The Charter of Freedoms And Rights guarantees freedom of expression, subject only to, in the words of the Charter, “such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society”.
On February 19 there was a public meeting at TSBP town hall, the subject of which was the proposed 2013 budget. The notice for the public meeting invited residents to come and speak at the meeting and also indicated that as an alternative to speaking at the meeting, written submissions would be read by staff at the public meeting, and taken into the minutes.
All citizens were invited except me. I am banned from town hall property for the crime of absentmindedness.
I am not banned from making written submissions, so I wrote one and sent it in.
One hour after I sent my submission in, staff member Tracey Neifer sent it back with six phrases completely blacked out, and an indication that only what remained would be read.
The letter is below, as I received it back from Neifer, except the text that Ms. Neifer completely blacked out is instead underlined, bolded and italicized so it is clear what she blacked out.
In the budget document on page 7 of the February 4 agenda package the line called “Total Taxation” shows an increase from $8,432,702 in 2012 to $9,122,516 in 2013, a tax increase of 8.2 per cent.
This is also the tax increase on the average property.
For residential only the increase is 7.8 per cent.
Just as they did for the past two years, council and staff are using the tax rate scam to try to pass off the 8 percent property tax increase as a zero per cent tax increase or a very small tax increase.
The tax rate increase, which is different than the tax increase, is indeed about zero per cent.
But the tax rate increase is irrelevant. What matters is tax increase. What residents will see on their tax bills is a tax increase. And it will not be zero per cent. It will be 8 per cent.
Even the 8 per cent understates the burden on taxpayers.
That’s because council has decided to pay some of the bills in 2013 out of reserves and other assets, without replenishing. This draws down reserves, requiring more taxes next year to build reserves back up.
Reasons for high taxes are:
1. Illegal giveaways to commercial interests in the form of grants to the chambers of commerce. This year the name has been changed from “grants” to “service agreements” but that doesn’t make them any more legal.
2. Illegal payment of private citizen’s legal fees and settlements. This is because the new “indemnification by-law” pays for almost everything. Even former CAO Cook’s private legal fees will be paid.
3. Payment of the $6,000,000 to one million dollar bill for Sauble Sewers project. Instead of putting that on taxpayers backs, council should sue Genivar for the money.
4. Money wasted on the airport. The airport needs to be shut down.
Then when the public meeting was held, Ms. Neifer, apparently with the agreement of Mayor Close, decided to censor the whole letter, and read none of it at the public meeting.
The minutes captured the censorship as follows:
42.5 WRITTEN SUBMISSIONS
Manager of Financial Services Neifer indicated that one written submission was received and it will not be read into the minutes in accordance with Section A.12.6 of the Procedural By-Law as it contains defamatory materials. Mayor Close indicated that he has read the submission and agrees with the Manager of Financial Services.
Policy A 12.6 reads:
Correspondence containing obscene or defamatory language will not be directed to the appropriate department for action or response and will not be placed on any Council agenda.
There is nothing wrong with censorship of language that is in law defamatory. What is wrong here is that Neifer and John Close decided what is defamatory and what isn’t, and that they decided based on their agenda of shutting out criticism, not because anything was legally defamatory.
That was improper use of policy A 12.6.
My letter didn’t breach policy A12.6.
My letter certainly did not exceed any “reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society “.
The law I apparently breached, in my view, was the Neifer/Close censorship law, the law of a totalitarian regime, the law of a malevolent dictator and his puppet accomplice, a law that contravenes the Charter, a law repugnant in our supposedly free society, a law so repugnant that it would not be tolerated anywhere else in the free world.
Only in TSBP can one be censored for criticizing.
Neifer has resigned effective end of March. Good riddance.
John Close is facing a criminal charge of obstruction of justice and there is an application filed to have him removed from office for contravention of the Municipal Conflict Of Interest Act.
Let’s hope he is gone long before the next election.