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.
I felt two separate emotions when I read your remark: One of disbelief that you were implying Shawn had broken a law, and secondly that you were suggesting I was wrong in defending him, (since my campaign brochure stated I had done so, and I am proud of it).
If you knew Shawn Carmichael as I know him, you would never have made such an absurd statement.
Please let me enlighten you as to the legal aspects of his situation. In Canada, Federal laws have supremacy over any provincial laws - or Municipal bylaws.Article 2 in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, (which is the paramount law in Canada) states: Every Canadian has the right of association.
By definition, that includes the right of disassociation. In other words, every Canadian has the right not to be forced to belong to an association (or guild, or union, or any identifiable organized group). That right is further upheld in several Federal statutes governing labour unions, etc.
I contend that the Province of Ontario statute forcing all egg producers in Ontario with more than 99 chickens, to join the provincial egg marketing board is unconstitutional, and will be struck down if it is ever brought before a competent Canadian court.
No OLA members were charged with anything as a result of our defence of Shawn on that day, quite the contrary.
We later demonstrated at the Prescott Police station, and tried to go through normal lawful channels to lay charges against the Police for their cruel and inhumane suffocation of 800 chickens when they were packed too tightly. I, personally, later testified before an OPP Constable in Rideau Lakes as part of that effort to bring the guilty ones to justice. Of course, nothing came of it in the end.
Most area newpapers reported that event with objectivity, the one exception was the Ottawa Citizen, whose reporter on the scene talked only to policemen at the time. His original report was later corrected on page 15 or somewhere insignificant.
You may find it interesting that, at Shanly, calls were made to the OSPCA as the cruelty was happening, and they declined to become involved. So much for their objectivity and their mandate to prevent cruelty to animals.
You might also find it interesting, that at Shanly, when I was discussing the situation with some OPP friends, they advised me they were not happy with what they were being forced to do.
Also, as for you not being willing to "break the law" in defence of Shawn Carmichael, one must consider that standing on one's principles in the face of a perceived injustice is the only thing standing between an Orwellian nightmare and the democracy, with all its freedoms, we so cherish today in many parts of the world.
George Washington committed treason (which was a hanging offence) when he led a revolution against King George III, but he prevailed and became the greatest hero of the United States of America. His call for "No Taxation without Representation" will go down in history as one of the great milestones of democratic movements.
Here in Canada, we were taught as children that we owe our Canadian freedom of the Press to one man, Joseph Howe. Howe was the editor of a Halifax newspaper, and he wrote a column critical of some Nova Scotia government leaders of the day.
Although he was technically guilty of breaking a (bad) law that forbade such a thing, he argued his own case before a jury of his peers, and he successfully convinced them of his right to do so. He was found innocent and the law was struck down. Now, all Canadians enjoy the right to criticize our governments, thanks to one man who had the courage of his convictions. By the way, Howe went on to become Premier of Nova Scotia, and eventually joined a Federal cabinet in a government of "National Unity".
Thank God for such men.
As a footnote, a prophetic entry was found in a German concentration camp during the closing days of the Second World War. It had been written by one of the many victims of Nazi tyranny. Its author was among those "undesirables" executed and thrown into a common grave. What was most startling about the author was that he had been a submarine Commander in the German Navy during the First World War.
What was so remarkable about the scribbled note, was its stark message of the general compliance on behalf of the mass of German people, when faced with an intolerant authority. It read:
First, they came for the Jews, and nobody objected.
Then, they came for the Gypsies, and nobody objected.
Then, they came for the Gays, and nobody objected.
Then, they came for me.
Hal MacGregor/Candidate for Councillor
On the one hand, having started this whole blogging process, I would like to continue to set down what I saw and heard and my reaction to it. On the other, given some of what was on display last night and given the well documented happenings of the last few years in the Township, I have to admit to a certain apprehension for my personal safety and that of my family, should I actually write what's in my mind to write. I have a young family. I don't want to put them in a situation where they face unnecessary risks. I didn't sleep too well last night for thinking about these issues.
I'm not a journalist. For one thing, I've never slept with a senior member of the Liberal party. But I started blogging because there's a lot I wanted to say. I've worked hard at this so far and I've put a lot of sweat, heart and soul into it. Having started, I have found a voice and thus far I've been able to be entirely true to myself. With one exception, which I corrected within hours, I've never posted anything I wasn't entirely comfortable with. I've never compromised my values or beliefs. What I've written is who I am.
Some of what I saw last night disturbed me greatly. I'm still not sure whether to put my thoughts out there or not. I need to weigh being true to myself with being smart about any potential risks to myself and my family.
So, there will be an account of the evening at some point, when I've decided what to do. Until then, I'll post the first guest post from one of the candidates.
Monday, October 30, 2006
It's late, I'm tired and I'm enjoying a Bushmills Single Malt Irish Whiskey. I'll cover the meeting in a post tomorrow. Anyone else who was there, feel free to add a comment to this post.
Sunday, October 29, 2006
Make it more accurate; encourage your friends and neighbours to come along and click a few buttons, even if they don't read the whole blog.
One very interesting thing is that the race for Deputy Reeve is very one-sided; this says to me (so far) that Peter Kavanagh has the respect and confidence of people on both sides of the lawsuit issue. I think this can only be good for the township. Based on the one very short meeting I've had with Mr. Kavanagh, I think he's one person who really can bring everyone together and I think he will be a leader as we start putting old divisions behind the township and moving forward.
I find it ironic that the Liberal Party allowed the government's top priorities to pass the House so easily earlier in the year - those things that they bitterly opposed, like the $1,200 childcare allowance, the GST cut, and so on. Then, when the government is working on things that should be a no-brainer, like increasing accountability and fixing a broken justice system, the Liberals delay, carp, hack and gut the legislation. Not only that, but they spend their entire time in the spotlight of Question Period whinging about alleged dog remarks.
Grow up, Mr. Graham and your crowd. You may not like Mr. Harper and you may have different views on where you want to take things. But you're elected to serve the people, just the same. And the people, whatever their political stripe, want you to take care of the nation's business, not go around scooping dog poop.
The article describes the experiences of a couple in London, England. Dad is a hedge fund manager, which I believe has something to do with finances, not horticulture. Mom's a lawyer. Pretty smart folks then, we can assume
Toby began his therapy when he was just one month old, at Dr Acquarone's parent-infant clinic at the School of Infant Mental Health in Hampstead, north London. His parents are among an increasing number who believe that good mental health cannot be established early enough.
"Dr Acquarone's sessions utterly changed my relationship with my son," says Miss Mientakeivitch, a lawyer. "We have the loving bond I had hoped for and he is a happy, healthy baby. Her work is tremendous: she taught me so much about what Toby was feeling and how to interpret the messages he was sending me. Her observations of Toby taught me such a lot about him."
Later on, we learn as an example, that one of the insights of the Great Doctor was that Mom should take off her glasses to let Toby see her eyes more clearly. I seem to remember that this advice is (a) contained in many books on parenting and (b) common sense. Nice work at $200 an hour for Dr. Acquarone.
So here we have two highly educated, intelligent people, who feel that they are so incapable of parenting their son using their own abilities that they have spent thousands and thousands of dollars on consultations and having the baby 'interviewed' by Dr. Acquarone. If people such as these don't feel comfortable parenting by intuition, common sense and a little judicious use of Google, who does?
How did Western society, collectively, reach the point where we have lost all confidence in our abilities to parent? When did having a child start to reduce high-achieving, intelligent people to uncertain ghosts of themselves, paralyzed with fear? Parenting is the most natural and instinctive role human beings can have. These are people who wouldn't think twice about their ability to read a client or a business associate, understand their body language, assess and predict people's likely behaviour, spot when someone is telling the truth or lying, and so on. They're high-powered people, confident in their abilities at work. Being a parent uses all the same skills. It's not rocket science.
When the highly educated, the elite, feel this way, it's easy to see why the idea that Nanny State's Early Childhood Educators know best has so much traction. No wonder we have an ever increasing army of professionals telling mothers that they can't do the job of raising happy, healthy children themselves. No, now you need some chick with a PhD to tell you your child will see you better if you take your glasses off.
It's time to expose this nonsense and give it the challenge it deserves in public. It's time to encourage all parents and parents-to-be out there to believe that they can do it themselves and that where their own child is concerned, if they trust their instincts and they focus on the child, they will end up knowing best.
As for the parents who feel the need of a $58,000 course of Dr. Acquarone's treatment, to them I say: You should have taken some time to practise a little first. Maybe start out with a Betta fish. Spend a few months learning to read fin-language and then move gently up the evolutionary ladder before attempting procreation. Either that, or spend that $58,000 more wisely and get your own heads fixed.
Thursday, October 26, 2006
I plan on taking the opinion polls down several days before voting day so as to avoid any inappropriate influence. Note that they are very unscientifc; there's no way to check whether someone is really from the area, although they do only permit one vote per browser as far as technology allows. Still, I thought it might be useful to put them up.
Whereas thirty five years of research confirms the benefits of high quality child care for young children’s intellectual, emotional, social and physical development and later life outcomes; and
Whereas child care promotes the well-being of children and responds to the needs of parents, child care workers and the broader community by supporting quality of life so that citizens can fully participate in and contribute to the economic and social life of their community; and
Whereas recent studies clearly show trained and knowledgeable Early Childhood Educators and child care workers are the most important element in quality child care, and further that good wages and working conditions are associated with higher job satisfaction and morale, lower staff turnover all of which predict higher quality care
Therefore Be It Resolved that October 25, 2006 be designated the 6th annual “Child Care Worker & Early Childhood Educator Appreciation Day” in recognition of the influence, dedication and commitment of child care workers to children, their families and quality of life of the community.
The Doggerel Coalition for Best Childcare is proposing an alternative resolution:
Whereas for thousands of years children have been raised by their parents in their own caves, mud huts, castles, semi-detacheds, bungalows, condos, yachts, and various other places; and
Whereas instutionalising children and taking them away from their parents, for example to the workhouse, used to be seen as undesirable; and
Whereas history shows that Victorian children were more numerate and literate at 10 years of age than are today's high-school graduates; and
Whereas thirty-five years of one-sided 'research' into the impact of institutional childcare cannot outweigh thousands of years of human history; and
Whereas human families and their children have enjoyed the company of canis domesticus as friend, companion, protector, nanny, playmate, teacher and student; and
Whereas Welsh Corgis are exceptional examples of canis domesticus
Therefore Be It Resolved that October 25, 2006 be designated the 1st annual “Welsh Corgis in Childcare Appreciation Day” in recognition of the influence, dedication and commitment of Welsh Corgis to children, their families and quality of life of the community.
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Ms. Burson's big selling point is her business background. She thinks her experience managing a successful small business through difficult times is directly applicable to running the township, and there is some truth in that - being a councillor is first and foremost about managing the finances of the township.
Ms. Burson is also an 'independent' in the so-called divided township; not an incumbent, or a member of the MRA. This is played up in her flyer; no 'hidden agenda,' she claims. This could be a big plus, although it could also indicate indecision. Nowhere do we find out her views on the lawsuit itself. I'd like to know her views, even if she is non-aligned. Being the cynic that I am, I could read into her flyer that she actually supports the incumbent council - there are no references to the existing council, only veiled references to the MRA.
She says she'd listen to facts, not gossip; again a positive statement. I just hope that she would have enough realism to recognize that sometimes facts can be manipulated; the truth can be spun to the extent that it is as harmful as gossip.
Bonnie has a plan for Fairness and Equality in council, which seems to involve specific question periods with clear rules of engagement. The tone of this section of the flyer is clearly anti-MRA - 'ensure that special interest groups do not monopolize our limited resources'. This is all very well. However, it's not too difficult to imagine a situation in which rules about how and when people can present to council can be used to disadvantage certain people or groups. Controlling access to council allows someone to control the agenda and control which points of view get to be heard. If it's done fairly, this could be all right, but it's open to abuse.
In the end, then, it's Bonnie Burson's financial acumen that remains her big selling point. How far her other suggestions would go would depend on the makeup of the rest of council. My impression is of someone who has something to offer, but will need to speak more and speak louder at the next all candidates meeting. I'd like to hear more and I'd like to feel just a little more comfortable that Bonnie would still respect the presence of a Ratepayers Association in our community, as such organizations have a valuable place in any democratic system.
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
So let's take a look at the LLA. First off, this is an organization that is essentially set up to protest and to oppose current trends in government. It is a protest group, rather than a pro-active group. The founding declaration lists these areas of concern to the LLA:
- Urban property standards for rural lands and farms
- Aggregate buffer zones that devalue property
- Nutrient management plans that cost the farm
- High legal costs to defend against unfair enforcement
- Nuisance wildlife introductions and mismanagement that destroy crops and property
- Absurd zoning restrictions that prevent building and improvements
- Government bureaucrats on our land without cause, notice or warrant
- Destruction and loss of our firearms and lifestyle
- Mineral rights that strip away land rights and privacy
- Municipal amalgamation that removes local representation
On the face of it, I can sympathise with many of these concerns, although I believe in a balance between individual rights and appropriate regulation, for example in the areas of animal welfare, property standards, and so on. I could be mistaken, but the LLA would seem to be advocating for little or no regulation on farmers and landowners, so I think we might differ on where exactly the balance should be.
I have three major concerns, however. One is that the tactics used by the LLA in their various protests are often confrontational and extreme, and in some cases illegal. It has overtones of loose cannon. In the end I don't think tactics like this do any cause any good. I've eaten Shawn Carmichael's eggs, and I don't believe he was treated fairly, but I wouldn't break the law in his defence.
My second concern is that the LLA is a protest group; they're very vocal and clear about what they are against but less descriptive about what they would put in the place of the regulations and government interference they want to tear down.
My third concern is prompted by this paragraph from the LLA website:
Using taxpayer's dollars, our governments support and promote Quebec, Native, Arts, Homosexual, Urban and Multi cultures. However when it comes to the independent, peaceful rural culture in Canada, government support is stifling, suffocating and controlling.
Now, perhaps what they really mean by 'Native, Arts, Homosexual and Urban' is just 'Urban'. But that's not what it says. As for Quebec, well last time I looked there was quite a bit of Quebec that was rural too. This smacks of far-right extremism, and, although I'm pretty darn right-wing myself, it goes just a little too far for my personal tastes.
The LLA sided with Don Page in the lawsuit here; looking at it strictly as a freedom of speech issue, they were entitled to do so. However, whilst I applaud their support for freedom of expression, I wouldn't want to see LLA's protest tactics become a part of government in our Township. I don't mind if councillors or candidates belong to the LLA, but I do hope they can keep that affiliation seperate from their role in government, as the two seem quite likely to clash regularly.
All well and good, but can somebody explain to me the difference between motive in the Anti-terrorism Act and motive in hate-crimes legislation? Both extend criminality beyond an act to what the person committing the act was thinking as they were doing it, yet apparently only one of them is unconstitutional.
The Criminal Code should be sufficient unto itself; judge men by their actions, as Aristotle I believe said.
Which makes us here at TDP HQ wonder, what if Canada had a speaking clock? Who would you pick to bring accurate time to the nation?
Paul Martin? "At the third stroke, the time, and let me be clear about this; er.... quite frankly, let there be no doubt about it, will be, er... well,..."
Don Cherry? "At the third stroke, the time for those French guys and Europeans will be..."
Christina Lawand? "At the third stroke," < cue unrelated footage of Stephen Harper >
Peter Mansbridge? "At the third stroke, the time will continue after tonight's playoff game."
Chuck Guite? "At the third stroke, the brown envelope will contain $2,000."
David Dingwall? "At the third stroke, I will be entitled to more entitlements."
Add your own....
To my knowledge, no-one's ever turned the question around and asked the feminist bloggers exactly how much of their blogging time, research time and network bandwidth comes on their employers' dime.
There might be C-list and A-list blogs, but there are also bloggers with a sense of humour and bloggers without. Vive la difference!
UPDATE: Apparently the National Post is a C-list newspaper, too!
Monday, October 23, 2006
Our fire chief has had a meeting, training session, fire investigation, or other duty to attend to on about one day in every three, if not more.
Our firefighters have received 16 training sessions, including two full weekends of training, on everything from water rescue to the use of breathing apparatus, to several live burn exercises.
Think about it... 59 times in 9 months; an average of 6 times a month they turn out for an emergency situation. Not knowing what they're going to face, at any time of the day or night. Not just them, but their families. 59 times this year, a wife, son, daughter, niece, nephew has watched their man leave the house, also not knowing what awaits, and with the fear that, although very unlikely, he may not come back.
Never mind one specific incident, turned into a political football. Stop and think for a moment of what it would be like to be one of those families. We should all know more about what the firefighters do for us and we should all be grateful for each and every one of those 59 times they have turned out.
How do I know all this? I had to request copies of the Fire Activity Reports from the township office. Why aren't these reports published? This is the information that should really be getting out there about our Volunteer Fire Department. This is the work they do for us. Why hide it away? I think this should be proud public knowledge, and I would also suggest a public demonstration of the department's capabilities, maybe once a year.
Let's not leave it at platitudes like 'we have a wonderful fire department.' That doesn't do these men and their families justice. Tell the residents exactly what the firefighters do for them.
I believe, from what little I have been able to find out, the township might have been Augusta. I'd like to hear from anyone with first hand knowledge of the history of that story. What was the situation before council was replaced? What was the motivation behind the takeover by the ratepayer group? And what happened later?
Post a comment and let me know how to contact you if you can help. I will preserve anonymity if required.
Sunday, October 22, 2006
The David Schoular in this case had appeared on a radio show in May 1999 and made comments about the platform of a provincial political party with regard to education funding. During the radio interview, it emerged that Mr. Schoular was both a school board trustee and an employee of the Ministry. The comments he made in the interview were deemed to be in breach of the Public Service Act by the then Assistant Deputy Minister for Education. However, no action was taken at the time because Schoular was nearing the end of his term as Trustee.
In fall 2000, however the David Schoular in this case ran for re-election, having been advised that he would have to resign from the Ministry if re-elected. He did not resign, was elected on November 13, 2000 and deemed to have resigned from the Ministry of Education on November 16, 2000. He and his union filed a grievance, which was dismissed by the Ontario Grievance Settlement Board.
In this case, a conflict of interest clearly existed, the individual concerned tried to persist in the conflict of interest and fought the consequences all the way. It's also worth noting that the whole matter came to the attention of the ADM at Education only because of the radio interview, which might be seen as something of a lapse in judgement, both because it breached the legislation and because it exposed his tenuous situation.
The full story of the case can be found here.
This raises some serious questions:
- No other candidate makes direct reference to the Riceville incident in their campaign materials. Now, who is keeping the issue alive? Does Reeve Doyle see this issue working to his political advantage, and is this flyer distribution an attempt to keep it going?
- The Open Letter was already sent (at taxpayers' expense) to every household in the township and is available on the township website. Why send it out again?
- Was the open letter copied at Reeve Doyle's expense, or were township facilities used? Why was it kept on township letterhead when it is being sent out by Doyle's campaign and not by the township?
- Is it ethical or legal for an official Township communication on official letterhead to be used in election campaign materials?
The City of Kingston's logo, crest, coat of arms, slogan, etc. shall not be printed or distributed on any election materials or included on any election campaign related website, except in the case of a link to the City's website to obtain information about the municipal election.
So distribution of the Open Letter by any election campaign would be in clear violation of the policies of most major municipalities. It might be appropriate to seek further clarification from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing on this issue.
(As for the title of this post, if you're not familiar with English counties, look it up!)
Saturday, October 21, 2006
I'm a relatively 'green' kind of Tory. I try to do my bit to minimize my 'carbon footprint'. And I like this Act. The really hostile reception that has been whipped up by what seems to be a coalition of anyone-who's-not-a-Tory puzzles me.
First off, the Liberals' 13 years were a dismal failure with respect to environmental policy. They signed the Kyoto protocol without any plan to achieve the targets it specified. They spent years trying to come up with a plan - I remember Anderson saying 'in a few months' for a long long time, when asked about the Liberals greenhouse gas reduction plans. The Liberals presided over a 25% increase in greenhouse gas emissions after they signed the Kyoto Protocol. If that's not a dismal failure, what is? They have absolutely no credibility on this file, so their take on the Conservative plan is, or should be, irrelevant.
The environmental movement has come out swinging against the Act and this puzzles me. Sure, it may not contain everything they were hoping for. It may not be a fast enough timetable for them. But it's a start and it does something really important. For the first time, it gives government the tools to control emissions. It provides the regulatory framework. Timeframes and target numbers can be regulated; it won't require new legislation to change the targets. But why would any group oppose giving government the levers it needs to control pollution and greenhouse gases?
The biggest complaint seems to be about the timing, but to me, this is just being realistic. All the groups that are howling have yet to produce a convincing plan showing that anything can be done faster, from where we are today. It could have been faster if not for 13 years of Liberal inaction. But we are where we are. You can jump up and down and demand a baby in one month, but it's going to take nine months, no matter how many women you put on the job. The CBC in particular has made much play of the 2050 date, as though emissions will continue at current or higher levels until 2049 and then suddenly drop off.
2050 is the target to be at the 65% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. That means, starting now, we're shooting for that target. In 2015 things will be better. In 2025, better still, and so on. We won't get to 65% reduction in 2050 without making steady improvements between now and then. Yes, it's a long way out, but it means continual progress must be made between now and then, it's achievable and realistic.
Those opposed to the act (including all opposition parties) had better be prepared to acknowledge that all they're doing is setting us back further. Political parties, I understand, have their alloted roles to play in Parliament.
Environmental groups however, must recognise that if, as a result of their opposition to this Act, it dies, then there will be no progress in the lifetime of this parliament. There will be more lost years, more years with no regulation and no progress. And those groups better be prepared to have that on their conscience.
Friday, October 20, 2006
Fiscal responsibility: The township is in good shape; it sounds as though tax arrears are high but other than that we're doing reasonably well. How might that change? Should we be spending more and accumulating less surplus?
Open government: There is still a great deal of secrecy in council and I think more openness should be sought whoever gets elected. I've read the minutes of every meeting of the current council and it really doesn't tell me anything useful. Most decisions that actually affect things on the ground are made in-camera. Other councils don't do this. Secrecy feeds suspicion. In a tiny township, who you know can make a big difference, but it shouldn't make a difference when you're asking for things like zoning, funding, etc. from your elected representatives. Let's be open enough to prove that who you know doesn't influence your treatment in Montague. Things like the use of municipal vehicles for election campaigning last time around, apparently with council's approval, make me uncomfortable in this regard. Is anything similar still going on? Let's hope not.
Time for Change: Look what happened to the last federal government after 13 years in power. Tired, out of ideas, corrupt and adrift. Sometimes in politics a change is needed just for change's sake. Is that time now, or are we not there yet?
Development: The current council has no plan for development of industry. That's a big issue to be addressed. Agriculture's in trouble and that's not about to change soon. Where will the township's future growth come from? What should we do for the urban-ites moving out to the country, if anything? How can we capitalize on the closeness of Ottawa?
Local Democracy: I'm extremely uncomfortable with the majority of council being non-residents. I'd like to see fewer non-residents on council; I know legally it's fine, but I'd like to see at least a resident majority. Do we really want to be ruled from outside?
Just some ideas to move the discussion on.... Why not suggest your own?
In the House yesterday, Mr. McKay apparently referred to one Liberal creature as a "dog." This is a slander on dogs the world over, as the former Minister of Complex Files is notoriously fickle, attracted by shiny things, disloyal, shallow and generally only useful as a table decoration. As such, she is clearly a CAT.
The only things a decent dog would cross the floor for are steak, hotdogs or a large turkey. We demand that Mr. McKay apologize and offer reparations in the form of any of the aforementioned foodstuffs to dogs everywhere.
I would caution you and your MRA supporters to ensure they have a full understanding of the facts and defamation laws before they openly support a martyr like Mr. Page.
First, I hope I have made adequately clear that I do not 'side' with any parties in terms of the Riceville fire incident itself. I certainly am not a supporter of Mr. Page, except in as much as I oppose governments suing citizens on principle. I freely admit I do not know enough about firefighting, or the specifics of the incident to hold an opinion. My concern is solely with the approach taken by council in the resolution of the dispute. I have no reason to doubt that the firefighters in our township are there working hard for us, and are willing to risk their lives for our safety. I salute them.
Nor, in this situation, do I 'side' with the MRA. I am unhappy with the actions and attitudes of my current elected representatives, but that does not mean I have to 'side' with any other group. Opinions expressed here are just that - personal opinions. I have no 'supporters'.
This is a blog about politics. The political aspect of this case is council's decision to launch the lawsuit as a government against a citizen. The politics of it do not depend on what the issue was, or even the rights and wrongs of the case. I personally would still oppose council's actions in this matter on principle, even if they had won the case. Governments should not sue citizens. Period.
Defamation laws exist to protect individuals and as such they should be used by individuals. As was made clear in the all-candidates meeting, any individual who felt defamed by Mr. Page had, and still has, the right to sue him. Council could even, as an employer, fund such action in whole or in part. That would be a much more correct course of action, and I confess I am surprised that such actions have not been launched individually if the case against Mr. Page is really as strong as has been suggested.
How would you, the creator and readers of this blog, feel if these lies were openly said about you? And what if a person or customer at your work accused you of killing someone during your work day?
I should, of course, be very unhappy indeed. And I would expect my employer to stand behind me. But there are two important points raised by this comment. First off, the comments were made about individuals, not about the employer. Therefore it is up to the individuals to defend themselves, with the employer supporting and standing behind them. If defamation occurred it was not council that was defamed, therefore it was not council that should have sued Mr. Page.
Secondly, many of Reeve Doyle's public comments on the matter have an emotional basis. 'How would you feel,' 'What we felt,' etc. Mixing emotions and politics is a dangerous game. It is my personal view that as far as possible, emotions should be kept out of political deliberations. Political decisions are best made in an objective, rational way, rather than in the heat of emotion of any kind.
The reeve and council keep saying they had no choice. In the famous words of Brian Mulroney, 'Sir, you had a choice.' Absolutely they had a choice. They chose to launch a misguided lawsuit that was doomed to fail on constitutional grounds, rather than either ignore Mr. Page or encourage those who felt defamed to take individual action. And, as an aside, where is lawyer Tim Ray's accountability?
For the record, I would support an arrangement whereby individual employees who felt defamed as a result of their work for council could sue as an individual and have their legal fees paid by the council. I think that all, or a major proportion, of the money should be returned by the individual to council in the event the suit did not succeed, if only to prevent frivolous use of such an arrangement.
This Montague election should not be a referendum on any one issue and certainly not on the lawsuit alone. There are many other important issues: development, taxes and fiscal management, openness vs. secrecy, continuity vs. change, and so on.
As the issue of what happened on Riceville Road that day is still very emotional for all concerned, I will not be accepting further comments on that. I refer readers to the comments that have been posted here from those who have first-hand knowledge of the situation. I also believe that we have to trust the Fire Marshal and the OPP, or where will we be? I see no point in going over and over this same ground. As far as I am concerned the matter of the incident itself should be long closed.
That council launched a doomed lawsuit is part of their political record on which they should be held accountable and re-elected or not. From now on the discussion here will be back to politics and politics only.
Thursday, October 19, 2006
Commenter 'Anonymous' writes:
Sir, you yourself wrote about the first All Candidates Meeting of Montague Township and therefore should know that although the township "wasted" $50,000 in a lawsuit, that money is a mere fraction of what taxpayers would be forking out if the fire department did not do fundraising to earn money for their own causes (equipment, vehicles, etc.) I think that if the matter had have been dropped when Mr. Page was given the answers he requested the lawsuit would not have had to happen.
Now, as I commented at the time of that meeting, the fundraising activities of the Fire Department are completely seperate from the activities of council in relation to the lawsuit. I hope that Anonymous is not implying that the Fire Department is only interested in fundraising while Council follows a political agenda that suits the Fire Department; that would be inappropriate.
Council is council and runs the township. The Fire Department is the Fire Department and fights fires. I think some people are getting confused about this distinction.
The Page suit happened to be about firefighting. It could equally well have been about snowplowing, sewage, policing, streetlighting or any other service. What it was about is actually irrelevant to the issues of free speech, the constitution and good government that the lawsuit raised. Council chose a risky, rash, I would say reckless, course of action in launching the suit and they lost our money.
None of which is to suggest that Mr. Page was in the right or that he behaved appropriately. Most of us will never know the full ins and outs of the matter. However, one thing I think many of us noticed at the all candidates meeting is that people eventually get tired of even the most persistent complainers; when they are left alone, disputes such as this die much quicker.
I personally believe council should have followed the legal processes laid out for them in terms of the Riceville incident and then steadfastly refused to be drawn into any other process or discussion. If council, having done all they could do, had then ignored the matter, I doubt we'd even be talking about it today. It would have died a natural death. It would have been perhaps a more difficult short term course of action but it would have led to a much better long term outcome for all of us - even for the Fire Department, I think. As it is, it can't be pleasant to read about 'drunken nights of Coors and rye' in a national news magazine. That didn't need to happen.
In trying to make a more general point, I crossed a line and made things personal with catnip. She didn't deserve to be singled out that way, as in reality none of us truly know the personal circumstances of any others. I have removed the post.
I once had a cat who had a fascination with sparkling water in his bowl. He hated it, but couldn't help going up to the bowl, dipping a paw, and jumping back in alarm. Then round again. That's how liberal catnip's blog is for me.... I know I'm going to hate it but I go back for more. Which in the end means she's doing a great job - much as we disagree, she is doing a wonderful job working for her views, objectives and political allies.
To catnip, and to all readers, I apologise unreservedly.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
I can see the reasons for the expulsion, but I can't help regretting it a little, if only for his pushing the income-splitting issue, which was something I was quite keen on.
Of course the media will have a field day with the news, painting the Conservative party as intolerant, and Harper as a dictator. The Tories will have a much harder time with this than did Paul Martin's hapless government with Carolyn Parrish. Still, it will blow over in time and now Garth can be as colourful as he likes. From the makeover at http://garth.ca and the press conference, it seems he's losing no time in doing just that.
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
One of the great misconceptions about a democracy such as Canada is that elected government at any level holds the power. In fact much of what actually affects our daily lives is not determined by elected politicians, but by anonymous staff working in municipal, provincial and federal government jobs. The managers of programs that deliver services have a great deal of power in determing what happens on the ground. Hospital administrators and health-care workers control as much of your experience in the healthcare system as does the government. These people are anonymous and unelected, and never held to account. They often represent the interests of unions and by extension particular political parties, but in a silent and secret way.
With that in mind, if you haven't yet read this post, please do. This is a really important case where tax dollars and the public's trust are both being taken for a ride. They get away with the deception about what goes on inside the walls of the Royal Ottawa, because in order to expose it someone has to have the courage to atand up and admit they were in there in the first place.
The post went up on the aggregator Sunday night and was swamped out of sight with a Monday morning rush. So please, if you haven't, read it and help get the word out about what really goes on In The Asylum.
First off, Canada's New Government is finally getting tough on repeat violent offenders. The howls of protest are predictable, but the new so-called 'three strikes' law seems to be to be just calling a spade a spade. If someone is convicted of violent and/or sexual offences on three seperate occasions, which means they have been through at least two complete cycles of sentencing, incarceration, probation, counselling, education, support, etc. and are still offending... aren't they dangerous by definition?
Most ironic of all I find, is that the opposition to this new law comes mainly from many of the same groups that are howling about violence against women. I'm willing to bet that most of the offenders who would be caught up in the new law and swept off the streets would be men, and most of their victims would be women. So, what do you want, people? You can't complain that nothing's being done about VAW and then complain when someone is actually going to do something concrete about it.
On the other hand, we have the Bush administration's new anti-terror law. This is a case of baby having been thrown out with bathwater in my opinion. I just can't see the justification for the suspension of habeas corpus, or for the legalization of torture and the exemption of CIA operatives from normal laws. I'm all for the war on terror, and all for defending our way of life and our values, but this law goes too far for me. It places the US on a similar level to many of the regimes they profess to despise in terms of human rights. It has overtones of dictatorship, in the concentration of near absolute power in the hands of the president to deal with these cases.
In the end, I think this law is neither necessary or productive. We seem to have foiled many terror plots and evaded any more attacks without it thus far.
Sunday, October 15, 2006
First off, let me introduce you to my wife. She's a little younger than me, although she likes to think of it as a lot younger than me. She is a wonderful mother, who puts her child (soon to be children) ahead of anything and everything else in life. However, she is extremely intelligent, articulate, likeable, personable and a very accomplished saleswoman. She is a voracious reader, and is self-educated on a huge range of subjects. She's popular, attractive, funny and often the life of any gathering in which she participates. And she has a serious mental illness.
My wife is bi-polar and suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder. Currently, she's doing very well, on a medication regime that seeems to be working for her and under the care of arguably the best psychiatrist in Ottawa. However, this post is not about now. This post is to take you back several years, to a time when things were not going so well.
Let's go back to around 2001, when my wife's OCD was largely uncontrolled and her depression was deepening. To give you an idea of what OCD is, and what it does to someone, she was convinced that every surface, every person, every object she touched was contaminated. Her fear of infection practically defined her. She washed her hands constantly, until they bled profusely. She was unable to do laundry, because it terrified her. She couldn't go out socially or meet people. She couldn't be near children because she thought they were all dirty. At the same time as these irrational thoughts controlled her, the same smart, intelligent woman was there underneath. The desperation she felt, in being unable to control these irrational fears and impulses drove her deeper and deeper into depression. Finally, early in 2001, she attempted suicide - her third attempt, in fact, but the first really serious one. She researched online the fatal dose of her medications, and she took more than enough.
From the local ER here, she was transferred to Ottawa's Civic Hospital, where she spent some time in intensive care, then a week in a stepdown unit and finally a few days on a regular ward. It was decided that she might benefit from a prolonged period of hospitalization, and a space was sought for her at the Royal Ottawa Hospital, Ottawa's psychiatric hospital. Indeed, she felt that for her own safety, that's where she should go.
Fast forward to today. A new Royal Ottawa Hospital facility has been constructed and just opened. It includes a Zen garden, light and airy rooms, decor aimed at soothing troubled minds, and so forth. The opening of the new facility has been trumpeted constantly in the local media, most recently in a piece in Saturday's Ottawa Citizen. That article is behind a subscriber wall, but it talks about the ROH changing its name:
"We wanted to remove the term 'hospital' from our facility names because of the association with stigma, discrimination and the dated notion of an insane asylum," said Scott Eaton, board chairman of the Royal Ottawa Health Care Group.
"Our goal is to provide a centre for mental health care, research and education, where health care partners, families and staff can come together in an environment that promotes healing and recovery instead of shame and secrecy."
Health Care Group," said CEO Bruce Swan. "Our new role and mandate means we are providing the majority of our care in the community, working with other partners in the health care system.
"The Ottawa and Brockville campus will represent important hubs in the mental health care system but not as institutional warehouses for people with serious mental illness,"
This is typical of the kind of press the ROH receives and it is typical of the self-congratulatory material they have published ever since we became aware of their existence. But what's behind these fancy words and the new Zen garden? Come with my wife and I, back to 2001...
She was initially admitted to a unit in the Witney building. This, it transpired was not where she would be treated, but was a reception unit, effectively a holding tank. Patients entered here and waited for beds to open up in the appropriate unit. During her time on this unit, she saw no psychiatrist. She received no treatment of any kind, except her medication. Her days were filled with smoking (which she only took up in the ROH) and watching videos. Happily, this only lasted for a little over a week, before she was moved to the Mood Disorders Unit.
This was where she would be treated; where 'health care partners, families and staff would come together to promote healing and recovery'. Right? Wrong.
On this unit, things changed. I'll have to let her tell the story, because when she moved here, I became basically excluded from the process, as did her regular doctor. The hospital took over. They did not ask anyone who knew her what was 'normal' for her. They didn't let her keep any part of, or connection to, her life outside. I was never offered information, help, support, or even the time of day by anyone at the ROH. However, that is nothing compared to what was going on inside.
Imagine a ward full of people in various states of mental illness; depression and / or mania. A mixed ward. No problem, because the nursing staff are there to take care of them, they're all being treated by doctors; supervised for their own protection and others; kept busy with therapies and activities... Right? Wrong again.
On this unit, the lucky patients saw a psychiatrist once a day. Others, as little as once a week. The nurses stayed in the nursing station, and closed their door completely outside the hours of 9 to 5. Control of the patients was left to security staff, who basically controlled access to the elevator and little else. Patients were given various privilege levels, seemingly arbritrarily. A kleptomaniac spent her days at the Westgate mall next door, until the mall merchants finally had lost enough merchandise and complained enough to get the hospital's attention. Two known 'cutters' were given razors to go into the shower; both produced bloody and gory results. On the other hand, to earn outside privileges, my wife was forced to use a public payphone in the corridor to call her outside doctor and discuss with him her history of sexual abuse. In public. In front of patients and staff. Forced to do this to earn privileges. In her own words:
an intensely violating and humiliating experience. NO support was offered by either nursing staff or the hospital psychiatrist involved. It was a 'test'....and remains one of the most disturbing things that I underwent; it smacked of sadism and powerplay
Once again, there was nothing to occupy the days, except chain smoking and movies. Well not quite nothing. What do you think a mixed ward of highly vulnerable people under sedation and not necessarily in their own minds is going to lead to? At least two sexual relationships were ongoing while my wife was on the unit; sex in stairwells, in rooms, while on visits outside... The rules were that nobody of the opposite gender was allowed in a patient's room. But the nursing station door would have to have been open for anyone to have noticed.
Nursing staff were burned out, apathetic and had given up. They went through the motions; handed out medication, including patient requested drugs. They talked contemptuously of 'frequent flyers' - meaning patients that came through the system multiple times. So much for respect and working in partnership.
I'll let my wife tell the rest of the story:
Asylum means a 'secure retreat', but secure for whom? The ROH wants to get away from that association, but why? It is a lot more honest and accurate: the function of places like the ROH has not changed, since the motivation of the doctors remains the same... Are they there to keep patients safe, or to make society feel safer? How does a Zen garden help to heal schizophrenia or a personality disorder, or OCD? What communication do they really want to have with the families of patients? Our experience was that they weren't interested in talking to family at all. How is having a greenhouse going to help geriatric patients cope with the sense of having been forcibly removed from everything familiar?
Psychiatry is the easiest specialty in which a foreign trained doctor can qualify, regardless of their original field. Is this the right thing for the most vulnerable sector of society? Or does this somehow imply that psychiatry is a field in which you really can 'do no harm' ? In my experience I felt like I was there to be practised on, an experiment.
The best care and most life saving care I've received has been in the community, from a doctor for whom this is obviously a true vocation and not just a job. I am immensely greatful for this privilege, and only wish that this standard of care was the norm everywhere, including in a hospital setting.
In 1887, the journalist Nellie Bly got herself admitted to an insane asylum and wrote a now famous exposé of the treatment the patients received. Tired of reading puff pieces about the Royal Ottawa Hospital, tired of seeing the doctors pat themselves on the back, tired of being lied to, we think it's time Canada and Ottawa had their own Nellie Bly, and someone really looked at what goes on inside the modern day asylum.
My wife is well today, thanks to a great doctor and mostly thanks to her spirit of determination. She left the ROH a broken individual, with nowhere to go but up. In the weeks that followed she picked herself up, got herself a job, worked hard and began to succeed. It was a long climb back to normality, but she did it herself. I've never been more proud to have known anyone.
Saturday, October 14, 2006
The following clarification is being posted because of a complaint made by Helene Amyotte to the DNS provider for doggerelparty.ca.
This post originally described an altercation in a parking lot in which an apparently healthy driver refused to yield an expectant mothers' parking spot to my wife who was at the time mere days away from delivering our son. While the car in question belonged to a local realtor, Helene Amyotte, it appears that at the time it had been lent to an employee of hers, Ms. Erica Smith (former PA to former PM Joe Clark, and a bigger bitch than he is, which is saying something).
Ms. Amyotte is therefore in no way to blame for this incident. I regret any negative impact the original post and associated comments may have had on Ms. Amyotte or her business.
That notwithstanding, let's all try and be courteous when it comes to family and expectant mothers' parking.
And although she may be blameless in this incident, the following information may be of interest to anyone considering using Ms. Amyotte as their realtor.
Participants at Canada's first annual Care in the Community conference Thursday evening honoured leaders and visionaries in the care, health and wellness of urban pets
Winners of the Summit Awards' ... were chosen by their peers for implementing innovative programs; leadership within and beyond their communities; and contributions to pets and people.
- The Ottawa Humane Society, represented by Bruce Roney and Lynn Gordon, for animal re-homing (adoption)
The Ottawa Citizen gave headlines and front page space to the story of an Ottawa couple's campaign against the OHS over a failed adoption, as well as giving them space for an op-ed in the Citizen a few weeks later. How odd then, that news of this award was found only in a tiny space on page 13 of the City section and did not appear at all in the online edition of the Citizen.
Friday, October 13, 2006
- I don't lose any sleep over civilian casualties.
- Israel's bombing in Qana was a war crime.
- Er... maybe it wasn't a war crime.
- Well, perhaps it was, but if it was, the other side did it too.
- I've always supported Israel.
- See 5, ignore 2 and 4 please.
- Tragedy on both sides, etc. (is this enough? should I stop talking now?)
Somebody give the man a larger spade, already. All it needs now is for him to preface each remark with 'Now let me be completely clear about this,' and we'll be back to the Dithers days.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
The Doggerel government today announced a major new offensive in the War on Rodents. Prime Minister Deacon said, "We are sending more troops to the front line, and equipping them with state of the art traps, together with powerful baits. We expect this offensive to mark the turning point in the war. We intend to flush mice out of every cupboard, every drawer, every hole that my cabinet colleagues have dug in the kitchen carpet."
The Doggerel government is barking up the wrong tree in the war, said New Rodent Party leader Jack 'Rat' Lateone. "Using traps and poison is no way to kill mice," he said. "We need to sit down and talk with the mice; we need to understand what motivates them, and why they are attacking our kitchen in the first place."
Initial reports suggest that as the mice retreat from the kitchen, they may be regrouping in the barn and even in the car. A special trapping unit has been deployed on the back seat and in the trunk, according to Doggerel sources.
The first all candidates meeting of the Montague Township election campaign was held last night. The meeting was very well attended and very well run. I’m not going to bore you with a blow-by-blow account, but some highlights are worth documenting.
The moderator was Paul Howard, a lawyer from Smiths Falls. Nobody present seemed to hold either of these things against him, however. He did a great job of giving equal opportunity to everyone to speak, handled audience questions well and made excellent decisions in a couple of cases where questions were not appropriate.
Candidates present were: Gary Doyle and John McTavish (for Reeve); Ken Hunter and Dave Schoular (for Deputy Reeve); Mark Baker, Bonnie Burson, Vince Carroll, Diane Coates, Bill Dobson, Bill Eckersley and Hal MacGregor (Councillor at large). Regrettably, Peter Kavanagh, a candidate for Deputy Reeve, was not able to be present – more on this later.
The opening statements were as expected, with each candidate describing their connection to the township, incumbents defending their record and challengers describing a need for change and suggesting new directions.
The challengers spoke of trying to unite a divided township, while the incumbents refused to acknowledge that there is a divide in the community. While the meeting was peaceful, divisions were all too evident. Members of the volunteer fire department sat en masse with their wives and families, snorting and muttering at remarks made by the challengers. A similar number of citizens from the other side were doing the same as the incumbents spoke. I don’t think any observer could deny the division exists; the question is what to do about it.
Gary Doyle spoke succinctly and sometimes forcefully, but appeared bored at times. John McTavish is older, and lacks the slick communication skills of Doyle or Schoular, but came across as honest and well-intentioned. Ken Hunter was amicable and solicitous, but failed to really get points across. Dave Schoular was polished and confident. Mark Baker came across as down to earth, honest and a ‘real’ person, with no act and no bullshit. Bonnie Burson also seemed genuine and to be running with the best motives. Vince Carroll was forceful in defending his record, but dismissive of other questions. Diane Coates was confident, articulate and honest. Bill Dobson’s genuine concern for the township came through at times, but at others he seemed bitter over the long running feud between the MRA and council. Bill Eckersley came across as honest, if unfocused and a trifle self-centred. There were some moments when I’m pretty sure Doyle and Schoular would have preferred Bill to say less than he did. Hal MacGregor seems honest and passionate about ‘his’ issues – he also provided the evening’s comic relief with an endless parade of non-working microphones.
In the question and answer session, discussion really focused on four areas:
- Fiscal responsibility and taxes.
- Development and growth.
- Openness and integrity.
- The Page lawsuit and resulting divisions in the community.
On taxes, all candidates essentially agreed that they favoured tight fiscal control, limited spending, and low or no tax increases. There was some difference of opinion over how big a surplus the township should run, and if that surplus should be used for increased spending or to lower taxes. There really wasn’t all that much to choose between the candidates on this issue, however. Hal MacGregor thought that seniors should get a break on some fees, such as dog tags.
On development and growth, the challengers were all interested in growing the township through business development – in particular, developing a township owned industrial park. The incumbents paid lip-service to this idea, but of course they can’t claim to have attracted any industry to Montague. Either they didn’t want to, or they tried and failed. So the challengers have a slight advantage here.
There was a lot of discussion on the development of recreational facilities, from pricey flights of fancy such as building a hockey arena, to more down to earth suggestions such as starting a youth group and organizing more recreational events. Again, there was broad consensus that more should be done within the bounds of fiscal restraint.
Openness and Integrity
There were several discussions that touched on these themes. In response to a question, Reeve Doyle, Deputy Reeve Schoular and Vince Carroll all stated that they lived outside the township. Asked if they felt any twinges of conscience when deciding matters for a township in which they don’t reside, all ruled the question ‘irrelevant’, citing their legal right to run and hold office – which the questioner had already acknowledged. Now, this makes me uneasy. I find it difficult to believe that anyone of real integrity could be completely and totally untroubled by the sense of deciding things for residents while themselves being largely unaffected. If I put myself in that position, I know it would occasionally bother me. I would like to think the three were simply being defensive here, but I think I would have been more impressed if they had answered the question instead of sidestepping it. I wondered what would motivate people who don’t live in the township to fight so hard to hold office; a possible motive hit me in a ‘light-bulb’ moment later on.
Reeve Doyle defended his record of holding many in-camera sessions of Council, saying that such sessions were only used when personal matters were being discussed, and were not unusual or indicative of secrecy. Just for interest’s sake, TDPC researchers spent a sleepless 10 minutes last night to read the last 6 months of council minutes from both Montague and from Smiths Falls. The results are summarized below.
|Council||Number of In Camera Sessions|
|Smiths Falls||0 (Zero, Zip, Zilch, Nada)|
No secrecy; no excessive use of in-camera sessions? Uh huh… It would be nice to believe. Believing in Santa Claus is nice too.
One questioner, who did not appear old enough to vote, asked what seemed like a well-rehearsed question of Diane Coates; she accused Coates of having ’lost control’ in council meetings and asked what Coates would do to restrain herself in meetings if elected. The moderator looked very uncomfortable, as well he might with such an inappropriate question, but Diane answered honestly, saying that she did not recall having seen the child at any meetings, had in any case spoken little at council meetings and therefore could not answer the question. Whether the question was genuine, or planted, it was a dirty move that was handled superbly.
The question of how much time councilors put into their work was asked, with special reference to the Lanark county council commitment required of Reeve and Deputy Reeve. All candidates indicated they have the time it takes. It hit me at this point that perhaps being on Lanark county council has its uses, and maybe that’s easier to achieve through Montague than through other municipalities – could this be a motivation for the people who don’t live in the township to want to hold office in Montague?
The Divided Township
On the question of the Page lawsuit, a questioner invited the incumbents to say what they had learned, and to indicate how they would act in a similar situation in the future. Reeve Doyle was completely unrepentant, going as far as to state that the Council would have won the suit if not ‘blindsided’ by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Darn that Charter, eh? He painted the suit as protecting employees, and (in the words of Peter Kavanagh) again wrapped himself in the fire department. Deputy Reeve Schoular also indicated he would take the same actions again. Bill Eckersley was at least honest enough to indicate that he felt he’d done the best he could based on advice received and that the citizens should judge him come the election. He also indicated that since the case had established the law in this area, council could not take the same action again even if they wanted to.
Doyle made a big deal of protecting township employees and council’s responsibility to them; Bill Dobson pointed out that council was also responsible to citizens, the subtext being that perhaps the balance between these two had not been correctly struck in this case.
Vince Carroll voiced what I felt was the mood of a lot of people in the room, that the matter was closed and we should move on.
Nobody really answered the question of what they had learned, but the implicit answer was simple: not much.
In the discussion there were still claims and counter claims about who said what when and to whom, about who was willing to talk and who wasn’t. Doyle said that council was open to talking to the MRA, but only about positives. Bill Dobson said that the council clearly still hadn’t learned they could be subject to criticism. Hal MacGregor indicated that while people might not agree with what Page said (and some members of the MRA didn’t agree with all of it) we should defend his right to say it.
In response to a question, Reeve Doyle indicated the cost of the lawsuit was about $45,000. In the midst of the general disapproval this provoked, one lady with a loud voice asked Doyle what the fire department had contributed to the township. Doyle took this easy pitch and whacked it out of the ball park, with the answer $200,000. Of course, the question is irrelevant. The $45,000 was lost, no matter how much anybody raises through volunteer work.
As an observer, I think the issue means different things to different people. For the firefighters and their families, it’s clearly deeply personal and this is very regrettable, because it should never have been so. If there was an issue with the fire department, it should have been a matter for the leadership of that department and for council to address. Whether Page or Doyle or the fire chief dragged the individual firefighters into the matter, I don’t know, but it should not have happened. One firefighter spoke up in the meeting to reassure residents they were there for us 24/7 and I think that was greatly appreciated, as is all the work they do. As an uninvolved resident, I would like to think that the fire department operated openly and efficiently and that in turn we gave them the best tools to do that.
For Doyle, Carroll, Eckersley and Schoular, the issue is about keeping power and whether council made a good judgment in choosing the courts rather than other means of resolution.
For many of us opposed to the lawsuit (but not necessarily in full agreement with Page) the issue is about freedom of speech and open government; it’s a principle issue, not to do with the specifics of a fire or a fire department. I think this should be the position of the MRA; they should no more be making it personal or about the firefighters than should council and the Reeve.
As to ways to re-unite the township, incumbents refused to acknowledge the divide, even though it was palpably in the room in front of them. Challengers all suggested working together on recreational or other projects, with committees struck from all groups involved. At this point it was greatly regrettable that Peter Kavanagh was not present, as I think he is one man who has the respect of all parties and would probably have had something very interesting to say.
All in all it was a fascinating evening, and we look forward to the next one.