Posted May 20, 2015
The Mercury published a long refutation of the truth about the Susan Watson complaint that Glen Tolhurst accepted an illegal contribution to his 2014 civic election campaign.
Dennis Galon, the author of the piece, describes Watson’s attempt to clarify the position of non-profit corporations to be allowed to contribute to election advertising campaigns. He alleges she contacted the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing regarding the so-called “third party” support of issues and candidates in a municipal election.
He stated that the Ministry, “didn’t know and Watson was referred to Guelph’s city clerk”. But he does not identify this Ministry official or whether she received a decision in writing or, as Galon puts it, she “was told effectively” by a nameless person in the MMAH.
Following this anonymous advice, Watson contacted city Clerk Stephen O’Brien and was told he had no authority to investigate or prosecute offenses under the Ontario Municipal Elections Act. He suggested she should pursue her concerns with a formal complaint to the city’s Compliance Audit Committee (CAC).
The trouble with this argument is that the CAC has no authority to, as Galon puts it, to adjudicate her “noble tradition of ‘test case’ public interest litigation”.
Dr. Galon does have a way with words.
There is nothing noble about this sham of spending the public’s money to chase a specious theory that GrassRoots Guelph (GRG) did not have the authority to invite readers to consider candidates. It collectively believed that its participation would bring about change in Guelph.
This noblesse oblige on the part of Watson is a bare-faced attempt to assuage the pain of seeing her friend, Karen Farbridge, lose her bid for a fourth term as mayor.
Watson’s pious comment that she had no quarrel with Mr. Tolhurst but she merely sought to clarify the role of third parties in municipal elections.
So, do two official turndowns or passing the buck qualify as a noble test case? Further, what is the price of this noble cause? It’s you and me who pay the bills plus thousands of Guelph citizens.
Given their experience in legal cases, does the CAC three-member panel have the power to adjudicate this allegation hiding behind the mask of noble tradition, as Galon describes it? This is the first case the CAC has tried since its formation in July 2014.
Galon argues that GrassRoots Guelph is not a corporation that carries on business. Well, that’s a red herring. GrassRoots Guelph is an incorporated Ontario non-profit, non-partisan organization. Its purpose was to encourage greater voter participation (mission accomplished), organize and inform citizens of the operations of their city. Now that was a citizen-driven noble exercise.
Does he really believe that GrassRoots Guelph is different from the hundreds of non-profit incorporated organizations that exist across the province?
The Farbridge supporters were stunned and angry over the election outcome. That’s the real explanation why this campaign to discredit a legitimate citizen’s activist business that played a major role in the election upset.
Let’s switch gears and look at the how other organizations were involved in the 2014 election. In the most recent campaign an organizations called “We are Guelph” actively recommended candidates in every ward as well as former mayor Farbridge. Those chosen candidates were promoted through the “We Are Guelph” website which is, by definition, a form of publishing.
It was sponsored by the Guelph and District Labour Council who paid for the fancy website and supported its slate of candidates who were all labour members or supporters of the former administration.
Some labour sponsored candidates received donations from a number of unions, located outside the City of Guelph. These included Phil Allt, Laurie Garbutt and others.
So, Galon, we presume, you believe that third party union-sponsored involvement with elections in Guelph legal. Also, it meets your version of what is the true intent of the Ontario Municipal Elections Act.
Hold on Buster.
Did the union-sponsored “We Are Guelph” crowd name all the donors to their cause, as you are demanding GrassRoots Guelph should do? Who paid for their website? Who paid for their contributions to support their candidates?
To suggest that Mr. Tolhurst financially benefitted from advertising placed in the Tribune doesn’t quite square away with the Farbridge ad trying to link convicted robo-call operative Michael Sona with Candidate Cam Guthrie. How do you estimate the cost of that debacle? Was the cost attributed to the Farbridge financial election statement? Did the Mayor benefit? What an interesting parallel.
Galon, you repeatedly refer to GrassRoots Guelph as right wing or conservative. You have no evidence this is the case and have no access to the members of the organization. The steering committee represented a cross section of partisan supporters of all parties.
If only the Guelph and District Labour Council would submit its list of members and donations. The problem the labour council faced is that a number of their members voted to defeat the mayor and others because they lived in Guelph and could see first hand the Farbridge bollix she made of city governance and finances.
Her legacy of millions wasted on her decision to fire Urbacon and the legal fall-out; plus the neglect of infrastructure in which vehicle congestion has dramatically increased on some major roads. It was because lanes were reduced to accommodate bike lanes. Galon, do you ever drive around town to experience the long line-ups of cars on the major arterial roads in the morning and afternoons?
Sorry, maybe you are an “active transportation” enthusiast and ride your bicycle around town.
We now have a waste management system that doesn’t serve 13 per cent of households in the city and is costing millions to operate, not including the capital costs spent to create it.
Galon, did you ever stop to think about what you and Susan Watson are trying to do? Do you believe that Glen Tolhurst turned the tide against Farbridge? Do you believe that Madame Farbridge was a great mayor but was misunderstood last October when the people voted her out?
Why should citizens believe you now when the wreckage of the Farbridge administration is still smoldering?
The city is being managed without a Chief Financial Officer. It has a Chief Administrative Officer who misled the people by stating that the Urbacon settlement will not impact property taxes. And it has a deputy CAO who blithely proceeds to hire more staff, settle generous staff contracts and believes it’s business as usual.
Sorry Dr. Galon, supporting the Watson crusade to prevent citizens from forming independent political action groups is something right out of authoritarian control of elections and people.
Anyone got some countries in mind where this works?