Should we the people have some form of accountability from those we elect to govern us, or do we have to wait till the next election as our only recourse? According to Sun Media columnist Brian MacLeod the answer is “All you need is an electorate who, from time to time, wakes up and pays attention.” MacLeod wrote a column titled 'Recalls rarely achieve intended goal' and it was published in The Standard August 23rd 2012. Almost half of this column is spent on criticism of the US and their style of politics, even Arnold Schwarzenegger is mentioned. Then the question is raised, “Now, hands up all those who believe the US has better governance than Canada.”
As always we will jump up on our pedestals here and point fingers at the US style of governance in comparison to Canadian. Yet in the US a State Governor faced hand cuffs and jail whilst here in Canada an individual no longer in public office can admit to receiving brown paper envelopes stuffed with cash and walk away from any consequence. Maybe it's not the US style of governance that should be compared but the fact that accountability does exist there. How much of it exists in Canada?
MacLeod in his column says, “It's almost always about two things – politics and money.” Truer words have never been spoken, but who's money is the real question. Millions of tax payer dollars were spent on an enquiry that made an attempt to dig up the truth. The result was as expected and the head of the enquiry publicly stated that his hands were tied by the parameters set for the scope of the enquiry. Why was that so?
What avenues do we the people have in Canada when an elected public official is proven to have committed irregularities? Is the only recourse left to us in Canada to wait for a sinking popularity for the next election before we can “yank a politicians chain.” After all if that's all we have then the politician walks away with a healthy pension paid with our tax dollars and a huge grin on his face. Now that's true governance Canadian style, eh.
It is not the tough or unpopular decisions that we want to stop they are necessary at times and it is not possible to please all in the community. What we need is some kind of mechanism that holds politicians accountable and enforces consequences. Everyone knows how politicians change during the elections, the promises made and deals formulated in exchange for voter support. What happens after the election?
In Ontario we have the Parliamentary Integrity Commissioner, well at least an individual holds that title and is paid with our tax dollars. The title makes one think that he as an independent body overseas issues regarding members of the provincial parliament. How wrong anyone can be.
Minister Jim Bradley currently holds the position as Minister of Environment in the McGuinty government. A 35 year veteran of politics touted for his incredible record of public service. This same Minister Jim Bradley protected a political pal from any consequence as that pal bent and butchered the law. Still that was not enough, Jim Bradley then gives his pal Mayor Brian McMullan of St. Catharines a contribution for his municipal re-election campaign. True there are times we forget that our elected representatives are also Canadian citizens and therefore have the same rights as we all do. In this situation Minister Jim Bradley clearly protected Mayor McMullan from investigation and any consequences for breaches of the Municipal Act and more, to have made a financial contribution to his re-election campaign was simply a sign of arrogance by Jim Bradley.
So now let's look elsewhere, anywhere that the public may take a grievance to. We now stand at the doors of the Ombudsman of Ontario. On the wall as one first exits the elevators it states “ONTARIO'S WATCH DOG.” Beg to differ on that boast, it is only a dog with dentures.
Back once again to Minister Jim Bradley, Ontario's hero of public service. As the Environment Minister Jim Bradley instructed two individual directors of the ministry to lie regarding official reports submitted by the ministry into record. The instructions to these directors had in fact been proven and documented. Our Environmental Bill of Rights shattered and official reports that were submitted to the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, who in turn submitted them in his annual report to the legislature, now tampered and altered. All the material and hard evidence provided to the Office of the Ombudsman, as it is within the jurisdictional authority of the Ombudsman to investigate provincial issues. In all fairness there has been no response as yet from the Ombudsman though little faith is held for an outcome that will enforce any consequences on Minister Jim Bradley.
The same Ombudsman had been provided direct evidence of the most senior public health official in the Niagara Region to have intentionally lied regarding a potential public health issue. Mind you the Ombudsman would normally not have jurisdictional authority to investigate municipal issues but in the case of the Niagara Region the province had taken authority over the Niagara Health System and appointed a provincial supervisor at its head. Niagara suffered heavily through the C.difficile outbreak with over three dozen deaths before the McGuinty government took action and in effect took control of the NHS, making it for the time being a provincially controlled body. Our Ombudsman, stated that since Dr. Valerie Jaeger MD, PhD., was a public official from the regional municipality of Niagara the Ombudsman had no authority to investigate. Mind you Dr. Jaeger MD, PhD., is also a practising family physician in St. Catharines governed under the rules of the NHS.
Moving on to our municipal government, after all it was Sudbury Mayor Marianne Matichuk who inspired Brian McLeod and his article. Who in fact oversees the municipalities? Does anyone in fact provide any protection to the people against mayors and city councillors? Mayor Matichuk had made a request of Municipal Affairs Minister Kathleen Wynne “to press for recall legislation in Ontario.” Brian MacLeod in his immense wisdom and knowledge had this to say, “Wynne would do well to smile and nod at the suggestion, then move on to more pressing issues.” Someone should tell MacLeod that this is all that ministers of the provincial Liberals do at all times without his advice.
In the city of St. Catharines its mayor decides that he can do as he pleases with the law and fixes a by-law fine after it was issued to an individual. One of his own city councillors for the Merritton Ward Jennie Stevens leaves an answering machine message to the individual who had the by-law infringement. The message states that Mayor Brian McMullan had taken care of the ticket and he did not have to pay for it. Under the Municipal Act no mayor has the legal authority to interfere with by-law fines once issued. This was breach of the Municipal Act and perjury of oath of office.
All the information including a copy of the message left by Councillor Jennie Stevens was sent to the Minister for Municipal Affairs, at that time it was Jim Bradley. St. Catharines is Minister Jim Bradley's riding and Mayor Brian McMullan is his personal friend. Minister Jim Bradley sheltered his pal from any consequence, and in his arrogance provided a cash contribution to Brian McMullan's re-election campaign.
This has not been the end of the transgressions of St. Catharines Mayor Brian McMullan. In an odd situation a Niagara Regional Councillor became the target of anonymous accusations. These accusations were sent to the local press, through the internet and reached senior staff at Niagara Region. The anonymous accusers even sent a false complaint to the Niagara Regional Police which is in breach of the Criminal Code. Regional Councillor Andrew Petrowski and his family had to survive this onslaught in public. Mayor Brian McMullan who sits on Regional Council called for Councillor Petrowski to resign on the basis of the anonymous accusations that had been proven to be false and malicious. Mayor Brian McMullan took things much further by making a public statement in the press admitting to have knowledge of the identity of the anonymous accusers. In fact Mayor McMullan admitted to complicity to a breach of the criminal code. Nothing was done, no questions asked of Mayor McMullan and the matter was left to die.
Arrogance by our elected representatives is not uncommon. Each holds his or her hat in their hands when an election times roll around and quickly forgetting everything once elected. True there are times for hard and tough decisions making it impossible to please everyone in the community. Yet in Ontario we have no protection at all against the intentional transgressions of those we elect. Do not bring up the Integrity Commissioner, the Ombudsman, the Environmental Commissioner nor the Auditor General. Each is a pseudo-government watchdog that barks when it suits them and drops its false teeth in a jar.
So what are we left with in the end. Are we to simply shut up and bare it till the next election? According to the brilliance of Brian MacLeod that is all. Another brilliant representative of Sun Media wisdom Jim Hendry had this to say in relation to Toronto Mayor Rob Ford who faces the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act. “Ford didn't and should have his knuckles rapped. But the Conflict of Interest Act doesn't provide for small punishment, and no mayor should be turfed for $3150 worth of arrogance.” (Point of view: Toronto mayor's stupidity could be his salvation. The Standard, August 30th 2012, by Jim Hendry). According to Sun Media we now have a dollar value on the need for consequence by our elected representatives when caught breaking the law. Shall we transfer such an attitude when applying the Criminal Code? But then it did happen that way in St. Catharines with another mayor, Mayor Brian McMullan.
When is it simply enough?
Send comments to: email@example.com