Two years ago, when I began reporting from a media desk for municipal council meetings, I discovered that not all who enter politics do so to serve the people they represent. Some get to power owing favours to the private funders who pay for their campaigns. Although donations to municipal candidates are capped, and although financial records must be submitted for public scrutiny, wealthy corporations and individuals find ways around the rules.
Our little Town is only a microcosm of the problem that was exposed in the May 2018 “Public Money, Private Influence” series by the Globe and Mail. This investigation delved into intimidation and corruption of public officials at municipal and provincial levels. It was shocking, but more shocking still was the silence that followed from local press.
We know that the temptation of being seduced by lobbyists exists at all levels of government. But the big action is at the municipal level where developers with deep pockets begin their lobbying. That is why resistance to Schedule 10 was so necessary and why it is important to review and revise the upcoming Bill 108, a thinly veiled attempt to bypass environmental regulations and give developers a carte blanche under the guise of “jobs and affordable housing for the people, my friends.”
Sorry, but a literate society throws up a red flag when they hear the words, “We’re cutting the red tape to get rid of those pesky environmental regulations that slow down projects. Gosh darn it, we can’t let some Environmental Assessment Act stand in the way of economic growth! Ontario is Open for Business!” Bill 108, like Schedule 10 before it, shifts the responsibility to the municipalities, effectively narrowing the focus of influence peddling.
Let’s say Corporation A, or business person B, want candidate C to get elected to further their development agendas. A and B take their multi-thousand dollar donation and spread it out over family, friends, and associates who each contribute their qualifying amount to the candidate’s campaign.
Previously, the limit for municipal campaign contributions to one candidate was $750, but that was increased to $1,200 in 2017, just after union and corporate donations were banned. So now, a wealthy donor seeking influence can take $120,000 and distribute it to 100 people who make 100 legal donations to a candidate. The financial records reflect no wrongdoing, and the lucky candidate C has brochures, signs, and a tech savvy staffed campaign office to die for. The candidates without those wealthy sponsors are left with the trickle down votes.
Sadly, I discovered that some journalists are also not immune from this circle of influence, slanting articles to create a crisis where there was none, and giving a platform for the loudest candidates to get name recognition. That is a violation of journalistic integrity. That truly is “fake news” for the purpose of distracting us from legitimate issues that will affect our present and future.
Before I became a journalist, I taught for 30 years in the North York School Board, one of the most vibrant and creative school boards in Canada until ravaged by amalgamation. During that time I counseled six teachers out of the profession – people who were either unethical, incompetent, or incapable of giving their students the best personal and professional care they could deliver.
I expect the same from members of my new profession – clarity and truth, I expect the same of my elected officials – integrity and honesty. When I began my reporting career a good friend gave me a coffee mug with a meaningful quote on the front . My friend knew The Count of Monte Cristo was my favourite novel. She said, “Don’t let them get away with lying.” The quotation said, “Dear Karma, I have a list of people you missed …”
I had just landed back in Toronto after four inspirational days in Montreal attending the Movin’ On Summit 2019. As a member of an international media team, I was privileged to bear witness to the future of sustainable mobility for our communities. Hosted by Michelin and friends, this Summit presented a world of decarbonized, autonomous, community friendly, healthy and safe transportation systems to move us from rural through rurban, suburban and into urban environments and back again.
The emphasis, of course, was on a vibrant public hybrid energy transportation system that would make private fossil fuel vehicle dependency a relic of the past.
My bubble was quickly burst when I picked up the local paper at my front door and saw the headlines that our GO bus service, the sacred 38 and 38A upon which all Caledonians in need of public transit relied, to Bolton was about to be cancelled. As a senior without a car, the GO bus was my only connection to services in the urban GTA. Hell hath no fury like a citizen deprived of mobility! Within seconds I called the Mayor’s office for an interview. “Mr. Mayor,” I said, “We are going to buy our own electric ARMA or NAVYA mini-bus and run it between Caledon East and Bolton and the King City GO train station! And I’ll start fundraising now!”
After calming me down, Mayor Allan Thompson scheduled an interview for the next day. And this is what I learned. First, our Mayor was already on the case and way ahead of the game. After the news of the potential cancellation reached the Town, the Mayor immediately had a number of conversations with MPP Sylvia Jones asking for her help He also had a productive telephone conversation with the Minister of Transportation, Jeff Yurek, where he got a commitment to have Ministry and Metrolinx staff meet with Town staff.
He then asked MPP Jones to delay the cancellation to allow for the meetings with the Town of Caledon. This was all confirmed by our Mayor in a letter to The Minister of Transportation, Jeff Yurek. The Mayor also asked Town staff to meet with riders and impacted residents, date TBA. As well, at the last Town Council meeting, he moved a motion, along with Regional Councillor Groves, asking the Region of Peel to help with the advocacy.
He assured me the Town will continue lobbying at every opportunity to ensure that our residents have access to a public transportation link from Caledon into the urban core. Why do I believe him? Allan is a beef farming man who has seen the light test driving around in an all electric pick-up truck. He knows the future is here. And he has networked with other Mayors nationally and internationally who are facing the same sustainable mobility concerns.
One way or another, we will have our public tranist propane bus, or hybrid bus, or ARMA/NAVYA e-bus, or light rail, or MagLev high speed train, or hovercraft, or … does anyone remember the Jetsons?
Thank you Joe Biden! As CNN reported recently, the former Vice-President and Presidential hopeful was going to use his Iowa rally to “eviscerate” President Trump. Well it’s out there now. “Eviscerate” is once again a legitimate term to use when exposing politicians who are deceitful, disrespectful, and dumbing us down. As a transitive verb, it can mean, among other things: to deprive of vital content or force … as in depriving lying politicians and their alternative truth junkies of a stage or social media platform.
It was only one municipal election ago that a group of critics I referred to as the “Caledon Coven” tried to throw an exorcism of the free press by attacking me for my declaration that I would eviscerate, in print and online, anyone who tried to spread lies and smears about credible candidates running in the 2018 municipal election. At Municipal Council they tried to get the Town to ban advertising in an online communication for which I write, simply because I was one of their journalists. Fortunately, most of the leaders of the coup have, if I may use the word discretely, been eviscerated from local politics, although some of their acolytes still flourish on antisocial media.
That attempt to muzzle valid investigative journalism failed thanks to cooler heads on Caledon Town Council who did not fall prey to the grandstanding rhetoric of a rabid few. And thanks to the courage of editors with integrity, the articles and stories were published, and the electorate pulled most of the purple wool off their eyes.
Most, but not all. One exposed former politician is now out of municipal politics for at least four years for failure to file financial records on time, and probably also out of luck for provincial and federal ambitions. But now I have another elected representative of the people refusing to answer my questions because of my bias towards reporting the truth.
I call it my Jim Acosta moment. Jim and I both got our Press passes back.
The Ford Regime of Regressive Conservatives is trying to dumb down Ontarians with their campaign of propaganda and misinformation about the “job-killing carbon tax” by mandating that all gas stations in Ontario carry a sticker on their gas pumps that claim to show the increased costs in fossil fuel for the average family. They fail to show the rebates that come back from the federal government to the average family. They also fail to show the costs of climate catastrophe for the average family.
Enter the Green Party of Ontario with their own gas pump stickers that tell the truth: CLIMATE CHANGE will cost us more! Thank you Mike Schreiner. These magnets, as illustrated in the lead image, can be ordered from the Party’s website. I wish they also had flags we could fly from our cars, and lawn signs we could place in front of every gas station, and billboards that would clear the smog of Boss Ford regime’s polluting propaganda.
Our taxpayer dollars are being used against us by this government. Every TV ad we see, every broadcast we hear, every Ontario News Not sham reality TV fake breaking news special is another pile of El-Toro-Pooh Pooh from Dougie’s dumbing us down team. It is time to say a loud and passionate NO to big and powerful and environmentally illiterate politicians! Get your BS off our gas pumps!
Let our MPPs know that this is a violation of our intelligence, of our energy that should be going into mitigation efforts, of the health of our children, and of the biodiversity of our ecosystems. Doug Ford is driving the Ontario bus into the future at high speed looking in the pre-paleolithic rear view mirror. And any supporter of the Regressive Conservative Party who is supporting him is complicit.
So, all of you good, hopefully thoughtful and intelligent people who are Ontario Conservative Party members, as scientist Bill Nye said on John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight Show recently:
“Grow the f–k up. You’re not children anymore. I didn’t mind explaining photosynthesis to you when you were 12. But you’re adults now.”
Ah, and of course, adults who are right wing conservative politicians always act in the best interests of their local and global communities, right? No. They only do the right thing if their communities demand that they do so, and if they don’t it is time for a ride out of town on a rail and covered in tar sand oil and feathers.
If you are an Ontario Conservative supporter at this point in 2019, you are for deregulation and cutting red tape solely for the economic benefit of wealthy developers and corporations AND you are against social justice, environmental security, public education, and sustainable development. In my riding of Dufferin-Caledon, Sylvia Jones is the Conservative MPP. She does not speak for me and I regard her as an enemy of the people as long as she sycophantically claps for every Doug Ford pronouncement.
We fixed Ford’s gas pump sticker. Now it’s time to fix Ontario. It’s time to open up our windows and collectively scream,
“We’re mad as hell, and we’re not going to take it anymore!”