Sunday, December 24, 2006
Recently, while idle, I could have been writing about the usurption of Christmas by commercial interests, or the attempted elimination of Christmas by politically correct zealots.
Today we went to the family Christmas Eve service at our church. I was holding my infant son as the Gospel story of the birth of Christ was read and the carols were sung. Looking at the pure, blank canvas that is every newborn, and remembering that Christ came into the world as one of these to save all of us, the meaning of Christmas is thrown into very sharp relief this year and the sense of peace I experienced in that service was very profound.
So in the end, it doesn't matter who you are, or what your politics are, or even if you believe in Christmas or not. Christ was born in Bethlehem those 2,000 years ago for you, for me and for all of us. The gift of that inner peace is yours and mine, and it remains on offer for as long as it takes someone to decide to receive it.
So from TDPC HQ to all readers, no matter who or where you are, I wish you the gift of that inner peace tonight and this Christmas. There will be lots of time for the politcal fighting in the new year, but for this next 24 hours may we all enjoy the real gifts of Christmas.
A very happy, peaceful and blessed Christmas to you all.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
Minister Ambrose's announcement today on biofuels is a typical case where a heavier approach is needed. Mandating bio content for diesel fuel is a subject dear to my heart and to my VW's fuel tank; 2% by 2012 doesn't seem to be trying very hard. This is ironic for a country that produces so much canola. Indeed, Europe is beginning to relax their ban on Canadian GM canola, not for their food supply, but for their biodiesel industry. We could and should be a leader in biofuels, but it needs some political muscle to make it happen. Rona Ambrose just doesn't seem to have the 'ooomph' necessary. The slightly half-hearted nature of the plans combined with a tentative delivery is making the government very vulnerable on these issues.
With a strong hitter in this portfolio, there's no reason why the government can't hold its own in any environmental debate. We're up against a man who as environment minister presided over constant increases in pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, a man who can't even figure out which passports he wants to carry. As Don Martin wrote in the Southam newspapers today, Stephen Harper is betting that strong leadership will beat poll-watching - nowhere is this more true than on the environment file. But the government needs to try, and be seen to be trying, a little harder, while still avoiding the pie-in-the-sky dreamworlds of Mr. Dion and his dog Kyoto.
- How's the new council doing, after their first two meetings?
- What do you think about the letter exchanges in the Record News?
- Why isn't it snowing in Montague Township and does this have to do with the hot air from the Reckless?
- Anything else that's on your mind.
Have at 'er....
Friday, December 08, 2006
He snapped when a reporter raised New Democrat MP Pat Martin's opposing opinion on the matter: "He may keep his opinion to himself. I am proud of who I am, and I am fully loyal to my country. I think I have proven it, and no one will question it."
The Next Day:
"I'm born like that. It's part of me. It's my mother who gave that to me. And like all sons, I love my mother and I love what she gave to me. And so to remove that from me, I'd be sad," Dion said.
"This being said, if I see that it's a liability for our winnability, I will do it."
On The Environment:
"Just as important was the climate change plan for our country that I released in April 2005. Project Green recognized what we all know: the next economic crisis will revolve around energy. Canada’s climate change plan recognized this by being both a powerful environmental plan, while also being a forward-looking energy plan."
The Next Day:
"Project Green. It's part of me. It's David Suzuki who gave that to me. And like all CBC viewers, I love David Suzuki and I love what he gave to me. And so to remove that from me, I'd be sad," Dion said.
"This being said, if I see that it's a liability for our winnability, I will do it."
On Social Justice:
"If you give me the opportunity to be the prime Minister of this country, as a Liberal I will improve our social programs and the social safety net, because I believe that is the key to ensuring that we live in a just and fair society."
The Next Day:
"The Social Safety Net. It's part of me. It's Pierre Trudeau who gave that to me. And like all Liberals, I love Pierre Trudeau and I love what he gave to me. And so to remove that from me, I'd be sad," Dion said.
"This being said, if I see that it's a liability for our winnability, I will do it."
"My approach to healthcare in Canada is based upon the binding moral principle of equity and our shared objective of providing the best quality care."
The Next Day:
"The binding moral principle of equity. It's part of me. It's Tommy Douglas who gave that to me. And like all
"This being said, if I see that it's a liability for our winnability, I will do it."
Continued ad nauseum....
Since it's the season of giving, I suggest to all readers that they should place 29 pennies in an envelope and mail them to:
1465 Brenton St., Ste 502
Halifax, Nova Scotia B3J 3T4
Maybe she'll be less angry if enough people make up her missing $0.29.
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
The meeting opened with a presentation from MPAC, the beloved corporation responsible for property value assessment in Ontario. Everything at MPAC is kind of on hold while they grapple with the Ombudsman's highly critical report, so this was really just an update on where they are in the process of improving things. The only major item of interest here is that MPAC claims they need an 11% increase in funding in order to implement the recommendations in the report; that funding comes only from Ontario municipalities.
Our council endorsed a resolution from the Niagara region strongly opposing this funding increase; MPAC is to begin consultations with municipalities across the province shortly.
Apart from the routine business of council the only other issues of note were the passing of a resolution stating that council will no longer initiate discussion of the legal matters in the recent past, and the discussion of council remuneration.
Council passed a motion to restore remuneration to where it was prior to the outgoing council's last meeting, but also called on the staff to conduct another study to compare Montague with other Lanark County municipalities. Peter Kavanagh pointed out that since Council was only faced with the discussion because of a deeply unethical act, it was only proper to restore the status quo and then go from there. The only councillor unhappy with this decision was Dianne Coates, who was of the opinion that the review should happen prior to any adjustments.
There was some discussion of the Rideau 175 anniversary celebrations; Bill Dobson had attended a symposium on the celebrations being planned and some ideas for Montague to participate were discussed.
Peter Kavanagh drew attention to the excellent work of the Fire Department during the recent storm, and Council received a letter from one couple thanking the firefighters for their help.
There was an open question session at the end of the meeting, as promised.
All in all, it was an excellent start and sets a new course.
On that note, I was disappointed by the editorial in today's 'Reckless'. The newspaper draws attention to the two recent letters to the editor and then, based on the letter from Don Page, accuses Montague's new council and the MRA of attempting to stifle free speech. This is mischievous of the newspaper. My views on the Page letter are already here for people to read - I'm not a big fan. But I also know for a fact that Mr. Page's letter was written without the knowledge of the MRA, and certainly had nothing to do with the new Council. It's just deliberate stirring of the pot for the Record News to link Mr. Page's letter with the new Council. Shame on you, Reckless.
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
This Macleans story about a group calling itself Women Are Angry has already been given the royal treatment by Kathy and Kate. I particularly like Kate's treatment of the Angry Women logo.
The Women Are Angry for several reasons. TDPC would like to soothe their ruffled feathers, so let's take a look at each of their reasons for being so angry, shall we?
On September 25, 2006, Stephen Harper's government announced a $5 Million dollar (40%) cut to the budget of Status of Women Canada.Ladies, ladies. 40% does seem like an awfully big cut, doesn't it? Perhaps you'd be less angry if you'd paid more attention in math class, or if that nasty male teacher hadn't stereotyped you as being unable to learn math. Because in my world, $5m from a $23m budget is 21.7%. There. You're half as angry already!
This cut, along with $95 Million dollars in other cuts, have destroyed vital programs for women, children and families across this country.Name one. Name a program that has been 'destroyed'. You'd be a lot less angry if you stopped hallucinating, you know.
Prime Minister Harper has justified these cuts by suggesting that equality has already been achieved for women in Canada.Did you gals miss this little Charter of Rights and Freedoms thing we have here?
Women in Canada face inequality everyday, the most obvious example of which isthe fact that in 2005, Statistics Canada reported that women still earn just 71 cents for every dollar earned by men.See, you're all angry again about something that just isn't true. Men and women earn equal wages for equal work. Show me an employer who pays a female employee less than a male for the same job. Show me the $0.71 and the $1.00 paycheques. It doesn't exist. It's a lie. You'd be much happier if you stopped inventing untruths to make yourselves angry.
So we can expect you Angry Women to get behind the campaign for income splitting then, so that all the unpaid work that women do in the home finally gets recognized?
Women deserve EQUALITY, which includes an equal share in the wealth we have created through both our paid and unpaid work.
I suspect that the www.thewomenareangry.org website traffic is peaking today, and that their message is getting out to a whole lot of people - but it may not be the audience they were hoping for.
There's another great quote in the Maclean's piece from Alexandra Dobrowolsky. Challenged on the fact that SOW does no real work for women, but pursues endless research:
"It's not accurate at all to say this research is going nowhere," she says. "You're sparking a lot of debate and you're getting people mobilized."
Phew. What a relief. For a second I thought the $25m a year was being wasted, but no! It's sparking debate.
We at TDPC are only angry that these
Monday, December 04, 2006
Mr. Dion is in many ways like Stephen Harper. He's quiet, not at all charismatic, smart, policy oriented, and so forth. In a race between two such men, neither of whom might engage many people on a 'gut' level, the incumbent has a huge advantage - people have had time to be comfortable with Harper, the sky has not fallen in and people will choose the known over the unknown most of the time.
Mr. Dion's biggest issue, the environment, is also arguably one of his weakest. Not only did he preside over a 33% increase in greenhouse gas emissions as Liberal environment minister, but the plan he released during the leadership race (a) 'borrowed' heavily from the Suzuki Foundation, and (b) pretty much matches the Conservative's Clean Air Act. A Liberal leader saying one thing and doing the opposite might be a hard sell, with so much of that kind of thing still fresh in peoples' minds.
Dion is part of the old Chretien and Martin teams, and represents less of a break from the past than the Liberals might have wanted. It shouldn't be too difficult to dig up clips of him from Adscam days defending his party, for example.
In choosing Dion, most people's third or fourth choice, the Liberals follow a pattern of defeated government parties; I can see a comparison with the Conservative Party in the UK going with William Hague after John Major. You pick a compromise, or unity, candidate. He's not really anyone's first choice, but he's inoffensive. Often he has a 'break the mold' kind of buzz around him - aka 'generational shift'. And in the end he loses the next election and steps down, albeit leaving a party in much stronger shape and with the confidence to choose a real leader next time around.
Once the honeymoon is over and the polls settle down from their post-convention fever, we'll see what Mr. Dion is made of. Will he be Stephen Harper the second? Or will he be the between-election rebuilder of an opposition Liberal party?
Friday, December 01, 2006
I don't object; they are swamped no doubt. But who chooses the holding music???? A sample: Early on, we had The Most Wonderful Time of The Year. Shortly afterward we were treated to My Favorite Things... yes, of course, we love raindrops on roses. At the 72 minute mark, we got Let It Snow. Er... no, actually, if it would not snow, that would be fine with me. And the piece de resistance, O Tannenbaum. Next years hot holiday album folks, the Hydro One Ice Storm Medley. Get it now, while your call is in priority sequence.
Thursday, November 30, 2006
First off, Conservative policies on women and the family are the exact opposite of forcing anyone into anything. Policies such as funding actual work in real communities rather than the paper-pushing Status of Women agency, income-splitting, the childcare allowance, and so on are actually all about giving women (and men) choices.
The Liberal party is the party of forcing women into paid work and their children into daycare. It's easy to be the until-recently blonde heiress making such pronouncements when you're not going to be affected by the policies you espouse. You're not ever going to be forced to look for a job outside the home because of an iniquitous tax system making it impossible to have a stay-at-home parent. You're not ever going to have to send your kids to slum it in a fluorescent-lit cavernous daycare institution, when you can afford a nanny.
That aside, when did 'pregnant' become such an insult? Why has nobody called the Liberals on this slight against women and children? I'm not sure that being in the 'kitchen' can be considered demeaning either. I'd like to see Belinduh tell that to a knife-wielding chef Gordon Ramsay, for example.
With the recent SES poll showing 33% of Canadians still think 'corrupt' or 'scandal' when asked for a dislike of the Liberal party, the party needs a complete break from the old. Dion is too close to the old Martin regime. Kennedy doesn't have national presence. Ignatieff (pray for him to win!) is actually Ignatiagaffe. The also-rans are... also-rans.
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Today's Reckless has a rebuttal of the letter from Liz Boisvenue, signed by Don Page. While I wasn't a huge fan of the original letter, and posted on it at the time, I'm not sure this next move is that helpful either.
Mr. Page's letter contains the accusation that Ms. Boisvenue's letter was written by another individual. Maybe it was and maybe it wasn't, but that's something that ultimately is between Ms. Boisvenue and her conscience, and the rest of us can't know for sure. I hear that there may be an employment relationship between Ms. Boisvenue and one of the former council, but that doesn't prove anything. After the history of unproven allegations in this township, and the consequences thereof, I really can't see adding another one as being helpful.
Given that the accusation is not proveable, to describe the decision by the Reckless to print the original letter as 'an editorial disgrace' is a little strong for my liking as well.
I agree with the point that the original letter fails to respect the majority of Montague citizens who voted for change. I agree that it tars all members of the MRA with an unjustified and untruthful brush. I agree that Ms. Boisvenue's was not a helpful contribution to any kind of healing process or moving on. I just don't think that the response necessarily rose as far above the original as it could have done.
I also wonder if Mr. Page is writing as an individual, or as Vice President of the MRA. The letter doesn't say; it leaves us wondering if this is the position of the organization or just one individual?
This brings me to something I've been thinking about for some time. I think we should all keep in mind a simple test whenever we go to say anything and contribute to the future of the township now. That test is 'What do I want to happen, and how does what I am about to say contribute to making that happen?'. That's what I try to do in the blog. I'm here to express my opinions but ultimately in order to make sure that Canada and Ontario get conservatively minded government. Throughout the Montague election campaign, I wrote in support of change in council.
If what we have to say doesn't contribute to an end, but rather is an emotional response that will only make us feel better, then I think we should pause, reflect and try not to say it. There should still be debate and discussion and we will continue to have a variety of points of view, but the conversation should be about directions and goals, and points made should be in pursuit of those. Re-hashing the past, or exchanging slight for slight does not meet this test. Mr. Page says that the Record News has a responsibility to help Montague heal its wounds. Maybe so. But the responsibility for healing Montague's wounds rests primarily with us, the citizens.
The Victorian designer William Morris wrote:
If you want a golden rule that will fit everything, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.
I think this would be a good motto for Montague's future.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
My Puny Brain (not his real name) has suggested we discuss where the Montague portion of this blog might develop in the future. There are options:
- close things down now the election is over;
- keep things as they are;
- create a spin-off blog in the same format that is Montague stuff only;
- look to create something bigger and more ambitious in the line of a 'Montague Online' site with more than just blog posts and comment threads.
I want to discuss things with various people, including the new council, especially if we look to 'go big'. But I'm throwing the question out there for the TDPC loyalists to kick around. Remember to kick the question around and not each other, please.
Sunday, November 26, 2006
After reviewing the material, I can report that in fact there was no statement concerning Mr. MacTavish's success or otherwise in business. The statement in the article comes from the reporter, not Mr. MacTavish and it simply says:
After operating a roofing business for 33 years, MacTavish's three sons will soon take over.
There is no lie here; the commenters suggesting that Mr. MacTavish lied to the reporter are mistaken.
Now, there might be some slim public interest in knowing that Ottawa's new mayor lives in this building. But there is really no justification for publishing the address of PM Stephen Harper's Chief of Staff, a dentist and an eye surgeon, just because they happen to own or rent nice condos.
How would the Citizen staff feel if a blogger was to write up a feature revealing the home addresses of Janice Kennedy, World's Worst ColumnistTM Kelly Egan, and other staff?
There is no justification for this invasion of privacy. It's pure envy. It doesn't belong anywhere but if someone had to do it it should have been People magazine.
Friday, November 24, 2006
There has been discussion here of the roles of 'old' vs. 'new' media in local coverage. I think that actually bloggers and concerned citizens can achieve a great deal in terms of informing, discussing, dissecting, investigating and covering local affairs. Local newspapers by necessity operate on tight budgets and their limited staff can't be everywhere at once. When people are blogging daily about their own lives and their own immediate concerns, then much more information can be put out there much more quickly.
This blog (the Montague part of it, that is) started out anonymously and quietly; I wrote a post on the Lawsuit a while back for the benefit of Blogging Tories elsewhere in the country, some of whom had covered the civil liberties angle at the time the suit was launched. Someone found it; comments came in. Word of mouth did the rest. I started writing the election coverage. Readers snowballed, comments flew. And now it feels like we're almost a community. A newspaper doesn't do that; it can't do that.
Over the next few months I will be talking to people about what kind of role this blog or some development of it might play in Montague as we move forward. But for the time being I hope it's a complement to the local 'old' media. Personally I find the Reckless and EMC a bit 'fluffy', but I'm liking the writing and news coverage in This Week. Who knows, maybe old and new will team up one of these days for a feature or something...
SPECIAL NOTICE : CHARITY AUCTION SATURDAY 25th NOVEMBER
On that note, although this blog is a political blog and not intended for this kind of thing, a reader did ask me to let people know about a charity auction in Carleton Place tomorrow night (Saturday 25th). I'm making an exception for this case. Please don't start sending me your events information!
The auction is at Carleton Place High School and is in aid of Calvary Christian Academy, a non profit school that covers an area fromRichmond, Stittsville, Smiths Falls, Perth, Carleton Place, Lanark etc.There is a silent auction at 6 p.m. and regular auction at 7:00 p.m.Refreshments available and lots of wonderful items for auction: theatresize TV, exercise bike, computers, trips, many smaller items and lots andlots more Christmas shopping to be done. All items are new. For more infomation, call 613-283-1184
I think the reverse onus gun crime laws are a big hit... when even Dalton McShifty is supporting a law and order measure, you know it's going to sell everywhere, including the 905.
The Quebec as nation thing: I'm agnostic. Never lived there, not likely to, and I'm an immigrant so it's really not my issue. It seems to have upset Gilles Duceppe, which might suggest at least to me, that it's a good move politically. The Bloc is still the opposition in Quebec, so anything that can wrongfoot them seems like a good move. I'm not convinced the CPC motion has anything like the major repercussions some are seeing.
On income splitting, I'm still hopeful.It would have been nice to see something today on this, but I suspect that the government is waiting for the results of the trial balloon. Given that the next election will probably hinge on the next budget, the CPC wants the other parties to commit to a position on income splitting between now and then. Get the media buzz going and they will sooner or later have to adopt a position; then the budget will contain the CPC's income splitting proposals if any, and the other parties will either have to backtrack or stick with the position they adopt now.
The proposal on paying down the debt and using the interest savings for tax cuts is masterful. It's too prudent to be attacked and it gives us all a stake in reducing the debt, which is something that people don't always understand or see the need for.
So overall I think a good week. We're all in a holding pattern now until the Liberal convention anyway. Once we know who we're up against I expect to see more announcements to complete the squares in the election platform mosaic.
Thursday, November 23, 2006
Swanson is a manufacturer of fine frozen TV dinners, including the famous Hungry Man Fried Chicken.
The Swan Song was the last act of a council whose chickens, while not yet frozen, have come home to roost.
Both are done like dinner.
The outgoing Montague council carried out their last act this past Tuesday night, and it was to undo something they did as their first act. You'll remember that immediately on being elected, they gave themselves a 70% pay raise - well this Tuesday they decided that the new council was not as deserving as they were, and lowered council remuneration back to 2001 levels.
Bitter, anybody? Apparently the mention of this issue during the campaign so angered David Schoular that he felt it necessary to propose the motion. Vince Carroll and Bill Eckersley voted against, but with the support of Reeve Doyle, Mr. Schoular and Lita Richards, the motion was passed.
Now, I'm sure this wouldn't be a vindictive move. No, people who've served as councillors must have the highest respect for democracy, surely, and that would mean losing with good grace. I'm sure it wouldn't be personal, or intended to deprive the incoming council of the remuneration the outgoing enjoyed. I'm sure it wouldn't be intended to put the incoming council in an impossible political situation for no good reason other than personal animosity. No, I'm sure there's a motive here of the highest integrity. I just need some new glasses and I'm sure I'll find it...
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
The letter writer takes issue with the Reckless article from last week headlined "Montague residents send clear message: We want change!" In her letter, the writer vigorously attacks the Montague Ratepayers Association, which she claims is entirely to blame for all of the problems of the township. Now, she's entitled to her point of view, and she's entitled to put it out there in the newspaper - but it can't go unchallenged, because it's full of innuendo, half-truths, distortions and inaccuracy.
She re-hashes The Lawsuit - which I'm not going to do here. That's not worthy of a response at this stage.
It's later on in the letter that things begin to go off the rails:
... nothing was more evident than the hostility that the MRA group fostered in our communityHmmm.... apart, that would be, from the hostility of Doug "may or may not have declared bankruptcy" McEwen against Mr. MacTavish, or the hostility of David "leave if you don't like it" Schoular, or the hostility of the repeated attacks on Dianne Coates, etc., etc.
Moving on, our letter writing friend launches into a baseless and just nasty attack on Peter Kavanagh. She doesn't think he will try to keep Rideau Regional open, as he suggested - or that if he ever does travel to Toronto it will be at her expense and for nothing. I may be wrong but I would sooner pay travel expenses to someone going to kick Dalton McGuinty's ass than I would pay for people to use municipal vehicles for unlimited personal mileage, when no official business is involved. In fact if Dalton's ass is going to get kicked, I'd pay the whole lot.
I think any fair minded person after meeting Peter and hearing him speak at the all-candidates meetings would trust that he is a man of integrity who will be as good as his word. He has a track record of standing up to government, which is more than you could say for the previous government of Montague. Maybe keeping RRC open is a lost cause (this blogger doesn't accept that yet, watch this space) but at least Mr. Kavanagh's prepared to try, rather than roll over and play dead as this writer's preferred candidates did.
Next, she seems to think the low voter turnout (41.5% for reeve) de-legitimizes the result. She should be careful what she wishes for - her wonderful council who did such good work were elected with a turnout of 31.09% (for reeve, comparable figure). Looking at the election for deputy reeve, David Schoular won in 2003 with 493 votes, and lost in 2006 with 470 votes, by a margin of 350. So if these results are not legitimate, what did that make the previous council? All of which is irrelevant anyway as any statistician could tell you that you can extrapolate the voting behaviour of 40% of the population to be that of the whole with a trillion-to-one chance of error. Or thereabouts.
Finally, she thinks people were 'bullied' into voting the way they did. Newsflash: In this country we have secret ballots, precisely to prevent that from happening. It didn't happen, it's made up and malicious and for her to put it out there in the newspaper is irresponsible
All in all, this letter is simply stoking the fire of a divide the write claims not to like. And that's not helpful to anyone at this stage. Even it contained truth rather than lies, it still wouldn't be a particularly useful contribution. As it is, it deserves the fate it will probably enjoy in Montague at this time of year. Time to light the woodstove....
Sunday, November 19, 2006
As the typical disaffected feminist was-once-a-Catholic that she is, she uses the standard devices they always use:
First, she claims to be Catholic, when in reality all her writing demonstrates that she long ago abandoned Catholicism. This is done to provide credibility to underpin the rest of her article. The reader is invited to believe that this is one of the Church's own writing about the Church, so she must know what she's on about.
Second, she trots out the tired old criticisms of too much money, too much architecture, too many paintings, and so forth. Hate to break it to Janice, but knocking down St. Peter's Basilica isn't going to feed anyone. Much as she hates tradition, beauty, art and architecture, tearing it down isn't going to do any good, because she and her ilk have nothing to put in its place.
Third, she lambasts Pope Benedict for daring to re-introduce the Latin Mass. Shouldn't such things be a cultural choice she asks? This is where her ignorance comes most to the fore, because if she had in fact set foot in a Catholic church much in the last 40 years, she'd know that the Latin Mass has been all but outlawed since Vatican II, and that all the Pope has suggested is that it be made easier for priests and congregations who wish to celebrate in Latin to do so.
Kennedy lauds the renegade nun Joanna Manning, who is one of the leading lights of the feminist theological movement developing their own new religion. You like Manning's theology, that's fine, but don't pretend that it's Catholic or even Christian, because it's not. You want to embrace it, that's fine with me, but you can do it somewhere else, because you're leaving Catholicism behind when you do. Wanting to hang on to the bits of Catholicism you like - your church building, the money, the nice priest around the corner, while rejecting the foundations of the faith is simply hypocrisy of the first order.
Finally, the whole basis of the article. Pope Benedict is a nasty, evil man, because he has dared to speak up for the 'traditional' family - this apparently is the homophobia Elton John has such a hard time with. The traditional family, says Kennedy, is not reality for many people, so the Church should get over itself and abandon this most fundamental teaching of Christianity. Hmmm... let's try this argument in other areas. I think most people would agree it would be ideal if everyone on the planet had enough food to eat. Is this reality? Not at all. But if we follow Ms. Kennedy's reasoning, we shouldn't be pursuing this ideal, because it's not real. She says that we should just change our moral beliefs and our pursuit of the ideal to match reality - which would mean no pursuing an end to hunger, no abolition of landmines, no <insert your favorite social cause here>
Is it reality that many children are born and raised in circumstances far from the ideal of two loving parents who want and are able to meet all of their physical, emotional and spiritual needs? Of course. Does that make the ideal not the ideal? No. Does it make Pope Benedict a bad man when he holds up that ideal, as he is required to do by his position as the inheritor of two thousand years of teaching and doctrine? Only in the twisted minds of Kennedy and her ilk.
Just because something is reality doesn't mean it's right.
Kennedy should quit pretending to be Catholic and go off to pursue her socialist humanist Utopia with Sir Elton by her side.
Saturday, November 18, 2006
Friday, November 17, 2006
As things stand, the tax system penalizes single-income families with a stay-at-home parent. For the same household income, a significantly greater tax burden is borne by the single income family when compared to the dual-income family. Consider a household income of $100,000. If this was two parents earning $50,000 each, the family would pay a shade over $20,000 in income taxes and enjoy a marginal tax rate of 35.5%. If the $100,000 was earned by one parent when the other stayed home, then the family would pay around $28,000 in income taxes, with a punitive marginal tax rate of 43%.
Now, there is of course some economic benefit when two people are in the paid workforce, as against one person. However, the amount of money someone gets paid to do a job is one of the major indicators of the economic benefit of the activity, so to some extent, the free market has determined that the overall worth of the work performed outside the home in the above two scenarios is roughly equivalent. And, of course, there is a cost to the economy when two people work, because someone still has to take care of their children. It's inconvenient, but it has to be done.
In reality, the reason the tax system is set up this way is to encourage dual-income families and to discourage the nasty, old-fashioned, anti-feminist practice of stay-at-home parenting. The tax system is the main instrument of social engineering that a government has at its disposal and since the 1960s the thrust of social engineering has been the pursuit of the feminist utopia.
This liberal mindset has become so established that it's almost impossible to question, and yet it's at odds with most of the anecdotal evidence. Go into a typical office. Ask all the women working there if they'd rather have stayed home to raise their kids, and you'll get a hefty percentage who will say yes, they would have liked that option, but they couldn't afford it. The tax system is one of the primary reasons why that's the case.
Income splitting will level the playing field. It gives each family the freedom to make the best choices for their childcare and their careers, free from government pressure in any particular direction. Far from the feminist perspective, where equality is measured by the number of women forced into paid work, income splitting represents true equality; equality of taxation and equality of opportunity.
It goes without saying that this doesn't have to be all-or-nothing - a significant increase in the Equivalent-To-Spouse amount, for example, would really help us struggling single income families, while still respecting those of a different perspective. But the whole question of the tax system and its impact on families is something that needs an urgent debate. Sara's conference isn't happening any too soon.
The law only allows a person to become a proxy for one other person; therefore no individual can go around and 'collect' proxy votes (the only exception being for immediate family members).
There were only 22 proxy ballots cast in the whole Montague council election.
This would seem to destroy any conspiracy theories; even if all those ballots were removed or changed, the outcome of the vote would be unaffected.
It seems therefore that the commenter in question is just someone who has his or her knife out for Ms. Coates - and I'm sure we all know who that might be. He / she might want to grow up and let it go now.
For those of you legitimately concerned, I hope the information above puts your minds at rest.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
We blogged the vote! Now show the world you were there...
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Has anyone else noticed the resemblance between Turner and Annoying Canadian Tire Man?
Gary Doyle - 587
John MacTavish - 404
David Schoular - 493
Don Edwards - 308
Steve Larkin - 182
Lita Richards - 517
Julie Kipp - 485
Bill Eckersley - 432
Joan Durant - 303
Ron Rogers - 238
Byron Budd - 225
Ron Hunt - 206
Kathleen Lang - 116
Reeve: John MacTavish: I am surprised at this result. I really thought Gary Doyle would be re-elected. The conversations I'd had both online and offline led me to believe his support was still strong and that Mr. MacTavish's bankrupt business and MRA affiliation might still hurt him in the polls. Obviously I was wrong.
Mr. Doyle has been a competent and effective Reeve in many ways. He didn't lose this election on taxes, or basic services. He lost this election over the lawsuit and the fallout from it. Last night at the Council chambers, in conversation with a reporter from the Reckless News, Mr. Doyle remained adamant that he had done the right thing with the lawsuit - and if it cost him the election, "so be it." You have to have respect for such strength of conviction.
For myself, I think it's a pity in a way, because his undoubted talents will be missed. I think he could have won this election if he'd been able to say "I made a mistake," or even to be less forceful in his defence of the lawsuit - to have the nuance to recognise that he may have done the right thing in leaping to the defence of his employees, but that he used the wrong tool.
John MacTavish promised open government, more responsiveness, greater public involvement and so on. It's up to us, the public, to make sure that he delivers on these promises.
Deputy Reeve: Peter Kavanagh: Not a surprise, and the best result possible for the township. In my own opinion, David Schoular will not be missed. He's a political animal, polished and slick. I really do think he has the personality to pursue another level of elected office and he would be much better suited there. Mr. Kavanagh is a true leader and one of the very few figures in our township who is respected and listened to on all sides. He will be called upon to be peacemaker and a unifying force in the township and he deserves all our support.
Councillors: Bill Eckersley, Dianne Coates, Bonnie Burson: There weren't going to be surprises here, because these races really were too close to call. This council will be an interesting mix. As I commented last night, I'm surprised Bill did so well - topping the vote - but I suspect his 'middle of the road' approach is what won him support from all sides as well. Mr Eckersley did take some responsibility for his role in council's decisions of the last three years and I think that's worthy of respect. I don't see him as a leader, but I think he will be able to work well with everyone else.
Dianne is smart, articulate and has extensive government and bureaucratic experience. She will be an asset to the township's governance, but there are some personal wounds with some groups in the township that will need to heal.
Bonnie Burson obviously ran an effective campaign and again I think her 'non-aligned' status helped. She's got business skills, but she strikes me as a quite forceful personality. Last night I didn't see too much friendliness on display between her and the other candidates; it will be interesting to see how well she works in a team environment after being such a successful solo entrepreneur. Her financial skills will be appreciated.
Overall, then, Montague chose change, but change tempered with a little of the old, and two or three candidates from outside the divide in the township. I think this has the potential to be a good council. Change was absolutely necessary to get past the division of the lawsuit. Radical change would have simply swapped 'government' and 'opposition' parties in the township. This considered, balanced change in council might well be the best outcome we could have hoped for in what was a sometimes brutal election campaign.
There were several people who commented before the vote that the MRA should disband if they 'lost' - that they should forget the past. Now that the people have given a verdict on Mr. Doyle and Mr. Schoular's actions in the lawsuit, I hope that people on the other side of that matter will consider their position in that same light. Time to let it go, people. Let's all remember one thing: Don Page was not elected last night.
As for the MRA, there are some now calling for it to disband because it 'won'. We can't have it both ways. I suggest that with such a changed council, a watchdog may be entirely appropriate. What the MRA must not become is a lap dog to the new council; if the MRA is to continue its role in the community I would like to see it get some new blood involved and hold Mr. MacTavish accountable just as they did with Mr. Doyle. It must not simply be a group of friends of the new council, and nor must it benefit from the election of ex-members of its ranks to council.
I've had lots of requests to keep the Montague content going here; so have a discussion folks.
Monday, November 13, 2006
Gary Doyle nn
John MacTavish nn
Kenneth Hunter nn
Peter Kavanagh nn
David Schoular nn
I will be posting only updated total numbers, so they will increase as time goes by and reflect the current standings of all the candidates as the various polls report. A final post will record the unofficial total counts.
Note that all numbers will be unofficial and should not be taken as a definitive result. (i.e. please don't sue me if things change).
Use the comment threads on the results posts to share your reactions if you like.
Montague watchers: I'll be trying something new later tonight, watching the count at the council offices and attempting to live-blog the numbers from my cell phone. This could be the most up-to-the-minute coverage you've ever seen of a Montague election result, or it could be an unmitigated disaster. I'm setting it all up now and will try a couple of practice runs before the big event.
Did you vote yet? Make sure you do...
Sunday, November 12, 2006
A reader of the late and not-lamented-too-much Montague thread wrote me a letter last week, that, although it has to do with an event locally, I suspect would resonate nationally. So I'm posting it here with an invitation to both locals and other readers to discuss the issues involved with security drills (and the seemingly extreme security measures) that are creeping into our schools:
I didn’t think it was possible to get worse around here, but... Madness struck in Montague with a vengeance last week, and most disturbingly it appears to have affected our precious children.I don't yet have children in the school system, and we're actually eyeing homeschooling as an option. But I'm still disturbed by this story. How did we get to the point where we have to frighten kids silly in order to protect them from supposed threats such as this?
Last week the students of Montague Public School participated in a “Code Red” drill in order to practice the appropriate response to the threat posed by a violent intruder. The first I heard of this particular strain of madness striking was early last month on CFRA’s Lowell Green show. I only caught about 30 seconds of the conversation, was troubled by what I heard, but quickly discounted it. “It’ll never happen here”, I thought. After all, we’re still allowed to say “Merry Christmas” in these parts.
The first mention of this madness spreading to Montague was in the October newsletter from the school. It states …
“Emergency Response Programs are being extended and practiced in our school starting next week. Several varieties of responses will become familiar to the children.
- Fire Drills – Students will follow the nearest exit to the yard.
- Tornado Drills – Students will proceed to a designated inside wall and crouch as practiced.
- Code Red – Students will be secured in the nearest classroom and take cover.
Please discuss this process with your child(ren). We are wanting to practice calm but efficient reactions to emergency situations.”
Despite my initial reservations, my choice was to allow my children to participate. I reasoned that the statistical probability of a violent offender attacking the school was somewhere close to the need to evacuate the school due to fire-- And I’ve never had a problem with fire drills. It’s very sad to say that something like a “Code Red” drill is even thought necessary, but given the recent school shootings in Amish country Pennsylvania society has apparently degenerated to this terrible point.
Test day came last week, and as diligent parents my wife and I advised our children of what to expect. From the observations of my children (admittedly, this is very unreliable) here is how the test was conducted. Try, as best you can, to envision this from the perspective of the youngest of children attending the school (4 or 5 years). The “Code Red” was announced over the intercom. The children are huddled to one area of the classroom while the teacher locks the door and covers the window in the door. Twenty or thirty seconds of silence go by …… This is where the test should end, right? But oh no, for extra “dramatic effect” an OPP officer bangs and kicks (remember, he/she likely had combat boots on) at the classroom door, presumably scaring the bejeezus out of the poor kindergartners. It would likely startle me had I been there.
When my children came home that day, I purposely did not mention the test. I wanted to see if it had any effect on them, and my bringing the subject up would taint the experiment. The following night, my youngest child told me that he/she didn’t want to go to sleep, because he/she didn’t want to have “bad dreams” about the “Code Red”. I reassured him/her and that was the end of it until Saturday. My children brought the exercise up again, and it was then I learned of the banging and kicking.
Suffice to say, I was surprised and angered to hear of the added theatrics at the classroom door. Why was this necessary? During fire drills, will it now be practice to fill the halls with training smoke for extra “dramatic effect” and the element of panic? Of course not, but it sounds like pretty much the same thing to me.
There is no disputing the need to ensure the safety of our children at school. I had occasion to visit the school in the middle of the day, since the test was conducted. Just out of curiosity, I checked the North Entrance of the school, adjacent to the visitors parking. Take a guess at what I found… unlocked doors. No sign of video surveillance. Does it not make sense to take small steps like these to prevent an intruder from entering the school undetected in the first place?
Do I have the correct version of events? Did this affect your children/grandchildren? If so, please explain how. If I have missed any details, please add them. To others who may not have children, but nonetheless contribute via taxes – do you think this is proper?
My intention here is to sort out exactly what took place last week, and a rough gauge of public sentiment on the topic. I can tell you my children will not be participating next year, should this test be repeated.
This is very bad news for our part of the world; Hershey is a major employer and there has been speculation about the plant's future for a while. The impact of a long shutdown and cleanup operation together with lost sales could help to tip the balance toward closure.
For those whose concern is more on the consumption side of things, the recall notice can be found here.
Friday, November 10, 2006
Sir, a woman's preaching is like a dog walking upon its hind legs; it is not done well, but you are surprised to find it done at all.
Easing back into the Blogging Tories world, then, here's a good start: Join the campaign for a National Beer Program. As I type I am doing my bit for this cause, with a Charles Wells IPA.
Also, having a newborn in the house does give you a chance to get a new perspective on a whole bunch of things. Has anyone else noticed the striking similarities between Jack Layton and a newborn baby? Both cry a lot and demand all your attention. Both crave the limelight and need to have a one-on-one visit with anyone who comes calling, be it Aunt Thelma or President Karzai. And neither of them really knows what's good for them yet. Although I have to say I'm glad Ewan doesn't have the mustache...
In terms of writing something about current events, I'm a bit stuck, since I don't know really what's been happening. One question though: when is a 50% to 48% poll result an even split? When it's a CBC poll on Canadian presence in Afghanistan of course. I did catch that little piece of spin on the radio the other day.
Also, I do know, before anyone insists on telling me, that the Senators are (to borrow from Bart Simpson) both sucking and blowing.
Anyway, normal activity should resume gradually over the next few days. Back to the feeding schedule....
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
For the record, to those it concerns: My relationship with the MRA is similar to my relationship with the Conservative Party of Canada. I sent them a cheque once, for $20 or so. I take no active part in either organization. It might surprise some readers to know that up until last week only one of the 'MRA candidates' even knew me by sight. None of them know me as a friend or acquaintance except through this blog. If you're reading this, you know me as well as they do. If you've written more than one or two comments here, then I know you better than I know most of the members of the MRA.
This was an experiment in 'citizen journalism'; to see what happened if something extremely valuable - the blogosphere - was brought to bear in a local situation. This used to be a lighthearted political blog with a Tory slant on the issues but also concerned with various other fun stuff in life. In the last 30 days, my experiment has seen it become an acrimonious forum - just another place for Montagu-ites to fling mud at each other.
To that extent, I feel the experiment has failed. This is my last word on the Montague situation; we'll all vote next week and we'll all see what happens.
To those of you accusing me of stifling free speech: it takes just five minutes to sign up with Blogger and get your own blog going - that's free speech. Comments here are a courtesy; it's like I'm inviting you into my home. I don't have to allow any free speech here - I've tried to extend that courtesy to you all, but when it's abused it's my right (and responsibility) to put some limits in place.
It's clear where I stand on the issues - but don't assume you know how I'm planning to vote, because I suspect some of those answers would surprise some people. I do hope that the new reality in Montague is one in which people of all backgrounds get to work together, if only because they're forced into it.
If, when the dust has settled, anyone wants me to step up and take a role in some constructive development of Montague, whether online or in real life, I'll be here. For now, the last week of the campaign belongs to the old fashioned door-to-door visit and the election sign. This blogger is done.
Sunday, November 05, 2006
Despite best efforts in places, this whole blog has degenerated into a reflection of the divide in our township. Now, this is good in parts: it's a safe place to let the debate take place. It airs the issues out, even if no resolution takes place. I'm not sure I expected to become a lightning rod for the whole thing and there are times I wish I'd never got into this in the first place.
Today, I was thinking about another great divide and seemingly intractable dispute that was a very real part of my life in the past. I had a number of encounters with the IRA back in the day. When I was about 13, I missed the bombing of Harrods by a matter of 90 seconds or so. A policeman stopped me from exiting the Underground by the entrance opposite the car bomb. I turned around and walked back underground. That policeman most likely died. Later, as a student in a military college we had to deal constantly with the security threat. As a naval reservist I had to search under my car whenever I was out in uniform. I was personally acquainted with one of the military musicians who lost their lives when the IRA bombed the Royal Marines School of Music.
All of which is to say that I wasn't a huge fan of the IRA or Irish Republicanism.
However, Northern Ireland is on the way to peace. A final settlement of the whole issue is within reach. How did we get there? The whole thing started with a few courageous people, who recognised that they had to get out of the spiral they were in. It took courage on the part of the British government to open a dialogue with the IRA, in secret. It took perhaps more courage for members of the IRA leadership to begin to push their members into a peaceful approach. Above all, it took people who could rise above the events of the past and make decisions based not on where they'd been, but on where they needed to go.
Our little community is as divided as sectarian Ireland ever was. So the question becomes, who will have the courage to overlook the past and look at the future? Who will talk with the other 'side' in good faith? Who will get over their own pride and their own wounds? Who will put their agenda to one side in the greater interest of the community?
This election is going to be about the divide, like it or not. So when you vote, think about how the individuals you're voting for have handled themselves and the issues. Don't think about the group or affiliation so much as the individual, because it's the individual who's going to be in council and who's going to make a difference. Pick someone you honestly believe can rise above old issues and who can really heal the community. Pick someone who will listen more than they talk. Pick someone who might just be able to put their pride to one side and make things better.
Look at performances in the all-candidates. Who's mind is closed? Who showed they can listen? Will you step back from your own knee-jerk reactions about someone's affiliation and look honestly at how they handled themselves as an individual?
This election could put us on the path to healing, or it could cement the division for several decades. Choose carefully. Sometimes, when we are honest, someone can earn our respect even though we disagree profoundly. He led a movement that killed my friends and fellow servicemen; he nearly killed me. But I respect Gerry Adams, because in the end he was able to recognise the futility of IRA terrorism, he took the massive risk of talking to the British, and he led Republicans into the peace process.
From a sleepy backwater, this blog has become a lightning rod for the divisions in this community stemming from the nationally famous defamation lawsuit launched by council against Don Page.
Are any BT's still out there reading? Or have you turned off due to the Montague monotony? If you are reading, as outsiders, take a stroll through previous posts and the now extensive comment threads. I know there's so much wisdom out there in BT land. How can we put this community back together again? As outsiders, how would you vote if you lived here? Would you choose change, or go with the council that sued Don Page?
I really would value outside input on what can be done to heal the divide in this community, because although many people here want this, and many more say they do, I don't see it happening easily... and maybe not without outside intervention. So if any BT's from the rest of Canada have similar experiences or insight, please share it with us...
Saturday, November 04, 2006
Since moving the discussion to other things is likely to be impossible, I have two ideas to throw out there and see if you want to take part.
First: to anyone identifying with one 'side' or the other in the lawsuit issue: Here's your challenge. Pick someone you really disagree with - for some this might be Mr. Doyle, others Mr. Page. Write something nice about that person. Find something good about them. Find something you can respect and admire, and put it out there.
Second: I'd like to find just two individuals who have been personally affected by the 'divide', one from each side. I want two people who are willing to share their stories, but not in a 'he said, she said' kind of way. I want someone to tell the story from their perspective. What did you see? What did you feel? Talk about yourself, not the other parties. I want two smart, articulate people (lots of you out there in the comments) to step up and tell us what it was like for them.
If you are willing to be one of the two, please email me: firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll need to know who you are, but I'll keep that confidential. My hope is that we can get an understanding of each side's experiences and emotions, without the accusatory stuff. Only by hearing each other like this, by listening more than talking and by being completely non-judgemental can we ever hope to bridge the divide.
UPDATE: This whole new father thing really brings out the mushy side, eh? Oh well, maybe it's a good idea anyway...
A week early, Ewan James made his entry to the world at 10:27pm on Friday 3rd November at the Queensway Carleton hospital in Ottawa. Mother and baby are doing well. Big sister doesn't even know yet...
Blogging will be light for the next few days. Montague folks, I am going out on a limb and turning comment moderation off. Anything you post will appear immediately. Keep it clean and try not to break the furniture.
Thursday, November 02, 2006
I've said this several times, but let's try again. Two issues are being confused, that I think ought to remain seperate. First, the rights and wrongs of the actual Riceville fire matter. As I've said before, I don't know who's right and who's wrong. Nasty things were said about the firefighters. To anyone who was defamed or wrongly accused of anything, you have my sympathy and my support to go ahead and defend yourself individually. Again, I don't doubt I'd get an excellent response if, God forbid, I ever needed the fire department. I don't know who's right and who's wrong about the facts. But I think the time has come for those individuals who feel defamed to either sue Mr. Page, or leave the matter behind them. That's just my opinion. I don't doubt they were hurt, upset, angered and embarrassed. But holding on to those feelings is, in the end, only going to hurt the person doing it.
Entirely seperate from the Riceville incident is the issue of Council's response to the situation and the lack of leadership and maturity that they have exhibited throughout. Reeve Doyle immediately over-reacted to the situation, when he fired off his threat of legal action just three weeks after the fire. Just as Mr. Page should have let the official investigation take its course, so should Reeve Doyle. What was he doing, pre-judging the investigation with such a threat of legal action? At that point he could not have known the facts as the investigation was ongoing. But he still fired off the threat. It was not his last resort, it was his first response.
When an extremely contentious issue arises in a community, to my mind, it's the Reeve's job to try to bring people together and to resolve the issue as effectively as possible. Reeve Doyle made no effort to resolve the situation, except through legal threats. To me, that's pouring gas on the fire, not helping to put it out. A real leader would have risen above the situation, taken charge and brought the parties together. We should expect a higher standard from our elected leaders than from citizens at large. Gary Doyle immediately sank to the level of an acrimonious dispute between individuals, instead of standing tall above the situation.
Then we come to Council's decision to sue. This was simply a mistake. They were not entitled to do this; that's what the judge found. Doyle still doesn't get that. He still thinks the Charter is an 'interference'. Why is it so hard for him to stand up and say 'We made a mistake'? Again, real leadership includes knowing when you got it wrong and being prepared to admit it. Instead, Reeve Doyle hides behind the firefighters and deliberately confuses the two seperate issue of the alleged defamation itself and his own political actions. Even if Mr. Page was entirely wrong and the firefighters were indeed defamed, Council's lawsuit was still a grave mistake.
That's my position. I don't make allegations of fraud, or corruption, or incompetence, or anything else in relation to the Riceville fire. But our current Reeve and Council failed dismally when called upon to show leadership in this situation. They might even be able to salvage something if they would admit to that, and show some respect for concerned citizens. But in their complete arrogance there is no chink of openness to questions or other opinions. Doyle thinks he is right. Period. Until he learns humility he can't function as an effective leader of our community.
This attitude and this way of doing politics in Montague is not unique to the Page matter. This is how Doyle and council run the township, whatever is the issue at hand - with contempt for citizens, wilful ignorance and refusal to hear questions, and deliberate use of in-camera sessions to hide much of their deliberations from the public.
This is why I am 'partisan'. I want open government where everyone can be heard equally. I want my local government to be transparent and to be able to understand what they are doing and the reasons for it. I want them to be leaders who can take charge of difficult situations and resolve them, rather than sink straight into the mud and start flinging it themselves. In short, I want the same standards from them as I would expect from a provincial or federal government - the improvement of which is a work in progress right now, and remains the raison d'etre of this blog.
The firefighters need to understand that an attack on Reeve Doyle and council is not an attack on them. The fire department and council are seperate. There is the widespread perception in the township, created and encouraged by Reeve Doyle that the two are one and the same. If this were true, it would mean that there is indeed an unhealthily close relationship between the fire department and the political process of the township. If it's not true, then the firefighters need to realise it and keep their own personal issues with Mr. Page seperate from the political level of discourse.
I'd just made it through the checkout when the red light atop the automatic exit door started to flash. I approached with the confidence we all now have that doors will slide open for us. Not a movement. I waved at the motion sensor. Nothing. People began to line up behind me. An assistant came over and also waved at the sensor.
Vainly, he tried sliding the door by hand. It didn't move more than a couple of inches. We were trapped.
Eight Wychwood beers: Approximately $22. Being trapped in a liquor store: Priceless.
To begin, I’d like to say thank you for putting the effort into this blog and providing this platform. Many of us check this often. It is especially valuable because of the way you have moderated it – opinions on all sides are expressed here but most of them are expressed with respect (the ones you post anyway). We’d be a lot further ahead if everyone communicated this way in person.
The second all candidates evening was certainly an experience! Some of the questions, as you point out, were clearly motivated by nasty vindictiveness and nothing else – they backfired if the motivation was some kind of political damage. Those questions said far more about the people asking them, than they did about any of the candidates. But most of the questions, if perhaps difficult, were fair and deserved fair answers.
I don’t know how anyone could still maintain that this is not a divided community. And it isn’t just a divide represented by a small group of malcontents vs. some core Council supporters. Most of the residents in this township are disgusted by what has been going on these past couple of years and sympathize with one side or the other (election day will show us which side predominates).
I agree with one of the posters here who cautions us not to paint every member of a group with the same brush. I believe that most of our fire fighters simply want to serve and contribute to this community vice owning and controlling it and I also believe that most MRA associated people are only interested in open and transparent government with equal treatment for all residents. I understand why some of our fire fighters feel outraged and I also understand why some residents feel intimidated – to the point of fearing for their safety.
Set aside for a moment who caused what. Or whether or not there were/are real reasons for fire fighters to be outraged or whether or not there were/are real reasons for residents to never travel alone, write down license plates every time a vehicle slows down in front of their house etc etc
The fact is, that this is the reality in Montague. And our current Council has done nothing to try and solve it. And that is, in the final analysis, an utter failure in leadership. We will not fix this and move on until that is rectified. Which means we need change.
At the end of the meeting the other night, I met many residents who came to shake my hand, or ask questions about some of the issues I had talked about. Two of those people were associated with fire fighters (a wife and a mother I believe). We talked for a good ten minutes about the divide, the lawsuit, fire fighters and the MRA. I don’t believe I have their support and it was clear that there were some things we were not going to convince each other about. But throughout the entire conversation, I felt I was being listened to and treated with utmost respect and I certainly tried to give it right back. And I learned a thing or two which allows me to continue to increase my understanding of where everyone is coming from.
So, to those two ladies who took the time to engage in dialogue, I say thank you. This mess isn’t going to be repaired with a group hug and a sing-along. We have work to do. But you guys reinforced my belief that we can fix this.
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Right from the top of last night's meeting the atmosphere was very different from the first meeting. There were a few more people present, I think, although many of the same faces were there. But there was much more tension in the room even before the event began.
Reeve Doyle's approach was confrontational and defensive from the beginning of his opening statement. He looked worried this time out. At the first meeting he was almost bored, but last night the impression was of a man realising his grip on power could be beginning to slip.
Things started out reasonably enough with the opening statements and even the first questions. Tensions didn't really begin to rise until a firefighter took the microphone and in what was clearly a personally motivated move asked Hal MacGregor to identify the causes of division within the township. There was some banter back and forth at this point, but even here it was really a predictable fencing match between the two. Obviously personal but not venomous
The question that started the downward spiral for me was the question of the $25 donation to the seniors club. That Reeve Doyle could actually stand there and defend the decision not to make this donation, basically because his precious feathers had been ruffled by some individuals in the seniors club, was beyond me. Peter Kavanagh used the word 'unworthy'. I don't have to be so polite; I'll call that decision what it was and is: petty, vindictive, and contemptible. It was nicely followed up by Vince Carroll's innuendo that the seniors had faked vandalism of their heat pump. Great work there. Good to know council's really got their heads screwed on.
The question to Dianne Coates about her alleged 'volatility' was predictable, but was asked and answered civilly. Throughout the evening, Dianne's cool, articulate handling of some inappropriate comments was a living answer to all of the questions of this nature that she's been asked. She was accused of being disrespectful to Doyle and Schoular; in fact this didn't happen, but plenty of disrespect was thrown her way.
Then, the lawsuit can of worms was opened good and proper. Again, Doyle was asked what he'd learned. Last time he'd been 'blindsided' by the Charter. This time it 'interfered'. Yes, your Reeve thinks the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is an 'interference' in the way he does his job. He'd rather we didn't have such a thing, because it really does make running Montague Gary's way an awful lot harder. All those inconvenient things like people asking questions, speaking their mind, talking about him. How dare we. To me, this answer, the choice of the word 'interfere' is extremely revealing about Mr. Doyle's attitude.
It got better. Nobody wanted a lawsuit, said Doyle. It was a last resort. How does this square with the threat of 'immediate legal action' that was made on January 13, 2005 in writing by Mr. Doyle? Mr. Doyle apparently goes from zero to last resort in three weeks. Quick work, sure, but not necessarily mature, smart, or appropriate in an elected official. Evidence has since been provided to me that Mr. Doyle's issuing of threatening letters is a long term pattern of behaviour in matters other than the Don Page suit.
David Schoular, not to be outdone, followed up with an outright lie. The Charter, he said, was not an issue until the day of the court hearing. Uh huh... So those CCLA lawyers you refused to hear, what did you think they'd come to talk about? Also, the township must have been served with the pre-trial motion to dismiss well ahead of the actual court date. So David Schoular lied, on record.
Then we hit the low point of the evening when a grinning individual took the microphone and asked John McTavish about his alleged bankruptcy. The question was out of order. The motivation was purely personal animosity; it was visible and palpable. Pure vindictiveness at work. Almost worse was the sight of this individual returning to his place with a series of handshakes and high-fives from friends. Good one guys. Be proud of yourselves. It takes real heroism to crow over anothers personal misfortune.
The question to David Schoular about his dismissal was ruled out of order, although in fact it is highly relevant, because it concerns a conflict of interest related directly to his serving in elected office. So, since no question is out of order here, here's a reminder of the answer.
I've got a free piece of career advice for David; join the McGuinty Liberals. I think you'd make an excellent McGuinty MPP. You'd fit right in.
Last night, although the MRA folks haven't behaved anywhere near perfectly, it was my genuine sense that they are ready to move on and put things behind them. It was very interesting to watch the group at the back of the room all evening. Obviously they have their preferred slate of candidates. No secret there. But what I noticed was that even when one of their own talked about moving on, about leaving the division of the lawsuit behind, not one of them applauded. They stood stony faced. Didn't look too much like any of them actually want to move on. They struck macho poses and grinned that grin that teenage boys get when they're acting tough. To me, they looked like nothing more than a group of schoolyard bullies.
So here's the deal as far as I see it. Yes, some nasty things were said about the fire department. Yes, some were untrue and possibly defamatory. But, they had their day in court and the matter was resolved - and if not, then individuals should go ahead and sue Mr. Page themselves. They have every right. But they no longer have the right to paralyse the township by pursuing the feud or their personal vendettas against John McTavish, Dianne Coates, or anyone else, and neither do their supporters.
Neither do the MRA have the right to keep up with this. But life being what it is, sometimes one person or one group have to step up and make the first move. Sometimes you have to swallow a little pride. It makes you a better person and a stronger person. Last night showed the MRA group is ready to step up and move on. Will Doyle, council and the Fire Department? Vince Carroll tried; pity his colleagues couldn't join him.
It seems Mr. Doyle isn't prepared to listen to anyone, or to acknowledge any weakness or fault in his handling of anything. He uses secrecy and threats on a regular basis. Without openness and a willingness to listen, compromise, forgive and forget, we won't be getting anywhere. And last night I became convinced that we need a new council if that's ever to happen in Montague.
It's no longer about who's right and who's wrong. It's about who will and won't move on.
The meeting followed a similar format to the first.
Reeve Doyle gave a robust defence of his record, focusing primarily on the financial stability of the township. He also stressed the importance of this election as council will serve for four years instead of three. He gave a detailed breakdown of the reserves held by the township. He described the budget process, and the scrutiny given to each of the over 600 line items in the township budget. He stated that in his view the township is not divided.
John McTavish promised an open, responsible and respectful council. He promised that any inquiry would receive a response within three business days. He promised to review all contracts and agreements currently in force. In-camera sessions of council would be minimized if he is elected, and reports on their outcome would be made available. He would immediately form a recreation committee and a roads committee. He would instigate audio / video recording of council meetings, and install a PA system in the Council chambers. He would restore an open question session at council meetings.
Kenneth Hunter reprised his opening address from the first all candidates meeting.
Peter Kavanagh introduced himself as the 'new kid on the block' but assured the audience that Montague was now his home and that he was as committed as anyone else to the township. He stated that he was hearing from people that they want change. Denial of the divide in the township is not going to help; the township must move forward. To do that requires leadership and this is what he has to offer. Currently, he said, we are not seeing leadership from the current council, especially in dealings with other levels of government. He also promised fewer in-camera sessions of council, open questions and open government. He promised a communications plan for the Fire Department, to better link them to the community. He also promised within 12 months to develop a long-term, strategic plan for the development of the township.
David Schoular said he has enjoyed his three years as Deputy Reeve and feels that he has represented the township well. He highlighted the accomplishments of the term: the roads needs study, the Master Fire Plan, development charges, the property standards bylaw and minimal tax increases. If re-elected, he promises leadership and dedication.
Mark Baker described living in the township for over thirty years, and hearing the same issues raised over and over again throughout that time: taxes and basic services. Council is spending money on consultants, but it is the residents voices that need to be heard. He spoke of development being urgent and the need to be more aggressive in defending the Rideau Regional Centre. He will not take the commitment lightly if elected and looks forward to serving on council.
Bonnie Burson reiterated her business background and strengths and stated that she could bring her business skills to bear on council as well as honesty and integrity.
Vince Carroll said that the township was financially secure, that he wanted to push for more recreational facilities and more development, and sat down again.
Dianne Coates described her 25 years of experience in the federal government. She promises fairness, openness and accountability if elected. She wants to restore balance to council. She would push for prudent spending decisions, with a focus on infrastructure. She would work hard to attract industry to Montague and to make it a 'real' community once again.
Bill Dobson said that the community needs to unite in order to move forward. He would replace arrogance with respect, and put the past behind us. The future of Rideau Regional would be a top priority for him. He highlighted the experience of the Montfort Hospital, slated for closure but now a major centre of excellence, thanks to the robust campaign residents mounted in its defence. He would like to see a similar campaign for the Rideau Regional. He would encourage small business in Montague and look for development opportunities at the airport.
Bill Eckersley gave the same opening address as at the first all candidates night.
Hal MacGregor said that the overwhelming message was that the township wants change. His priorities are: lower taxes, cleaning up waste at all levels, listening to residents concerns and making sure that bylaws reflect the rural character of Montague. He would record all council votes. He would like to see parks and playgrounds created to reinforce pride in subdivisions and create neighborhoods in the township. He feels that residents are fed up with the current council.
To David Schoular: Why did you oppose the spending of $120 for a laptop for the OPP, but award yourself a 70% pay increase? Mr. Schoular explained that the laptop issue had been a point of principle; that the OPP already receives over $350,000 for policing services and that if they needed a laptop it should have been budgeted for in the agreement with Montague. On the issue of the raise he explained that the township auditor had carried out a comparison study and recommended a level of compensation to bring Montague up to the Lanark county average.
To John McTavish: Describe the divide in the township. John spoke of social functions that are now attended by one of two solitudes; the firefighters don't come to the seniors functions and vice-versa. The township is divided into groups that never overlap.
To Hal McGregor: What caused the divide in the township? Hal spoke of the confrontational attitude of the current council and suggested the question be directed to the incumbents as to why they don't attend seniors functions any more.
To Gary Doyle: Why did you refuse a $25 donation for the seniors cookbook. Doyle commented that he had been an original member of the Forget-Me-Nots, and he said our seniors need support. However, he said, the seniors club has become politicized. Council does not feel welcome. The seniors need an attitude adjustment to remove the political overtones. The decision not to give the $25 was a whole council decision, not his personally. Peter Kavanagh said that although there might be politics involved in the seniors club, it was unworthy of council to allow personal animosities to deprive all of the seniors of support. He also highlighted that council did the same thing when they refused to help with the $500 insurance deductible when the heat pump at the hall was vandalised. Vince Carroll suggested that the 'vandalism' of the heat pump had been fabricated.
To Dianne Coates: You were 'curt' when answering a question at the last meeting. Will this be your attitude to all questions, or will you only answer questions you want to answer? Dianne gave essentially the same answer as at the previous meeting, explained that she had only spoken at council once, and that she had left after David Schoular had told her to leave the township if she didn't like the way it was run. She said that she had been passionate, as well she might as the court case was a landmark Canadian decision upholding the rights of all.
To all Reeve / Deputy Candidates: What are your views on the CRF? None of the candidates knew what CRF was.
To the current Reeve / Deputy: During the last council term, one councillor was 'forced out' and the treasurer and deputy had been dismissed. What was going on? David Schoular referred the question to the councillor who had resigned.
To Gary Doyle: What did you learn from the lawsuit experience? Doyle said that he'd learned that the council should have taken a different tack. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms 'interfered' with council's suit. He reiterated that nobody had wanted the lawsuit. He described council's role in the investigation and pointed out that the issues were to be resolved by the police and Fire Marshall, and that council should not and could not have been involved in the investigation or interviewed witnesses.
Peter Kavanagh spoke to the firefighters and identified the launching of the lawsuit as the real start of their problems - it was the lawsuit that catapulted them into the public eye and the national and local media. He said that with real leadership the matter could have easily been resolved inside the township and that even if the complaints had continued they would eventually have been starved. He also pointed out that the first threat of legal action from Gary Doyle was made just three weeks after the fire, on January 13, 2005.
David Schoular denied that council had 'jumped in' to the lawsuit and pointed out that they had consulted with all parties before suing. He said that the Charter had not even appeared as an issue until the court date.
To all Candidates: What would they do about preserving the quality of water in the Rideau system? Hal spoke of Smiths Falls occasionally dumping sewage and that the RVCA didn't take any action. Bill Eckersley pointed out that we all share responsibility for water quality, as individual residents.
To Peter Kavanagh: You travel a lot; how would you keep up with your commitment to council. If using telecommunications, who will pay? Peter explained that he would be minimizing travel and had already prepared his consulting business for this contigency. He will pay any costs personally.
To Bill Dobson: Name a positive initiative of the MRA. Bill named the first all-candidates meeting, the Rosedale road cleanup and a litany of social events.
To Incumbents: What is the Master Fire Plan and how did it come about? Reeve Doyle explained that the plan is a province wide initiative of the Fire Marshall's office, that it sets out standards and plans for fire response in the township and that Montague is one of the first in the province to complete the process.
To John McTavish: How can you stand for election when filing for bankruptcy? The moderator ruled this question out of order, but John answered anyway, that his business was in bankruptcy, but that he personally was not.
To All Candidates: The leader of the CUPE local at Rideau Regional asked why they were all talking about RRC in the past tense, and what they were prepared to do to fight for the Centre. Peter Kavanagh said that there was inertia in the current council's response and that only the union was actually doing anything at present. Council is allowing the province to set the agenda. He worries that the levels of government will continue finger pointing while the Centre gradually slides its way to closure. Bill Dobson again spoke of the Montfort example and said that he had discussed the issue with Mayor Staples. There is the chance that a change in provincial government in 2007 could bring a reprieve. Gary Doyle said that the province had agreed to consult the township and that is all we can ask for.
To Dianne Coates: Will you be able to work with the current Reeve if elected? Diane said that as a professional of 25 years standing she can work with anyone.
To David Schoular: Why were you dismissed from your government job? Ruled out of order by the moderator.
To Reeve Doyle: How did cancelling the open question session at council help? Gary said that the question session was being misused by people with 'agendas'. David Schoular claimed that people are still free to speak at council. Hal MacGregor stated this was untrue, and that he had been present at meetings where council refused to hear any questions.
To members of the MRA: Why have you not apologised to the Fire Department? Dianne Coates described how her first home had burned down and how she had ended up married to one of the founding members of the Montague Fire Department. Bill Dobson stated again, that the issue was with council and if council had been willing to talk there need have been no lawsuit.
To Dianne Coates: Clarify your statement on the outcome of the lawsuit. Dianne responded that her statement was that council had been incorrect in bringing the suit and that this was the judge's ruling. Vince Carroll said he had not come to talk about a lawsuit and we should move on. Bonnie Burson echoed that.
Gary Doyle said that financial stability must come before all else.
Kenneth Hunter said that there is something in Montague for everyone.
Peter Kavanagh said we need to increase the tax base to achieve things like the required road improvements and that his strategic plan was required to make this happen.
David Schoular said that the township was strong, but bogged down in issues.
Mark Baker said that the township requires leadership.
Bonnie Burson said that she was here because she believes in Montague.
Vince Carroll expressed disappointment that we had not discussed taxes, garbage collection, recreation, roads, or any 'real' issues. What can voters hope to have learned from the evening?
Dianne Coates thanked all for their attendance and involvement.
Bill Dobson said he would look for a project or event to help the township come together and work for a common goal again.
Bill Eckersley read the back of his flyer.
Hal MacGregor said that everyone agrees that we need to move on, and a change in council is required for that to happen.