Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Inadequate Accountability and Transparency Committee response to Longworth's Seven Deadly Sins Questions

VOTES Chair, Bill Longworth, made a presentation to the Accountability and Transparency Committee on January 17, 2008. As a result the committee made recommendations accessible here. While I supported Recommendations #3 (Agree to Post politician's expense and renumeration records, #5 (Agree to notify delegations of time and date of their presentations to councils and committees), and #6 (publish construction costs and funding details of GM Centre and dispensation details of funds raised from OPUC sale), I did not support the committee failure to accept my requests in #1 (auditor general to investigate city plebiscite strategy), #2(request for links to all staff reports and citizen correspondence on the council agenda where the items are officially dealt with), #4 (that city council severely limit in-camera meetings), and #7 (that auditor general investigate potential ethical and legal questions behind the purchase of the Cullen Miniatures).

I therefore sent the following letter to Oshawa City Council c/o Oshawa City Clerk as well as the Local and Regional Media.

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

I am requesting to address the full council re the Accountability and Transparency Committee recommendations in respect of my recent presentations to them which were considered at the meeting of February 7, 2008

I am satisfied with committee recommendations that addressed my requests:

1) That city politician’s complete and detailed expenses, salaries, honorariums, and allowances for sitting on both City and Regional Councils and Citizen Committees be posted on the city website, and

2) That city clerk’s office give formal notification to delegations of the date and time when they are scheduled to address either city council or committees of council, and

3) That a full public report be prepared regarding the $45 million funding details of GM Centre and of the dispensation of the $30 million that council received as a result of monetizing a portion of the ownership of the OPUC
I would reserve the right to present these items to the full council in the event that any or all of the committee recommendations do not meet approval of City Council.

I am not satisfied with committee recommendations in respect of my following requests and wish to address city council on these items:

1) That Oshawa's Auditor General investigate Oshawa's information campaign and strategy leading up to the plebiscite process in respect of the 18 questions I asked him to review.

A letter stating that the city complied with the the Ontario Municipal Elections Act is insufficient since the law specifically gives city council unlimited spending authority regarding ballot questions which implies a responsibility and expectation to do so while at the same time specifically constrains any 3rd party citizen campaigns in regards to ballot questions.

No law defines every possible potential contingency and no legislator would have ever foreseen that an Ontario City Council would ask their voters a question and then refuse to give them information about it as Oshawa politicians have done. That is the reason why courts interpret the "intent" of the law.

Democracy depends upon an informed public and the Canadian Supreme Court states that information regarding a vote is a basic right in Canadian Society. Yet the Mayor publicly stated that the city had no responsibility to inform citizens about the question and thus the city failed to do so.

The failure to inform looks like part of the city strategy along with the convoluted question in order to get a preconceived answer. This is not democracy. It is manipulation of the people.

2) In the interests of transparency, that Oshawa City Council implement a policy to provide appropriate links to Committee Reports and Citizen Correspondence directly on the agenda and minutes of City Council Meetings where official decisions are made in respect of the reports and correspondence.

The committee has only recommended putting an explanatory note on the agendas. This is not good enough. Interested citizens would still have to leave the agenda to search through a completely unrelated and unlinked file to seek the information.

Links to the staff reports and citizen correspondence directly on the agenda where the decision is being made would simplify citizen’s ability to following pertinent information about the issues and decisions made by Oshawa City Council.

Transparency is putting things together so make them easier to follow and understand rather rather hiding them remote from the city agenda. Politicians are provided this information in their meeting packages…why is it not provided for citizens?

3) That City Council cease the practice of having closed meetings scheduled prior to every city council meeting in the spirit of Provincial Law that severely limits the content of such meetings to personnel and property matters stating that all of the business of council is to be carried on in public and the committee has only recommended that my request be received for information rather than action.

4) That the auditor general be directed to investigate all details leading up to the purchase of the Cullen Gardens Miniatures including any and all ethical questions and potential conflicts of interest and report publicly on his findings.

The committee recommendation that my request regarding this most controversial decision of Oshawa City Council be received for information rather than action is drastically insufficient.

Bill Longworth,
Founder & Chair of VOTES (Vote to Eliminate Self Serving Politicians)

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