ELECTION

July 27, 2015 – Submission to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs regarding the 2014 Municipal Election

On Friday, I learned that the Ministry was conducting a review of the 2014 municipal elections and had requested input from electors across the province with a view to changes to the Municipal Elections Act. I put this submission together based almost entirely on the posts from October which are below.

In addition to sending it to the office conducting the review, I sent a copy to the Minister, and, of course, to the Council and CAO/Clerk Will Moore.

Oct 10, 2014Another protest letter to Will Moore about the All-Candidates meeting

A resident of Chatsworth sent a copy of the following email to me with a request that his/her name not be revealed.

Dear Mr. Moore:

I was dismayed by several incidents surrounding the moderator at the All-Candidates meeting last week.

1. I know that Trevor Falk has been an outspoken critic of the biodigester situation, but I felt that Mr. Elliot’s insistence that Mr. Falk stick to posing a question, before Mr. Falk had even opened his mouth, was uncalled for. The time to have reprimanded Mr. Falk was when or indeed if he had demonstrated that he was not going to stick to posing a question. Mr. Elliot’s tone and body posture was aggressive to the point of intimidation.

2. It was out of line to call upon Mr. Elliot to comment on matters relating to the police services board. This was a forum in which political candidates were being assessed on their grasp of municipal issues. For an incumbent to give the floor to a supposedly “unbiased”, non-candidate moderator, and for that moderator to offer his comments, was questionable at best.

3. Mr. Elliot’s final act of handing the meeting over to an incumbent candidate to comment on matters which had not been raised in any question from the floor was inappropriate.

I would respectfully request that these issues be examined in the hope that similar situations can be avoided in future.

Sincerely,
(name)

October 8, 2014All-Candidates Meeting in Williamsford on October 2, 2014

The Moderator for the all-candidates meeting on Thursday evening was Mr. R. Elliot, a resident of Chatsworth.

About half-way through the meeting, I rose to ask a question of the Mayor about the lack of transparency, especially regarding the financial picture of the bio-digester and the businesses on the Sunset Strip being subsidised by Chatsworth taxpayers.

Before I was able to say anything, the Moderator “reminded” me to ask a question. He interrupted twice in about the first 20 seconds of my preamble to provide further instructions to me: “Ask your question.”

The next day, I sent this email to Will Moore:

Hello Will,

I assume you hired the moderator for last night’s meeting, and further that his instructions were to conduct the meeting in a “neutral” and “unbiased” manner. Please advise if these assumptions are correct.

Did you provide any other advice or directions to him, and if so, what were they?

Assuming that you did not instruct him to treat me differently from every other person who approached the microphone, please confirm that he decided to do so entirely of his own volition and if so, what you have already done (or intend to do) about it.

I would appreciate a response to this email by 4:00 pm on Monday, October 6, 2014.

Thanks in advance,

Trevor

+ + + + + + + + + +

Around noon on Monday, Mr. Moore sent this reply to me by email:

Good Morning Trevor,

Mr. Elliot hosted at my request. He came highly recommended and respected. He was not paid. His instructions were to lay out the framework (3 minute speeches and then questions from the floor). He was to thank the candidates for putting their names forward and to ask the audience to show respect toward them.

From my discussion with Mr. Elliot after the event he indicated that when he saw you approach the microphone with a book he wanted to reinforce that the meeting was intended for questions and not, in his words, a “sermon”.

When I report to Council part of my recommendation will be that the municipality encourage local organizations to host candidate meetings in the future. I apologize if you feel singled out.

Will Moore,
Returning Officer

+ + + + + + + + + +

Here is my reply to Mr. Moore sent early on that same afternoon:

Good afternoon Will,

Thanks for the response, and for your apology. You need to know, though, that I didn’t feel singled out by Mr. Elliot – I was singled out. There is a difference.

I know now that I am not the only person to object to “irregularities” in the way Mr. Elliot conducted the meeting. I understand that there have been written objections to Mr. Elliot providing a “platform” at the end for Mayor Pringle, and to the fact that Mr. Elliot used time during the meeting to squelch any suggestions from candidates that change with respect to policing is possible. More fundamentally, I now know that one or more people have expressed the view that Mr. Elliot should have been disqualified from consideration as a “neutral” moderator by virtue of his present appointment.

The Municipal Elections Act, 1996 gives you very wide powers for exercising judgment as to how to conduct an election. Even so, it is difficult for me to see how “encouraging local organizations to host candidate meetings in the future” as suggested in your email would, in and of itself, meet a reasonable test of Section 13(2) which says: The clerk shall provide electors, candidates and persons who are eligible to be electors with information to enable them to exercise their rights under this Act (my emphasis in bold). I agree with you that more all-candidates meetings would be better; however, trying to “duck” the issue (like you seem to be suggesting) could easily create more work and more problems than simply putting some clear guidelines in place to ensure neutrality.

The implication throughout the Act is that you carry out all of your responsibilities in an absolutely neutral, unbiased manner. Arguably, this was not the case with regard to all aspects of the arrangements you made for the all-candidates meeting on Thursday.

In the circumstances, you might consider posting a statement on the Chatsworth website to the effect that you did not give the matter of a “neutral moderator” sufficient thought before inviting Mr. Elliot to perform that service. In addition, it may be appropriate for you to suggest to Mr. Elliot that you would also post an apology from him for not remaining strictly neutral as people who attended the meeting had the right to expect. As you know, I am not a lawyer so I don’t know what precedents might have been established by the Superior Court of Justice regarding Controverted Elections (Section 83 of the Act), but a statement from you and an apology from Mr. Elliot might preclude difficulties down the road.

+ + + + + + + + + +

I have permission from Mr. E. Neelands to post the contents of his email to Mr. Moore late on Friday afternoon:

Hi Will,

I’m still “burning” as a result of:

1) the moderator’s treatment of Trevor Falk;
2) the moderator as a municpal representative on the Police Board being asked to act in this “neutral” position;
3) the moderator “taking up time” to speak “on behalf” of the Board and therefore denying people the opportunity to pose questions at the conclusion of the meeting and
4) the moderator asking the incumbent mayor for “closing remarks”.

It stinks! Our township is made up of fine people who do not deserve this partisan and petty approach to democracy.

I was delighted to see such a wonderful turn-out at this all-candidates meeting. I believe that it was in large part due to Mr. Falk’s efforts in bringing the Biodidgester Boondoggle to our attention through the media.

Open Letter to Mayor Bob Pringle (posted on Oct 1, 2014)

I was gob-smacked by Mayor Bob Pringle’s flyer that arrived with the mail yesterday. For those who haven’t yet seen it, I’ve posted it here. As a result, I sent the following to the Mayor at about 9:45 am this morning. This open letter to the Mayor was also published on The Owen Sound Hub (you can see the letter here).

Dear Mayor Pringle,

Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, demonstrates the lack of openness and absence of communication in Chatsworth better than your election flyer that arrived in the mail yesterday.

Your flyer lists your experience on numerous boards and committees, for which I commend you. But it does not contain a single word about what you have done in any of those positions, especially as Mayor over the past four years. And it is silent on what you intend to do in the next four.

The flyer says nothing about current issues that the residents of Chatsworth are talking about during this election campaign such as the recent huge tax increase, the continuing subsidies by Chatsworth of the businesses on the Sunset Strip through the bio-digester Agreement, and road maintenance. Nor does it mention a single upcoming issue such as how you propose to cope with the pending large increases in policing costs.

I thought the purpose of elections is to give voters an indication of candidates’ thoughts about dealing with issues that we all know exist, the principles that will guide candidates in addressing problems that will surely arise, and the candidates’ plans and ideas about changes and improvements. Silly me.

With respect, your flyer sends four messages to the residents of Chatsworth, all of which are variations on the same theme. First: “No matter what the issue, trust me.” Second: “I don’t need to bother informing you about issues and seeking your thoughts and ideas because I know what you want and need.” Third: “Everything is fine.” And fourth: “Just pay your taxes and keep quiet.”

Yours truly,

Trevor Falk

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