Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Montague 24 : The 2nd All Candidates Part 2 : Fanning The Flames

So, in the previous post I covered the meeting last night as factually as possible from the notes I took. Now I'm going to throw my observations and opinions out there, and I do so not from any partisan motivation at this point but out of real fear for the future of Montague.

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.