Candidates’ Candid Answers

Originally written for Just Sayin’ Caledon

***

Skid Crease is a member of the Canadian Association of Journalists, an author, an internationally renowned speaker, and a lifelong educator currently living in Caledon, Ontario.

***

In September, a Candidates’ Candor questionnaire was emailed individually to all of the candidates running for political office in the 2018 Ontario Municipal Elections in Caledon. All candidates were given until the beginning of October to submit their answers. All of the councillor incumbents seeking re-election to their existing positions on Council, except for one, submitted their answers. Only one Mayoralty candidate replied.

Several new candidates responded eloquently showing hope for the future of politics. One of the new candidates submitted a response, but did not answer the questions, choosing instead to critique the questionnaire – the art of deflection.

Here are the questions and a selection of the respondents’ answers

Question 1. In order to build a forward thinking, respectful and consensus building Council for the next four years, what would be the qualities you would look for in your 2018 – 2022 colleagues and your Mayor? Answer from Nick DeBoer: “I would like to see new members ask questions and learn process. Much of the problem comes when someone new comes in and they don’t understand the limitations of what we can and can’t do. To listen and learn.”

Question 2. Since literally anyone who is breathing, of age and a Canadian citizen living or working in the area can run for Council, what are the credible professional and life skills you would bring to this position? Answer from Jennifer Innis; “Someone with great reading comprehension (there is a lot of reading on many subjects and you must understand what you are reading): a good researcher (as a Councillor it is your responsibility to make an informed decision on behalf of your residents – that often requires you to do independent research); someone who is honest and trustworthy; someone who understands the rules and knows how to work within them in a respectful and professional manner; and a strong communicator to advocate for the best interests of the community. In one day you could be dealing with the effect that China’s “Paper Sword” decision has on our waste management, a resident’s property flooding, a new business needing permits through a conservation authority, and a new user group looking for ice rental. Most importantly, a Councillor must be a Problem Solver.”

Question 3. In an era where politicians are accused of and found guilty of violating their Codes of Conduct, Integrity and respectful social mores, yet do not change their behaviours, what are the positive character traits that you would bring to Council? Answer from Johanna Downey: “I will continue to hold myself and those around me to a high professional standard. No member of council or staff should have to work in an environment that is less than professional. I have great respect for public process and the equity it affords to all members of society; upholding that process is integral to council.”

Question 4. The catch phrases “I speak for the people” and “I promise honesty and transparency” and “I do this for the hard working taxpaying citizens” have become meaningless porridge spin clips from politicians.If re-elected, what do you truly desire for Caledon? Answer from Nick DeBoer: “What I want for Caledon is a place where we can live and enjoy life. A mix of farms, some with markets, natural areas to enjoy, and local businesses that can thrive. Communities that are connected to the natural areas in some form.”

Question 5. As a newly elected Council member, how do you intend to deal with litigious private interests who lobby, bully, and intimidate local politicians?          Answer from Allan Thompson: “Let’s be clear. Over the last 12 years there has been a pattern emerging here in Caledon. Efforts made for no other reason than to try and influence Caledon’s planning. Caledon should plan for Caledon and I will continue to stand strong for that. This last term I was targeted and false allegations were made against me. I fought back, won in court and was awarded costs. Then my home was vandalized. At no time during all of that did I even consider putting private interests ahead of the interests of Caledon. I refuse to be bullied or influenced into making decisions that are not good for Caledon or its future.”

Several new candidates had insights into their role as elected servants of the public in Caledon:

Question 1. In order to build a forward thinking, respectful and consensus building Council for the next four years, what would be the qualities you would look for in your 2018 – 2022 colleagues and your Mayor? Answer from Joe Luschak: “Honesty and Integrity. “I expect to look my fellow councillors in the eye and tell me that the decisions they make and support are truly in the best interests of the town. I don’t want them telling me one thing and then turning around and saying or doing something totally different. Four years is a long time for us to work together and I can’t stand special interest cliques.”

Question 2. Since literally anyone who is breathing, of age and a Canadian citizen living or working in the area can run for Council, what are the credible professional and life skills you would bring to this position? Answer from Angela Panacci: “I worked for sixteen years for one of the top financial institutions in Canada. I led teams, projects, strategies and managed budgets. I have an understanding of what it takes to get results and I have the skills needed to achieve the objective. In addition, I currently sit on the Board of Directors for the Caledon Community Services (CCS); we work together to solve community needs such as food insecurity, transportation, youth, employment, and we assist our seniors.”

Question 3. In an era where politicians are accused of and found guilty of violating their Codes of Conduct, Integrity and respectful social mores, yet do not change their behaviours, what are the positive character traits that you would bring to Council? Answer from Steve Conforti: “I don’t know all of the issues I will have to vote on as a councillor. But you as a voter must trust your judgement. People have described me as professional, authentic, caring, passionate, dedicated, honest, trustworthy, loyal, and helpful. I am collaborative, cooperative, and respectful. As someone who has played many sports, I understand the importance of working together as a team. I am a leader in the community. My integrity is extremely important to me. I have nothing to hide and I don’t have any ulterior motives for running for council – I just know I can have a positive impact on our community.”

Question 4. The catch phrases “I speak for the people” and “I promise honesty and transparency” and “I do this for the hard working taxpaying citizens” have become meaningless porridge spin clips from politicians. If elected, what do you truly desire for Caledon? Answer from Joe Luschak: “Let me add another phrase: “Talk is cheap,” so I can say anything I think people want to hear. However, time will tell if my efforts succeed to bring some unity to council so that all the wards aren’t pitted one against the other or decisions aren’t made with conflicting or special interests in mind. Unfortunately, mine will only be one of nine voices so at times my input may not carry a lot of weight, but I can assure everyone that I will be heard and II will not be pressured into making decisions that are not in the town’s (and the ward’s) best interests.”

Question 5. As a newly elected Council member, how do you intend to deal with litigious private interests who lobby, bully, and intimidate local politicians?   Answer from Christina Early: “In my business life, I have become accustomed to a broad variety of ways in which stakeholders try to have their interests heard. I believe it is Council that must define appropriate ways to engage and for all members of Council to support each other against threats and intimidation. It will also be important for Council to engage with those who bring their issues and concerns more quietly, and even more so, those whose vices are not heard above the noise.”

***

 

The Intimidation of Caledon

by Skid Crease

(originally written for the Caledon Citizen and Just Sayin’ Caledon)

***

In May of 2018, the Globe & Mail published a two-part investigative report into corruption and intimidation between private money influence and public policy. The Globes’ investigative team looked at school and hospital contracts that led from an unregistered lobbyist straight to Queen’s Park. And then they looked at the Town of Caledon, intimidation of an elected official, vandalism of her home, and an assault on her family that linked to development interests and organized crime.

That caught my attention. How could a documented assault on the husband of an elected Mayor by an enforcer for organized crime go silent? How could a trumped up tax fraud case against a democratically elected Mayor go silent? One would think that this blatant intimidation of our democratically elected officials would be pursued to the fullest extent by local and national media. But no.

Yes, it is a fact that Vladimir Vranic, an organized crime enforcer, was charged by the OPP and found guilty of threatening Mayor Marolyn Morrison’s husband Yes, Jeffrey Granger, ex-CRA employee and ex-consultant for a local developer, was charged by the OPP and found guilty and sentenced to three years for his involvement in a scheme to help wealthy developers evade taxes and frame Caledon’s Mayor for taking kickbacks. The developer denied any connection with the two cases. The two men who assaulted and beat up John Morrison during this period of intimidation were never caught. There were two brief articles about these incidents in the local press, and then the story disappeared.

Almost the greater crime here is the total failure of local and national media to follow up on these stories. How is it possible that a democratically elected official has her home vandalized, her husband beaten up and threatened, and her reputation smeared with false tax fraud charges and there is no follow-up? Why was there no deep investigative journalistic digging into this obvious intimidation of an elected official over a land development dispute?

The development interests that existed then exist today, but now they have moved into the murky realm of an OMB hearing. The current Mayor of Caledon, Allan Thompson, who is now defending the Town against litigious development interests, has also had his home vandalized, and has also had false charges brought to bear against him. As with Mayor Morrison, he was found not guilty of any wrongdoing and his accuser was charged with the court costs.

They say that the keystone of environmental literacy is the ability to read patterns. The pattern here is very clear, and if the citizens of Caledon aren’t given sufficient and deep factual reporting on these issues, the pattern will evolve into a future where our political processes and policies are not controlled by a well-informed community, but by the elected pawns of private power.

The way I see it.

***

Skid Crease is a member of the Canadian Association of Journalists, an author, an internationally renowned speaker, and a lifelong educator currently living in Caledon, Ontario.

Caledon’s Best and Least of All Evils

in response to my recent blog on Caledon’s Election Commandments, one reader commented: “Wow, does that leave us anyone to vote for, cause I think not from this statement. How do we find the least of all evils?” Actually, dear readers, there are some ethical choices that electors can make for a respectful, consensus building Council, and some that will lead us into four years of grandstanding chaos.

This week I received the responses to my “Candidates’ Candor” questionnaire and the answers were illuminating – beacons of hope for our elected representatives. Of course, those who responded did so with clean records behind them and aspirations to serve ahead of them. It was almost more telling who chose NOT to respond.

I know that, as a journalist, I am supposed to be non-partisan in synthesizing these answers, but having spent a year on the Town Council media desk watching the proceedings, my perspectives have been hardened into Moses-like stone tablets. I have been to the mountain and I have seen the light. So, consider this purely an opinion piece.

First, the only Mayoralty Candidate not guilty of violating the commandments is Allan Thompson. Note that Mayor Thompson was found NOT Guilty on the false charges brought to bear against him by another Mayoralty candidate. Note that this candidate was reported to have “dropped” the charges she initiated against Mayor Thompson. Not quite. She only dropped the second set of charges she made against Mayor Thompson and Councillor McClure. She not only LOST on her initial charges, but was required to pay over $80,000 in court costs.  Oops, thou shalt not bear false witness.

Note that the third Mayoralty candidate was found guilty by Caledon’s Integrity Commissioner during her brief first term of violating the Town’s Code Of Conduct, and by Peel Region Heritage Board of issuing racial slurs. Also recently supported another Peel Region Councillor’s e-mail use of racial slurs. Oops, thou shalt love thy neighbour.

Secondly, while most incumbents conducted themselves with intelligence and as much respect as they could muster, other incumbents seemed not to have read, or at the least not to have comprehended staff reports, Those who asked only questions of clarification, or defended the integrity of the Town Council and staff made it to the “Dream Team” list.

Thirdly. the last decade has seen a litigious relationship fester between a local developer and the Caledon Chamber of Commerce toward the Town of Caledon – that means at least three candidates are automatically eliminated from the intelligent choices list. You can have a Town nurtured by a democratic electorate, or you can have a Town controlled by private money (see the Globe & Mail investigation, May 2018).

Next, any candidate who has taken to using social media ghouls to flog their message and attempt to smear legitimate candidates is eliminated.

Also, any candidate who has no agricultural background and/or knowledge of the Peel and Caledon Food Charter is eliminated.

And finally, any political advertising attempting to pull the “purple wool” over your eyes is eliminated.

So, based on those criteria, I will publish my “Dream Team” and my “Scream Team” results in the next few days.

The way I see it.

***

Skid Crease is a member of the Canadian Association of Journalists, an author, an internationally respected speaker, an admired outdoor and environmental educator, and a lifelong learner.

 

 

 

Ontario Nature IS Nature!

The Ninth Annual Ontario Nature Youth Summit for Biodiversity and Environmental Leadership took place this past weekend – September 21 – 23, 2018 – at the beautiful Geneva Park YMCA Centre on Lake Couchiching near Rama. The event was attended by over one hundred Ontario senior high school students from Kaministiquia in the far north west of Ontario to Amherstburg in the deep south, to Vankleek Hill in the east – a network of enthusiastic, informed, engaged youth who are about to speak truth to power.

It has been my honour, since the inception of this event at the YMCA Cedar Glen in York Region in 2010, to guide workshops and mentor young minds at this inspirational Ontario Nature event. This year’s participants represented the cultural and social diversity of youth in Ontario and they were treated to a full weekend of experiential education.

Renowned outdoor educators, naturalists, Ontario Nature science technicians, Conservation Authority educators, Youth Council members and alumni, Wild Ontario volunteers, Students on Ice polar alumni, and First Nations Elders took the participants on journeys from freshwater ecosystems to climate change to community action. We journeyed from the secret life of salamanders to survival skills, from protecting pollinators with legislation to protecting people with the healing medicine found in wild plants.

The first evening, the Scales Nature Park staff hooked the participants with an interactive presentation of Ontario’s reptiles featuring unique species like the wood turtle and the hog-nose snake. The audience very quickly showed that they wanted to get up close and personal with this fascinating wildlife. Word for the week: ectotherm!

There is nothing more satisfying in education that to walk in the wild with a group of passionate young teens and watch them become children in the woods once again, watching them discover snakes and salamanders, wildflowers and fungus, scat and burrows and woodpecker holes. Watching the look of wonder grow in their eyes as they realize the intricacies of life simply by exchanging a breath of air with a tree leaf. As Sarah McLachlan sings, “It’s just another ordinary miracle today.”

When we stopped at a limestone outcrop and gazed over Lake Couchiching, one young person summed it up with these simple words: “This is beautiful.” That is the beginning of environmental literacy. The awareness of the beauty and mystery in the world around us is what creates love and respect for the natural world. And what we love we protect and nurture. A mentor in my life once told me, “We never save anything by moaning and groaning about it once it’s gone. We save things by celebrating the beauty of their existence while we still have them.” From awareness grows wonder, wonder feeds knowledge, and from knowledge flows action.

Over the past nine years, Ontario Nature has now guided close to a thousand students through this learning cycle. The Summit not only inspires the greening of personal lifestyles, it also achieved provincial success when the Youth Council lobbied for provincial policy that protects pollinators through the banning of neonicotinoid pesticides.

It further connects children to the history of our land, with opening greetings by Glenda Snache from the Chippewas of Rama First Nations on whose ancestral lands Geneva Park now stands. Theresa Harrigan of Rama and Kerry-Ann Charles from the Chippewas of Georgina Island guided participants through an understanding of the traditional clan systems of our First Nations. Then there were stories around the campfire told by Elder Garry Sault from the Mississaugas of the New Credit – the youth will never again look at a turkey vulture or the west wind the same way!

The wonderful closing keynote by Chloe Dragon Smith, a young Métis woman from Yellowknife, NWT summed up the weekend perfectly when she reminded us all that there is no separation between us and the environment, “You ARE nature.”

Next year, 2019, will mark the Tenth Anniversary of the Ontario Nature Youth Summit for Biodiversity and Environmental Leadership – that will carry the next group of youth leaders into the tipping point year of 2020. If you aren’t already a supporter of Ontario Nature and its programs, this is the time to join the team. Over the next four years, we will need all the support we can get!

The way I see it

Caledon’s Election Commandments

After the War of 2018, Calerin (or Duffedon as those north of 9 like to imagine it) had separated from the Region of Peel, and the cities of Brampton and Mississauga had merged to become the Kingdom of Bramauga

***

At the dawn of the 2020’s, the peoples of Calerin were enslaved by the rulers of Bramauga, and by wealthy overlords who owned the rulers. Even their own delegates had been bought by the overlords and were about to turn the Town of Calerin over to the highest bidder.

Then, just as hope for democracy was fading, She appeared on the horizon, shafts of the morning sun illuminating her flowing hair like a Beyoncé video! She had gone to Caledon Mountain to hear the words of the Great Spirit That Loves Life to receive the prophecy that would guide a just society.

She stood tall before the Oracle and asked, “Stone tablets?” “No.” replied the Oracle in a Sarah McLachlan-like voice. “They didn’t work well the last time the men did this. Let’s go with Skid’s blog.” And so it came to be that the “Ten Commandments for an Intelligent Electorate” were handed down from Caledon Mountain (well, actually a hill, especially if you come from Kananaskis country in Alberta) and she spoke in her best Yul Brunner impression,

“Let it be texted, let it be done!”

1. Thou shall not elect a person who has violated the Municipal Code of Conduct and been found guilty.

2. Thou shall not elect a person who has been found guilty of racist slurs.

3. Thou shall not elect a person who has used social media to smear another candidate.

4. Thou shall not elect a person who has either ignorantly or maliciously misinformed and mislead their constituents.

5. Thou shall not elect a person who is in the pocket of private interests.

6. Thou shall not elect a person who pads his or her resumés.

7. Thou shall not elect a person who creates a crisis where there is none.

8. Thou shall not elect a person who has brought false witness to bear against a sitting candidate.

9. Thou shall not elect a coven, or a single member thereof.

10. Thou SHALL elect good, honest, respectful, intelligent, empathetic persons.

And the Oracle was quiet. She came down the mountain with the words of wisdom, but it was too late. The people who had been so eager to receive her words only hours ago were now drinking corporate coffee from a drive-through and watching American Real Housewives and the Trump Reality Presidency Show.

“Oh well,” she sighed. “We’ll save these for the survivors of the Apocalypse.”

***

The way I see it.