Economic Development Committee bullying, intimidation tactics against councillors Standen and Jackson are shameful and inexcusable – the EDC must be disbanded
Councillors Jackson and Standen sit on the Town of South Bruce Peninsula Economic Development Committee (EDC). They are on the EDC as councillors, as representatives of the people. Their role in the EDC is the same as their role in council, or in Committee of the Whole, or in any other committee of council. They are on the EDC to ensure that the EDC serves the inhabitants, (the town corporate body), and to ensure that the EDC does not try to serve special interests to the detriment of the inhabitants.
Ms. Jackson and Mr. Standen are competent councillors who are dedicated to the interests of the inhabitants, and who take their role as representatives of the inhabitants very seriously, and who are very capable of taking care of the public interest in EDC meetings.
But they are up against a large majority of EDC members who only want to serve themselves, and they are up against a number of EDC members, including the mayor, who have no qualms about playing dirty to further their personal agendas, and to shut out the public interest, and to shut out any councillor who protects the public interest.
Dirty tactics have included (but are not necessarily limited to):
1. Trying to bully councillors Standen and Jackson into resigning from the EDC,
2. Trying to bully and intimidate councillors Jackson and Standen into changing their position on the EDC Terms of Reference, and,
3. Bullying Councillor Jackson to support the EDC budget at Committee of the Whole during budget discussions.
Trying to get councillors off the EDC
It’s supposed to be a committee of council. Committees of council do not need to have members of the public. The EDC has been opened to include members of the public because it was thought that that would be of benefit to the inhabitants (as a corporate body).
Even though it is contrary to the public interest, the public members of the EDC, and the mayor, are pushing sewers for Sauble. EDC member councillor Jackson is vehemently opposed to installing $70 million sewers for Sauble, as I understand it on the grounds that no problem has been identified, no need has been demonstrated, the vast majority do not want sewers, and installing them now would be contrary to the public interest. Councillor Standen, also a member of the EDC, is supportive of Councillor Jackson’s position, as is council as a whole (implicitly through the “January resolutions”).
Using the pretext that Councillors Standen and Jackson missed some EDC meetings, the EDC chair apparently asked both to resign. The real reason for asking them to resign from the EDC was that Councillors Standen and Jacksondid not support the rest of the EDC position on the Sauble sewers issue. Here’s a typical statement from the chair:
MM: I will also say that I have some concerns that some of our members…..Ok we talked about.. the sort of policies and procedures that….with respect to attendance…I’ve got a little note here but it would probably be a little antagonistic to read it out right now…I will also say that I have some concerns that some of our members might be here simply to make sure we don’t accomplish major development initiatives .. and I will again emphasize that we’re an economic development committee not the economic non-development committee.. I think if anyone on the committee believes they should not be undertaking …we should not be undertaking …..economic development initiatives… then they might reconsider…their status on this committee…I think the proper venue to oppose the EDC recommendations is at the council level… not this committee level…..and that does not mean we have to agree on everything…not at all….because that wouldn’t be right democratically…or representative of the communities wishes… but it does mean that we have to be moving ahead with the same overall goals… and if there’s somebody on this committee and they’re here principally to put roadblocks up on development…I don’t think that this is the venue for that to happen… (EDC Agust 23rd)
This statement above was clearly directed at Councillors Jackson and Standen. And who knows what was in the “antagonistic note” that the chair had prepared but decided not to read?
The statement above is an outrageous affront to Councillors Jackson and Standen, and to the public. Councillors Jackson and Standen are on that committee as representatives of the public. It is none of the chair’s business how many meetings the people’s representatives miss. And it is not up to the chair of the EDC to decide whether the representatives of the people are fulfilling their roles as protectors of the public interest. It never, ever was a role of the committee or anyone on the committee to supervise, direct, criticize, or reprimand councillors for doing their duty, or for anything else. I am deeply upset that someone appointed by council and given the privilege of participating in the Economic Development Committee would have the audacity to call two councillors and suggest that the councillors resign from the EDC.
The chair of the EDC has offended all the people of the Town of South Bruce Peninsula by suggesting that anyone who challenges his schemes is somehow working against the people. The chair’s attempts to silence any opposition to the chair’s personal agenda are inexcusable.
The chair and majority of the EDC are putting the town in jeopardy by soaking up taxpayer funds in the pursuit of schemes that are outside the law, outside the Municipal Act, and outside of what council asked the EDC to do. Rather than being asked to resign from the EDC, good councillors Jackson and Standen should be applauded for trying to get the EDC off this rogue path to ruin.
Bullying and Intimidation
The EDC terms of reference are already way too lax, and actually encourage the EDC to do things way outside the bounds of the Municipal Act and way outside any expressed wishes of council, and way outside what is legitimate use of taxpayer’s resources.
In spite of this, the EDC took it upon themselves to revise the terms of reference so as to make their bounds even looser. Council did not ask the EDC to revise their terms of reference.
Draft terms were presented by the Economic Development Officer in the EDC meeting of September 14.
There was a discussion and a “resolution” :
MM: adoption of these terms of reference to be put forth at council .. do we have a seconder?.. John…all in favour? … opposed ? …carried
The proposed terms were submitted to Committee of the whole as part of the October 4 agenda. Committee discussed the terms and on a four to four recorded vote decided not to accept them. Councillors Standen and Jackson voted not to accept the terms.
In the EDC meeting of October 12 Councillor Jackson was berated, bullied, intimidated, and even threatened for voting in COW October 4 against the adoption of the revised terms. Councillor Standen was not at the EDC meeting, but was bullied and intimidated in absentia.
Some excerpts from an unofficial transcript, which show the bullying, are included here:
MM: ….our committee here approved [the draft terms of reference] …..unanimously.. no dissenting votes… this went to the last committee of the whole meeting…and my understanding is that it was discussed vigourously and was put to a vote and was turned down by a vote of four to four.. and I’m also of the understanding that two of the members of the EDC that voted for it [at EDC]… at the committee of the whole voted against it..
JJ: I didn’t vote [at EDC].. I wasn’t present when it was created here…that was the first time that I was presented with it.. I wasn’t here when that terms of reference.. so …
MM: (interrupting): but you get the minutes
JJ: I voted against it…..
MM: (interrupting) Why?
JJ: I definitely voted against it [because two clauses were beyond the scope]
MM: (Interrupting) but it was unanimously passed at the committee and there were no dissenting votes
JJ: OK well what I’m saying is I wasn’t here for that. I didn’t see it.. OK … the first time I had to deal with it was in council …. there were two items in there that I had a problem with.. one was the ability to go after funding.. which I felt was a council decision.. it wasn’t something that this committee should be undertaking.. and the other was moving forward with infrastructure development.. and I think that again that is a council initiative.. so those are the two things that I had a problem with…the balance of it I didn’t really have a problem with anything.. but the way that it’s set up in council is we had to either vote for it or against it.. we couldn’t take out … like I initially suggested that we remove just those two clauses and pass it.. that’s not the way that it works.. you either have to vote for it as a whole or against it.. and so that’s how that went down…and yeah other people on council had a problem with those two clauses as well…which is why it ended up being voted down
MM: I guess four people did.. so…
JC: you could have intervened and said: – I read my minutes.. I know you’re moving forward on this …please understand I have concerns here and that I will not support – .. and that’s the appropriate …. how we’re supposed to be working here..
DS: We did discuss all these amendments to the terms of reference … everybody around this table agreed that that’s what we wanted to put forward … it wasn’t a case of [the chair] didn’t go around and ask everybody.. we took a vote and we all agreed unanimously that’s what we wanted.. and that’s where we’re at … so that’s my problem
KM: …but in fairness to the committee there’s got to be a better way that if you don’t agree strongly enough that you’re going to vote against it.. that we hear about that before it goes to council.. so how do we learn from this that we’re not in this situation again where it will take us another month to get what we want… so I’m just asking the question how do we deal with members who can’t be here but that feel so strongly about something that they’re actually going to vote against what we’re recommending… how do we incorporate that input to see if we can modify it before it goes to council.. or that we can get your assurance that you’ll at least abstain.. if you abstain I have no problem but if you’re actually voting against what we recommended.. it creates a wedge between me and you… and I don’t want that… I really don’t.. but I’m gonna learn from this that we don’t do this again… I’m throwing that out
Did an EDC member really say: “if you’re actually voting against what we recommended… it creates a wedge between you and me.. and I don’t want that… I really don’t.”??? And on paper it loses a lot. I was at the meeting. The words, the tone, the body language were clearly bullying. Outright intimidation. The comment is outrageous. And so are all the other bullying comments.
The September14 vote on the motion on the table (see above) regarding the terms of reference was not recorded, but I believe it was unanimous in favour. But it was an endorsement to send the draft “terms” to council. It was not an explicit endorsement of the terms.
Council members change their minds all the time between meetings, and during and after debate. If a councillor was somehow stuck with a position taken at the EDC, or with someone else’s position taken in their absence, then any subsequent debate at council and/or discussion with the public would be meaningless.
A good councillor (like Ms. Jackson or Mr. Standen) would never close their mind to different perspectives from other council members and from the public. Because that would be undemocratic. And a good councillor would never close their mind to new insights. So no vote in the EDC can possibly mean that a councillor will support the terms of reference no matter what new insights or arguments have been presented.
A councillor can defer making up their mind right up until the second the clerk asks for their vote. A councillor can change their mind right up until the moment the clerk asks for their vote. It’s called democracy.
So any explicit or implicit support of any EDC recommendation by a councillor must be taken only as support for sending the recommendation to COW and not as tacit commitment to support it in COW or in council or anywhere else.
In the COW October 4 meeting two EDC members voted against the September 14 proposed terms of reference. Because the draft terms were not in the public interest.
For some EDC members to suggest that this was somehow a breach of protocol is ludicrous. If it’s in the public interest for a councillor to vote against something, then the councillor should vote against it, regardless of whether somebody thinks that councillor supported it at the EDC level or not, and regardless of whether the councillor read the EDC minutes or not, and even regardless of whether the councillor supported the terms at the EDC or not. The public interest is paramount. And anyone who thinks that a councillor has an obligation to take a firm and clear position at the EDC and then never change their mind doesn’t understand our system, and does not understand how committees of council work. No councillor is required to take a position at the EDC and no councillor is required to stick to any position that the councillor may have taken in the EDC and no councillor is required to indicate to anyone in the EDC at any time where they stand on any issue. Because the councillor’s role on committee is to further and protect the public interest, not take direction from the EDC chair or anyone else on the EDC.
And councillors should never be subjected to such outrageous bullying. And especially from Mayor Close, who had the opportunity and the power to protect the councillors from the bullying and to stop the bullying, but chose instead to side with the bullies and join in the bullying. Inexcusable.
The EDC is a committee of council. Unelected members of the public are invited to be on the committee. Committee membership is a privilege granted by the people. It is not a right. And committee membership does not give any member the right to chastise an elected member of council.
The bullies on the EDC need to get off their bloody high horses and think about the public a little bit instead of themselves. And they need to be kicked off the EDC.
Bullying Councillor Jackson to support the EDC budget at Committee of the Whole during budget discussions
To make matters even worse, in the October 12th EDC meeting councillor Jackson was further bullied into tacitly indicating that she would support, at COW and council, the EDC budget request developed October 12.
MM: Do we have support from our council members for [the EDC budget]?
The chair was asking councillor Jackson if she could be counted on to vote for the EDC budget at council. He has no business asking. Again, with the tone and the body language, which I observed, this was clearly bullying. It is especially important that Councillor Jackson makes crystal clear that she supported sending the EDC budget request to COW, but did not, and will not, and cannot necessarily commit to supporting the draft EDC budget at COW or council.
The municipal act requires all legitimate committees of council to have at least 50% elected members just so no special interest group or anyone else can get control of a committee of the people’s representatives and pull the kind of stunts that have been pulled in the EDC.
If the EDC is allowed to continue out of control, they will do immense harm to the town.
I urge readers of this “commentary” to let council members know that the control of the EDC by a non-elected special interest group is unacceptable.
I also urge readers who are concerned about bullying to express to council members that for the public interest, and for the safety of the councillors who sit on the EDC, the EDC should be disbanded, or at very minimum reformulated so that the EDC is a legitimate committee of council with at least 50% of the committee members being members of council.