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.

1 comment: