Volume 1 Number 17
Mayor calls blog a “plague” and a “blight”; convicts bloggers of criminal actions, destruction of community. Is there any truth to it?
When the trigger finger’s faster than the hand on the gun,
The toes go missing one by one.
On May 24th, TSBP Mayr John Close issued a press release labeling as “criminal” all those who had criticized TSBP staff on a popular blog. The blog, which he called a plague and a blight on society, was not named. But from the context it is clear that the site mentioned is www.bruceonthebruce.wordpress.com
The “criminal” label was carried in an Owen Sound Sun Times Article, and in an Owen Sound Radio News interview.
No blog contributors were named, but since I have had material posted on the blog that criticizes the actions of CAO Rhonda Cook and other staff, it is clear to me that I am one (of many) who have been accused, tried, and convicted of a criminal offense by Mr. Close, all completely outside of the judicial system.
The fact that no one will recognize the conviction as legitimate is not relevant. Mr. Close has put the weight of his office and the weight of council into his libelous lies, and with this offence he has shown his complete lack of integrity and complete lack of understanding of his responsibilities and limitations as mayor.
In the press release and interviews there is barely a word of truth. Some of the misrepresentations are as follows:
Mr. Close says Bill 168 is law. Actually it is not. A bill is a motion put forward for consideration and discussion. All bills are numbered. The numbering restarts in every new session of the Ontario legislature. So there have been many bill 168’s. When a bill (motion) is passed into law it becomes and statute, or Act, at which point it is given a new statute number and is no longer a bill. The law being incorrectly referred to as bill 198 is the Occupational Health and Safety Amendment Act (Violence and Harassment in the Workplace), 2009, which became the workplace harassment provisions of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OSHA).
Mr. Close says OHSA prohibits workplace harassment. Actually it does not. The OHSA requires that employers have systems to prevent and deal with workplace harassment, but it does not govern harassment. Other instruments do prohibit harassment. The criminal code covers criminal harassment (stalking), and the Ontario Human Rights Code (OHRC) gives employees the right to freedom from harassment in the workplace by the employer or agent of the employer or by another employee because of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, age, record of offences, marital status, family status or disability. But neither OHSA nor the criminal harassment provisions of the criminal code nor the workplace harassment provisions of the OHRC apply to comments on “the blog”. So threats of “gonna get them for bill 168 violations” is nothing but ridiculous bluster.
Mr. Close says Contravention of OHSA is a criminal offense. Nonsense. Contravention of a provision of OHSA is a provincial offense, with conviction potentially resulting in fines, and even jail terms. But there is no section of OHSA for which contravention constitutes a criminal offense. None.
Mr. Close says harassment of staff by the public is a bill 198 offense. Nope. The workplace harassment provisions of OHSA do not put any prohibitions on the public whatsoever.
Mr. Close acts as if a mayor can identify and convict criminals. We have a constitution including a charter of freedoms and rights, which gives anyone who is formally accused of a crime the right to face their accusers and to defend themselves before a competent tribunal. There may have been a time and place where a small town mayor was also the decider of guilt and the adjudicator of justice, but that would have been over 500 years ago and was in a different country. The mayor of TSBP is delusional if he really believes that in 2011 he has the guilt-deciding and justice-dispensing roles and powers of a tribunal. His delusions of omnipotence are sad.
Mr. Close vows to take action against the criminals before they escalate into more serious acts of violence. John, Rhonda, please help me for I am addicted to criticizing. And if someone doesn’t help me stop criticizing you, I am very much afraid that I may no longer be satisfied with merely criticizing, and I will “escalate” to more serious violent acts… ….maybe throwing paper airplanes at you, or please give me the strength to resist, shooting spitballs in a council meeting. Who knows, I might even escalate to the ultimate act of violence, silently wishing you an evening with the Martian. So never mind the cost, these acts of violence must be prevented. Rhonda must call the police immediately, make (false) allegations of violent behavior, and have me carted off to jail, with all internet privileges forfeited!
Mr. Close says the blog is “a very bad blight on our community“, the blog is “there to destroy our community”, “The town has been plagued by a blog site”. All nonsense. The town is the inhabitants, organized as a corporation to provide municipal services. Blog contributors have criticized the actions of the mayor, the CAO, and other bloggers/ contributors, but no one has “plagued” the inhabitants. The descriptors “bad blight”, “plagued”, and “destroy community” may be John’s view, but they are certainly not the view of the inhabitants. Many read the blog because it informs them of shenanigans like the Mayor calling those who disagree with him or with Rhonda “criminals”. For the inhabitants who read the blog, this information is useful, not destructive/blight/plague. (As an aside, I think the most criticized person on the blog may actually be not Rhonda, but rather me. Many of the criticisms directed at me are valid. I learn from them and appreciate them. But even with the unfair, invalid criticisms, I could never say I’ve been “plagued” by the blog. And if I felt that I had been defamed, I might consider a civil suit, but I would never cry “criminal harassment” or “violation of bill 168”).
Mr. Close says the OPP and Ministry of labour are investigating the case under bill 168. Nonsense. Ministry of Labour inspectors will investigate a complaint of a violation of OHSA, but there has been no valid complaint to investigate. And it would be very unusual for police to investigate an OHSA complaint. (I will check with OPP whether they are investigating anything under bill 168.)
Close says “As of July 2010, Ontario Bill 168 makes it a criminal offence to harass or use violent and abusive language in a place of work. This is an outright lie. I challenge John Close to name the section of the OHSA that makes harassment or abusive language or anything else a criminal offense.
Mr. Close says that “Persons, qualified in this area of abuse, have stated that this harassment is not about facts and figures or issues; it’s all about power by degrading and humiliating individuals”. Rubbish. If some experts really looked at the blog posts and declared that the posts were all about power and not about facts and figures or issues, then John Close should be able to produce the names of those “qualified persons”, and also their written assessments. Anyone who has read my posts can see that they are indeed about facts, figures, and issues, even the ones critical of actions of Rhonda Cook. Anyone who knows me knows that none of my posts are about power. As far as I can see, any criticism posted on the blog is all about informing the public, in the pursuit of good governance, and in the hope of making things a little better. Democracy is, after all, about participation.
In his declaration of office, John Closed promised to “truly, faithfully and impartially exercise this office to the best of my knowledge and ability”.
The press release is in my view an exercise in extreme deceit, hardly a true and faithful exercise of the office of mayor. If John Close wrote the press release, then he should be ashamed of himself for trying to deceive the public. Calling constituents “criminal” without grounds is unacceptable for anyone, but for a mayor it is also a breach of all of “truly, faithfully and impartially “and as such is an egregious abuse of the power of his office. If the extreme deceit and abuse of power are the “best of my knowledge and ability”, then John Close is not fit for office and should resign. If Rhonda Cook wrote the press release she should be ashamed of herself, and should resign. Also, if Rhonda Cook wrote the press release, John Close should be ashamed of himself for not questioning its veracity, and should resign.
I cannot believe that anyone could actually get it so very, very wrong. I believe it was a malicious act, and a deliberate attempt to scam the public.
It appears to me that they must think the people of the town are stupid enough to buy it.
Please let them know just how big a mistake they have made.
Write directly to John Close at: John.Close@southbrucepeninsula.com
Or log in to “the blog” at www.bruceonthebruce.wordpress.com and leave your comments.
My advice to bloggers is this: Focus on facts and arguments, not on the person. Do not be cowed by the press release – John Close has no case. And keep on posting – our successful democracy depends on your participation.