Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Crunch is Here...We Need You!

Oshawa City Council will be passing their bylaw to introduce the general vote to Oshawa at the regular council meeting 6:30 pm, this coming Monday evening, March 30.

This is an important meeting for all to attend who want to preserve democracy in Oshawa.

Democracy means a "real" vote that has a say in determining your political leadership.

Democracy means guaranteeing a voice for your community on city council.

Democracy means an inclusive system that gives equal opportunity to citizens from all parts of the city, with all levels of financial wealth, and with all ethnic backgrounds to have a fair and equal chance to seek a seat on council.

Democracy means that people of all demographic groups will be equally heard.

Democracy means the ability to remove councillors from office who are not representing your interests.

Democracy means that politicians are accountable to the citizens.

Democracy means that the political systems serves the people, not the politicians.

Democracy means that there is a politician that you've elected who is responsible to you to listen to your concerns.

Democracy means all these things...that council is wanting to take away.

It is amazing in this day and age in Canada, of all things, we are seeing the erosion of our democratic rights.

We need you to stock city hall with all of your friends, relatives, neighbours, and associates on Monday night to show the politicians we won't stand for this.

It is our last chance to show council that we won't stand for the erosion of our democratic and Canadian rights.

While attendance is important, you can watch the proceedings on Rogers Cable starting at 6:30 pm if it is impossible for you to attend.

VOTES chair, Bill Longworth, is scheduled as a delegation on your behalf.

Friday, April 27, 2007

So what would be the banner headline on your paper

Oshawa Scores High Fees on ATM’s OR Oshawa Councillors can’t understand Plebiscite-like question and vote the wrong way---so they’re giving themselves another chance to see if “they can get it right.”

Two issues were discussed at the same City Finance and Administration Committee meeting on Monday April 23, 2007

The committee discussed fees charged by ATM machines installed at city-owned facilities like the Legends Centre.

The “big” issue was whether they should charge $1.75 giving the ATM provider $1 and the city 75 cents per transaction for an extra projected ciry revenue of $12,000 over 3 years, $1.50 per transaction giving the city 50 cents per transaction or $7,500 over 3 years, or $1.25 per transaction giving the city only 25 cents per transaction

Mayor John Gray summed up the sentiment of the committee, “If people want the extra convenience, they’re going to have to pay for it. I think the $1.75 fee is appropriate.”

And thus the banner headline on the April 25, 2007 edition of Oshawa This Week screams, “Oshawa scores high fees on ATN’s.”

Great Choice of top news story of the week.

In the same meeting the committee was reconsidering a Partnership Grant to VOTES so that an information brochure could be prepared and distributed to all Oshawa households---But that’s not the story!

It's not even the story that the reporter left the meeting when VOTES Chair Bill Longworth was called forward...because the paper had decided it was not a story that they wanted to cover no matter what was said!

The story was that councillors who state the public could not be confused by the plebiscite question got confused themselves with the same kind of question the public confronted on the plebiscite.

Because they couldn't understand the question, they voted the wrong way!

This reconsideration of the issue was made necessary because three members of this committee, John Henry, Louise Parkes, and Maryanne Sholdra, got their votes wrong at the previous council meeting.

They couldn’t understand the motion on which they had to vote “NO” to provide the funds to VOTES and “YES” to deny it.

These same three councillors have been voting “In the name of democracy”, they say, to uphold the plebiscite result because “the people have spoken.”

Over 36% of the councillors got confused on the vote. Isn’t it possible that the same percentage of voters got confused on the same kind of question asked of voters on the plebiscite?

And isn’t it fair that the people are given a second chance to “get it right” since council themselves are giving themselves a second opportunity to get it right.

You’d think that the councillors who voted wrong on this question would finally “get it”…they’re not supporting public opinion at all. They’re supporting a flawed plebiscite process marred by a “trick” question of the type council members themselves couldn’t understand combined with a denial of information from city hall.

So what would be the lead story in your paper? ATM fees at city owned facilites or 36% of Councillors don’t understand “plebiscite-like” question and vote the wrong way.

All of this leads of course to the question of the degree to which Oshawa City Hall’s huge $10,000 per month advertising bill with Oshawa This Week controls the stories they choose to print.

I know what I think about this! How about you?

To their credit, Oshawa This Week used to carry this story in a serious way...but not anymore.

Did someone get to them?

Thursday, April 26, 2007

New "outreach" communication strategy---NEW LINKS!

We have established a number of new links to sites of interest to Oshawa ratepayers.

All of these sites can be accessed and your comments freely posted for others to see. You can also easily invite all of your Oshawa friends, relations, and acquaintances to join to read your ideas.

I will be out of the country for a couple of months from mid June on and so I am introducing this new “public information” strategy to keep our momentum in my absence. I will “nurture” growth on the sites before my departure.

I want to increase "active' citizen involvement on this issue and thus this new communication strategy will transfer some responsibility to concerned Oshawa citizens to write their own opinions, ideas, and thoughts on any of the following sites.

Oshawa Speaks

Oshawa Votes


City of Oshawa


Preserve Oshawa’s Ward System

Oshawa City Hall

Oshawa Politics

Oshawa City Council

Oshawa Politicians

Sign up for a FREE account on and access any of the sites.

These sites have the ability to reach far more “Oshawa “faces and minds” than does the blog. It will have periodic posts though on my return to Oshawa in September and then onwards into the future.

New entries will be advertised on all of the facebook sites that we have.

Why not share your views with your fellow citizens at any of the sites listed and invite all of your friends to have a look.

The facebook sites will be active throughout this entire term of council and we invite you to be active in posting your thoughts.

The sites and the “giant” viewership that will grow on these sites will be very powerful tools in the next municipal election to inform Oshawa voters of the voting records, actions, and beliefs of council members---and hopefully swaying public opinion to engineer the defeat of those who support the self-serving general vote.

Politicians will not be able to hide behind the lack of a vibrant press in this city.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Council's Confused Vote!---And they say the plebiscite question wasn't confusing

At the council meeting of April 10, 2007, Oshawa City Council voted on the motion "That the 2007 Partnership Grant request 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."

The motion was "LOST" meaning that the Partnership Grant should be provided to VOTES.

Supporting the motion (voting YES) were Councillors Kolodzie, Lutczyk, Marimpietri, Pidwerbecki and Mayor Gray...These councillors voted to deny funding!

Against the motion (voting NO) were Councillors Cullen, Henry, Neal, Nicholson, Parkes and Sholdra...These councillors voted to provide funding!

Confusing isn't it!

This was the same kind of question confronting voters on the plebiscite, a question that some council members have said was so easy to understand that no one could be confused by it. Guess they were wrong. Four councillors got confused and voted the wrong way---at least they voted opposite to the usual way they have been voting on the ward/general vote issue in the past.

Hey...that's 36.4% of the "expert voters" of council that got confused. Is it possible that at least that percentage of "inexperienced" plebiscite voters got confused and voted contrary to their wishes?

On this "easy to understand motion" that "couldn't confuse anyone"---as Councillor Kolodzie and Pidwerbecki have exclaimed numerous times in council when the issue of the plebiscite question being confusing was brought up, they would exclaim, "Are you calling the people stupid?"

On the confusing question council voted on above, they would have had to vote "YES" to deny VOTES the funding and "NO" to deny it. This is similar to voters who had to vote "NO" to keep ward voting and "YES" to reject it. In both cases the answer upon close examination and analysis was opposite to the expected.

So Councillors Henry, Sholdra, and Parkes who have voted on council not to provide a city hall produced brochure with background information on the ward/general vote issue have now supported providing funds to VOTES so that a brochure could be produced and distributed by VOTES independent of city hall input. Hardly likely! Go figure!

Surely they couldn't have been confused by a question similar to the plebiscite question could they? After all they are experienced voters doing so dozens of times a night. The simple plebescite voter only gets to cast a vote a few dozen times in a lifetime! So I understand citizen voters could get confused...but those smart guys on council...never!

Councillor Lutczyk, whom I observe to be one of the more astute, reasoned, thoughtful and intelligent councillors, also got confused as he has supported ward voting on every single question coming before council. But this time he voted contrary to his past record.

If councillors got confused, I'm sure that many citizens who do not have English as their first language also got confused. After all, councillors whose first language is English have shown that a convoluted question is confusing to them.

Maybe those councillors who got confused on the convoluted "plebiscite-like" question will now be called "stupid" by Councillors Pidwerbecki and Kolodzie who liked to use the term to deride fellow councillors who argued the plebiscite question was complicated, convoluted and difficult by exclaiming, "Are you calling the people stupid?"

Of course, that is the way council designed the question to get the plebiscite answer they wanted.

In Oshawa, democracy means Council starts out with an objective...and then designs a strategy to manipulate the public to "trick" them into voting to show "apparent" support for the outcome council wants.

In the case of voting on partnership funding for VOTES, Council got caught in its own petard.

Council, when they realized they made an error and because they make the rules, referred the whole issue back to the committee to give it a second look in preparation for a second vote at council. Now the general vote leaders will have all of the councillors "practice", "discuss", and "debate" their votes to make sure they get it right the next time.

Too bad they are not considering the same "second chance" for all of Oshawa's voters who got confused by the same kind of question that confused the seasoned voters of city council.

Without a vibrant Oshawa press though, council can hide behind this hypocrisy unbeknownst to the general public.

You will never see this "IMPORTANT" story covered in depth and with the attention it deserves in the local media. City Hall's $120,000 advertising budget provided by your tax dollars to Oshawa's weekly newspaper is just "too rich" to jeopardize.

It appears that these advertising dollars control the news we get and are an important ally in allowing city council to carry out its self-serving electoral reforms.

And you thought that press control only happened in places with authoritarian and despotic governments--Hey maybe that's Oshawa!

Monday, April 23, 2007

VOTES submission for Partnership Grant

The Background

VOTES made an application for a partnership grant at the April 10, 2007 meeting of Oshawa City Council.

The grant was to produce and distribute an independently prepared brochure informing Oshawa residents of the details of ward vs general vote. This information is important as informed voters are a basic requirement of a democracy.

Council failed to provide the information and so VOTES stepped into the breach to do something council should have done.

City Staff recommended that VOTES not receive the funding but council got confused on the convoluted question--"That the 2007 Partnership Grant request 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."

The question council confronted was the same kind of confusing and convoluted question that confronted voters with the plebiscite question. Council had to vote "YES" to deny the funding and "NO" to reject it...and so many councillors got confused and voted the wrong way...passing the motion to provide the funding.

Realizing their error after the vote, Council referred the question back to the committee for another look...and this is the subject of our submission today.

The Oral Submission to the Committee

The staff recommendation to the April 10 city council meeting that a partnership grant not be provided for VOTES was lost.

That means that council disagreed with the denial of funds and thus the partnership grant requested should be provided.

I know the convoluted staff recommendation you voted on required council to vote “YES” to deny VOTES the funding and “NO” to provide it and this confused some council members.

But this was the same kind of question that the voters confronted on the plebiscite...the same kind of question that council has insisted was not confusing and was easy to understand.

Council members are experienced voters and got confused and so it is very understandable that voters got confused in the same kind of question on the plebiscite.

But council does not deserve a second chance to get it right…after all citizens who were confused with the plebiscite question are not being given a second chance to get their vote right.

In any case, it is not required that council vote twice on approving these grants. One vote is enough. In the past they have not seen the need to re-affirm their vote in the past on these funding requests...why now?

Council had a fair vote to provide VOTES the grant--and I think they should carry through in providing it.

Not providing VOTES the funds now that council has voted to give would result in a serious democracy deficit in Oshawa and gives us one more argument of appeal to the OMB and the supreme court--and we are preparing the OMB appeal arguments now in expectation that the general vote bylaw will go before council on April 30.

We continue to believe that the public requires information on this question as democracy absolutely requires an informed public.

We believe that council should not act on the plebiscite result until people have been informed.

Because council has refused to provide information for the people, we have stepped into the breach to do the work that you should be doing.

City Staff continues to recommend that we be denied a partnership grant.

They say we are a “ratepayer group. We are not a ratepayer group and have no affiliation with any organization. We are an independent "information providing" group--like "Information Oshawa." Council's rules state that grants must not be to coalitions such as ratepayer or tenant/landlord associations or to support programs or services geared specifically to these organizations. We are no more supporting these groups than is the autofest group that is being funded to the tune of $28,000. The only association is that members of those organizations may attend the auto show--and members of those organizations may read our information.

Staff also says it is unclear the degree of support for our group in Oshawa. They fail to consider that over 9000 voters supported retention of ward voting on the plebiscite. I’d say this is pretty solid support.

The autofest organizers did not quantify the public support in their successful application. Why are we different?

The rules for funding are clear. Funds cannot be denied because you personally do not support its activity or the community need it is advocating.

You can't cherry pick. The rules have to be applied uniformly across the board.

The Chief Justice of the Canadian Supreme Court has written in the forward to the Supreme Court website that "Canadians are privileged to live in a peaceful country. Much of our collective sense of freedom and safety comes from our community’s commitment to a few key values"--and democratic governance is listed as that first key value.

The Supreme Court has also stated that, “Elections are fair and equitable only if all citizens are reasonably informed of all possible choices."

Oshawa Council made a mockery of this statement by the Supreme Court by consciously carrying out an extremely flawed plebiscite process designed to deny voters information they had the right to know. People were never told the rationale for change, the benefits to accrue to Oshawa, or the reason why the plebiscite question was being asked since no public dissatisfaction had never been expressed with ward voting. People were not even told what was meant by the general vote.

The process was so flawed by council's decision not to provide any public information or promote debate and discussion that one of the steps we are considering is consultation with Alan Borovoy of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association to take this issue to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court says people have to be adequately informed on questions they are being asked and council refused to do this. I think the Supreme Court will hear the case! Particularly in council's continued refusal to provide any information.

Every question posed to the public requires a concerted public information campaign…and council failed to do this.

Can you imagine the issue of Quebec Independence being decided without public information campaigns?

Vancouver’s council in informing the public, promoting public debate, and soliciting public opinion prior to their plebiscite on ward vs general vote set up the Vancouver Electoral Reform Commission. Its commissioner was retired Supreme Court Judge Berger who held 17 public hearings, solicited public opinion via questionnaire, had public meetings televised, and produced an independent 158 page report.

Vancouver city council produced a number of high quality information brochures and had them available in 5 languages
Vancouver city council publicly funded independent "YES" and "NO" committees to insure a balanced information flow to the public.

Vancouver city council promoted public discussion and debate and publicly advertised meetings that were scheduled by various organizations

Vancouver city council asked the people a serious question and they wanted a serious and considered public opinion. That is why they did so much!

What did Oshawa do? Nothing!
What are they doing in the future? Nothing!

And so once again, VOTES asks for council to provide public information...and if you are unwilling to do this, provide the partnership grant to VOTES...and we will carry out your responsibility to inform the people for you.

Where is the press on this issue?

VOTES Chair made the submission above to the budget and audit committee of Oshawa City Council this morning, April 23, 2007.

It was interesting as soon as he was called upon for his presentation, the reporter for Oshawa This Week left the meeting.

There has been great reluctance of Oshawa This Week recently to cover this important issue neglecting to publish items submitted by the VOTES Chair or cover the issue with any degree of intensity that such an important issue deserves.

It leaves one wondering whether the $10,000 monthly advertising bill paid to the This Week Newspaper by the city has any degree of influence in the way the story is covered. What do you think?

Saturday, April 21, 2007

A very thoughtful presentation at the Sikorskii Hall public meeting

The following was presented at the public meeting at Sikorski Hall on April 19. It is reprinted with permission.

Submission to Oshawa Council

Thursday 2007/04/19

Submission by: Paul-André Larose, Ph.D
E-Mail: LarosePA@Sympatico.Ca
- - -

I – Introduction

Good evening members of the Oshawa Council and of the audience,

I want to express my concern at what is currently going on with respect to the voting protocol in Oshawa. In the process, we have expended much resource, personal and civic, in addressing an artificially created problem, all this at a time when we have so many real pressing ones.

If fact, Council has effectively “painted itself into a corner” and now, we must identify and accomplish some face-saving remedial actions. In actuality, this means finding ways to truly validate the wishes of the electorate and avoid basing actions on the basis of questionable data.

If the so-called “General Voting” is such a great electoral system, then WHY NOT use it at the…
• Regional level and adopt the concept of Regional Councilors residing anywhere within the Region can represent a given municipality;

• Provincial level and adopt the concept of MPP’s residing anywhere within the Province can represent a given Provincial Constituency;

• Federal level and adopt the concept of MP’s residing anywhere within the Country can represent a given Federal Constituency.

This, obviously, does not make sense.

II – The Facts

The Ballot Questions:
• “Are you in favour of electing those Councillors who represent the City on City Council and on Regional Council by General Vote as opposed to Ward Vote?”

• “Are you in favour of electing those Councillors who represent the City only on City Council by General Vote as opposed to Ward Vote?”

• Wording: “who represents the City”. I thought that Councillors represented the Voters, not the City.

• The question is convoluted: one had to say “no” in order to mean “yes”, i.e. keep as is.

• There is some possibility of misinterpretation, e.g. see below.

Public Information Sessions:
• These were questionable at best and were not what they should have been.

• I try to be well informed, but obviously, I failed on this issue …

Voting Statistics:
• 25.1% of eligible voters.

• Is this democracy if change is made on the basis of 25% participation?

• How does this fit with the City’s Web based header that says, “The Power of Democracy is YOU!”?

III – Possible Misinterpretation

The Question makes reference to the “General Vote” … What is the General Vote?

• Possible interpretation of General Vote: Citizenship vs Residency

• It should have been said “City-Wide” or the likes

IV – The Only Option

The current situation being as it is, we should do 4 things, in addition to formally deploring the low participation level and the lack of information that has accompanied the project:

1. Recognize the democratically expressed result;

2. Acknowledge the post-election malaise;

3. Validate the intent of the population through information and follow-up referendum;

4. Commit itself to thoroughness in the democratic assessment.

We do not want to reject the result about one issue (e.g. voting) while accepting the result about another one (e.g. Regional Chair); this would amount to a selective acceptance of results.

In other words, we do not want, or suggest, some form of autocratic selective process; we are not intellectual Ayatollahs. We simply want thoroughly reliable data.

Furthermore, we do not recommend querying the public until we get the desired outcome.

Note: In Research, one does NOT draw conclusion on the basis of a SINGLE experiment (e.g. Cold Fusion, etc…)

V – Recommendations

Thus, we expect the City to basically do 4 things:

1. Avoid rushing into major electoral changes on the basis on an apparently flawed process;

2. Thoroughly inform citizenry about the voting options;

3. Oversee a clear validating referendum on the issue;

4. Abide by the results thus obtained which serve to confirm, or infirm, the earlier ones.

Editor's Comment

Dr. Larose makes some astute observations
1. The whole thing is a politically manufactured "problem"
2. If the general vote is best, why not support its use at all levels of government?
3. Very astute point---politicians represent people, not the city! Does this affect the validity of the plebiscite question?
4. The confusing and convoluted question...voters required to vote NO to mean YES!--interesting way to put this fact!
5. Undefined term used in plebiscite question---term "general vote" has different meanings to different people...therefore question was ambiguous
6. Conclusion--based on questionable data, Dr. Larose feels council should not rush into change...but do a follow up plebiscite after fully informing people and promoting public debate...a conclusion we fully support...Democracy can only work with a fully informed public!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Interesting Ideas presented at Public Meeting

Mr. Dariusz Kulczyński presented the following comments at the public input meeting at Sikorski Hall last night.

He has given permission for me to publish the text forwarded on Polish Canadian Independent Courier Newspaper Letterhead.

Tel/Fax: (416) 259-4353: ;

City of Oshawa – Residents’ General Meeting April 19th, 2007

My name is Dariusz Kulczyński. I am an engineer with Ontario Power Generation, Darlington NGS. I am also a Deputy Editor in Chief of “Nowy Kurier” i.e. Polish-Canadian Independent Courier biweekly. I have lived in Ward 5 of Oshawa for almost 20 years now.

Like many other voters, I thought that electing all Councillors by all City Residents would be a good idea and I voted accordingly last October. Since then, however, I have given the proposal more thought and I like the system the way it is better. There are several considerations that must be taken into account before the new Bylaw changes the municipal electoral system in our City. I believe there are at least four important issues, and they are as follows:

1. The majority of Oshawa Residents may vote for a Councillor that does little for the Ward he or she supposedly represents. The responsibility of the Councillor would be watered down if not eliminated. After all, the thing that politicians of all kinds care most is whether or not they are re-elected. If all Councillors are elected by all city population, how can the residents of a particular Ward unseat a Councillor if he/she, God forbid, allows for major disrepair of that Ward?

2. If a Councillor must run in a Ward as big as a Federal or a Provincial Riding, then he/she would need to become known to at least five times more people than those residing in his/her Ward. This requires a lot of effort and money and municipal donations are not Tax deductible. It would be fair to institute Tax Credits for Municipal Elections’ Donations to be deducted off the Property Tax the same way that we can deduct donations to political parties. This proposal would, however, contravene the statement by the City Council that changing the electoral system would be “revenue neutral” or have “no financial impact”.

3. Without providing future Candidates with some reasonable source of revenue from Tax-deductible donations, how would they make themselves known to residents of the whole City? Would the City buy free TV spots or Radio commercials for all Candidates? What would the voters base their decision on unless they really saw and listened to the Candidate? On the name alone? This disadvantages such residents as me if I ever wanted to run for office. Outside of the Polish, Ukranian, Lithuanian, Belorussian and Jewish communities my name: “Dariusz Kulczyński” is barely pronounceable in English, let alone easily remembered. The ethnic population can prevail in some areas of the city but not in the city as a whole.

4. The proposed system will deviate from the majority-single riding rep or “first-past-the-post” English style democracy that has existed in Canada since inception. The proposed system would create a pseudo-slate, similar to that used in the proportional system. However, the proportional system requires that each political party submits its slate and, only within each slate, the seats are allotted according to the amount of the votes. This is the way the system works in many member states of the European Union such as Poland. Yet, political parties do not run their candidates in municipal elections in Canada. Hence, the proposed pseudo-slate resembles the one used in the now defunct Communist countries. For example, in Poland, when it was Communist before 1989, there was only one slate-list of the National Unity Front approved Candidates. Those who got most votes on it got elected, and unless, of course, the results were further tampered with. This was considered undemocratic. Without multi-party representation the proposed system hardly offers any benefits associated with proportional representation.

Editor's Comment

You will note that Mr. Kulczynski comments on the accountability problem of general vs ward politicians, the suggestion of a requirement of public funding for candidates in huge city-wide elections, the probable exclusion of ethnic candidates in city wide elections, and argues city wide elections will require association with competing political parties.

Older resident's of Eastern European heritage undoubtedly will have greater understanding of the ramifications of his last point. We have identified the point previously that many Eastern Europeans came here for Canada's democratic and "real vote" which some of their descendents on Oshawa City Council now want to take away from the Oshawa people.

Editor's Comment 2

Hopefully Mr. Kulczyński will forward his remarks and the address of this site to all of his contacts in the Oshawa Polish Community to keep them informed.

It is important that the ethnic communities, particularly those of Eastern European heritage, be fully informed about Oshawa Council's desires to take the "real" vote...the ward vote, the vote that does make a difference in determining political leadership away from the people.

These communities are all too aware of the helplessness they feel when they have no control over the actions of their political leaders. The Eastern European peoples came here for the freedoms we have characterized by the vote that does make a difference.

History with the general vote in Oshawa is that no general vote politician in Oshawa's 7 general vote councils was removed by the vote. All change during that time took place through the death or resignation of members. Since the general vote didn't and couldn't effect change, it was not a "real" vote. It was the kind of vote that people have in countries such as China, Russia, or apparent vote that has not one iota of a chance of influencing political leadership or direction in the country.

We don't want that in Oshawa!

Editor's Comment 3

I think it fair to append to this comment that Councillor Robt. Lutczyk has been an undying supporter of ward voting in every stage of the process....from opposing the plebiscite question as not being inclusive of the various communities and demographics of Oshawa to his continuing opposition to implementing the plebiscite result because of the flawed process and convoluted plebiscite question. He is joined at present by Councillors Neal, Cullen, and Nicholson in opposing a move to the general vote.

Councillors Pidwerbecki and Kolodzie are the most outspoken advocates of the General Vote and are joined at present by Councillors Sholdra, Parkes, Marimpietri, and Henry as well as Mayor Gray.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A Supreme Court Challenge!

The small thinkers of Oshawa City Council are in way above their heads on this one!

The loss of a meaningful vote is something that goes to the very heart of Canadian values and way of life. The loss of such an important instrument as the “real” vote to determine our political leaders can be the thin edge of the wedge for the loss of other rights and freedoms.

Canada's Supreme Court says, "Canadians are privileged to live in a peaceful country. Much of our collective sense of freedom and safety comes from our community’s commitment to a few key values"--and democratic governance is listed as that first key value. They have stated that, “Elections are fair and equitable only if all citizens are reasonably informed of all possible choices."

Oshawa Council made a mockery of this statement by the ultimate court in the land by consciously carrying out an extremely flawed plebiscite process designed to deny voters information they had the right to know. People were never told the rationale for change, the benefits to accrue to Oshawa, or the reason why the plebiscite question was being asked since no public dissatisfaction had ever been expressed with ward voting. People were not even told what was meant by the general vote.

The term general vote means many different things to different people. It is customarily thought of as a vote that accompanies general elections…a vote in which everyone casts a vote in constituencies or wards. In researching meanings of the term general vote, I have found no definitions but a number of implied meanings from the way the term is used in news contexts. Therefore the term "general vote" is ambiguous. It has different meanings for different people and was never defined by city council...So it is definitely undemocratic for city council to want to implement a general vote that goes along with what they want it to mean…rather than the many meanings others have for it in society.

On top of this communication failure, Council confronted voters with a difficult to understand convoluted “trick” question designed to confuse the public and get an answer they wanted.

So were electors reasonably informed as Canada’s Supreme Court requires? Absolutely not!

The process was so flawed that we believe that it should be declared invalid, city council censured for their irresponsibility, and told that they can institute another general vote plebiscite only after satisfying provincial officials that they have sufficiently informed the public and promoted sufficient public inquiry and debate.

Section Five of The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is a part of the Constitution of Canada and provides a constitutional guarantee 1) that governments must explain their actions to the people, and 2) that the public must play a meaningful role in the electoral process. This provision applies to the Federal government and to Legislative Assemblies. We feel it applies to cities like Oshawa also since their entire being and powers fall under provincial jurisdiction.

These also are core values of our freedom as stated in the highest law of the land that have been denied

So what are we going to do?

Because of Oshawa city politician’s attempts to “Shanghai” our political system for their own benefits, we are escalating our efforts bigtime.

Because we think the system should serve the city and its people, and not the politicians, we are initiating consultations with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association which lists, "The protection of the fundamental freedoms essential to the democratic system," as its first objective and are hopeful of having esteemed counsel Mr. Alan Borovoy take this issue to the Supreme Court of Canada on our behalf.

If we are successful in this endeavor, there would unfortunately be great costs to be borne by the Oshawa taxpayer. This is the direct result of Oshawa Council’s stubborn, undemocratic and irresponsible efforts to implement the general vote for their own self-serving purposes.

While the costs will be great, our civil liberties are protected by a “meaningful” vote that has a “real role” in determining our political leaders and our political destiny in Oshawa is fundamental to our way of life. The costs of doing nothing but to sit back and spectate at the erosion of our democratic rights would be at a profoundly higher social cost.

We have to be ever vigilant about protecting the core values of our free and democratic land. If we let democracy slip a little, this could be the thin edge of the wedge for the erosion of some of our other freedoms.

Oshawa People and Canadian People must demonstrate that they can not be toyed with by politicians who want to use the system for their own purposes.

Too many Oshawa Citizens have personal knowledge of the dire consequences to a society and to the world when that happens…witness Adolph Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Joseph Stalin, Nicolae Ceausescu, Idi Amin, Slobodan Milosevic, Augusto Pinochet, Saddam Hussein….Some of these guys even got elected first through popular vote and then started eliminating the rights and freedoms of their societies.

We can’t afford to risk any of that here through the loss our “real” vote that selects and changes our politicians at the people's will.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Stumblers, Fumblers, Mumblers, Bumblers, Blatherers...and Stars of Oshawa City Hall!

So who wants to take your vote and your local representation away from you?

Mayor John Gray. He says ward voting is best…and yet he is voting to take it away from you. Can we support a guy who votes opposite to what he knows and says is best for Oshawa? Are there other issues where he votes to support things he knows not to be best for Oshawa? This is hardly a principled thing to do. We depend on our leaders to do what is best for the city and best for the people. We thought they were “experts” on these things. That’s why we depend on their judgment. But our mayor voting contrary to know what he says is right and best…and then admit it…that’s amazing!

Councillor Maryanne Sholdra says she believes that ward voting is best. But she wants to take it away from everyone including our many residents whose ancestors, including Maryanne’s, came from Eastern Europe for the freedoms characterized by the “real” vote where people have a “real” say in determining their political leaders and their political destiny. Maryanne has always been a strong supporter of the ethnic community and its values, even chairing Oshawa’s “great” Folk Arts Council for many years. Why is she now turning her back on this The Eastern European community and taking away their meaningful vote that they came here to cherish? Shame Maryanne!

Councillor John Henry thinks the plebiscite question should never have been asked. I guess that means he thought the ward system was working well. It certainly worked well for him because he defeated an incumbent politician who took positions unfavorable to her constituents. They were able to use their “real” votes to replace her…something that would be impossible under the general vote. He says he is voting for the general vote to uphold the public desires expressed on the plebiscite. Come on John…I thought you were a smart guy. You have to realize that the plebiscite process was completely flawed by the “trick” question and council’s denial of public information on the issue. These flaws completely invalidated the process! Are you sure that you don’t now want the general vote to isolate you from competition for the ward seat by the incumbent you unseated? After all, in ward politics, people have the power to turf you out…not so under the general vote! I’m sure that when John Henry’s constituents elected him, they didn’t expect that he would want to deprive them of their ward politician accountable to them to represent their interests at city hall. He is taking from them the power to remove their local councilllor who takes positions unpopular with the area residents as they did in the last election. This is why Councillor Henry got elected. If Councillor Henry has his way, they won't be able to do that again! He can take the same position as the defeated councillor and they won't be able to do a damn thing about it!

Councillor Tito Dante Marimpietri says he’s supporting the plebiscite result. He says he’s a supporter of the ward system and thinks that system is best. Didn’t his ward voters elect him to make wise decisions and vote for what he thought was right and best for Oshawa? They certainly didn’t elect him to vote for something he knows is not good for Oshawa. In any case, if he was half-wise, he’d realize he was not supporting public opinion at all. Rather he is supporting is a seriously flawed plebiscite process. Maybe he doesn’t realize that a democracy cannot function without an informed public. He was part of the council that refused to provide information and part of the group that devised the “trick” question. Maybe as a young guy, Tito Dante Marimpietri feels the political system in Oshawa should have as its main function, giving him a lifetime career on Oshawa’s municipal council. With the general vote, he could have a seat for the next 50 years without any serious competition. He could even holiday in Florida like past general vote politicians and still get elected! For sure his constituents had no idea that he would take their local councillor away from them when they gave him their vote. With the general vote, Councillor Marimpietri will not have to look after any of their constituency problems again because he won’t be responsible and accountable to anyone. Like other political leaders in history, he’ll be able to do anything he wants with impunity. I think this is something Tito’s ancestors came here to escape!

Councillor Louise Parkes is another politician that believes ward voting is best for the city. She also was one of the architects of the flawed plebiscite process and the “trick” question and she, too, must be aware that such a flawed system is not representative of public sentiment on the issue. She knows this and is using the plebiscite result to justify her vote. This will not “wash” with the public who are smarter than she thinks. They will not tolerate politicians maneuvering to get a result and then stretching to justify their support of that result. Oshawa people expect all of our politicians to support what they know and feel to be best for Oshawa. She cannot sit on the fence on this issue. I know her constituents didn’t expect that she would work to deprive them of a community politician that represents their interest on council. Does she want to promote her name city-wide in hopes of another run at that Federal Liberal seat? If she was a smart politician, she would know that promoting her name in Federal or Provincial Politics is not important at all. It accounts for 4% of the vote. People vote federally and provincially for parties and their leaders, not the local candidate. In any case, a politician who votes contrary to what they have stated they know to be best for the city is not deserving of support at any level. We vote for our politicians expecting that they are hoping to make right decisions for us…not consciously making decisions they say to be "not best" on our behalf. An occasional mistake is acceptable…a conscious mistake is completely unacceptable in any endeavor…except maybe in crime!

Councillors Pidwerbecki and Kolodzie are both write-offs. These dinosaurs have their axles stuck so far in the mud that even their minds have calcified. Pidwerbecki introduced the idea of the plebiscite question because he thought it was just about time the question was asked. Can you imagine our leaders having such a shallow rationale for their actions? He further carried on that Oshawa was just too large for the ward vote…a rationale that is exactly opposite to the reality of the situation since the general vote is only useful in small jurisdictions of perhaps 20,000 people---or about the size of an average ward. When his mind was more nimble in his younger days in 1985, he exclaimed that getting the ward vote was just about the best thing that ever happened in Oshawa. He exclaimed that the ward system was the end of the country club and that it would bring new faces to council. He was right. The first ward vote saw half of council turfed out of office. I wonder if both of these characters are just getting a mite too old for ward political campaigns and constituency work and are just having a tough time keeping up. With the general vote, they could both go into semi retirement and still go on collecting their handsome benefits at the public trough. They just gotta go!

It is fortunate that Oshawa has a few “stars”—bright lights upholding the more democratic and accountable ward vote. They know that it is important to have a city council whose members represent all communities and constituencies in the city…a system that is inclusive of all demographics of the city…not just the rich that would rise under the general vote!

So kudos go to Councillors Lutczyk, Neal, Cullen, and Nicholson. Perhaps you’ll be joined by others who will cross the common sense divide to preserve the democratic and accountable ward vote for the people of Oshawa.

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.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

What Our Soldiers Giveth...Oshawa Politicians Taketh Away!

The following is an excerpt of a presentation made by VOTES Chair, Bill Longworth, to Oshawa City Council, April 10, 2007

The only meaningful vote is one that has the potential to change your political leaders. Oshawa's experience with the 7 councils elected under the general vote prior to 1985 was that all change on council took place through death or resignations of members...not through the vote.

Therefore the vote was an exercise in futility. It was meaningless in effecting change. It was not a real vote.

It was like a vote in China, or Russia, or Egypt, or many other places you can mention. People are able to vote...but they are not real votes because they have no role to play in selecting the political leaders or the parties that form the government. They are not real votes.

So Oshawa Council by wanting to change to the general vote is effectively taking your "real" vote away from you---they are stealing your vote.

Politicians are only accountable to the people in relation to the public's ability to remove them from office through the "real" vote. If they cannot be removed, they are not accountable. If they cannot be removed, they can do anything and get away with it.

There is ample evidence in history (even recent and present history) of the havoc that can be caused by leaders, political parties or dogmas that cannot be removed by the people.

Amazingly, we are discussing this loss of the real and meaningful vote one day after Canadians celebrated our WWI victory at Vimy Ridge where thousands of Canadian soldiers died trying to preserve freedoms for the world and for those back home in Canada.

Amazingly, we are also fighting today in Oshawa to save the “Real Vote” that is the basis of our democratic freedoms---the very thing our troops were fighting for and are continuing to do so in Afghanistan today---to bring real votes to people so that they have some control over their political destiny.

Oshawa is blessed with huge populations in citizens of Eastern European Heritage. Their forebearers came here to obtain freedoms like the "real vote" that could make a difference.

Oshawa has some councillors whose ancestors came here for that freedom. Surprisingly, some of these Eastern European Heritage Councillors are today voting to take away the real vote that their ancestors came here to cherish.

Hopefully the soldiers' sacrifice was not in vain.

Hopefully the ethnic communities do not lose their sense of freedom in Canada that members of their ethnic community are wanting to take away.

Hopefully, those members of Oshawa City Council who are presently wanting to steal our "real" vote---Mayor Gray and Councillors Shouldra, Pidwerbecki, Parkes, Marimpietri, Kolodzie, and Henry will soon start rethinking their positions on the ward/general vote question and honour the sanctity of our most basic freedom, the freedom to cast a "real" vote that can make a difference.

We must celebrate our freedoms...not trample them!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

City Council is Voting To Support a Flawed Plebiscite Strategy---Not Public Opinion!

A number of city councillors and the mayor have publicly stated that they think the ward system is best for Oshawa and yet they have also said they are supporting the plebiscite result.

They believe this is honoring the wishes expressed by the people of Oshawa.

This is not so! What they are doing is supporting a flawed plebiscite process--not public opinion.

If they were supporting public opinion they would have seen a lot of press supporting this view...instead, they have seen the opposite both in media editorials and in letters to the editor.

Despite the plebiscite result, the vast majority of expressed public sentiment has been for retaining ward voting.

Democracy absolutely requires an informed public…and council failed to see that the public was adequately informed. On the contrary, they seemed to strategize to minimize any public information or debate about the issue. This was absolutely irresponsible and undemocratic and resulted in the entire plebiscite process being severely flawed.

The people were given no details or background about the question and most had never anticipated it before they saw it on the ballot. There was no public debate or discussion about the subject. And the question was confusing.

Politicians say that they are surprised at the plebiscite result. They shouldn’t be.

Without public information and debate about an issue, it is impossible to gauge public opinion via plebiscite.

Whenever public opinion is sought via plebiscite, systems are always set up to insure that the public is well informed on the issue and public debate and discussion ensues before the vote. It is irresponsible to do otherwise. And Oshawa Council in its strategy minimized public information, debate, and discussion. This in turn minimizes the weight one can place on the result.

The way the question is asked often solicits a given response…and that, along with the lack of public information, produced the plebiscite result. The confusing question required voters to vote “NO’ to retain ward voting.

The result was obviously contrary to public wishes since no public dissatisfaction with the ward system was ever expressed. If the result was consistent with public wishes, surely there would have been some evidence of dissatisfaction with ward voting prior to the vote.

Instead, the whole process was politically driven.

What council did in putting the question on the ballot was to raise an issue where none existed. One has to question their motivation for doing this…and the only possible reason seems to be to serve the self interest of incumbents in guaranteeing their lifelong council seats.

Politicians are experts at gauging public opinion…and yet say they are surprised at the result. Perhaps they should examine the disconnect between their own view and the view of the public as expressed on the plebiscite.

Perhaps they should consider whether all of council’s actions leading up to the plebiscite were flawed.

If that is the case, then politicians should realize that by upholding the plebiscite result, they are not supporting it at all. Instead they are supporting the flawed system that failed to inform the public along with a question that confused them.

As political experts, they know this to be the case.

So the politicians who are voting against retaining ward voting that they have said they believe to be best for Oshawa---Mayor Gray and Councillors Sholdra, Parkes, Marimpietri and Henry---rethink your vote. Join Councillors Cullen, Neal, Lutczyk, and Nicholson in voting to preserve the ward system that you have said is best for Oshawa. Do not continue to support the plebiscite outcome that resulted from a seriously flawed communication shortcoming that led to it.

Please change your vote to support what you know to be in the best interests of Oshawa!

The long-term health of Oshawa depends upon a vibrant and accountable city council and we are depending on you to do the “right thing” for Oshawa and its people.

Don’t continue to vote in favor of the flawed system that produced the plebiscite result!

Monday, April 9, 2007

Video...Celebrating our rights...but not in Oshawa!

Today marks the 90th anniversary of the attack on Vimy Ridge on April 9, 1917.

This is seen as, a key step in Canada's evolution as a nation, because all four divisions of the Canadian Corps fought together to take a German position that had resisted previous attacks. In three days of heavy fighting, there were 10,602 Canadian casualties, including 3,598 dead, but the Germans lost control of the ridge and retreated.

We are celebrating on this day Canadian soldier's heroic victory in preserving the values and freedoms of our own country and of the free world.

So what do you think are the real icons…the defining values that characterize life in Canada and Western World”?

We have Free Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom of Association and Assembly, Freedom to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, Freedom of political expression, Freedom of the Press, etc....all aptly summarized in famous documents as the right of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

But what is the central right that defines all of the others?

Isn’t it the right to cast a meaningful vote……a “real” vote…a vote that can really make a difference in determining our governments?

Lots of countries have votes…but in many places they aren’t “real” votes.

In these countries, there may be only one set of candidates…or one party…it may be illegal to campaign against the government…or only certain people are allowed to vote…or the election may be outright fixed.

Votes allowed in those places are not "real" because they have no role in determining political leadership.

Oshawa’s history with the general vote shows that all council change took place through the death or resignation of members. When that was the case, the vote was meaningless. It was an exercise in futility because it did not and could not make a difference.

A vote that cannot and does not make a difference is not a vote at all.

Isn’t it perverse then that on this day when we are celebrating the 90th anniversary of our most noted victory to preserve democracy, we are fighting in Oshawa to retain the most cherished right we have…the right to cast a vote that has the power to determine our local government?

Even more astounding is that some Oshawa city politicians of Eastern European ancestry whose forefathers came here to enjoy the freedoms we have and the right to cast a meaningful vote are themselves voting to remove this basic right from us.

We can’t sit back and let our politicians take some of our freedoms away.…We have to rise up and rebel against those who would do this.

Losses of freedoms have a way of creeping up on us without us noticing. The loss of one freedom can be the thin edge of the wedge for the erosion of others.

Albert Einstein said, “The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing."

Stand up Oshawa and fight… Don’t look on and do nothing as Oshawa City Council undermines the most basic value that people have sacrificed for since the beginning of time…the vote that can make a difference in choosing your leaders.

Silence is consent!---You must rise up and get active in resisting the loss of your meaningful vote.

Celebrate our freedoms by emailing the mayor and council and tell them that you will not stand to have your free and meaningful vote taken away.

If Council if able to do this, it is not the Canada I know!

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Video--And so you wondered why the plebiscite question was asked

Everyone wonders why the plebiscite question was asked...and so you are not alone in this!

There had been no dissatisfaction ever publicly expressed about ward voting and so it is a mystery why the politicians ever felt it necessary to put the plebiscite question on the ballot.

The rationale given for asking the question was very juvenile..."I thought it was just about time the question was asked."

When pressed, the councillor stated that he felt, "Oshawa was just getting too large for ward voting." This is ludicrous!

The councillor was dead wrong! The general vote that he wants to introduce into Oshawa is only useful in smaller communities of about 25,000 maximum (or about the size of an average Oshawa ward).

The fact that he responded with this answer proves that he didn't think out the idea at all.

More likely though...he did think out the rationale but it was one he could not use to justify the change to the public. You can hardly say publicly that you want an electoral system that virtually guarantees your council seat as long as you live. That just wouldn't "wash" with the public.

Every sensible person knows that the larger a jurisdiction is, the more it must be broken down into smaller units called wards to allow voters to have a chance of becoming informed about the merits of candidates, to insure that all areas of the city are represented on council, to keep election costs at a level that allows for funding of campaigns by "ordinary" people, and to keep politicians accountable. Ward voting allows for the removal of politicians if they are not adequately serving the people.

Oshawa's history with the general vote was that no Oshawa resident living south of King Street was elected to Oshawa for seven consecutive councils and that all change on council took place through the death or resignation of members.

Because all general vote councillors were competitors for city wide votes, council became a fractious and unproductive place as members competed for press to promote their name as name recognition was the only determinant in getting elected. Some politicians even took holidays in Florida during election campaigns and still got elected.

Because of council's unproductive nature, outsiders came to recognize that Oshawa was an unprogressive backwater where nothing happened. We developed a negative reputation and so the community was seen as being an undesireable place to live. With reduced markets for real estate, prices plummeted and developers of high end housing avoided us like the plague. The only development we could attract for many years was downscale and subsidized housing...again contributing to Oshawa's reputation.

We are just overcoming the bad reputation problem now and have been successful in attracting a lot of high end housing and a building boom as one of the fastest growing regions in Canada. This goes along with our "highest income" place in Canada according to stats released by Revenue Canada. We don't want to return to our sleepy past with the return of the general vote.

Oshawa's last general vote ballot was 11"X17" and contained close to 100 names. It was an impossible task for voters to make informed choices among the vast number of candidates and so they simply went down the ballot marking names they'd heard of...and these were the incumbents who had spent the entire term promoting their name recognition.

When we won ward voting in 1985, half of the general vote council got defeated because it takes a different kind of politician to be elected in ward voting. It takes a politician that relates to people and serves them.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Presentation to City Hall, Feb. 5, 2005

Oshawa city council was considering its strategy to avoid an OMB appeal regarding its plans to change to the general vote.

According to Provincial Legislative changes, city staff advised them that they could avoid appeal by switching to the general vote as long as they kept the existing wards without revision.

A "loophole" in the legislation allows councils to determine the composition of council but not to revise the wards without the possibility of appeal.

Since wards are associated with voting throughout Ontario and in Oshawa since 1985, VOTES still feels that it can appeal to the OMB once the city passes its bylaw since funtionally seven wards are being reduced to one for voting purposes. VOTES has also developed two additional arguments of appeal.

VOTES feels that the changes to the Provincial Municipal Act opens up a "can of worms" unanticipated by the Province, but beyond this, just because council can do something doesn't make it right or just for the people.

Without a daily newspaper that is circulated by paid subscription to people who are really interested in Oshawa, City Council was able to slip their moves to the general vote below the public radar screen without any public discussion or debate. And in everything it did, Council flew its planes low.

They failed to provide any information to the public about the change. So to this day, we have not been told of Council's rationale for putting the plebiscite question on the ballot, what was wrong with the ward system to consider change, or what benefits the general vote is expected to bring to Oshawa.

The result? People were confronted for the first time in the voting booth with a convoluted "trick" question that they had never discussed, considered, heard about...and had to vote "NO" to retain the ward system that they had used for many years.

The entire stategy and systems city politicians put in place to move toward the general vote was democratically flawed to the extreme. Democracy requires an "informed" public and city politicans did everything in their power to keep public information to a minimum on this important issue. Council's communication strategy is completely different when they want you to know something...then no expense is spared!

Since no public dissatisfaction had ever been expressed about any shortcomings of the ward system, one has to assume it was supported by the people.

The issue has been completely thought up and fabricated by the politicians who know that the general vote guarantees them lifetime seats on council. At term salaries and benefits of close to $500,000, there is plenty of motivation for politicians to risk their integrity in making the change.

It is extremely unethical for politicians to gerrymander the system for their own benefit at the expense of the citizens of Oshawa.

We need a system that serves the people, not the politicians.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Video...Where's Council's Loyalty to the People Who Put Them In Power?

Where does loyalty stand in the hierarchy of human qualities you value.

Loyalty is a fundamental value…the most basic requirement of all human relationships.

It is the quality we want most in our friends…without it, friendship cannot exist.

Politics is a human relationship…a trust of leadership between the leader and the led.

The Leaders ascend to the “throne of leadership” in a free society because we place our trust in them to make decisions for us and in our interest. We expect their loyalty to their supporters and in the broader sense to the whole society. After all it was our loyalty to them that gave them their positions.

When we feed politicians our votes…we don’t expect to be bitten. We don’t expect them to bite the hands that feed them…we expect loyalty…a reciprocal and beneficial relationship to both parties.

When we vote for our politicians…we expect them to be loyal in their service to us. We expect them to work in our best interests.

Unfortunately this is not what is happening in Oshawa.

Politicians want to return to the general vote knowing full well that huge sections of the city will grow to be unrepresented.over time. The south end (anywhere in Oshawa below King Street) couldn’t elect one resident from their community in seven successive general vote councils, a total of 109 seats leading up to the change to ward voting in 1985.

Ward Voting has guaranteed the south end 4½ councillors so the ward system has given voice to their concerns. This has brought important benefits to the south end…a new library, senior’s center, ambulance dispatch station, and a new recreation center.

With the ward system, no longer is it possible to have a “Have Not” section of Oshawa because ward voting has guaranteed equality of representation to all.

Ward politicians have been loyal to their voters in insuring progress for their neighbourhoods.

This is about to change.

Long time counciillor Joe Kolodzie who represented the south end for ages is supporting taking away guaranteed community council representation for the south end.

Long time councillor Nester Pidwerbecki who represents a large part of the south end is supporting taking away guaranteed south end community representation.

Councillor Maryanne Sholdra who represents the south end on local council recently made a speech where she stated that she was “honoured” to be the south end representative on council…yet she too is supporting yanking guaranteed south end representation from the south end.

Councillors John Henry, Tito Dante Marimpietri, and Louise Parkes also want to yank your south end guaranteed council representation from you. They are joined by Mayor Gray.

Why don’t these politicians want all areas of Oshawa to have fair and equal guaranteed representation on council? That question has never been answered.

If Council is able to bring in a general vote, all of Oshawa will have to work to defeat these politicians who are stealing local community council representation from the people…not just from the south end…but from all parts of Oshawa. Under the general vote no politician will be responsible for looking after your ward concerns.

For those in the south end…for sure don’t support those politicians who have proven their disloyalty to you.

For all others in Oshawa…you’ll lose your guaranteed representation on council too and there will be no one responsible for handling your ward concerns either. You’ll have to remember to defeat the “thieves” who are stealing your ward representatives too.

After all…loyalty is the highest personal quality you expect in someone you support, isn’t it?

And why ever would you support someone who has proven to be disloyal to you and your interests?

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Video...So What Difference Does Oshawa's Election System Make to You?

What difference does our election system make anyway?

Many people have asked how the whole issue of the ward/general vote came up and why?

People indicate that they were quite happy with the ward system that seemed to be working well..and no one recalls any dissatisfaction ever being expressed with it.

On the contrary, they point out many positives that have happened in Oshawa over recent years…the growth of new industry, the housing and development boom, the rapid expansion of Oshawa and all of the retail alternatives that has spawned, the expansion of new recreational facilities, libraries, and senior’s centers, attracting new residents which has resulted in the Oshawa area having the highest average annual incomes in the country and the fastest growing place in the GTA, etc. and we could go on…but you get the drift.

No one seems to know why we needed a change from ward elections...and the politicians have never told us the reason why the plebiscite question was asked, what was wrong with the ward system such that they would consider change, and what they feel the general vote will accomplish for the city to make it better than ward voting.

We can think of many advantages of ward voting and Oshawa's history with the general vote prior to 1985 demonstrated that as a very deficient system.

The ward distribution of politicians around the city resulted in an even and fair distribution of city facilities …this was a godsend to the south end which had been neglected for too long under oshawa’s former general vote which blocked the south end from city council representation. The ward system brought the south end the first representatives on council that it had in decades.

Under the ward system, the south end is guaranteed 4.5 members of council accountable to them. They have 3 Regional Councillors and 1.5 Local Councillors responsible to South End voters. Under the general vote, for 7 successive councils totaling 109 seats, not one of those 109 elected lived south of king street. Without representation on council, the south end couldn’t and didn’t get any attention from city council. Now with guaranteed representatives, they cannot be neglected any more as long as we have the ward system.

The general vote contributed to a negative reputation for all of Oshawa because of the lack of attention paid to parts that had no political representation. The result…no one wanted to live here and so development stifled and house prices were the cheapest in the GTA. Commuters from Toronto would even bypass Oshawa in favour of Bowmanville, Port Perry and Newcastle where the house prices were higher but the communities were more desireable.

The fact that ward politicians are directly accountable to specific neighbourhoods in the city and will lose their council seats if they don't effectively represent their constituents, they must be productive in doing things for Oshawa.

Under the general vote, a different kind of politician got elected...those who were good at promoting their name. Because name recognition is the determinant in general vote success, that becomes the main effort in everything they do. They backbite, bitch, bicker, and grandstand on council to grab the press. Because all councillors are competitors for the same city wide votes, council becomes very competitive and fractious at the expense of council productivity.

The people of Oshawa must they want politicians whose main goal is to promote their name or do they want politicians whose main goal is to provide service to people?

If you think service to people is need ward voting.

Email the mayor and council and tell them so and please sign our petition at the top right sidebar of this site if you have not yet done so.

It will take a major effort from everyone if we are to preserve ward voting for Oshawa.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Video...Oshawa City Council is Undermining Canada's Basic Democratic Values, and I'm Mad as Hell! How about You?

Oshawa City Council is taking one of Canada's most basic values away from voters---the meaningful vote that determines Oshawa's political leadership.

Council refused to provide adequate public information about the ward/general vote issue before the plebiscite question and still refuses to provide public information about the change to the general vote.

Aren't voters entitled to know why the plebiscite question was asked when there was not one whimper of dissatisfaction expressed with ward voting?

Aren't voters entitled to know what was wrong with the ward system when it seemed to be working so well?

Aren't voters entitled to know the benefits council expects from the general vote?

Aren't voters entitled to be reminded of Oshawa's history with the general vote when all of council came from a few of the wealthier areas leaving most of Oshawa unrepresented?

Aren't voters entitled to know that all political change under Oshawa's general vote took place through death or resignation of members?

Aren't voters entitled to know that the general vote is virtually unused in Canada and is not used in any city as large as Oshawa without the use of political parties?

Aren't voters entitled to know all these things?

So why does council continue to deny us the information?

Council's actions hardly remind us of the way governments are supposed to act in Canada.

Why are they not providing the information. Are they trying to hide something? Do they have some hidden agenda? Are they afraid that people will discuss and analyze the change and discover that the politicians themselves are the greatest beneficiaries since the general vote will guarantee them a lifetime seat on the "gravy train" of city council.

So how do you feel Oshawa being taken for a patsy and a fool?

I for one am damn mad and am doing something about it. How about you?

The greatest danger to a democratic society is that voters become lethargic and sit back and do nothing...and then it's too late.

And I don't like council trying to take away the meaningful vote that our armed forces fought for in the great wars and many people are still fighting and laying down their lives for in many regions of the world.

Oshawa is blessed with large populations of Eastern European ancestry. Didn't their forebearers come to Canada to escape the very thing that Oshawa City Council is pulling on the people?

What council is trying to do is remove one of the most basic values of our society and our way of life...the meaningful vote which determines our political leadership.

I believe in the basic values of a Democratic Canada...don't you? And I'm doing something about that too! How about you?

The politicians have to hear your feelings and your attitudes about this change. You have to email the mayor and council and express your view.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Video...Oshawa Council Shows Profound Disrespect For Voting Public

To the Mayor and Council
Oshawa City Hall,
c/o Oshawa City Clerk

cc: Letters to the Editor

I addressed the Budget and Audit Committee today with a request for a partnership grant to have an information brochure regarding Oshawa's proposed change to the general vote prepared and distributed to all residence doors in Oshawa. Unfortunately, the committee did not support my request.

I continue to believe that information must be circulated to the public regarding this very important issue.

It is difficult to understand that city council would place such a high priority on communicating some items like "Stephen Colbert Day--the Mayor's birthday celebration", and a multitude of very professional, glossy paper, full colour brochures on topics ranging from "A Walking Tour of Oshawa's Natural Areas", The Grand Opening of GM Place, Communities in Bloom Brochure, Amazing Facts Promotional Brochure, Oshawa Winter Celebrations, Oshawa's Pest Management Plan, A walking Tour of Oshawa's Gardens, 2006 Inside Oshawa, etc., etc., etc. but refuse to provide any information about the change to the general vote. This is serious misplacement of priorities.

If council wants you to know, they spare no expense...if they don't want you to know, they photostat "the minimum" and pitch it in your garbage. You can tell what they want you to know by the quality of their communication to you. So why do they not want us to know about the change to the general vote? What are they hiding? Is there a hidden agenda in their lack of communication? I think there is!

In comparison to the very professional brochures listed above, the flyer sent to all residences informing the public of the meeting in respect of the change to the general vote was a cheaply printed flyer that could have been photostated on cheap letterhead paper. It looked so unimpressive that it could have been mistaken for a mass mailing advertising flyer and thrown in the garbage before attracting any attention whatsoever. It simply gave date, purpose, location, time of the meeting along with a legalese bylaw that would not promote any interest whatsoever. It certainly is a different style from the fancy colour brochures that the city prepares when it wants to promote something or wants something to be noticed.

The question has to be asked..."Why did Oshawa refuse to provide information and why are they still refusing to do so?" Is this failure to disclose necessary information some part of a hidden political agenda? Is the failure to disclose information an attempt to dampen public debate on the issue? Is it the mushroom strategy, "Feed the people sh-t and keep them in the dark?

In any case, this failure to properly inform the public demonstrates a severe disrespect for the taxpayers of Oshawa.

Democracy is a basic value of our society and the "Free World" knows that a democracy is dependent upon an informed public. Council, however, has refused to provide the necessary public information. Therefore the whole plebiscite process was seriously flawed and cannot be considered a gauge of public opinion by any reasonable person.

The citizens of Oshawa needed to know what the general vote was, what deficiencies there were with the ward system to precipitate putting the plebiscite question on the ballot, and what benefits the general vote would be expected to bring to Oshawa.

Without answers to those questions, voters could not and cannot give an informed opinion...therefore the plebiscite result is inconsequential. If council was unwilling to provide the information, they should not have asked the question.

Council members who state that they believe the ward system is best but continue to support the plebiscite result should be reasonably expected to rethink their position. They should be voting against the plebiscite result as a flawed strategy that can not at all pretend to reflect public opinion.

Despite all external variables, voters certainly expect councillors as informed experts to vote for what they believe to be best for the city.

The majority of council by publicly stating that they support ward voting are in the same breath saying that the people were wrong in their vote to change to the general vote and these council members should start thinking about the reasons for the discrepancy between their personal view and that of the public as expressed on the plebiscite. Perhaps they may come to the conclusion that the plebiscite process was flawed.

In any case, I believe that public information continues to be important and thus still feel that a professionally prepared brochure needs to be prepared and distributed to the public.

Because the committee did not support this request, I would request to address the full city council when the committee recommendation re my partnership grant is considered.

Please advise me of this date and confirm that I am on the council agenda as a delegation.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Why Stop at the General Vote...Oshawa should go all the way and disband Oshawa Civic Administration...Maybe Council is on to something!

I am jumping for joy at the announced tax increase of only 3.9%. Aren’t you?

Politicians used the tax collector’s ploy that has been used since the beginning of time. They highballed projected increases of over 6% and were able to come in a couple of points lower…whoopee!

And all of this comedic routine just to provide relief to the harried Oshawa taxpayer.

Interestingly, this 3.9% figure was mentioned in the press prior to budget approval. Politicians knew this as the “real” final figure all along.

Sort of like yard sale routines...ask higher but know you're going to settle for lower. And then the buyer (or taxpayer) knows he's getting a real deal.

I think Oshawa taxpayers are too smart to fall for this ruse.

The big question…what are we getting for the money?

The city tax is about the same as the regional tax and yet the region has all of the larger, more important, and costly functions.

The Regional responsibilities are 1) Strategic land use planning, 2) Subdivision and condominium approval, 3) Area Municipal Official Plans and Amendments, 4) Water supply, distribution and billing, 5) Sewage collection and treatment, 6) Police services, 7) Arterial roads, traffic lights and controls, 8) Garbage and refuse disposal, 9) Health and social services, 10) Emergency measures, 11) All borrowing of money for capital expenditures, and 12) Economic development and tourism.

The city only looks after 1) Local planning (zoning), 2) Local streets and sidewalks, 3) Garbage collection, 5) Fire protection, 6) Parks and recreation, 7) Tax collection, 8) Building inspection and permits and, 9) Licencing.

So why is Oshawa’s tax bill so large?

The local city government and the regional government have many overlapping functions and systems and many overlapping departments and bureaucracies that are often duplicating and doubling costs to the taxpayer.

Since Oshawa politicians want to wipe out your local ward representation with the general vote which will move local government further from the people, perhaps they should “go all the way” and wipe out Oshawa Civic Administration completely and hand Oshawa's few responsibilities over to the the region.

The Oshawa taxpayer would not see one iota of difference except for a decreased tax bill…and, Lord knows, as the highest taxed citizens in the GTA our shrinking Oshawa wallets need the tax relief.

Does it make sense to you that the Region looks after all of the main streets such as Grandview, Wilson, Harmony, Ritson, Simcoe, Centre, Park, Stevenson, Thornton, Phillip Murray, Farewell, Wentworth, Olive, Gibb, King, Bond, Adelaide, Rossland, Taunton, etc. and that city equipment runs over these roads with the same equipment to maintain, clean, and plow the local residential streets. Doesn't this sound like duplication and inefficiency to you with both levels having road maintenance/snow clearing, road cleaning equipmment going over each jurisdiction's roads to service their own?

And doesn't it sound inefficient to have city picking up refuse and garbage but the region disposing of it?

And doesn't it sound wasteful, costly, and inefficient if both jurisdictions have similar departments like human resources, planning, procurement, legal, accounting, municipal clerks, etc. all performing the same services at the different levels.

Amalgamation of services seems to be the sensible direction. Regional public transit systems are a case in point. Did it make sense before amalgamation a year or so ago that you couldn’t get to Oshawa from Whitby or Bowmanville on public transit? Yet recall how hard the politicians fought to retain their turf even at higher costs and inefficient delivery of service to the people.

When regional governments were formed in 1971, all of the major responsibilities were given to the region while the city was left with minor and incidental responsibilities. Yet the Oshawa taxpayer pays about as much for the minor responsibilities carried out by Oshawa as it does for the major responsibilities carried out by the region.

Provincial policy under the Harris government was to amalgamate municipalities to cut out overlaps and duplications of function to result in greater efficiencies and lower costs.. This worked out okay in Toronto where the former 5 cities were merged into one administration with no problem. The change didn’t make any difference to the people. People still say they live in Scarborough, or North York, or Etobicoke, etc. It’s just that they don’t pay taxes to those municipalities.

Oshawa taxpayers would still live in Oshawa even if our civic administration was disbanded. We just wouldn't pay taxes to Oshawa.

So the precendent has been set. Even expert efficiency and costing studies have been done. They just have to be implemented.

Amalgamation makes sense. We are already there with most of the important local government functions. We just have to add some minor changes to complete the process.

Go for it Oshawa politicians...fold complete amalgamation into your strategy to return to the general vote. A local government close to the people doesn't matter!