More on how the Farbridge dictatorship shuts down free speech

Posted January 24, 2014

Following up on how our city is being run by the Farbridge ruling party, comes the way they control the message.

Okay, here’s the scenario. The city asks citizens to join Guelph’s Rental Housing Licensing Working Group. This group is composed of interested citizens and stakeholders. As an aside, they better use the Sleeman Centre to allow those affected by the student rental problem in Wards Five and Six.

But to belong to the working group, a citizen must sign a “standard city confidentiality agreement” before being accepted as a participant. One interested citizen has said no.

Just so we are clear, this is a request for citizen volunteers to contribute to solving a serious problem. So what are the pertinent contents of this “standard confidentiality agreement?”

“I acknowledge that:

I will acquire certain knowledge or oral information which is either non-public, confidential or proprietory to the city and

“The interests of the city may be harmed if unauthorized parties obtain the information.”

Then follows two paragraphs of promises by the candidate promising not to copy, reveal any information to anyone directly or indirectly. And “I understand, to use the information if the city fails to exercise its rights does not free ME from the obligations under this agreement.”

Now, why would any clear thinking citizen ever agree to this convoluted legal document that does nothing but protect the interests of the Farbridge administration?

How can they possibly get a frank and honest opinion from a citizen interested in making his voice heard in the development of policy?

The city invites citizens to participate but having to sign this “standard confidentiality agreement” only tightens control of the message. There have been a number of these “citizen participation groups” over the years, brought on by the Farbridge administration. It is now apparent that only FOFs (Friends of Farbridge) fill the positions and the outcome is tightly controlled and predictable.

This is the essence of a dictatorship. Control the message, control the media and keep discussion and information behind closed doors.

Well, Tina McKinnon, Guelph’s Access, Privacy and Records Specialist, responded to an enquiry by Chris Herhalt of the Mercury asking why the city asks community members of advisory panels to sign confidentiality panels. Her response:

“Asking working group members to sign a “standard confidentiality agreement” helps prevent incomplete or inaccurate information from being shared outside the working group. This gives the city time to meet with other individual stakeholders or groups and gather unbiased community input before making a recommendation or decision.”

Well, that doesn’t place much faith in the veracity of the participants, don’t you think?

What happened to the Mayor’s pledge on 2006 to run an open and transparent city government?

Who does this dopey, self-serving document protect? The staff? The council? The special interests, read that the student housing landlords? Don’t kid yourself that it is designed to protect the citizen volunteers.

The student housing rental situation affecting areas in Ward Five and Six, is a prime platform issue of GrassRoots Guelph. Join this independent citizen’s group at GrassRootsGuelph.com. You will be part of a dynamic organization dedicated to informing the public of a better way to run a city.

One that will be open and reflect the needs and ideas of a city that is mired in self-serving secrecy and financial mismanagement.

There is no room for a dictatorship in this city or any other jurisdiction in Canada.

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