Posted October 9, 2012
A recent op-ed column by Allan Gregg, one of Canada’s most respected pollsters and student of the human condition, outlines how political dogma has eclipsed reason in many jurisdictions. They range from the federal and provincial governments to cities and towns.
What is political dogma?
As Gregg pointed out: Governments are ceasing to use evidence, facts and science as a basis to guide policy. Instead, are retreating to dogma, fear and partisan advantage to control their chosen agenda.
He further stated: “The handmaidens of evidence-absent dogma are almost always secrecy, obfuscation and misdirection.”
The message is tarted up in “newspeak” that has become the controlled language of legislators.
It isn’t what you need to hear, but what they want you to know.
The strange part is that the substance of government action is disguised in a veil of managed “newspeak”. Why is this necessary? Would telling the truth be effectual? By obfuscating the true purpose of legislation there is tacit admission that the intention probably lacks public support and respect.
As Gregg opines, this explains why government’s obsession with secrecy and control of the message lies through misdirection.
Closer to home, we see these exact examples of the political dogma practised by the Mayor Farbridge council majority, dominating city government for the past six years.
You can start be seeing the absence of reason in many decisions. The Guelph public is locked out of the details of many of these decisions despite the claim of the Mayor that council actions are transparent. They are not.
They believe their version of ‘Newspeak” fulfills their obligation to the citizens.
Here are a few of the examples of how council has failed to reveal the facts of major spending.
* The decision to move the civic museum to the derelict Loretto Convent was the result of council’s agreement with the Guelph Historical Group to save the convent. The exercise has been a financial disaster and was taken without public input. The real cost of the museum has been smothered by the administration. They were embarrassed to admit the cost of renovation that took almost five years to complete.
* The Farbridge pledge in the 2006 election campaign to build a new downtown library has never materialized. Instead $5 million has been spent to tear down two Wyndham Street properties with the promise to take down two more. The cost of this will be more than $10 million. Why are they doing this? Because they want the new library to front on Wyndham Street.
Add in the cost of the $63 million library that is not budgeted but promised to open in 2017, and it’s another case where secrecy and misdirected messages follow the Farbridge dogma.
* Next came the secret agreements with Maple Reinders to design and build a new $34 million dollar organic composting facility on the site of the old one. The start-up of this facility has been delayed for more than a year. Then it’s revealed that the Regional Municipality of Waterloo has agreed to ship 20,000 tonnes of wet waste to the plant at an unknown price per tonne. The operating cost of running the plant has also never been revealed. So far, no wet waste from the City of Guelph has been processed in the plant.
Again, the public was not informed of the decision to proceed with this and secrecy still surrounds the project.
* The city staff has increased by 556 full time equivalent employees between 2007 and 2011. The population of the city increased by only 3,500 during that period. Today the staff costs comprise 89 per cent of the annual city budget. In contrast, the City of Waterloo’s employee costs are 56.6 per cent of its annual budget.
These are only a few of the covered-up missteps by the Farbridge administration.
It is an exact case study of what Allan Gregg was addressing.
In Guelph political dogma has trumped reason at City Hall.
History has shown that dictators face a truncated shelf life provided the citizens enter the public forum armed with facts, reasoned arguments and ideas.
If we don’t act, the silence will be taken as consent to continue the policies that have brought us to this stage.
It’s time to act. Not more of the same,