Aurora Citizen

News & Views from the Citizens of Aurora Ontario

Can Aurora Handle the Truth?

Posted by auroracitizen on October 27, 2009

Can McCallion’s Mississauga handle the truth?

Published On Tue Oct 27 2009, Royson James, Toronto Star

Will Mississauga be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century? We begin to find out Wednesday when its council votes on whether to go ahead with a judicial inquiry into conflict of interest questions involving the city’s legendary mayor and her developer son.

A staff report estimates the inquiry will cost between $2 million and $2.5 million and last some 40 days. And costs could increase, if councillors add more issues for the judge to probe.

For example, how did the council minutes come to record that Mayor Hazel McCallion had declared a conflict of interest at one of the meetings when her son’s project came before council? The city clerk has been forced to admit to an embarrassing dilemma: video evidence showed neither McCallion nor any other councillor declared a conflict of interest that day. And the clerk couldn’t say how or why the error was inserted.

In reporting to council, the city clerk answered the unasked question, just in case you were thinking it. She said the recording clerk would not have been influenced by a member of council to insert the change.

Somehow, that doesn’t settle it. The Phantom Minutes is clearly an issue council should include in the inquiry’s terms of reference.

Of course, the whole affair is enough to make some councillors gag, one surmises. So it would not be a shock if one or two pro-inquiry councillors get cold feet and abort the judicial review before it starts. The September vote seeking the review passed 6-4, with one councillor missing.

Though McCallion is reportedly mourning the recent death of her son-in-law, the inquiry item is still before council.

“Business as usual,” Councillor Carolyn Parrish said Monday, anticipating Wednesday’s vote.

Just getting to the inquiry stage will be an accomplishment in a big small town that’s effectively ruled by one strong woman, now 88.

When the Star wrote about the issue, the response was, in some cases, vile. Mississauga residents took it personally that their beloved mayor was being taken to task. Leave us alone, they were saying. We trust our Hazel. If she met with her developer son and his real estate buddies, she was doing it in the best interest of the city and if she didn’t declare a conflict of interest when the issue came before council, she might have been preoccupied with city business.

Councillor Nando Iannicca proposed the motion seeking the inquiry. Parrish seconded the motion. McCallion backers on council said the inquiry is politically motivated, a witch hunt.

So, have they been inundated with protests from constituents angry they’re attempting to besmirch the mayor’s record?

“It’s been so quiet … we are pinching ourselves,” Parrish said Monday. “I received five emails from the usual suspects who go off whenever I hiccup.”

When I told her I received 15 emails of protest, Parrish, infamous for her anti-George W. Bush rant while a federal politician, was unimpressed.

“Listen, when I called the Americans a bad name, I got 5,000 in 24 hours. I got 1,500 when I stomped on the George Bush doll.”

You’ve got to get calls and emails into the thousands “before you get my attention,” she said.

But the cost, Carolyn, the cost? At what price good government?

Mississauga is spending $40 million to beautify its city centre square, she said. “If we can spend $40 million to make the square pretty, we can spend $2 million to get to the truth.”

Ah, the elusive truth. Finding it is often messy. Ask Toronto. Ask Vaughan. Ask Mississauga?

Hey? What about asking Aurora?

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20 Responses to “Can Aurora Handle the Truth?”

  1. boderick epps said

    Looking at the responses here, I saw something that to me seems odd.
    Anonymous October 28, 7:13 tweaked it. Both Susan Walmer and Dave Tomlinson took out ads endorsing Phyllis Morris and her preferred slate of Councillors before the last Municipal Election. Both Walmer and Tomlinson become Aurora Citizens of the Year. Tomlinson now complains about citizens taking ads out critical of Ms. Morris.Add to the mix a non Aurora resident who gets Town monies for entertainment activities where her music professional husband inevitably pops up and there definitely seems to be a smell in the air. It seems to come from the Mayor’s Office along with a tinge of hypocracy.

  2. Robert the Bruce said

    Poor Evelyn. Be careful – we all know what the word ASSUME really means.

    I can be sure, just as the crustly old guardian of the cave where that nasty rabbit lives can be, Tim and I are not the same person.

    Same age,same sex,same political views.

    Same stuck in a rut.

    How can you be sure of any of those things? I think we are far from the ones stuck in a rut. Quite the opposite if you ask me.

    Hello pot, meet kettle.

    Fuimus

  3. evelyn.buck@rogers.com said

    Sorry Cowardy Custard, I assumed the last comment about term limits was yours. I see now, it was not.

    Now I am assuming Bruce and The Enchamter are two. It may not be so.

    How would we know?

    If views are identical and identity unknown

    Should we assume separate as opposed to an amalgam ?

    Same age,same sex,same political views.

    Same stuck in a rut.

    .

  4. Tim the Enchanter said

    Hmmmmm. Councillor Tim the Enchanter – a tad unwieldy perhaps but it does have a certain regal resonance.
    But seriously.
    Tuesday’s my bowling night.

  5. evelyn.buck@rogers.com said

    Cowardy Custard Tim,

    You end your comments making the same comparison you criticize. Two term limits for United States Presidents versus an Aurora Councillor.

    Condisering how many have been shot on the job that might just be a reflection of the odds they will survive the presidency.

    There are other offices in the States that have term limits? Doesn’t the Mayor of New York have limits.

    The discussion might be more productive if we talked about the benefit of term limits. What would they be?

    There was a time not too long ago in history when only property-owners had a right to vote.

    The U.K. government introduced “universal suffrage” excluding women, after pariamentarians visited France duting the first world war and saw the terrible degradation and sacrifice of men who did not even have the right to vote? The politicians were shamed by the expressions of gratitude they received from the soldiers.

    If academic qualifications were to be introduced , who would decide what they should be?

    Not long ago a study was carried out at Guelph University. It was discovered more than half of all students cheat on exams. Faculties know about it. But nothing is said or done about it.
    .
    What does that say for academic credentials?

    Jeffrey Simpson a specialist on politics at all levels, gave the commencement address a few years ago at Queen’s University. He advised the graduating classes,it was alright to be skeptical and question everything. It was not alright to be cynical.

    Elected bodies are a reflection of the people they serve. If the right to govern ourselves is valid ,who should have the right to determine qualifications for the job.

    If a voter can’t listen carefully, seek an opportunity to speak to a candidate and exercise judgement about how a candidate presents I don’t believe it would matter a hill of beans what credentials he claims to possess.

    As I wrote it, I knew you would make the facile comment that I was comparing myself to the Queen of England. Despite my reference to “The Divine Right Of Kings” it did not occur that I might be pondering the legitimacy of Royal Ascendancy, Blue blood and all that.

    I’ve been listening to the argument for years about the need for qualifications for candidates. Usually by some fusty old fuddy-duddy.

    I have never seen the idea expanded.

    It’s my experience, reasonable people give candidates the opportunity to acquire competence and knowledge by doing. The first term a Councillor is allowed to learn rules and precedents. Most fair-minded people put themmselves into the shoes of a new Councillor. learning under the spotlight of public scrutiny.

    there should be older and more experienced Councillors generous enough to share.

    If your ideas prevail that certainly won’t be the case.

    I think you should wait and see who the candidates are before you pronounce your selection from on high.

    I have a lot more confidence in the discernment of voters, Tim. I have certainly earned enough trust over the years to act as their spokesperson time and again.

    Lesson No.1: Writing an idea off as silly is not a particularly effective method of persuasion. But perhaps that wasn’t the purpose of the denigrating comments.

    Lesson No.2 You need to demonstrate the courage of your conviction by revealing your identity.

  6. Ask Aurora? said

    The Star’s Gail Swainson is still following events here:

    Aurora councillor plans to sue colleagues

    Claims defamation by mayor, councillors in complaint over blog

    Gail Swainson
    Urban Affairs Reporter
    Published On Fri Oct 30 2009

    Embattled Aurora Councillor Evelyn Buck has served a notice of action on Mayor Phyllis Morris and five council colleagues for $5.25 million, alleging abuse of power, misuse of public funds and defamation, in the latest salvo of a political dispute over the pointed criticisms she has posted on her popular blog.

    “The mayor and town councillors abused their statutory powers and authority for a wrongful purpose which included interfering with (Buck’s) constitutional rights through the improper use of public funds to defame (Buck) and advance their personal and political interests with a view to censoring and eliminating dissent,” says a two-page notice of action filed in Newmarket court this week by Buck’s lawyers, MacDonald Associates. None of Buck’s allegations has been proven in court.

    What provoked the move was a formal complaint against Buck, lodged by town council this summer, about her critique of town staff in her lively “Our Town and its Business” blog. The town’s new integrity commissioner quickly rejected the complaint for being “inappropriate as crafted” and suggested it had been politically motivated. He was promptly fired.

    Named in the action are Morris and councillors Evelina MacEachern, Wendy Gaertner, Stephen Granger, John Gallo and Al Wilson. Also named is publisher Ian Proudfoot and Metroland Media Group, which published a statement from the town in The Banner newspaper and its website in July. Metroland is owned by Toronto Star’s parent Torstar Corp.

    The list of allegations involving the politicians includes malfeasance in public office, intimidation, injurious falsehood, conspiracy, intentional infliction of mental suffering and breach of confidence. Buck has 30 days to file a more detailed statement of claim. She said she could not comment because the matter is before the courts.

    Morris, who had yet to see the court document Thursday afternoon, said, “There’s not much I can say at this point because I’m not privy to any information.”

    Several years of political infighting came to a head this summer when the majority of council members signed the formal complaint, accusing Buck of posting “unmerited” comments on her blog, in which she said city staff weren’t following proper council procedures.

    Morris issued a statement saying council was “obliged” to file the complaint to protect staff. Anonymous ads then ran in the Auroran newspaper calling on residents to turf Morris and five councillors.

  7. Robert the Bruce said

    Oh boy Evelyn, I think you just proved my point. Do you actually think that elected Municipal officials are equal to the British Crown? I know ego is required in politics, but perhaps we are a little too big on ourself?

    One thing that you failed to mention is that the positions listed have some form of responsibility to a higher authority built in. Police have a command structure to ensure that each member is doing what they are supposed to do. Teachers report to school officials and boards of education plus their license body. Lawyers answer to crowns when they work for the crown and lawyers within firms report to partners – they also report to their clients and the Law Society!

    Who do councillors and mayors report to? The electorate! Right. And when does the electorate get a chance to action issues? Once every 4 years.

    These positions also provide opportunity to grow within the organization through promotion. What can a Mayor apsire to?

    Yes, I do think judges should have term limits too. They are in fact a branch of government – especially at higher court levels – and shape the laws of this land.

    Your comment then gets silly.

    There is a time limit for voters. They can’t vote until they are 18. Maybe there should be an upper limit too – dementia is a nasty thing.

    Why should citizens not be allowed to express opinions? Opinions are not laws or policies like a councillor can create.

    Are we such a socialist country now that we have to emulate early communist China? I am quite aware of the maximum child laws, I am the uncle to 2 adpoted girls from China that were abandoned because of their laws. Of course that law has nothing to do with term limits!

    I got lost with your computer program comment but it sounds like you are talking about Windows.

    I certainly enjoyed reading your little comment though.

    If you are not a fan of term limits, maybe we should take a page out of your examples. What if we were to have all elected municipal officals write an exam (after a suitable number of courses) to be accepted into the “College of Municipal Officals” or COMO for short. And then in order to keep their office, they must take – at their own cost – additional Professional Development courses every year to keep their designation. And then, if there was an issue with a member, there would be a tribunal set up by COMO. Then, as employees of the municipality – they will be required to have annual performance reviews. Part of this process would be the listing of objectives for the year and then a review of how they met or not met those objectives. The employer would then have the opportunity to terminate a councillor (with cause) or even lay them off in hard economic times.

    You sometimes talk about the country to our south. They have term limits on the president. Do you think that this policy stifles that country?

    Fuimus

  8. evelyn.buck@rogers.com said

    My point is,Hazel could save the city 2.2million dollars for a judicial inquity by simply acknowledging she did what the video apparently proves she did. Whether Mississuaga should or should not forgive is not for us to say. . My guess is, they will.

    Tim the Enchanter has much to say. Is he willing to put his name forwrad as a candidate for Council? Or is he content with the armchair quarterback role in the safety of anonymity?

    If you were to come out from hiding and put your name forward, I think I can guarantee you wouldn’t get my vote either.

    Take that and that and that. Cowardy Custard.

  9. Nigel Kean said

    I agree with the White Night.Everyone holding office, should be held accountable regardless of time served.There is only one set of rules under the Municipal Act. While Hazel has done a great job as Mayor, she still should know and follow the law.

    She still needs to be proven guilty before she is guilty.

  10. Tim the Enchanter said

    Term limits are certainly worth discussing but as far as the next election goes I’ve set my own rules.

    Rule 1. If you are serving/have served on Aurora council you will not get my vote.

    No disrespect to those who’ve given their time and effort to the community but the “inner circles” past and present just have too much baggage and too many axes to grind. Aurora needs to move on.

    Exception. (every rule has one) – I’m not promising votes but I’ll cut Cllrs Mrakas-Collins and McRoberts a little slack here because I don’t think we’ve seen what they can do being as that they’ve spent most of the term watching the Grey Dragon battle the Gang that Couldn’t Vote Straight.

    Rule 1a. Rule 1 also applies to very public “friends” of council. Sorry Sher.

    “But gee whiz Tim, don’t we need experience on council?”

    Oh yeah. It takes a lot of experience to squabble like a bunch of 12 year olds. Only experienced counsellors could spend 15 minutes reworking the agenda so that item 2 now follows item 3. Unless you’ve spent time at the sharp end of cut and thrust politics you’d never be able to make public service announcements about your friend’s bake sale with any degree of confidence. No, only a seasoned veteran could perfect the art of looking dazed and then refer the matter at hand back to staff for further “clarification”.

    “But Tim, how can newbies be expected to enter into informed discussion on the critical issues facing Aurora?”

    Like that matters? Nothing critical gets discussed anyway unless of course you plan your life around the Canada Day parade.
    True, chit-chat does get a little tense around annual budget time but as soon as somebody remembers that nasty tax increases can be avoided simply by deferring pricey capital projects until next year, it’s high-fives and smiles all round.

    “I dunno Tim. An entire council of rookies? What if they mess up? What if they cost us money or embarrass the town?”

    Oh please.

  11. White Knight said

    If Hazel has been around long enough to know better, why SHOULD she be forgiven for her (deliberate?) faux pas?

  12. evelyn.buck@rogers.com said

    Two term limit for public office might be worth discussing.
    Let’s look at other positions where judgement might be a key element.
    Should Queen Elizabeth still occupy the British Throne? Should there even be a throne? Do we still believe in the Divine Right of Kings.
    Should police officers have contracts on tha basis of age and physical ability?
    Should teachers continue to teach after eight years. Or should there be an arbitrary decision about the value of experience?
    Should lawyers be compelled to shift to a new area of specialty after eight years ?
    Should judges only have eight year terms?
    Should there be a cut-off point for voters to cast a vote??
    Should there be a time limit when citizens should not be allowed to express opinions that might influence others?
    I read somewhere once that in China officials were required to do spells of hard humble physical work in the fields, to keep focussed on the socialist values of the nation.
    The government there decides the cut off point for parenthood; One child to each couple.
    And to avoid having people with too much experience making these arbitray decisions, should we create a computer program of control that terminates every eight years.
    What do you have to say to that Robert?
    I do not like this tiny print. I have a hard time reading my own golden nuggets of wisdom here.

  13. Elizabeth Bishenden said

    Another question to ask is that what do you do with recycled politicians? Look at Carolyn Parrish. She’s been dragged up and down the flag pole as either the best of the beasts or the worst of the wursts…. she didn’t learn to choose her battles, and they’ve come back to haunt her.

    Are these the kinds of politics we want in Aurora?

  14. Anonymous said

    I disagree with Robert the Bruce. I think if you have a good thing you should have a good thing regardless of age. I think the four year term was a dangerous thing. I also think that the elector needs to educate themselves on who EXACTLY they are voting for. Sometimes the evil you know is better than the evil you don’t know. History,and knowledge in the case of this Council is sadly lacking and the one’s that have it are not given the time of day. In Aurora’s case newbies needed to stand on their own and been allowed to learn how things work. In my view they too were never given the time of day. The power our mayor and her cohort has has been a very destructive force and that had nothing to do with age or how long they have been sitting in the current position.

  15. Robert the Bruce said

    I read an interesting article in today’s Star about the Provincial bill to reform municipal elections – mostly for donations and how “war chests” cannot be used in subsequent elections. There is some other interesting stuff in there too that has to make you wonder that Mr. McSquinty has seen enough issues with Vaughan, Aurora and now Mississauga that things need to be tightened up – especially with 4 year mandates.

    Personally, it doesn’t go far enough. I think term limits should also be envoked. I am sure Hazel was (is) a good mayor, but there comes a time when an elected official gets too comfortable with the surroundings and mistakes are made.

    I think that given 4 year terms, 2 consecutive terms is enough. Now, based on Evelyn Buck’s previous statements against me, she will say that I am anti-aged. In my mind, the same rule would apply to Hazel as it would a 21 year old.

    Fuimus

  16. evelyn.buck@rogers.com said

    Hazel could deflect the judicial inquiry by simply acknowledging the failure to declare a conflict was an oversight on her part. Missuassaga would forgive her.

    The City Clerk has the real problem. The law requires public records to be exact.

    A Judicial Inquiry is hardly necessary to discover the facts of the matter..

  17. Anonymous said

    Our mayor is no Hazel. At least Hazel did a good job in her first 8 terms where poor phyliss is struggling with her first with her loyal followers.
    I thought that it was funny that in this weeks Auroran David Thomlinson wrote about how mean certain people are to his favourite mayor phyliss. He blames politicians for the bad press that this mayor and council are getting. At least he got that part right or is he talking about ex politicians. I think he should stick to gardening and stay out of politics even though he did run an ad before the last election endorsing phyliss and her followers that she and he wanted to get elected.
    Do you think that it was a surprise that he was named citizen of the year this year as was phyliss’ other friend Sue Walmer the year before? Do you think that it was a surprise that he would write the Auroran stating how great a job phyliss is doing? Maybe he can become the male St Kitts.

  18. Council Cop said

    This is a great post. It sure does make you think, but I agree with those that suggest that Phyllis is no Hazel. That said, everyone needs to be held accountable.

    Hazel may be forgiven given her record but Phyllis… TBD.

  19. someone who loves this town more than politics said

    It is interesting that both councils minutes are under scrutiny.

    Our mayor can say what she likes but the minutes from one session and the video record of them do not add up.

    Integrity is being questioned all around, as it should.

    They key difference between Missisauga and Aurora that I see is the Hazel factor.

    Don Cousins, ex mayor of Markham, was recently on a panel discussing disfunction in York Region and he had this to say:

    “I think so many of them (mayors) are starting off from scratch never having run anything! let alone a council. They make mistakes, some of them are huge and shouldn’t be allowed and the law is going to get them. Others make for a bad working relationship with their councils and their staff and their community”

    Hazel has been around for a long time she knows better.

    Phyliss is no Hazel, she is not beloved, nor has she an ounce of Hazel’s charisma. Phyliss has no credentials and no experience.

    Ignorance is no excuse, and I tend to agree with Don that those politicians in Phyliss’ shoes that make the mistakes will be met with the law, maybe not as soon as Hazel, but it’s coming.

  20. Ask Aurora? said

    You’re Welcome, Moderator.

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