedings, initially focussing on ward/general vote info. It's objective is to inform the public, mould public opinion, and organize voters to defeat politicians who continue to push for the general vote and thereby prove to be self serving.

This attempt by council to return to the general vote is indefensible by any rational person who believes in democratic representation, service to the people, and vibrant leadership.

By attempting to bring in a general vote which insures their political futures, Oshawa politicians are confusing their positions with the lifelong appointments of the rich and influential to the Canadian Senate. A general vote council is not the Oshawa Council that will serve Oshawa and all of its residents best. A general vote council is not a voting system that will produce a council representative of Oshawa people and all of its communities. A general vote council, like the Canadian Senate, is one that will quickly tire and stagnate without the introduction of new ideas accruing from some politician turnover.

I believe this blog will become a dominant news/opinion source on Oshawa Municipal politics and will have an rapidly escalating viewership.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

How Did This Issue Arise?

As there was not one whimper of expressed citizen discontent with the ward system of electing council, one has to question "why the change?".

All of the action for change has come from the politicians of Oshawa Council and because of this, one must question their motivation...if no citizen discontent was expressed, why are they pushing for change? The answer is incumbents know that they can have virtually life-long seats on council under a general vote because it is almost impossible to defeat incumbents in general vote elections.

To secure the desired referendum result Council followed a strategy of keeping the issue secret to confront voters "cold" at the ballot box so they had little opportunity or time to logically assess and discuss the issue before voting and also wording the question in such a way that you had to vote "NO" to preserve the present ward system...CLEVER!!! Realizing this "ploy" I did write to the Mayor and Council suggesting an information brochure explaining the pros/cons of ward/general vote be sent to all residents but this suggestion was ignored in the interests of keeping the secret to election day. I even offered to write the argument for preserving ward elections but this offer of help was not even acknowledged.

By way of background, Oshawa was the largest jurisdiction in the province to have the general vote in 1985 when my group, "Ward System Now" campaigned for over 5 years to bring ward voting to Oshawa and this campaign ended with a 21 day Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) Hearing at which "Ward System Now" was victorious in winning ward elections for Oshawa. If council passes a bylaw to proceed to the general vote, we will once again appeal to the OMB for fairness and justice for the Oshawa taxpayer. We need a system of elections that serves the people...and not the politicians.

Oshawa's experience with the general vote was horrendous. Oshawa was a quiet and sleepy place where nothing happened. Even though housing prices were depressed here, commuters would bypass Oshawa to Bowmanville and Newcastle to live in more expensive "affordable housing" because no one wanted to live in Oshawa. We had little in the way of community facilities. There was no turnover in council to generate new ideas and because service to people was not the criterion for electoral success, council did nothing except backbite, bitch, and grandstand to increase their name recognition which was the criteria to get elected. Because every member of council was a competitor of every other councillor, co-operation, civility, and conduct degenerated to see who could get the most press.

While the general vote politicians did little for the community, severe problems set in. All of the councillors came to reside in a few of Oshawa's wealthier neighbourhoods with one fifth of council even residing in one polling subdivision of about 100 houses, much of Oshawa came to be unrepresented by any residents of their part of Oshawa. The south end, for example, had not been represented in living memory.

Under ward voting, council has been much more activist in representing the interests of all citizens of Oshawa. Community infrastructure has improved with new arenas and recreation complexes in all sections of the city. Oshawa has become the fastest growing region in the GTA with a lot of upscale housing areas and shopping complexes. Even the embarrassing downtown core looks likely to develop with improved downtown amenities. There is still a lot of work to do in Oshawa and this could once again be lost if we return to a "do nothing" general vote council. In that event, Oshawa amenities are likely to freeze, house prices will drop, and Oshawa could once again become an undesirable place to live.

An important point for residents to recognize is that getting elected is very important for a politician and they will do whatever is required to get elected. If high name recognition means success under the general vote, politicians will work at that as "Job One", If service to ratepayers and solving communuity problems is the secret to electoral success, politicians will work at that as "Job One". Which type of politician do you want?

This blog will publish a regular and steady "diet" of new information regarding this important issue and will allow you as well to publish your ideas and opinions on this site. We encourage you to bookmark this site and check back with us regularly. We also encourage you to bookmark the site which is an alternative site supporting the Ward System for Oshawa managed by strong ward advocate Alderman Brian Nicholson. And please tell your friends about these sites. This issue of ward vs. general vote is likely the most important issue this council will face regarding the future health of Oshawa.

If you want to write your views on this issue to be presented at the OMB hearing, you can direct them to Bill Longworth, 159 Spirea Court, Oshawa, L1G6S8 (strongest) or email at (weaker). You may also post your unedited opinions directly to this site and we encourage you to do so.