Saturday, November 25, 2006

The new French Revolution

What happens when there is no room for a public sphere to exist and citizens are left feeling disenfranchised, alienated and unempowered? A revolution. And, the signs are beginning to show.

recent incident involving actor-comedian Michael Richard, also known as Kramer in the hit television series Seinfeld, was devastated after he used a series of racial slurs against hecklers at the laugh Factory on Nov. 17. A video of the incident appeared on the celebrity news website and on YouTube, a public video archive used by millions of people. This forced the actor to make an impromptu appearance on the David Letterman show almost immediately following the incident to apologize. This was also posted to public video archives on the Internet. Rather than resolve the problem, it fuelled further anger and debate.

There is little new about catching celebrities off guard and publicly humiliating them. It is the fuel driving countless tabloid publications worldwide.

But, there are a growing number of incidents where people are capturing video or pictures of other types of authority figures, that is people who are viewed as being “above the rest of us”, and placing them on public video archives like YouTube.

Take for example,
Professor Carole Chauncey at Ryerson University, who reaches a senior information technology management class. A two-minutes video made available on YouTube. An exchange between the class and the instructor was captured via a cell phone and then posted. This sparked a reaction from the university’s academic council and by the Canadian Association of University Teachers.

Then, there is the
Quebec school ban on cellphone after a YouTube video appears. A Gatineau teachers went on stress leave and the school banned personal electronic devices in the class room after  a video of him shouting at a student was posted on the YouTube website. Two 13-year old girls were suspended.

But that is not all.
An impromptu back rub that President George W. Bush gave German Chancellor Angela Merkel also made its way to and countless blogs. It shows Bush surprising Merkel at the G-8 summit by quickly rubbing the back of her neck and shoulders. Merkel immediately hunches her shoulders, throws her arms up and grimaces, though she appears to smile as Bush walks away.

These are just a few examples. What is striking is the way ordinary people are using this technology to embarrass authority figures or those who are held up as important in our society.
Like the aristocrats of France, the plebeians are using YouTube as a guillotine, publicly beheading them to gain a false sense of justice. In a very crude way, it is a form of accountability, but also an empowering tool that leaves those in authority scrambling to prevent further embarrassment.

And, it is effective. In all cases, it has garnered attention and created massive debate about the subject and issues at stake. But, at what cost?  And, is it truly justice?

The public sphere is meant to be a place where, ideally, rational-critical discourse takes place. In Jurgen Habermas’ vision, we come together to discuss issues of concern and participate in democratic life as equals. It is egalitarian and inclusive.

While YouTube, MySpace, Second Life and other technology, like blogging software, can be viewed as liberating for millions as they express themselves, we are witnessing a significant event. The people who post these items see their actions as forms of social justice, no doubt. It is a way to bring down figures cloaked in the rhetoric of  challenging authority or speaking “truth”. It is easy to argue how this type of actions fails on so many levels: unbalanced, lacking context, validity of video, integrity of process, etc. But, for many, it also provides some kind of satisfaction and demonstrable results. Richard’s career is in jeopardy, if not dead. The educators are damaged, as are the institutions where they work. Bush’s video is another tool to be used by critics to tear away at his credibility and the presidency.

If this method gains wide social acceptance, we could all be looking at a form of revolution no different than any massive upheaval between the elite and the citizenry. Through these uses of technology, an uprising could take place as a means of alleviating much of the frustration felt by people who feel they cannot get justice or be heard any other way. And, if the reaction to this is to squash it or ban it or legislate against it, then other forums will be found.  This is the nature of the Internet culture.

It also creates a sense of urgency for institutions, governments and those seeking to hold positions of power in our society to re-evaluate the dynamics of their legitimacy. It may not be possible any longer to continue to ignore minority voice, step over social movements or turn their backs on anyone. To ignore phenomena like this is done at their peril because the consequence, whether it is just or not, is devastating. Maybe it is a time for more pragmatic politics. Issues need to be debated and resolved through inclusive measures, educating citizens and then garnering their input to build solutions.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Nothing is ever what you think in politics

After an abysmal set of predictions, the reality of Monday night's municipal election presents pause for some serious thought.

Certainly, the winners and losers are obvious. Mayor Peter Delanty returned, along with Deputy Mayor Gil Brocanier and councillors Bob Spooner, Dean McCaughey and Bill MacDonald.  For those seeking reform, Miriam Mutton and Stan Frost were the two newcomers to the council chambers. On the surface, it might appear there was no change.

But, voters did send a message.

Mutton and Frost won by a sizable margin, both with more than 4,000 votes. Spooner sat behind with 3,700 and then McCaughey with 2,800 and MacDonald with 2,700. Candidates Gerry Drage, Larry Sherwin and Howie McCourt were not too far behind. In fact, only 300 votes separated them and they were not far behind MacDonald.

The endorsement Mutton and Frost received by placing first and second tells us voters want change. The kinds of reform both these candidates were proposing got a clear mandate. The old way of doing business must go. Any councillor that thinks they can swagger into the chamber in January and do business as usual is mistaken. Let's hope both these new councillors carry the courage of their convictions and don't let the old boys club intimidate them.

While this is pure fantasy, Spooner, McCaughey and MacDonald might act with some level of contrition and humility, not the characteristic arrogance that so often pervades their approach in council and in public. It would be nice to hear a lot less from Spooner and a lot more from Delanty and others. If the media don't seek them out, then maybe they should seek the media and make their positions more public. Not for the media's sake, but for the public's sake.

Or, join the rest of us in the 21st century and get a blog. (Spooner would never do this. He won't even write letters to the editor to defend himself).

It is also necessary to choke down some humble pie. My sincerest apologies to Bridget  Campion, who did a credible job with her quiet campaign. Stealth works. Obviously, she did better than Williams, who embarrassed himself, despite his own predictions of failure at the polls.

Another reality that came home is the death of small town politics. Delanty's political machine smoked the other candidates. You cannot run alone anymore. The days of several people working with a candidate and running a campaign of door-knocking and pamphlets is long gone. It began with Joan Chalovich's run for office  six years ago and now it will be the standard. Folksy, homegrown politics is gone. We are now cattle to be herded by sophisticated handlers and backroom advisors.

It is said voters get the politicians they deserve. Did we deserve this? I don't know. But, we have four years to live with this decision. The responsibility rests with all of us to be vigilant.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

My calls for Monday night Cobourg council election

Unlike others, I am not making my choices public, but as a dedicated political junkie, it is hard to resist making a call on who will be the winners and losers, at the very least.
While Councillor Lloyd Williams may be the better choice in some people's minds, incumbent mayor Peter Delanty will take this job with a slam dunk. It would be overly optimistic to believe droves of dissatisfied citizens will come out Monday to drive him from office. Instead, they will stay home, feeling left out. Williams is a good person and a solid politician, but he ran a campaign that doesn't work in modern politics. He sounds like a sagely man and has vast knowledge of process and legislation, plus he commands facts on a list of issues that is mind-boggling. He advertised with verbose ads in the newspapers and the radio spots sounded like the obituaries, not a stump speech. Certainly, there are those who like the old style because it is substantive. But, he never nailed Delanty, nor did he capture the imagination of the town with his ability to lead.
Delanty does what he does best: public relations. So, he knocked on every door in town. He had signs up, everywhere. He has snappy ads. And, he looks pretty. He never met a camera he didn't like. And, he takes a great picture. His agenda is overly simple and easy to understand. How it will play out is vague enough that he won't get caught. He is highly organized and gets lots of professional political advice.

Finally, he knows everybody and everybody knows him and his family.

Bridget Campton will hurt Williams. Her campaign was noble and intelligent, but she never stood a chance. God love her for trying. she deserves credit, but local politics is far more sophisticated and hard nose than anybody really want to admit. This campaign reminds us of that fact in spades.

Delanty will win by a landslide.

Deputy mayor is the true contest. Hard to call this one. Manfred Schumann has done a credible job and given the old political machine run by Brocanier a good workout. The mismanagement of the senior's centre this past spring and fall sent Brocanier into a tailspin. It is enough to make him weak. Schumann is a letter writer to the newspapers and appears before council regularly. He is credible and he has worked hard.

This one is too tight to call. Schumann will get an upset, but by a slim margin. Don't be surprised if there is a recount.

Council is wide open. Dean McCaughey is a shoo-in. He shouldn't be due to his gutting of the official plan, the Mr. Sub fiasco and the fact that he has been on council for far too long. There are times when he sounds bored and he acts like it. But, he will win.

Bob Spooner will win. It is not that he deserves to win. But, he will win. 'Nuf said.

Bill MacDonald is vulnerable.  Barely won last time. He is likely gone.

Miriam Mutton stands a really good chance. Two big reasons for this are her gender and he ability. Cobourg likes to elect at least one woman to council (this reflects the town, not my own chauvinism). But, she appears before council regularly and is a solid activist in the community. She is intelligent and will get the job done. Her strong character and her determination means she will not be afraid to bloody some noses (and take a blow just as easily).

Stan Frost is another likely councillor. He is well respected and knowledgeable. He was nearly elected last time, so this won't be a big shocker.

It will be a battle for the final spot

Howie McCourt may surprise everyone. He is well-known to many parents and community members. He certainly is qualified, but it would  mean McCaughey would need to lose. That is not going to happen. He deserves it, but it will be tight.

Gerry Drage will be fighting for the last spot against McCourt. His hard work and innovative campaign may pay off. The food drive he did in conjunction with the door-knocking demonstrated his creativity. He has something to offer and it may catch the imagination of voters.

Larry Sherwin,  Melissa Marshall., Rob Harper and  Judi McAllister will be spoilers. They will take votes, but from whom is very difficult to say.

Once we see the results Monday, it may be necessary to go back to drinking tea and forget looking at the leaves.

Ben Burd: My choices for the vote!

Fellow blogger Ben Burd, who is a great gadfly and citizen journalist, made his calls for Monday's election. It would be criminal not to share them.

My choices for the vote!:
In making these choices I made two assumptions. One: none of the incumbents deserved to be re-elected, their offenses against the Official plan were of the hanging variety and their inability to listen to the electorate are the main reasons for me. Councillor Brocanier boasts about having listened to 45 delegations in the last year, well Gil listening and Listening are two different things. Sitting in one's chair like Buddha and then having the Mayor say, "Thank you for coming" is not meaningful listening.

You don't have to be a brain surgeon to be on Council, just an independent mind and the guts to state your opinion

So here they are:

  • Mayor: Lloyd Williams, despite the bizarre campaign tactic of admitting that he will not win he succeeded in getting the issues out. He gets my vote because he has pledged to reform the "coordinator system", I hope he destroys it!
  • Deputy Mayor: Manfred Schumann, despite a rather flat public performance he has put forward a platform of thought and substance. His opponent has only said that he plans to use a "line by line" budget review as his tax cutting tool. Sorry Gil but you used that last year and the year before that and the year before that and taxes never went down but spending spiraled upward.
  • Councillor: Stan Frost, he has the biggest vested interest in reducing taxes - he pays the most, so get to it Stan cut taxes!
  • Councillor: Howie McCourt, he is the most straightforward of the list, I like him, I have worked with him and I trust him. Besides he understands the Official Plan.
  • Councillor: Miriam Mutton, Miriam knows the issues, she understands the damage that the developers have wreaked on this Town, I like her and trust her.
  • Councillor Rob Harper, Rob is down to earth, knows what it is to be like to live on less than a Teachers' Pension all the time and still keeps his sense of humour. Besides the ONLY new idea that came from any of the candidates came from him, he's original and I like that.
  • Councillor: Melissa Marshall, Melissa is the youngest and at 34 brings a perspective that might offend some of the "dead white male thinking" that prevails around the Council Chamber
Now in making this slate I realise that most of it will never come to pass (shades of Lloyd Williams - ed) but one can only hope and perhaps the list and the reasons behind each choice may give others the thought too.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Sins of omission and the power of e-journalism

Yup, I screwed up.

Cobourg public school board candidate Al McLellan got a hold of me early in the election to tell me about his web site and inviting me to link my web project at Vote! to his site.

Since the site was just getting some momentum and students were still being organized, I begged off, saying we would get to it. Be patient.

Well, somehow, his request fell through the cracks. And, to make matters worse, he created a link to our site. The least that could be done was to reciprocate.

Then, I received the email below. Not a proud moment for me or our team. The criticisms are justified. We dropped the ball without question.

While not our proudest moment, this demonstrates one of the great powers of the Internet and e-journalism. Our audience keeps tabs on us in a way that is far more effective than traditional journalism.  The limited space of traditional media does not allow everything to be printed. Sometimes letters to the editor are cut or changed for brevity. Also, television or radio cannot always accommodate this kind of discourse.

Online, through tools like this blog and other vehicles, we can easily post all materials and I can respond. Publicly. Despite the humiliation. Hopefully, this transparency can slowly earn our profession back some of the trust and credibility it has lost. Yes, I failed to follow up on a promise to the candidate. He deserve, at the very least, to be treated like all the other candidates who have web sites. And, we can hope that any trust we have breeched can be mended by putting it in right away. If we are lucky, maybe our ability to blog the incident and be forthright with the candidate and our audience, we can gain some shred of credibility back. We can pray our honesty and our apology can help.

That is the power of this new medium.

We are sorry, Mr McLellan. We hope you and our audience can forgive us. And, we will continue to work hard to earn your trust back.

Taking it on the nose from trustee candidate McLellan

An email to me from the candidate:

I thought you might be interested in knowing that after multiple emails, and providing information prior to being asked, after linking your democracy site the same day you contacted me to my site [], and after being asked by you to be patient because my information would be posted soon.... your organization NEVER did post my information to your site.  Maybe you should consider an apology / regrets section in your site? Fair to all does not mean selectivity based upon what the writer / editor / web master feels is important at any given time. I believe you should NOT have posted any content until you were confident that all content, from all parties had been received. Their contact info and platforms for the most part were publicly available. Otherwise you editorialize. It
IS a responsibility when you give yourself a name like "On Line Democracy" . The concept of free speech, the 5th estate... and all that other democratic ideology is based upon what I have just said. Mistakes happen but I was the one who was proactive and patient who has now been punished for my belief in fairness. No one even got back to me.  For your site to be considered a source of information you must be accurate and all inclusive. The lesson to students here is that when you advocate that you are a resource for democracy it is all about equality and fairness. Don't take it on unless you are prepared to follow through.

I will maintain my link to your site in the hope you are able to resolve this situation...and for anyone else as well... maybe it's time to get on he phones!.

And since I am reasonable and have a sense of humour [even though I feel I got screwed around]... having said the above provides proof that I should be the choice of informed voters for the position of KRPDSB English Public School Board Trustee. Visit my website and review my platform at <> . If you live in my constituency vote Al McLellan.

I finish with a quote from Ray A. Kroc... [cuz" we all love burgers don't we]... sorry... gotta eat and run.... talk later...

"Press on. Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence."

Monday, November 06, 2006

Valley Voices survey good, but needs work

There needs to be a tip of the hat to the people who organized and executed the survey for the Valley Voices group who are fighting a gravel pit in Alnwich/Haldimand Township.

It is a sincere attempt to place their mark on this election campaign and represents a good effort as they try to influence the agenda and inform voters. There also needs to be praise given to the councillors who were acclaimed, but also took the time to give their positions on issues. It is a responsible and democratic act, as it provides a benchmark for their actions over the next four years.

This is a very important race and might be closer than anyone can imagine. Incumbent Mayor Bill Finley, who has sat on council since 1977, is facing stiff competition from another political war horse Deputy Mayor Rosemarie Robins.  Finley is not a favourite amongst this group and has publicly and privately waged a war against them, often brushing them off with visible frustration. It demonstrates his inability to work to build a consensus and balance points of view in the face of difficult negotiations. There are several examples where he failed to gain trust when meetings and negotiations were held behind closed doors. There is no love loss between Finley and Valley Voices. If Robins can capitalize on this, she may carry the election.

The survey presents some solid questions and is clear about the answers it expects, a useful tool for those unfamiliar with the issues. It also provides a ranking system, which is not consistently used for each answer.

This kind of community activism is to be commended because the group, while pushing their own agenda for answers, has, at the same time, given voters in this rural community a good look at candidates' platforms. Considering the importance of the gravel pit issue for many in the township, this survey may have more impact than one might expect.

Valley Voice's candidates survey results

A survey done by residents in Shelter Valley, who are fighting a gravel pit, released the results of a candidates survey yesterday. Valley Voices is a dedicated group of people who have worked tirelessly to stop the pit.

Here are the results:

VV surveyed the candidates for the November 13 election to determine their position on matters of interest to us.
Here are verbatim copies of their responses. Illegible words are indicated by (?). [1] [5] indicate the importance to the candidates. The higher the number, the more important the issue.
Councillor Benns did not reply. Councillor Broegelman did not provide written responses. He wanted to “check with his lawyer.”.
In analyzing their responses we were looking at the candidates to see if 
a) they didn’t answer the question, 
b) they gave a stock answer,
c) they agreed with no explanation,
d) they were open and candid,
e) they were thoughtful,
e) their past actions are consistent with their promises and vision for the next 4 years. 

A-1.  There should be a scheduled, frequent newsletter / e-mail from Council to Township residents.  For example, major decisions, events, and issues could be included.

We were looking for awareness of the need for a variety of forms of communication; technical knowledge; availability of high speed internet service throughout A/H; how they would seek feedback from the electorate; how they would gauge the effectiveness of their communications; the importance of keeping the website updated, coherent, easy to use, intelligible; frequency and immediacy of communications. 

Finley:  "[5]  Webb site needs to include council and committee minutes, community events and major County or Provincial programs"

Robins:  "[4]  I agree people should be informed about events & major decisions in Twp but alot of info is being put on our new internet programme so probably newsletters are not required as much as they were 5 to 10 yrs ago"

McDonald: " [5]  I believe a combination of the two (e-mail & newsletter) would benefit our Township greatly. Our weekly/monthly messeage to the residents should reach residents of all ages and allow each member of our communities to be aware of the current issues in A/H."


Jeninga:  "[5]  Twp has a website But not updated"

Ritchie: "I believe that we need a better information highway available to the members of our communities.  The people in our township should have easy access to decisions, events, and issues concerning our township.   There has to be several different venues set up, due to the different access that each and everyone of us have."


Fell:  "[5]  The community should always be informed of decisions made on their behalf & kept up to date on events & issues."   

Holmes:  "[4]  I feel we already have acheived this within our web site"

A-2.  There is a need for a significant increase in community / volunteer participation in the Township.  For example, the e-mail / newsletter could be a volunteer activity.

We were looking for a recognition of the role of, and the importance of, volunteers from all walks of life and all ages; the role of co-op students; township financial support, and provision of working space; township promotion of, and evaluation of, a volunteer program; frequency of volunteer involvement; fostering social interaction and the sense of community; training of volunteers; presenting a sense of welcome -You Are Important!

Finley: "[3]  I would prefer that our Webb site is used to convey information to our citizens A By-Yearly Newsletter working with volunteers would also be benefical."  

Robins:  "[4]  people enjoy the social side of volunteerism and I am sure would help."

McDonald: "[5]  Upon graduation in 2001, my daughter volunteered her time to organize and draft a distributed newsletter for the Township. As her career progressed she was no longer able to continue this role and new volunteers were needed to continue the newsletter. I feel very strongly about the need for volunteer participation among the A/H communities."


Jeninga:  "[5]"

Ritchie: "There are alot of good volunteers in our community, but there is always a need for more.  I am sure that there are people out there that would be glad to give of their time if they had direction and felt welcomed."


Fell:  "[5]  I am a strong advocate in community participation in all facets of community life."

Holmes:  "[4]  There is always a demand and need for volunteers."

A-3.  Township initiatives, bylaws, and programs should enhance the quality of life of all the residents of A/H.

We were looking for a statement of the indication to the extent that concern for the quality of life should be a guiding principle for Council; that this concern is a Council’s responsibility; the need for open consultation, transparency, the cooperative sharing of information; recognition of, and respect for, the diverse interest groups of the Township; an explanation of what the greater good is and how it is determined; how progress is measured.

Finley: "[3]  It would almost be impossible to improve the quality of life every time a decision is made but this concept should be considered every time we face major issues"

Robins:  "[5]  I agree but not all people are concerned or feel it is important to enhance their quality of life."  

McDonald: " [5]  Although enhancing the quality of life for all residents is ideal; it is fair to say that this is sometimes impossible. I strongly agree with the statement, however, it would be more realistic to say that: “...programs should enhance the quality of life of ‘the majority’ of the residents of A/H.” "


Jeninga:  "[4/5]  Sometimes quality can be affected temporaily e.g. Construction or building"

Ritchie: "Because of the large area of rural area in A/H Township, it would be impossible for all programs, bylaws, and initiatives to enhance the quality of life of all the residents of A/H.  One would hope that each program, bylaw, or initiative would be individually accessed and be of benefit to a vast majority of A/H taxpayers, and residents."


Fell:  "[5]  We should all profit as a community from all programs enacted."

Holmes:  "[3]  All of the above do not neccesarily associeate themselves the quality of life. Any that do, should at least sustain, or enhance quality of life."

B-1.  How do you see the Township in four years, and how do you plan to bring about your vision?

We were looking for a commitment; specifics within the vision, a vision tempered by the realistic restraints placed on the Township by global environmental factors and by different levels of Government; an indication of their awareness of the complexities of growth, and the inherent conflicts and contradictions; an indication of how they would involve the citizens in this vision; reference to their powers and limitations placed on them.   

Finley:  "We need to continue with and enhance programs in place. This includes infrastructure community facilities and programs for all of our citizens regardless of their age and interests."

Robins:  "The Twp has & will continue to grow. the northern area will continue to support camps & recreation & we need to serve to help promote this form of recreation & business - the southern & central area. need to be evaluatated ie - need for new residents - ie Centreton (?) - future plans for (Arena this one (?) least 50-55 yrs old - upgrades to infrastructure and available gov grants accessabitey upgrades to present buldgs - possibly light industry as 401 corridor is so close" 

McDonald:  "The economy and the people of our communities dictate the direction, decisions made, and the future of A/H Township. My vision, or plan of action, is to maintain and withhold the integrity of our financial situation while addressing the growth and development that our taxpayers present to us each day. Realistically, I can neither create growth nor stop it. However, I can manage it and ensure the local commuity that the decisions made are educated ones."


Jeninga:  "-maintain the good quality infrasture we have, not to put off projects to save money, it costs more to catch up than to bite the bullet! - I would like to see the start up of an Industrial Park to bring in more Industry for tax dollors (along 401 somewhere)"

Ritchie: "I would like to see more involvement in the democratic process in our Township.  This is the second municipal election that I have been in this township and neither election has had a true race.  However, I do hear alot of grumbling about how things are run.  I hope that even if it's by adversity more people will take an interest in the running of our quietly forgotton municipality."


Fell:  "I see a development of our community, in all aspects but especially tourism & residence (?) & will explore all oppurtunities to bring this to fruition."

Holmes:  "I see continued growth (residential) in our township. I deerly would like to see light industry locate here as well. I will support all of the above after careful scrutinization."

B-2.  If land use such as an aggregate pit or subdivision or industry is permitted in an area, what will you do to stand up for and protect nearby residents, their health, their quality of life, and their property rights?

We were looking for sensitivity - a respect for the personal and emotional well-being of the residents, their property rights and their quality of life; awareness of the appeal and enforcement procedures; awareness of the deficiencies in the enforcement procedures; a respect for different points-of-view; pragmatism as in “Let’s face it” realism; recognition of the interactions amongst the MNR, the MOE, the LTCA, the Planning Act .

Finley:  "The Planning Act, Ministry of Environment regulations, Conservation Authorities and Local municipal Governments all work together to ensure individual property rights are recognized, and health/Quality of life protected"

Robins: "If the land use is permitted I will work to put as many safe guards as is possible in place to protect the residents before it is actualy built - if it is already there I will work with Council to monitor & make sure the rules are followed"

McDonald: "The Shelter Valley Pit is a classic example of how I would approach a major development in our Township. Actions taken included site visits and personal meetings with local neighbours, and I was also involved in changing the access from Shelter Valley Road to an unmaintained section of Turk Road.All manditory studies were addressed and reviewed with results agreed to by the developer. I believe the negotiated conclusion was fair and balanced to benefit all parties including the people of the area and the township, as well as the developer."


Jeninga: " - have imput (positive not negative) by property owners - not give a Company free reign to rape our land - try to find win win situations for all - any non hard surface must have dust suppresant when needed"

Ritchie: "Each one of these issues would have to be looked at on a individual basis.  Our society runs on the theory of the greater good for all, so these issues would have to be looked at from all sides.  Is this subdivision or industry or aggregate pit going to add benefit to a large majority?  Are there any concrete concerns about health issues pertaining to each individual issue?  What type of quality of life are we talking about?  What property rights do each concerned party have?"


Fell:  "I am for developement but not at the detriment of the community & will rigorously persue the correct procedure is followed in all cases & that the community has a strong voice."

Holmes:  "I will listen to and address my rate payers concerns while considering the interests of the municipality. No hasty decisions on my part."

B-3.  Valley Voices intends to organize and encourage its members that reside close to the proposed Turk road gravel pit to appeal their real property tax assessments.  Their property values have already been affected and will be substantially reduced if the pit is licensed and commences operation.  If you are on Council what do you intend to do to protect the value of ratepayers’ homes from the adverse effects on property values of nearby gravel pit activities?

We were looking for an awareness of the appeal procedure with MPAC; a recognition of their powers to appeal assessments; understanding of the far-reaching ripple effects of the pit; an indication of how to help property owners who have been denied the chance to sell their property on the open market free from hindrance; how their response here compares to their vision.

Finley:  "Those who reside in the Immediate area need protection as per property tax assessment. If the gravel pit is approved by the O.M.B property owners on the  Turk Road East haul route may find their property gains value."

Robins:  "We have worked as a council to solve the taxpayers concerns in order to protect the value of property safty & way of life before the issue is dealt with at OMB level the out come will be monitored by council so the final ruling is up-held & property values should continue to sustain a realistic value in future as properties are bought & sold."

McDonald:  "During all recent meetings there has been very few discussions regarding property value issues.Topics that were of concern for the local residnets included safety, water, visual and environmental, plant life, animals, noise, vibrations, etc.. Hank Jensen is the only local residient who stated that his farm was his retirement plan and he hoped that the the pit development didn’t effect him financially. If a pit is in fact developed in that location and residents can provide documentation in property value assessment decreases, I will certainly support their appeal and help to resolve any inssues that would cause that situation."


Jeninga:  "mixed feeling on this one. Short term values down long term they will go up higher than land on the Oak ridges Moraine. remember over 50% of A/H is on the Moraine."

Ritchie: "Every property owner has the right to appeal their property tax assessment.  I do not take anything at face value, therefore I am unable to comment at this time on values of property.  There are too many variables involved with property value, to point blank say that it was a neighboring property that has brought down the value of any one piece of property.  Again I can't stress enough that each case needs to be looked at individually."


Fell:  "Life of pit should be researched & have operators comit to an environmentally sound operation. Persue all avenues of a fair & just evaluation for all effected by such developments."

Holmes:  "I do not feel that any of the properties close by to proposed pit, have lost any value to this point. These advese effects are perceived not proven yet. There is little a council can do to protect these values".

To comment on this survey and/or the results, go to

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Press release from Spragge


Contact: Bob Dodd
Campaign Manager 

Team Jan Spragge

(905) 885-0664


After careful consideration of the current local political scene and detailed evaluation following weeks of activity across the riding, I have decided to withdraw my name as a candidate for nomination in the riding of Northumberland Quinte West in the next Provincial election.  It became quite apparent that more time was required for me to be successful and time ran out.

The lead up to the nomination has been an experience which I value and will benefit from as I consider future options.  I continue to stand for a positive vision for our riding and our province.  My dedication to responsible government as well as commitment to assisting John Tory in becoming Premier of Ontario remains paramount.

I cannot say enough about my many supporters and the encouragement they have given me since entering the race.  And, I thank them wholeheartedly for their support. 

I would especially like to thank my team and advisors.  They should be proud of the innovative campaign they have run. 

Team Spragge has attracted many new and young people to the political process who in turn have fresh and innovative ideas on how government needs to be run.  I sincerely hope that our campaign is just the start of political reform and that these innovators carry on to change the face of politics to reflect a growing need for less restrictive and less intrusive government that promotes greater personal freedom.

Spragge suddenly drops from Conservative nomination race

In a stunning announcement, Jan Spragge suddenly dropped out of the race to represent the Tories in Northumberland-Quinte West in the next election yesterday.

Insiders dubbed her the "next Janet Ecker", following in the footsteps of a respected Conservative woman who served in several high-profile portfolios under Premier Mike Harris. Spragge also had a strong following in the west end of the riding, particularly Port Hope and Cobourg. At least that was the situation a few weeks ago.

She is the second person to drop out. David St. Charles also left the race after he was blind-sided by executive members when the Nov. 18 date was set for the nomination meeting at East Northumberland Secondary School in Brighton.

This leaves Cathy Galt, the wife of former Tory MPP Doug Galt, with no serious competition and a lock on the nomination. Carl Egginman and Rob Milligan remains, neither are serious challengers.

Spragge was a fresh face and brought a sense of new vitality to the local Tories. She was extremely polished and was compared to former Liberal MP Christine Stewart, a former federal member for Northumberland, in terms of her grace and charm, according to one insider. She was heralded as a quick study and very good with people one-on-one.

More than anything, she represented a portion of the local party interested in new faces and approaches. Many of the old stalwarts were working with Galt. There were concerns by some that the Galts  were using up their welcome within the party, as if they had "had their turn", as one person put it.

Well, now they will get another, no doubt.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Responding to criticisms of Williams

An email from Greg Hancock:

I think you are  being too hard on Llloyd Williams.

Llloyd said  that his chances in becoming Mayor of Cobourg are very slim.  I am a  supporter of Lloyd and have heard him say this, but he is probably right.  In your column in the Cobourg Daily Star you discuss the great  advantage that incumbents have, and this is what Llloyd is fighting against.  Llloyd may be the only councillor who thinks on his feet ( or even  thinks), he may be the only councillor that does his own research and the  only one who speaks his mind at council, and he actually listens to  delegations. But unfortunately Cobourg has cultivated a don't rock the boat  ethos; remember the Town's motto is "Our strength is our Unanimity" and it  the council plays this to the hilt.

I have heard  Llloyd speak, I have had discussions with him, and I have talked to other  electors.  Many people who I speak to think that Llloyd would make the  best mayor.  If they all vote it will give him a chance of winning.    One of the charms of Llloyd is that he tells things the way that  they are:  he does have only a slim chance off winning, so surely it is  refreshing to hear a politician tell the truth.  Manfred Schumann also  has a propensity for the truth, which is often difficult for people to take  when they have become used to sugar coated nonentities.

On of  your previous blogs was entitled "Williams firing blanks; time to get out  heavy artillery".  It appears that Lloyd can do nothing right in your  book.  I think you misunderstand Lloyd, and to certain extent you  misunderstand, and underestimate, the electorate.  We do not all want  to be charmed with nonsense, we do remember the past, and we do want change.  Lloyd's campaign, and that of some of the other candidates for change,  is not built upon making exciting events for the media but is rather putting  out thoughtful brochures that tell things the way that they are, and talking  to the electorate.  I imagine you do know from Lloyd's campaign  literature that he is highly critical of the current mayor and especially  that Llloyd champions our local police force.  One of the significant  events at the Chamber of Commerce's All Candidates' Meeting was that all the  candidates now champion our police, if you had listened to Delanty you would  have marveled at his hypocrisy. 

I am a regular reader of your column  and your blog, but I would appreciate some balance and understanding. If you  also believe that  we need change there are some good things that can  be said about Lloyd's platform rather than just criticizing his  style.

Being called on my criticism of Williams

I received an excellent email today from a blog reader who chastized me for being overly critical of mayoralty candidate Lloyd Williams. The author called on me to be more fair and balanced in my commentary.

This is my response:

"Thanks. Maybe you are right. I want change. Call it tough love. He is a good man and I respect him. However, I am really frustrated with his campaign. That’s when I start writing. I agree with  his stand on the police and the senior centre. I admire how he handled the protection services portfolio over his time in office during the last term. He is one reason we got a contract negotiated with the officers and staff. Lloyd is hardworking, dedicated, truly caring and listens. While I may not always agree with some of his positions, I believe he puts a lot of effort and thought into it.

Delanty’s campaign is a juggernaut. There is plenty of fodder for Lloyd to capitalize on to make the public aware of the weaknesses of his opponent. Sometimes, he gets bogged down in process (nuts and bolts). Maybe I am missing those times when he is hammering away. But, I think the campaign has to get a lot harder hitting if he hopes to win."