Thursday, September 27, 2007

"I will never take a donation from a developer!"--John Henry

Such was the exclamation from Councillor John Henry in a “holier than thou” statement he made in an August 1, 2007, Page 1 Oshawa This Week Story. By making the statement, Councillor Henry impugns the integrity of every incumbent Oshawa politician all of whom took money from the development industry.

Impugning the integrity of his fellow politicians though is not such a far-fetched action. But by doing so, he is certainly implying that his fellow politicians trade their votes for election funding.

Perhaps Councillor Henry’s utterances were the first shot across the bow of his fellow councillors in what is sure to become a very fractious and unproductive council as members grow their political recognition for a general vote council where all members start competing for the same citywide votes.

Henry’s assertion will prove to be a gross misrepresentation in fund raising for the next election where he will certainly want development industry support. Perhaps he hopes the short term platitudes from the non-analytical will be forgotten by the time of their next vote.

Councillor Henry must not confuse his ability to raise funds from the development industry and his inability to do so.

The article stated that Councillors Henry and Mary Ann Sholdra were the only Oshawa politicians not to benefit from the largesse of the Development Industry. Both will readily accept the largesse of the Development Industry come the next election.

The Development Industry is not in the business of funding a “pig in a poke” and didn’t expect Councillor Henry to defeat incumbent Cathy Clarke and thus wouldn’t fund his campaign. Instead, they funded the campaign of the defeated incumbent!

Councillor Henry was no different in this regard than any other non-incumbent candidate in not receiving development industry political contributions.

The only non-incumbent receiving some Development Industry funding was the spouse of an incumbent councilor. Perhaps this is the reason she received Development funding.

To establish the honesty of Councillor Henry’s dogmatic comments about accepting Development Funding, we will have to wait to see his listing of donations received that must be filed after the next election.

I have annotated my computer calendar to check this issue following the next election and will publicize the result contrasting it with Councillor Henry’s assertions now.

It is hard to believe that he would want to expend $35,000 or so of his own money to self-finance his next “General Vote” campaign.

For him, ward campaigning was cheap, only costing $14239.43. He won’t get by on this slim budget campaigning city wide under the general vote.

Same is true for Mary Anne Sholdra, the other Oshawa Councillor not receiving any donations. Her complete campaign costs had to be borne by herself, despite her past seat on council.

Non-incumbents don’t get development funds…only incumbents get these funds.

Typically non-incumbents have to fund their own campaign and the $35,000 or so necessary to run a viable campaign in the general vote that Oshawa politicians have brought to the city will make it virtually impossible for them to compete. Only incumbent politicians will get donations from the Development Industry and other businesses and individuals that want their votes.

Virtually the only donors to non-incumbents was from trade unions. And you guessed it—they donated to union members…chiefly to members of the UAW retirees who were candidates in the last election.

The donors to all candidates can be surveyed yourself. You can check out who received union donations, who received development industry donations, and who received no donations.

The union movement is a great beneficiary of the general vote. They hope to influence their city-wide membership to vote for their union candidates. The union movement did not have the degree of influence under ward voting as they will have under the general vote.

The union movement has always been supportive of the general vote in Oshawa and labour leaders along with incumbent politicians were the outspoken leaders for retaining the general vote when we last had it prior to 1985. In the days leading up to Ward Voting for Oshawa, the union movement and its leaders like OFL President, Cliff Pilkey, expended huge advertising budgets to try to influence public opinion to retain the general vote.

Even the greatest preponderance of those speaking in favour of the general vote at the April 19, 2007 Sikorski Hall Public Meeting were retired CAW members and virtually all sat together as a group at this meeting. All of these individuals certainly hope to garner the support of city-wide unionists in their next municipal campaign for the $500,000 council seat prize.

We would hope that Oshawa This Week's objectivity is not clouded by the $120,000 annual Oshawa City Hall advertising budget as the public media has a responsibility not to mislead the public when they choose to write “puff stories” to promote city politicians.

Perhaps famed newscaster, Walter Cronkite, was right on in when he stated, “Pressures to go along, to get along, or to place the needs of advertisers or companies above the public’s need for reliable information distort a free press and threaten democracy itself.”

I often wonder if that is why Oshawa This Week refuses to print letters to the editor regarding Oshawa’s change to the general vote that I submit. Perhaps they got the word from City Hall---“Be good or lose our advertising dollar!”

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Ontario Referendum

Ontarians on October 10th will make an important choice between the existing first-past-the post (FPTP) electoral system and the proposed replacement, MMP (mixed -member proportional). It has been said that FPTP has problems. We are democratic reformers, but the proposed system is more flawed and will create even more problems.

How we cast votes and elect politicians are more than technicalities. Election rules reflect significant values and create incentives for politicians. Changing an electoral system requires us to think about what we value. What incentive system do we really want?

Ontario’s FPTP system appeals to those who desire stability, accountability, effectiveness, and simplicity. MMP appeals to those who seek proportionality and power-sharing.

Politics requires ideals. But good design is essential. When asked to change a fundamental institution such as our electoral system we must consider issues of both values and design.

With MMP, we will cast two votes. One, as now, will be for our local MPP (but with a total of 90 instead of the current 107). The other will be for our preferred party, leading, after complicated calculations, to the election of 39 “party list” parliamentarians. In theory, we will have a legislature reflecting the votes for parties (proportionality), and, it as assumed, more women and visibility minority MPPs.

Proportionality will mean the end of majority governments and create a legislature composed of many parties preoccupied with power-bargaining and gaining short-term advantage. Parties will find it hard to plan.

Consider the threshold for the election of party-list MPPs. A party needs three percent of the total vote to win a seat, a threshold at the low end of the range for MMP systems: most are at five percent. Our concern is MMP - in such a diverse and large province as Ontario – creates an incentive for people to form new parties in order to advance their interests. Political entrepreneurs will see that they can win seats without making a heavy effort to appeal to many voters. A multi-party legislature means that small and single-issue parties will be more important than their voting strength would otherwise warrant. The minority governments of the future will be much different from the ones of the past.

In terms of promoting diversity, there are two fatal flaws in the party list idea. First, where people are placed on the list is crucial: placed first means election, last means defeat. So, having 30 women on the list is meaningless if the top nine are men.

Second, Ontario is one constituency for the party-list candidates; parties are not required to list people from Ontario’s various regions. It is entirely possible for most party-list MPPs to hail from one region. This is great news for people living in, say, the GTA, but bad news for rural residents or Northern Ontarians.
There should have been provision for regional party-list elections so no region is seriously under-represented in the legislature. As it is, the proposed MMP system may encourage the formation of regional parties.

The MMP proposal contains a new theory of representation. Instead of having MPPs in Queen’s Park who are locally-elected and expected to represent their district’s concerns there will be 39 MPPs who have no direct connection with or accountability to electors. This creates two classes of representatives, one known and responsible to their electors, the other answerable to party leaders who place people on the list and their ranking.

Party leaders are very powerful in our parliamentary system and it is unfortunate that the MMP designers did not require that party members (in regional conventions) choose the party list candidates. Citizens would have an incentive to join parties, thus invigorating an important part of our society.

What are the party-list parliamentarians doing? Political science literature suggests the following: Constituency MPPs will be busy with local issues and dealing with concerns of constituents; party-list MPPs will be preoccupied with the legislature, doing party work, and meeting with interest groups.

MMP’s new theory of representation will radically change politics in Ontario. Perhaps it is a good idea that Queen’s Park has one group of MPPs who are directly connected to constituencies and other MPPs passing laws and imposing taxes who do not have to worry about personal re-election or even being re-nominated by local party members. For our part, we oppose a system of “representation without location.”

Have we adequately debated the issue? We believe that the referendum process is flawed. The Citizens’ Assembly’s Report was released on May 15th. With two months lost during summer, we will make a monumental decision in too short a time, and when we are pre-occupied with the provincial election.

MMP advocates point to New Zealand as an example of a parliamentary system that has adopted MMP. They do not mention the lengthy decision-making process: a Royal Commission reported, followed by a referendum on electoral systems, then a second referendum on MMP. We should have had the same opportunity to learn, reflect, and decide.

We urge Ontarians to retain FPTP knowing that it has provided for stable, effective, and accountable government since before Confederation. The voting process is simple and the counting of votes is straightforward. And the electoral system is responsive to new issues, ideas, and parties, leading to governments being formed and being defeated.

Peter Woolstencroft, Department of Political Science,
University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

Rob Leone, Department of Political
Science, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo

Mark Yaniszewski, Department of
Political Science, University of Western Ontario, London

Bill Longworth's comment

For what it's worth---my basic belief is that every member of governing institutions should be elected and accountable to voters who elect him/her. I don't believe we should have a second class of politicians (appointed like Senators) without any accountability whatsoever to voters. In the MMP system it is conceivable that the powers of government will be handed to non-elected party bosses leaving elected members to simply look after constituency concerns and hold up their voting hands when told to do so by the unaccountable and unelected party bosses. In a democracy, voters have to have the power to remove individual members from the governing institutions. In undemocratic nations, members of governing bodies are appointed and imposed on the people by the governing party and its leaders. We shouldn't go this route in Ontario!

As stated in the Toronto Star Editorial on Sept. 26, "This referendum is simply too important for people to cast their ballots without really knowing what it is all about."---It's too bad that Oshawa City Council did not heed this warning about the importance of public information when even Oshawa's Mayor stated that the city had no responsibility to inform the public about its own referendum.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Open Letter to the Premier of Ontario

Hon Dalton McGuinty,
Premier of Ontario

cc. Hon. J. Gerretsen,
Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing

Mayor and Council
c/o Oshawa City Clerk

Local Media

Dear Premier McGuinty:

I am aghast at the huge $6.8 million provincial expenditure that is devoted to funding the provincial referendum information and awareness campaign which will swamp the media and the public prior to the Octobert 10th provincial election.

I would suggest that the Province follow the “cost-free” process followed by Oshawa City Council leading up to Oshawa’s referendum regarding changing to the general vote for the election of city and regional councillors.

Following Oshawa’s model would free significant tax dollars for other Provincial priorities.

Oshawa councillors voted to not provide any information to the public and the mayor in remarks at city council stated that the city had no responsibility to provide any details or information related to the referendum question. He said this was the responsibility of individual taxpayers who should fund and organize an independent information campaign.

The mayor’s comments were in profound conflict with statements made by Ontario’s Chief Electoral Officer, John Collins, who states that Elections Ontario’s mandate
"is to ensure that Ontario voters are not only aware that a referendum is occurring on October 10, but believe they are adequately prepared to make an informed decision"

While both Elections Ontario and Canada’s Supreme Court believe that an informed public is a right in a democracy and that elections are fair and equitable only if all citizens are reasonably informed of all possible choices," that is not a belief that is shared or practiced by Oshawa City Council.

Oshawa voters were kept in the dark about why the referendum question was asked since no dissatisfaction was ever publicly expressed about Oshawa’s ward voting. The term “general vote” was never defined for voters. The pros and cons of ward vs the general vote were never defined.

The result? Oshawa voters were confronted “cold” in the ballot box having to consider the difficult, convoluted, and complex question for the first time--no prior information, no prior consideration, no prior discussion or debate, no understanding of the meaning of the question they were asked, and no definitions of the technical terms used in the question.

Further the referendum question was revised by council a number of times so that voters were required to vote “NO” to maintain the ward system and “YES” to replace it with the general vote.

In short, Oshawa politicians wanted and expected Oshawa voters to make uninformed choices with a question worded in such a way so as to skew the results the way council wanted.

Oshawa Council's deliberately flawed referendum process makes a mockery of democracy.

Following the referendum results, all councillors received public comments that the question was confusing. Many citizens stated they did not understand the question. After explanation, many citizens stated that they had voted the wrong way.

Despite this, council plunged ahead to implement a bylaw to revert to the general vote making Oshawa at 160,000 people the largest city in Canada to utilize the general vote without also having civic political parties.

This is in spite of the fact that Ontario Municipal Affairs and Housing officials have publicly stated that populations of about 20,000 are the upper limits for a general vote.

The flawed process and the convoluted question combined to give Oshawa Council the "self-serving" result they wanted…the result that would guarantee them their council seats until death or resignation.

The bylaw approved by Oshawa City Council provides for both a general vote and keeping the present ward structure purely to avoid any appeal to the OMB. I'm sure this is an unexpected and unanticipated outcome of recent amendments to the Municipal Act which gives more authority to municipalities.

Oshawa Council has implemented a system that serves them rather than the people they are supposed to serve—a system that makes them less accountable, removes them further from the people, takes away local community representation, insures that vast areas of the city will go unrepresented as time progresses, and insures that only the rich or incumbents who can fundraise through the development industry will be able to mount a viable city wide campaign.

The general vote for Oshawa will mean that city council politicians, who should be closest to the people, will have constituencies about twice the size of our Provincial and Federal Politicians.

Mr. Premier, If you feel that Oshawa was undemocratic in failing to insure an informed public and didn't meet the fairness expectations of Elections Ontario, or of the Supreme Court of Canada, I might respectfully suggest as premier, you’d roll back council’s decision and tell them that the only valid referendum result is from an informed public.

Invalidate Oshawa’s general vote bylaw and tell Oshawa City Council that if they feel the general vote is best for Oshawa, then they should fully inform the public and hold another referendum at the next city elections but only after they have satisfied the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing that they are implementing systems to promote public debate and provide sufficient information to fully inform the public.

Democracy is too important in this country for it to be mocked by members of Oshawa City Council for their own self-serving purposes.

You can see further background on this issue at

Bill Longworth,
Chairman and Founder of VOTES---Vote to eliminate self-serving politicians

September 13, 2007

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Councillor Sholdra says she has been threatened and slandered!

At the April 30, 2007 Oshawa City Council meeting when the general vote was adopted, Councillor Sholdra accused me "according, she says, to her "legal advice" of "threatening and slandering her both verbally and in writing.

I believe that these unsubstantiated, ridiculous, and juvenile comments were made over the public airwaves to undermine my credibility and I believe that we should expect more responsible behavior of our public officials.

You be the judge!

From: Bill Longworth (
Sent:April 16, 2007 10:26:44 AM
To: mshouldra (

Hi Maryanne...You will be interested in the following excerpt from a recent post.

"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 the Eastern European community and taking away their meaningful vote that they came here to cherish?"

Shame Maryanne!

I'm sure that the ethnic communities you strongly supported for many years will feel "let down" and "disappointed" at your votes to remove ward voting, the system that ensures them a "real voice" at the polls. Their ancestors, and yours, in the old country had enough of feeling powerless to choose their political leaders. You know that is a key reason why they came here...and why they've continued to be so interested in getting politically involved over the years.

Why not change your vote in recognition of the extremely flawed plebiscite process put in place by the last council. You know that democracy cannot function without an informed public. You also know that the kind of "trick" question (re funding the partnership grant for VOTES) that stumped and confused some councillors at the last council meeting was the same kind of question that confused the public voting on the plebiscite question.

Your vote for the plebiscite result is not at all upholding the public will...but is supporting a flawed process that is not democratic at all.
If you changed your vote, I would like to put you down in my site as one of the "stars" upholding and "saving" democracy in Oshawa in future posts.

Bill Longworth,
Founder & Chair of VOTES (Vote to Eliminate Self Serving Politicians)
I believe that the following email sent to Councillor Sholdra is the one that she says threatened and slandered her!

As a courtesy, I was informing Councillor Sholdra that I had initiated a new FACEBOOK SITE aimed at the Oshawa multicultural communities and that I was going to use the site to inform this community that she was voting to take away their local ward politician thus making city politicians less accountable to the people.

An internet site of interest to you
From: Bill Longworth (
Sent:April 28, 2007 3:07:46 PM
To: mshouldra (

Hi Maryanne...just started this new site for members of Oshawa's multicultural community and thought you might be interested in checking it out. Let Joe and Nester know also as they will get some face time in this site as well.

You might want to change your vote to reject the general vote so that this information does not spread too broadly.

As this site grows, i will be able to send a message to every member's email with one click of a button. We will work on promoting this site among the Oshawa multicultural community and I think Fiesta Week would be a great week to start...don't you?

Facebook is designed so that once it gets loose in a community, it spreads like wildfire as it is so easy for readers to sign up all of the contacts in their address books.

If you change your vote, you will save me the trouble of working on this site and you the loss of support.

Isn't the internet great?

Bill Longworth,
Founder & Chair of VOTES (Vote to Eliminate Self Serving Politicians)
The preamble to the FACEBOOK entry is...

Oshawa Councillor, Maryanne Sholdra is voting to take guaranteed local area political representation from Oshawa's many communities. This will mean that the south end of Oshawa will likely have no residents on council but it will also mean that no matter where you live, you will have no city council politician responsible to you and your neighbours. Councillor Sholdra is failing to protect the "real" vote that many ancestors of Oshawa's multicultural communities came here to have. Her vote is eroding democracy in the City of Oshawa.
Democracy requires an informed public. When we want to inform the public about the votes of Councillor Sholdra, she calls it threatening and slander...isn't it amazing that she doesn't want her supporters to know about her vote on this issue.

I wonder why!

Certainly any politician would want voters to know of their votes if they thought the vote reflected the view of the majority of their constituents!

Maybe Councillor Sholdra feels that her vote to take away local representation to protect the seat of incumbent politicians would not be popular with her supporters, many of whose ancestors migrated here for a freer, more open and democratic government.