Aurora Citizen

News & Views from the Citizens of Aurora Ontario

Aurora & Toronto Both Trying to Muzzle Their Critics!

Posted by auroracitizen on June 6, 2009

Spotted a half page article (Pg 17) in the June 4th Toronto Sun (Note to Banner and Auroran — the newspapers in that community are reporting on this issue!). Sue Ann Levy reports that Toronto Council Executive Committee has passed a policy that would allow Councillors to launch lawsuits against another Councillor or a third party (i.e. media or the public). It goes to Council as a whole July 6.

Seems more that just our Mayor is unwilling to allow free speech in their community. Sue Ann refers to “Communist City Hall”.

However, at least in Toronto, “an independent external lawyer specializing in libel and defamation will be engaged to determine the merits of the claim before it is deemed eligible”. Furthermore, it seems that Council will debate this new policy in public.

Aurora Council seems to feel neither are required. There has been no public discussion (possibly discussed privately???) and no checks and balances appear to be in place.

The Mayor is upset — so the CAO has started to take action on her behalf.

Open and transparent? We think not.

Maybe our local politicians should spend less time and money trying to muzzle their constituents and more time listening to them.

Just a thought.

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10 Responses to “Aurora & Toronto Both Trying to Muzzle Their Critics!”

  1. Anonymous said

    Hey Junius, whatever happened to your blog?
    Lots of talk, not so much action?
    Or did you get cold feet?

  2. Junius said

    Aurora Citizen

    So glad you are not letting the Town of Aurora CAO scare you into "libel chill".

    I don't know what legal training Mr. Garbe has, if any. But, in his position, he should at least know that proving defamation is rather difficult. He could have asked the new Town solicitor.

    Or, he could have asked the Mayor – self professed expert in everything. (However, I do suspect that he was ordered to do this by the Mayor, but that's another story).

    Whoever orchestrated this should reflect back to Conrad Black, or as he prefers, Lord Black of Cross Harbour. He was pretty famous for libel chill.

    He was also pretty famous for being arrogant.

    He is now famous for being in jail.

  3. Seeing Parallels said

    Here is the Toronto Star's Royson James on this subject:

    Jun 09, 2009 04:30 AM


    They don't make city councillors like they used to: rugged individuals who dish it out as well as they take it. Think Howard Moscoe and Mel Lastman and the piles of "el torro poo-poo" they shovelled at each other over the years, to our mild amusement.

    The current crop at Toronto city hall is soft, thin-skinned and hypersensitive – a crybaby class of pampered whiners plagued with the millennial sense of entitlement.

    How else to explain their latest push to sue media, fellow politicians – and you, the taxpayer – if an adversary dare utter comments the chosen councillors find defamatory? It's one thing to provide a legal defence fund, as is current practice, should someone launch a lawsuit against a councillor; it's another to provide a legal offence fund – so councillors can go after perceived enemies. This is unnecessary. It gives councillors the legal muscle to strong-arm citizens, media, even fellow councillors, who offend them with what they consider defamatory remarks.

    The weasels have concocted all manner of reasons to back the request. The real reason? This group of city councillors wants to intimidate the media, make constituents cower and club would-be challengers into submission. And they would use the courts, backed by the enormous weight of public dollars, to do so. City council should stop the proposal next month. But because Mayor David Miller and his party members on the executive committee have endorsed it, that might prove difficult.

    Councillor Sandra Bussin complains that a constituent has written that Bussin supports a development proposal in her ward when she does not. The councillor sees that as reason to invoke judicial penalty. "I've had enough. I wouldn't be subjected to this if I were an ordinary citizen. I'm acting on behalf of the city … and I need help."

    Bussin is not left destitute or on her own in any dispute with a constituent. In fact, the scales are heavily tilted in her favour, insulating her with enormous benefits and protections.

    She has several media resources to circulate her opinion on any issue, provincial, federal, international, local, spiritual or social: newsletters, circulars, notices, favourable political spin in Our Toronto, a new propaganda sheet sent out to each home, daily corporate news release, hours of television time, mailing lists to every constituent and business owner in the ward. All funded by the taxpayer.

    She has a massive $53,100 office expense budget – so large she can't spend it all on standard office expenses, but must resort to using some of it to rent bunny suits for the Easter Parade and to sponsor sports teams bearing her name.

    So to suggest our councillors are unable to answer a constituent's falsehood – without the battering ram threat of tax-funded lawsuits – is disingenuous. Councillors have well-funded remedies to every perceived risk. To have taxpayers fund lawsuits against councillors' "enemies" is inappropriate and political overkill.

    Politics is a blood sport. If you don't want to be criticized – fairly or unfairly – don't play the game. Hyperbole is stock in trade and a proven strategy of this game. Caught up in the passionate exchange of metaphorical body blows, the combatants roll with the punches. Almost always they apologize, upon reflection.

    Too many of the current councillors are prima donnas. Criticize, and they fume and fuss and pout and boycott and seek legal redress. If councillors won't use the rhetorical weapons of their critics – the voice and the pen – taxpayers should not cover for their inadequacies.

  4. A concerned resident said

    Any person who thinks that a council held a closed or in camera meeting when they shouldn't have (or under improper grounds) can request an investigation now under the provincial legislation. I note that I could find nothing posted on Aurora's website about how one could go about it. Nevertheless, the "person" may have to file a fee and indicate what "closed" meeting needs investigation and an independent investigator does their thing. Of note is the fact that we are not talking about the Integrity Commissioner; this is an investigator separate and apart – it could the Ontario Ombudsman or a independent one. In checking the Ombudsman's site, Aurora appointed LAS (Local Authority Services Ltd) as their meeting investigator. So if there is a person out there who wants to question any particular closed meeting, the process to do so is there.

    Love the post by Tim the Enchanter and note that while the posts have slowed down a little bit, the readership is active. I happened to note the Sitemeter on Saturday night which was 15089 and at the time of writing it is now 15276.


  5. Robert the Bruce said

    So true that Aurora Council loves to throw around the "threat" that they will seek legal advice. Then within the same meeting they discuss how the town's insurance will cover lawsuits against councillors.

    Mayor Morris always did (and still does) preach transparency and openness. However, when she is the lightning rod to critics comments, she hides behind the legal advice gambit.

    Meanwhile the town's real business languishes while we go round and round with procedural ruling.

    And who pays for the "legal advice"? We do.

    Tim the Enchanter. I doubt that most of these councillors would know their favourite colour if asked. They would defer to her honour to give them the answer. Where is that little rabbit when we need it.


  6. Heather said

    I will admit I don't totally understand what's going on with the interaction from Neil Garbe on behalf of the Town of Aurora.

    I think an anonymous comment (even if you create a pseudonym) should be treated as just that. An anonymous comment. How many times do you hear the general public badmouth a certain profession? Aren't politicians assumed to be 'liars and cheaters and thieves'?

    Is the Mayor and CAO's intent – in seeking a retraction of the comment and an apology from the anonymous 'New Man in Town' really something that the town is going to spend money on? Amazingly enough, New Man hasn't used that moniker again.

    If the comment had been made by someone using their name – would the situation be the same?

    I still don't understand the point of spending money trying to uncover an anonymous internet user. If I worried about everything people said about me, I'd likely never be able to get out of bed in the morning.

  7. Anonymous said

    Anonymous said…
    Evelyn Buck says, "The degree of vindictiveness says more about the writer than the target."

    Does this then not apply to the targets of Evelyn's vindictive writing.

    Some say vindictiveness begets vindictiveness.
    No one benefits and there is far reaching collateral damage.

    June 2, 2009 8:55 PM

  8. Anonymous said

    Anonymous said…
    Evelyn Buck, you wrote:
    "It is a contradiction in terms for a politician to whine about being harassed."

    Are you practising situational ethics? How does this statement apply to your situation, as it now stands?
    Any reevaluation of your position?

    June 2, 2009 8:47 AM

  9. Anonymous said

    Your final comment on this is issue is so true. "Maybe they should listen to them." I have said this many times in comments I have made in the past. They really are to busy trying to silence them and spending our money to do it! I voted for the one they are trying so desperately to silence and I do not appreciate their efforts. What are they so afraid of and why do they think the rest of us are so stupid that we can not see it?Unfortunately nobody is listening and it would seem the new kids on the block are afraid to. Election time is coming but not soon enough!

  10. Tim the Enchanter said

    Well, it certainly looks as though the heat is on in Aurora and that's no thanks to the weather.
    Rumours abound of legal proceedings and even police involvement!
    And it's all down to "New Man in Town"
    What have you done?
    Everything was just fine until you stuck your oar in.
    We tried to tell you that Aurora Council is there for your entertainment, you weren't meant
    to take it seriously. Even the local, dare I say, "media", doesn't do that.
    The Auroran spends more time pointing out more old buildings ready for demolition then reporting on council activities.
    Look, we've already explained that all the heavy lifting is done elsewhere so council must fill the time as best they can lest the Wellington Waldorf appear deserted. Now some may consider this to be a somewhat cynical view of council but just examine
    any four hour plus meet-a-thon these folks expect us to endure and see why.
    Start with the bi-weekly massaging of the agenda by which the carefully arranged items are systematically re-arranged either alphabetically or by degree of difficulty.
    Then you get Open Forum, the original purpose of which has been lost in the mists of time but now seems to be a platform from which slighted parties can serve wayward councillors public notice that they'll be receiving one less holiday greeting this year.
    Don't forget the public service announcements. Oh perish the thought.
    Apparently the anticipated appearance of local asparagus is a council matter too important to
    be left to your local grocer.
    And who could do without award presentations complete with red-eye digicam photos and toothy smiles every time some local darling swims three lengths of
    the town pool without drinking half of the contents?
    Add in all of the motions and counter-motions and one gets motion sickness.
    One can't help but wonder that if Mr. Roberts had any idea it would come to this he would have
    burned the Rules of Order and written romance novels instead.
    Then we get to sit through the ramblings of a delegation imploring that council
    enact a by-law forbidding flower beds in the shape of pentagrams.
    This of course requires an immediate "winter amendment" complete with additional debate,
    should a local coven resort to shovelling snow in the shape of said pentagram.
    All of this to-ing and fro-ing drags the meeting on for hours and that doesn't include
    the secret stuff. This council has more closed door meetings than Hogwarts although the secrets
    aren't nearly as entertaining, or secret for that matter, since Councillor Buck tells us about them anyway.
    In fact the councillor is such a reliable informant to the taxpayers of the goings-on in secret meetings that steps have been taken to thwart her by holding super secret meetings.
    Councillor Buck doesn't report on those because as far as we can tell it's not legal
    for council or staff to either admit the super secret meetings exist or if they actually attended one.
    So Mr. "New Man in Town" (if that is your real name) you can plainly see that if we dropped all
    of the silliness the council meetings would be so short they could be held in a local Tim Horton's, but with this bunch of political masterminds you just know they'd order ten Timbits and then after lengthy debate ask that two-thirds be chocolate and then, well, we'd be – Oh never mind!

    Damn you "New Man"!

    "Better a thousandfold abuse of free speech than denial of free speech"

    (Ironically, as rumour has it, Mr. Bradlaugh died during surgery to remove a fireplace poker from his head, placed there by his wife after he carelessly mentioned in passing that she might do well
    to give the teacakes a miss)

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