Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Looking Forward, Looking Back

December brings with it many different celebrations and the most universal of all is New Year's Eve. Regardless of what corner of the world one comes from, the anticipation of the dawn of a new year brings joy and celebration.

Across the globe and in so many languages the anthem for the new year is sung. In Times Square, New York tens of thousands gather to count down the dropping ball. In Sydney, Australia fireworks begin to light the night skies, elaborate and beautiful. The world comes together in a celebration which transcends language, custom, race and nationality for the same purpose.

Messages of hope for the future stream across the airwaves from leaders of countries and faiths. Privately many make their resolutions that are unlikely to be kept. Regardless, most look back on the passing year and look forward to the virginal new days with some degree of hope. In the end each of us holds the steering wheel of destiny for our own future.

As we look at the year that has passed each individual will find some event which had left a scar that they would not want to repeat. For most it is a time to look forward, believing that the future holds greater promise. Yet we cannot deny that our past impacts our future, and although the path or direction is not preset by the past, its journey becomes more laborious.

Collectively, humanity has achieved immense progress. It has shown that maturity and knowledge are keys to developing a future with optimism. For all of us, whether as individuals or as nations, our past is a foundation on which to build on. There have been massive strides forward in science, technology and medicine. We have come to a realisation that we must nurture our planet, its air, soil and waters for a sustainable future for the coming generations. Even the way we govern our communities has led to an exchange of ideas and thoughts without fear of persecution and reprisal.

Still, humanity's most basic trait has not been subdued and violence has torn us apart. Looking back at 2014 one is left with a chilling view; not one of hope but of despair. The roll call of violence in 2014 touches every continent and scars every month of the year.

It is not possible to start with one incident as a spark which set humanity on fire. Decades of hate and atrocities between Israel and Palestine exploded again after nine months of peace talks that broke down in April. After the breakdown, the world saw a new horror in this ugly war where teenagers became the targets and pawns for death merchants. The first were two Palestinian teenagers killed in the West Bank on May 15th, then followed by three Israeli teenagers abducted and killed on June 12th, and a reprisal by Israelis on July 2nd as a Palestinian teenager was abducted and burned to death. Finally July 8th saw Israel launch a military campaign against Hamas; the war lasted 50 days and killed more than 2100 Palestinians against 72 Israeli. Most of the Palestinians were civilians.

Across the globe Russia's Vladimir Putin decided that peace and prosperity should be remnants of the past with the annexation of Crimea and military intervention in eastern Ukraine. International law meant little to Putin and his actions brought condemnation from around the world and eventually serious economic sanctions which have crippled Russia's economy.

Africa has had its share of violence struggling with poverty, hunger and political unrest for decades. This time it was Nigeria that woke to the sound of gunfire and screams of pain. A new demon rose by the name of Boko Haram, wishing to install its own vision of prosperity without education, based solely in fear and a rebirth of the dark ages. Boko Haram stands by a belief that girls should not attend schools and that boys should only be given an Islamic education. With that insanity in mind their terror campaign led to the abduction of some 275 school girls in Chibok, Nigeria, of which 219 are still missing. Following this attack, in April a suicide bomber believed to be part of the terrorist group Boko Haram killed 46 students in Potiskum, Nigeria.

Islamic terrorists found themselves at the forefront of news reports again in Peshwar, Pakistan later in the year. This time it was Pakistani Taliban murderers who attacked a school, killing 132 children and 9 staff, making this the bloodiest school siege worldwide in nearly a decade.

Religion has been used by humanity as a banner behind which monstrous atrocities had been committed for centuries. Whether in the hands of Christians waving the symbol of the red cross throughout the Crusades, or the Jews singing the chorus of “never again” as their tanks and rockets level houses, tearing apart innocent civilian flesh, all in the name of faith. Today our headlines are too often faced with followers of Islam who seem to think that the butchery of innocents truly is the yellow brick road to their salvation.

Was it the dream of eternal salvation that drove Man Haron Manis in Sydney, Australia, or simply an insane nightmare? This was a man who had committed a number of crimes yet found himself still with the luxury of freedom as he took hostages in the Lindt Cafe. In the end his life was ended by police, and two innocent human beings who had not known him or his religion paid with their lives. Their family and friends left with anguish and pain in a world gone mad.

The Islamic States of Iraq and Syria found that Al Qaeda was to give birth to a new madness under the title of ISIS. ISIS found world attention with the kidnapping of journalist James Foley and his public execution on television. More kidnappings and beheadings of innocent civilians brought recognition to this group of terrorists by the CIA and a world united to its eradication.

Politics and economics have followed religion as great motivators of the human spirit. In the past we have seen revolutions in France and Russia, the rise of madman Adolf Hitler and the longevity of an equal in Josef Stalin. In April, Venezuela found its people taking to the streets in protest to a broken economy, an uncontrolled crime rate and political repression. Violence spilled across the Venezuelan capital with the country's leader ordering arrests and torture.

Torture as a tool of terrorists has been refined over the ages to a fine art. In the US, a country seen by the world over as a leader in democracy and equality, the Senate Intelligence Committee released its report on the CIA's use of brutal torture of detainees in Guantanamo Bay. Hundreds of pages detailing man's inhumanity to man had been made public. At the end of it all the most chilling response came from Dick Cheney, the former Vice President under George Bush Jr. In interviews Cheney said, “All the techniques that were authorised by the president were in effect, blessed by the Justice Department.” Here the mere title of Justice Department can only be seen as an abomination of language, especially as Cheney continued with, “we were very careful to stop short of torture.” Rectal feeding was not considered as torture by former US Vice President Dick Cheney, and when he said “I'd do it again in a minute” he brought the world to a momentary standstill.

America not only picked up the baton of the ancient crusaders singing a chorus of “never again,” it also found world attention in its torture of the American soul. Ferguson, Missouri on August 9th became a centre of repression of freedom and a right to life, with the shooting of Michael Brown by a white police officer.

Long ago the words of Martin Luther King reached out to all who believe in a basic concept of equality in humanity. Martin Luther King had a dream where an individual was to be judged upon his or her attributes, not the colour of their skin. Sadly this dream has been turned into a nightmare with continuing racial hatred that time and time again explodes into public attention as with the shooting of Michael Brown and the death of Eric Garner in New York.

Race was not an issue, nor was political unrest, when reservist Corp. Nathan Cirillo's life came to an end at the hands of a madman. Corp. Cirillo stood honourary guard at the National War Memorial in Ottawa, Canada; a single father with dreams for his future. Just another innocent caught in the sights of madness that had gripped the front pages across the world.

Humanity's propensity for violence has provided disturbing headlines month after month, and little else. There are those like Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, at the United Nation's Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), who comes to the aid of hundreds of thousands of victims displaced by war and natural disasters. Valerie Amos said in CERF's annual report, “In my four years as Emergency Relief Coordinator, I have seen the impact that CERF funding has had for some of the world's most vulnerable people from Sudan to Mali, from Afghanistan to Haiti.” CERF throughout 2014 have allocated and used $450 million US dollars in 44 countries. Relief such as that offered by CERF is important but it always comes after an event. Our very future rests not on scientific discovery or conservation of the world's resources, it depends on change. Yet how do we achieve this change when our very history is built on violent struggle?

The most chilling statement came from Pro-life Congressman Steve Stockman of the Republican Party when he said, “If babies had guns they wouldn't be aborted.” Our babies in fact are being weaned on the acceptance of violence, believing that events in Africa, Palestine or Ukraine do not impact their lives.

It is time to celebrate. It is time to look towards the dawn of a new year. Each of us has our dreams and goals which cannot be forgotten or put aside through pessimistic lament. True 2014 has not been the best of years but humanity has survived a great deal and together we can find a way forward.

Happy New Year to all!

Friday, December 5, 2014


What is the purpose of advertising? The answer is quite simple in fact. “It is a form of marketing communication used to encourage, persuade, or manipulate an audience (viewers, readers or listeners) to take or continue to take some action.” (Wikipedia, Advertising). Spending on advertising was estimated in 2010 to be $467 billion worldwide, and internationally there are four giant conglomerates: Interpublic, Omnicom, Publicis and WPP.

Even in a bad economy advertising does not slow, in fact some in businesses believe that promoting or communicating their product or service is of a far greater necessity when money is tight. In Latin, ad vertere means “to turn around”; in any enterprise it is a tool to grab a share of an available market and audience.

Advertising messages are usually paid for by sponsors carried via various old media such as newspapers, magazines, television and radio advertisement, outdoor advertising or direct mail. In our ever changing and developing world we have new and somewhat exciting media opening up such as blogs, websites or text messages, Facebook and Twitter. As media forms are constantly expanding and changing, so are its clients. It is no longer only a need for businesses who provide a product to a market but today those clients span the full realm of society.

Regardless of who is the client or the type of media used, one basic commonality and link to the very early days of this massive industry's growth remains unchanged. Walter D. Scott, a psychologist of the early 20th century, said “Man has been called the reasoning animal but he could with greater truthfulness be called the creature of suggestion. He is reasonable, but he is to a greater extent suggestible.” Psychology is still the major influencing factor in a good advertising campaign.

Partnered equally with psychology is taste. As tastes change so do advertising campaigns. Another giant of the advertising business, one who has been called “the father of modern advertising,” was Thomas J. Barratt from London. Barratt was working for the Pears Soap company and in 1907 had stated, “tastes change, fashions change, and the advertiser has to change with them. An idea that was effective a generation ago would fall flat, stale and unprofitable if presented to the public today. Not that the idea of today is always better than the older idea, but it is different – it hits the present taste.” (Wikipedia, Advertising).

Whether it is the ever changing tastes of a marketplace or understanding the basics of psychology the purpose of advertising has always been a simple one. Whoever the client is, big or small, providing a product or a service, and whatever media is chosen, newspaper, outdoor advertising or internet, the purpose is to deliver the proper message that the service or product is the best. In a world where competition can be fierce depending on the chosen field of endeavour, advertising is a tool which can provide growth and profit.

In Canada advertising as an industry is self-regulated through the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards which is administered by Advertising Standards Canada (ASC). This Code of Advertising Standards is broken into 14 specific clauses beginning with number one 'Accuracy and Clarity,' through to number fourteen 'Unacceptable Depictions and Portrayals'. The bottom line is simple, if any advertising does not comply with the Code's fourteen clauses it will be removed from public access or view.

Canada also has a Charter of Rights and Freedoms which are outlined under its first clause, “The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in its subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.” Clause 2 states, “Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms,” particularly of relevance is 2(b) “freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication.”

At this point a serious and frightening question arises. If the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards is to be accepted as the “prescribed” law in advertising and that “prescribed” law has not been breached, and if the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the fundamental freedom of the press and other media communication under its clause 2(b). What then motivates a provider of advertising space to breach signed contracts and refuse to publicly display an advertisement other than illegal censorship and breach of contract law?

Contracts are legally binding agreements between two parties. There are terms which both parties equally agree upon relating to costs, timelines specific to the provision of services or goods, and termination conditions relevant to the individual contract signed. Once a contract is signed and monies paid each party are equally bound by the conditions set out in the contract. Breach of any of the conditions agreed upon will, in most cases, result in costly legal action.

As a website providing news and information Mayorgate has grown to being read in over 30 countries outside the US and Canada, and a readership numbering well over half a million. Locally it was time to invest in advertising to promote the name and what Mayorgate attempts to achieve. Outdoor advertising was chosen as the most appropriate form of promoting the name and at the time most cost effective.

OMG Niagara of Cushman Road in St. Catharines was contacted. This company sells space on large waste and recycling bins that are located throughout the city on well travelled streets, at busy intersections, shopping malls and downtown. It is a relatively new avenue for advertising and one that provides great potential. After several phone calls with a representative of OMG Niagara, Scott Davidson, two contracts were signed. The first was dated August 19th 2014 and the second August 21st 2014. All monies requested were paid and a request made by Scott Davidson for artwork to be sent in PDF form to complied with.

After the first artwork was sent in, a phone call was received from Scott Davidson requesting some changes. The artwork was revised and sent in again to the attention of Gary Dingwall at OMG Niagara. What was designed was straightforward, simple and aimed at the promotion of the website and its name.

Artwork submitted to Gary Dingwall.

Several days after the revised artwork was sent in a phone message was received from Gary Dingwall of OMG. As one listens to the voice and the words both shock and revulsion are immediate responses. Immediately a previous incident comes to mind involving a potential mayoral candidate in the most recent municipal elections, Adam Arsenault. Arsenault had been threatened by former Mayor Brian McMullan to remove his tweet linking to the Mayorgate website. Mr. Dingwall of OMG makes it rather clear he has fear of reprisals by the City against his company. Can anything like that be possible today in Canada? Can anything like this be permitted today in Canada?

OMG Niagara has been doing business in the Niagara Region for over a decade. Documents have been obtained from the Community Services Committee of the City of Niagara Falls dated February 3rd 2003, recommending a transfer of an agreement from Olifas Marketing Group Inc. to OMG Niagara. Originally an agreement had been approved by the City of Niagara Falls for Olifas Marketing Group Inc. to install Info Boxes and Info Bars on City road allowances. This agreement was approved in May 1998, and in May of 2002 and the City was approached by Mr. Gary Dingwall “indicating that the franchise for the installation of Info Bars and Info Boxes was transferred to Mr. Dingwall, operating as OMG Niagara by Olifas Marketing Group Inc.”

Olifas Marketing Group Inc. was founded by Salvatore Oliveti with Loredana Oliveti and Giancarlo Serpe named as officers of the company. OMG found itself in front of public attention when Montreal crime figure Vito Rizzuto had been arrested for impaired driving whilst driving a vehicle owned by OMG.

Vito Rizzuto had to have been one of the most well know Mob bosses in Canada. Unlike many others who hide behind a facade of legitimate business and the safety of political connections, Rizzuto was the epitome of a movie mobster. He served jail time in Colorado for his role in the death of three Bonanno crime family captains. Rizzuto died in 2013 in a Montreal hospital after apparent health complications; no autopsy was conducted.

Meanwhile back at OMG, Salvatore Oliveti, who was one of seven Ontario men named by Italian authorities in Mafia connections, claimed that he had no idea of Rizzuto's connection to his OMG. According to one of his lawyers, Symon Zucker, “No one knew (Rizzuto) had an interest in it.” (Client not mobster, lawyer says, Rob Lamberti, Toronto Sun, December 18, 2010). Yet further investigation shows that Vito Rizzuto's wife and children made $1.6 million from the sale of 8,750 shares in Olifas Marketing Group Inc. (OMG).

OMG in the end was sold to a Mexican outdoor advertising company Eumex. A Toronto City staff report dated December 12th 2003 advises the Works Committee and Council of the change in control and name change for Olifas Marketing Group Inc. The report states that OMG had been renamed Urban Equipment of Canada Inc. (EUCAN). Documents obtained from the City of Niagara Falls confirm that Olifas Marketing Group Inc. transferred the local franchise to Gary Dingwall operating as OMG Niagara.

It doesn't matter what happened to Salvatore Oliveti or his Olifas Marketing Group Inc.; its sale and renaming is simply a paper trail. Here in Niagara it is OMG Niagara, and it is still operating under that name. All business is administered by contract and therefore governed by contract legislation. Advertising that is placed by OMG Niagara must pass the basic guidelines of The Canadian Code of Advertising Standards. So now the question that demands an answer is why would OMG Niagara intentionally breach contracts that it had entered into?

As already stated two contracts were signed in August with OMG Niagara to have outdoor advertising space provided. The artwork complied in full with the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards. In response this voice message was left by Gary Dingwall of OMG Niagara. A full transcript of the short message is below.

Hi Alex, how are you. It's Gary from OMG. Boy you put me in a heck of a spot (laughs)! I thought it over and thought it over and I like the idea of somebody you know having um personal thoughts and that, but it was kind of misleading when we first talked that it was just a website. Um, what, what you're basically asking me to do is bite the hand that feeds me and um I can't if you have a personal thing against um ah the mayor or um any of the councilors, um we just can't, we can't advertise that, they're the ones that, they give us our permits and allow us to operate and put food on my table and I think you can understand that, um, if you want to Creative Outdoor Advertising might um advertise you, um, they're the bench people, don't have their number offhand but um I'll ask Scott to refund your money to you and um all the best to you. I'm, like I say I like somebody that's a debate and that thinks out of the box but I gotta look after um my business and um what, what I can do and can't do. Hope you understand, talk to you later, bye.”

Following receipt of the voice message left by Gary Dingwall two emails were sent to OMG Niagara. The first email dated September 14th 2014 requested a written termination by OMG Niagara. It was ignored by Gary Dingwall. The second email demanded a written termination notice by OMG Niagara. It was ignored by Gary Dingwall. According to the 'Terms and Conditions Covering This Advertising Contract' it states, “Unless otherwise stated herein, all notices provided here under shall be in writing and shall be given either by prepaid registered mail, or by personal delivery of same, address to OMG media or the client at the address contained on the face of the contract.” It also states that “All notices of cancellation must be received by OMG media in writing.” Finally on the back of the contract it states “The terms of this agreement shall be governed by the laws of the Province of Ontario.” OMG Niagara intentionally breached binding contracts and refused to provide the cancellation in writing.

In addition to breach of contract, Gary Dingwall lied in his voice message. Gary said in his own voice “when we first talked that it was just a website.” Dingwall lied! At no time, not over the phone nor in person had I spoken with Gary Dingwall about anything. My only contact was with Scott Davidson who represented OMG and signed the contracts. This is the same Scott that is referred to in the voice message by Gary Dingwall. Gary Dingwall lied!

Not only did Gary Dingwall lie, he accused me of lying to him when he said “but it was kind of misleading...” Dingwall lied, he decided to breach contracts, he also decided to breach the Charter of Rights, and in his cowardice he accused another individual of deceit. What has Gary Dingwall got to fear so much? He goes on to say, “...we cannot advertise that, they're the ones that, they give us our permits and allow us to operate and put food on my table...”. Does Dingwall fear the mayor and councillors? Does Dingwall fear reprisals of some sort from City government in some fashion? Can any mayor or councillor threaten a business for any reason whatsoever?

Dingwall's message concludes with, “I'm, like I say I like somebody that's a debate and that thinks out of the box but I gotta look after, um, my business and um what, what I can do and can't do.” What has Gary Dingwall got to fear? OMG Niagara was a franchise which began life from a business run by Salvatore Oliveti. Oliveti's connections were not exactly ones that fear too much especially in their line of business. OMG Niagara still operates under a name that suffered heavy financial losses due to bad publicity and an apparent connection to Vito Rizzuto. Most business logic would necessitate disassociation with such a business.

OMG Niagara has had other problems to deal with. It appears that a hot dog cart is or was operated by OMG Niagara. This hot dog cart ran head-on into a collision with regional health inspectors. This is the same OMG Niagara on the breached advertising contracts as on the Health Inspection Report issued by Region of Niagara health inspectors, with the same address, 41-286 Cushman Road, St. Catharines. According to Niagara Region records a verbal closure order was issued on May 22nd 2014, then a ticket issued July 29th 2014, another closure order issued on May 22nd 2014, and a conviction July 29th 2014. All of this in breach of health code regulations for safe handling of food. It appears that OMG Niagara not only is willing to breach Ontario contract law but has little regard for health regulations in relation to its hot dogs.

Still, failing numerous regional health inspections does not explain what its president Gary Dingwall had to fear. The stench of fear is clear and evident in Dingwall's voice on the message and most definitely in his words. Yet the question remains, what did Gary Dingwall fear? St. Catharines' exiting Mayor Brian McMullan had threatened a potential mayoral candidate illegally in the lead up to the Municipal Elections of 2014, simply for a tweet that linked to Mayorgate. Did OMG and Gary Dingwall fear worse actions, so he decided to censor Mayorgate?

The law is simple, contracts were signed and monies paid with full compliance to the accepted rules of the Advertising Council. Breach of contract and the cowardly refusal to supply a written termination only further add to the illegality of the situation. For that reason legal action has been prepared against OMG Niagara and Gary Dingwall, damages will be claimed and an explanation demanded. It will be interesting to put Gary Dingwall under oath in court of law with this question; who threatened you and how?

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Friday, October 24, 2014

Chasing your vote - Municipal Elections 2014

For politicians on any level truth becomes only a matter of convenience often measured on a scale of self-importance. As we head into another round of Municipal elections this fact needs to be broadcast loud and clear. In the real world of cities such as Toronto, Hamilton and others media exists to provide information on all the candidates. True, political bias and alliances are always evident in media yet somehow all the information finds its way to the people in the end. In St. Catharines, Ontario such a fantasy does not exist and the so called media is at the helm of pseudo Spielbergs creating illusion for sale to the local masses.

Politics itself has always had an air of smoke and mirrors about it, at least on a national level. After all a Prime Minister has to deal with such mundane issues as national security, possible wars, terrorism and more. Locally though it is hard to sell the need to have an ability or finesse at a good poker face. Who would you need to bluff? Homeowners who simply want decent roads so as not to lose their teeth on the way to work? Residents who want water rates at an affordable level and garbage collected?

Still politics is politics and its allure of power changes even the grassroots levels within its own sphere. Power in a big city is equally big power, power in a small town is still big power and its exhilarating effect impossible to ignore. Municipal politics remains the most closely associated level in the political landscape with the very people who elect their representatives. After all each resident has an opportunity to cast a vote for a neighbour as their representative on council.

As the neighbours hit the streets with signs big and small, with promises equally big and small, one most important point to remember in the final decision process is that once they're in, they're in. Lies, broken promises, even corruption doesn't matter, you can't pry them out. Toronto has proven that insanity is the norm in Canadian politics with the Ford farce.

St. Catharines faces decision day on October the 27th with five candidates for mayor elbowing and pushing for position. Debates in Canada are moderated to remove all openness of debating. Questions are sanitised and sterilised, and real truth non-existing. Media in St. Catharines with its entrenched censorship ensures that no facts are made public, no relevant or pertinent questions are asked, and only harps on the negativity raised by candidates. It seems in Canada candidates are only expected to say 'nice' things about each other.

Looking at the five mayoral candidates one soon realises that if this Canadian civility is lifted to face reality and media censorship smashed then the decision process is not an easy one. Borrowing horse racing jargon, candidates Jim Fannon and Mark Stevens are considered the less favourite with odds running against them for a serious vote.

Candidate Jim Fannon does not have a web page and no clear statement as to a platform or 'wish list' for St. Catharines. He appears to run his campaign through his Facebook and some of his statements make little sense, in particular the notion of term limits. Term limits can only be discussed at a provincial level and any decision making out of the hands of municipal politicians. Originally Fannon was part of the ra-ra team for the front runner candidate Jeff Burch and then decided to run against him. When something like this happens questions arise as to the real purpose of such a candidate.

Another candidate, Mark Stevens, also faces extreme odds to find serious voter numbers. Unlike Fannon, Mark Stevens has signs up all around the city trying to compete on the well travelled intersections littered with 'pick me' screams. Mark Stevens does have a web page, he tries to say that he is only an ordinary guy who has lived in St. Catharines for a long time and wants to make a difference. Listening to Mark Stevens comment on jobs and the future of St. Catharines proves that he is just a regular guy.

After leaving behind the two outsiders what's left are the three prima donnas elbowing for position and banging the drum of experience. Yet a resume claiming experience also demands questions of consequence. No such questions have been raised till now. If they are then the spectre of negative campaigning is immediately pronounced. We in Canada have to play nice and ignore the truth as it may be uncomfortable.

Jeff Burch, Peter Secord and Walter Sendzik each claim they have the answers to the issues St. Catharines faces. Burch and Secord both have sat on city council taking part in the decisions and responsible for inaction that has provided for a very uncomfortable future for this city and its people. Walter Sendzik has led the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce and watched the decimation of the city core with no real answers as to any potential solutions. Now these three have found the light and are willing to sell their sideshow.

Walter Sendzik claims to want “transparency and accountability at city hall.” Each time there is an election, wannabe politicians pick up the same tired and useless words. Somehow desire for transparency and accountability only surfaces before they get elected; once in office the doors are shut. Being the leader of a Chamber of Commerce, it is no surprise that Sendzik also employs another tired and common slogan in his desire to “identify and remove barriers to business.” Yet he stayed silent when business owner Sam Demita, owner and operator of Sun Collision not only removed so called barriers but simply broke all the by-laws without consequence.

Once again each of the candidates is on the GO Train election ride and promises to rebuild Port Dalhousie. Reality rarely joins in the lists of promises and empty words. In his “vision for St. Catharines,” Walter wishes to “focus on returning St. Catharines as a leader in Ontario.” To “focus on returning” would insinuate that St. Catharines once lead the province in some area, he does not make that clear though.

St. Catharines downtown core is barely limping. All the promises of good times to come with the massive building of two facilities are yet to eventuate. Bringing in residential space opens the doors to questions of services for the basic needs such as some sort of supermarket. The core has plenty of bars, a fancy, new and elaborate tattoo parlour and a hamburger joint that sends the Big Mac packing. But no one can lay claim to the illusion that 'the core' is residence friendly. Oh and that has not been a secret over the last four years.

Poverty and struggle for survival in St. Catharines is a daily routine. Our job market is non-existent. Those who are fortunate to have jobs find themselves in the minimum wage or barely above bracket, unable to provide the bare basics for their families. Young people who were born here have no reason to stay and if it continues, that in itself will forecast a loss of identity and credibility.

Walter makes empty promises and then when pressured on issues as head of the chamber he blames the board for its decisions. One could take Sendzik's “vision” and pull it to pieces for saying nothing built in reality but that would be considered as pessimistic by Canadian standards. Yet Sendzik himself admits to horrific figures for unemployment, for youth unemployment and how low St. Catharines was rated by the Conference Board of Canada Report of 2014. The report titled City Magnets III: Benchmarking the Attractiveness of 50 Canadian Cities, analyses and benchmarks the features that make Canadian cities attractive to newcomer populations. Cities are compared on indicators grouped into seven categories: Society, Health, Economy, Environment, Education, Innovation, and Housing. Data for this analysis is based on the 2011 Census and National Household Survey. No one can ignore these realities.

In an interview with The Standard (Walter Sendzik says city's future is in jobs. Karena Walter, October 9, 2014) Sendzik said; “the next 10 years has to be about attracting private sector investments in the community. That's where my background provides a lot of expertise in getting the private sector spending in the community, investing in the community.” So the man who led the Chamber of Commerce, a man who now lays claim to a background and expertise in getting things done within the private sector saw no reason to do any of this until he declared his political intentions. Where did Walter Sendzik hide his expertise whilst head of the Chamber of Commerce? Why is it only now in an election campaign that Sendzik brags about his expertise, maybe his salary as the head of the chamber wasn't enough motivation to attract private sector spending.

Sprinting from the Sendzik vision one crashes into Peter Secord and his ideal of 'Back to Basics'. Peter Secord claims that he is ready to be mayor after years of serving on city council. As a councillor Secord has been present for all that has happened in St. Catharines. He claims, “After significant citizen-led investment in our community, St. Catharines must ensure its finances are in order and in line with our community's new priorities.” Our community's new priorities? Unemployment, poverty, our young leaving, taxes, lubricious spending by Church Street, simple honesty and integrity in office, are these to be considered “new priorities”?

According to Peter Secord's great stride into the future he wants to “get back to the basics of representing the taxpayer. Our community needs someone who not only understands the issues but has lived through them as well.” What is Secord's version of back to basics? Peter Secord sat on city council as fellow councillor Jeff Burch lied to council. Secord knew that Councillor Jeff Burch lied, he also was provided with the Integrity Commissioner's report where Suzanne Craig clearly stated that she had not cleared Burch of the very serious allegations. Maybe honesty, integrity or accountability do not rate high in Peter Secord's back to basics.

What does rate as back to basics to Peter Secord? As he was aware of Councillor Jeff Burch's lies, as a fellow member of council he was also aware of a small business owner Sam Demita, owner and operator of Sun Collision, who had broken local laws for some 5 years. Secord is also aware that after the city 'fixed' the law for Sam Demita, and after an OMB hearing cleared the path, the same Sam Demita has broken the new laws that the city had fixed for him.

Peter Secord has a 1, 2, 3 step plan for his back to basics: First is, “A plan for financial accountability,” then the Second is, “Local solutions for local jobs,” and finally the Third, “Commitment to the taxpayer.” Reading these steps or points little is found that is constructive or realistic. In his first installment Secord speaks of a tax freeze, he actually promises one. If he was to win the job as mayor, Peter Secord will be only one vote and he has heard loudly from council that the majority are against such folly.

In his second installment Secord is surprised that “the same team who is responsible for business support also oversee the Santa Claus Parade and Canada Day events.” Where has Secord been for his years of service on council? This is news to him? Maybe it was Santa Claus who 'fixed' things for Demita?

In the 2010 election Brian McMullan said no tax dollars should be spent on the hockey palace. Peter Secord sat on council and approved the exact opposite. Now it is the same Secord who promises a tax freeze. A little too little and a little too late. Yet at a council meeting when his plans for a tax freeze were openly objected, Peter Secord said that nothing was set in stone. Secord finished off with this in relation to his motion on freezing taxes, “The motion is just that staff works in that direction, towards zero, it's setting the bar, so that they go in that direction.” (Doug Herod,, October 1 2014, 'HEROD: Hamming it up on council stage').

Has the proverbial bar been set or will the final candidate in the 2014 Municipal elections find a new level for himself? Jeff Burch, like Peter Secord, has sat on city council for years, and like Peter Secord has only now found the answers. Unlike Secord, Jeff Burch points to 5 Priorities for Prosperity and welcomes people to the “new St. Catharines” on his billboards whilst the old St. Catharines has not been buried in the aftermath of the election stampede.

Burch's five priorities for prosperity in fact do not really sound any different from Secord or Sendzik. Jobs, or the frightening lack of, are on the minds of all residents in St. Catharines. Tax dollars have never left the minds of St. Catharines residents as each year it is becoming harder and harder to budget for the inevitable increases. Whether it is Burch and his five or Secord with desires of going back to basics, or Sendzik's vision, Port Dalhousie is a hot topic. The Go Train is on everyone's wish list even if there are no real riders for it and our downtown still waiting for solutions.

Reading Jeff Burch's press releases or his website, nothing new is found. On October 1st a press release on Port Dalhousie finds Jeff Burch quoted as saying “I have the experience to lead revitalization efforts that respect and include residents.” From here the bar is lowered dramatically and the similarities between Burch and the other two main candidates cease.

Integrity Commissioner Suzanne Craig came to investigate Councillor Jeff Burch and his lies to City Council and the people of St. Catharines. Integrity Commissioner Craig was shocked that no one from The Standard or the free Niagara this Week made any reference to the investigation. Councillor Jeff Burch lied to protect Sam Demita, owner and operator of Sun Collision. In the end Integrity Commissioner Craig submitted her report and stated that she had not cleared Councillor Jeff Burch of the very serious allegations. All of this was censored.

This was not all that Councillor Burch has never answered for. As residents in Merritton found flooding damage in their homes, Councillor Burch issued a warning to one of the residents that was chilling. To keep things quiet Councillor Burch in the 2010 election campaign used Niagara Regional Police to harass and intimidate me so as to stop any questions being raised. Everything here has been documented and it's only the censorship by The Standard in particular that has kept this from the people of St. Catharines. Now ex-reporter from The Standard Marlene Bergsma has publicly endorsed Burch.

Residents all over will struggle to make a decision as to who they should vote for. In St. Catharines there are extremely serious issues and the political game surrounding all the candidates continues. The Conference Board of Canada released its report in Ottawa September 18th 2014, and rated St. Catharines in the 'D' Cities – Struggling to Attract. One of the main criteria for consideration according to Alan Arcand of the Centre for Municipal Studies is, “cities that fail to attract new people will struggle to stay prosperous and vibrant.” St. Catharines found itself in the “D” class where 9 of the 13 cities had showed little population growth between 2006 and 2011, and two cities saw their population decline. (News Release 15-27 Six Canadians Cities out of 50 Receive Top Marks for Attracting Newcomers).

According to Statistics Canada, St. Catharines' population in 2006 was 131,989 and in 2011 it dropped to 131,400. Both Jeff Burch and Peter Secord have sat on city council since 2006. “Now is not the time for campaign stunts”, these are Jeff Burch's own words. Now is the time to make a very hard decision and live with it for the next four years.

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Monday, October 13, 2014

Plagiarism – flattery or simply theft

Plagiarism has been an issue that has been debated for ages. There are some who argue that Shakespeare had not really written some of his rather famous plays but rather had only put his name to them. Can it be thought that taking someone else's work for your own is some form of flattery? The Webster's Dictionary provides an archaic description for plagiarism as to have meant kidnapping. Today describes plagiarism as, “the practise of taking someone else's work or ideas and passing them off as one's own.”

Whether it is the or the plagiarism is simply theft, no one can disagree. Yet unlike the thief who can be compelled to return what he or she stole, the plagiarist cannot. Instead the violation has a permanency about it that stains the work of the victim even after the theft is discovered.

In our democratic society there are laws in place to protect intellectual content and provide clear rights of ownership. As with any action taken to protect one's ownership, proof of ownership and a trail marked with evidence leading from original conception to eventual discovery of theft is crucial.

Still any thief squirms when caught till the net of evidence tightens. One such individual, Kai Nagata, tried a novel approach claiming “intellectual overlap.” Another individual simply used photos and test results from environmental testing without providing credit as to who those documents belonged to. Many who simply take a photo or other material and use it without providing credit to the original owner do so without intent to steal. They do so without thought or the dignity of acknowledgement but not with malicious intent. Others are simply thieves.

Publishing Mayorgate has meant that extremely high standards were put in place from the first article. No article is based on rumour or innuendo. Research and facts have always been the key to all commentary and each article provides the material for a reader to examine and decide upon for themselves. At the same time publishing Mayorgate has meant to be willing to protect its integrity and original work at all costs.

A week ago it came to my attention that an individual had shot a video and posted it on YouTube making claims that he had broken a story on a rather serious issue. The information came by way of an email sent by Fred Bracken to Regional Councillor Andy Petrowski on September 30th 2014, copied to me and others. After watching the video I decided to find as much public information as possible about Fred Bracken. Even though Fred Bracken is being sued by Debbie Zimmerman for placing a comment on my article published on Mayorgate, I had never met him or spoken with him.

First I watched a few of his other videos as posted on YouTube. My opinion was simply that Bracken comes across as Ezra Levant with a small camera. I searched further. Preston Haskell in a piece titled Lords of Niagara on his News Alert Niagara (September 15th 2014) calls Bracken, “...a well publicized and licensed video reporter.” A Google search on what a “licensed video reporter” means came up empty. Regional Councillor Andy Petrowski tweeted on September 25th 2014, “We need more Fred Bracken truth warriors.” On January 11th 2014 Preston Haskell on his News Alert Niagara did an expose titled Who is Fred Bracken, Bracken added this comment to the article himself. “I look forward to doing more videos. If anyone has topics they would like me to ask the politicians on camera, feel free to send me an email on...”.

Still the mystery remained a mystery as to who this Fred Bracken really is. Other than the twittersphere humming with regular cooing between Councillor Petrowski and Bracken, or Preston Haskell referring to him as a “well publicized and licensed video reporter,” nothing was found, not even a Google clarification on that description used by Haskell. Till two references were finally unearthed from a blog called The Fort Erie Ninja dating back to March 2014. One of the short pieces is titled simply Mr.Bracken from March 25th and the other So Mr.Bracken. What Was In It For Brady? from March 27th.

The author at Fort Erie Ninja, Sensei Ron said on the 25th of March, “It would take far to long to edit all of your comments to post them for accuracy. Let us know what CHCH said as well.”Then on March 26th the author posted a comment under a heading One thought on Mr. Bracken. Sensei Ron began with “Mr. Bracken, if you want to be taken serious then you need to understand a few things. Not everyone is against you.” Sensei Ron continued, “You are pointing fingers at people who had nothing to do with it. If you want us to help you expose something we will, but it has to be done right. Start with Lubberts. Don't look at something then make assumptions and fill in the blanks. You told us in your comments that this is international news. You told us you were notifying CHCH. So what did CHCH say? If they don't run with it, does that mean they are in on this too?”

Nothing more was found on this “well publicized and licensed video reporter,” as Preston Haskell had labelled him. Conspiracists exist in every community as do plagiarists. One simply develops his own theory on assumption and presumption rather than fact, then passes it off as his own fact. The other takes work that does not belong to him and then passes it off as his own to elevate himself.

In his September 30th 2014 email, Bracken claims that Regional Councillor Debbie Zimmerman had gone to the Hamilton Regional Police in relation to his video. He brags that he is going to interview the Hamilton police and videotape the interview, uploading that to YouTube. No upload has been found to date.

Viewing the short video three major points come forward. Fred Bracken makes a claim that he broke the story of the affair between Mayor Brian McMullan of St. Catharines and Regional Councillor Debbie Zimmerman, who represents the town of Grimsby. Both Mayor Brian McMullan and Debbie Zimmerman are members of Regional Council in the Regional Municipality of Niagara. Bracken also claims that Debbie Zimmerman is suing him because he broke the news. Both claims are not true.

Fred Bracken's own words are: “Uh, the question, I just asked her a simple question on, uh, basically, um, why she would sue a civil journalist, um because I broke the news at, uh, Ruth McMullan allegations, that she's having an affair with Brian McMullan.”

As this splat of rhetoric continues from Fred Bracken he presents another lie publicly, and then posts this video for public consumption. Once again Bracken's own words are: “And, uh no one will report that, the news hasn't reported it and now she sued me civilly.”

There is nothing to say other than Fred Bracken lied on three serious points and publicly posted his lies. Since I was aware of the association that Bracken has with both Preston Haskell and Andy Petrowski I sent an email which provided a simple solution. That was a mistake, or maybe not so much in hindsight. Petrowski responded with, “He didn't mean it like that Alex... he is harmless, he meant broke it verbally in public... if you want to get it official, Ruth McMullan broke the story!”.

News of the affair between Regional Councillor Debbie Zimmerman and St. Catharines Mayor and Regional Councillor Brian McMullan first found public light on Mayorgate, May 19th 2014. Prior to this full and in depth report only rumours had played the airwaves of Niagara for over four years. An issue such as this is news and the thought that local media had ignored it is simply implausible. Mayorgate's article carried clear documentation in support of comments made and raised serious questions. As a result I as publisher have faced threat, intimidation and a law suit first by Debbie Zimmerman and much later by Brian McMullan. It is understandable why both need to silence the truth and the serious implications of the affair.

Breaking a story means that a media outlet distributes the story of an event. When Watergate broke to shock the American people, those reporters provided facts and information. Yet they had to start somewhere, it was not a crystal ball but an informant, or a snitch if you prefer, that led the way. That informant or snitch did not break the story because he or she provided a thread. Time, research, and work is required to provide a story and the thought that anyone simply steals all of that to claim for his own is unacceptable.

Bracken took for his own, work that he had no right to. That was not all he lied about. He claimed that Debbie Zimmerman was suing him for breaking the news. Zimmerman's official Statement of Claim has been published in an article titled, Mayorgate responds to Debbie Zimmerman's Ego. Regional Councillor Debbie Zimmerman is suing me as the author and publisher of Mayorgate for bringing to public attention the affair and raising serious questions regarding her association with Mayor Brian McMullan. She is also suing Fred Bracken as per pages 6 and 7 of her Statement of Claim.

Zimmerman is suing Bracken for three tweets and one comment which he placed on the article published on Mayorgate. He is also accused of republishing the article originally published on Mayorgate by linking to the article in his May 19th 2014 tweet. Bracken likes to call himself a citizen journalist, or in his own words “civil journalist.” The concept of citizen journalism is based upon public citizens “playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing and disseminating news and information.” (Wikipedia).

Twitter in our modern world is considered a buzz feed providing short bursts of comment usually after an event. Bracken's third lie is that no one had reported the story of the affair between McMullan and Zimmerman as alleged by Ruth McMullan in her divorce papers. Bracken simply lied and Andy Petrowski defended him again by saying, “honestly he is a simple guy and meant NO ill will.” Bracken's original email of September 30th 2014 claims that “Debbie Zimmerman has called the Hamilton Regional Police over the video I made where she goes ballistic...”.

Webster's Dictionary describes ballistic, other than the science of motion or projectiles, as having an informal usage meaning, to become so angry as to lose emotional control. Viewing Bracken's video all one sees of Debbie Zimmerman is that she stands up, then moves with her back to the wall as others get involved. “Goes ballistic” is a lie and his video proves that.

Approaching Andy Petrowski and Preston Haskell I thought that mutual respect and understanding existed, and both of them are strongly associated with Fred Bracken who I do not know. Though when any individual diminishes another's work in the fashion Petrowski had mine, the picture became clear and I had left it alone. That was till one email came from Petrowski on October 1st 2014, at 12:59 pm. Here Councillor Petrowski states “Bracken tweeted the affair 12 days before the mayorgate story.” Some forty minutes later Bracken tweets Petrowski at 1:39 pm, October 1st 2014. This “harmless and simple man” according to Petrowski says “I broke the news May 7th...”

All of Bracken's tweets are here and regardless of how Councillor Petrowski defends Bracken, whether he is harmless or simple, he lied. Petrowski knew that and I responded the following day.

Any individual who presents content on the net is aware of the potential of theft. Many find it difficult to take action of the theft of time, effort, research, and the act of creating something of value. Here in this case it is simple. Fred Bracken stole work that was not his own and passed it off as his. Legally speaking one attempt had been made to resolve the matter, it failed. A second attempt shall be made and if ignored legal action will commence.

The news of Mayor Brian McMullan and his divorce may be unpleasant for some though not a shock to many. One individual who commented on a published article on Mayorgate stated that the rumours of the affair had floated around Niagara for years. Had this individual then broken the story? A tweet harassing a reporter with a question does not break a story. Shoving a camera in anyone's face does not constitute reporting news. A citizen journalist is still required even by the Supreme Court of Canada to follow guidelines and expected provable criteria.

Today the world is opening up and changing. Traditional media has no choice but to acknowledge that fact. People have become tired of the bias that is so prevalent in journalism and the internet has provided an alternative. At the same time the internet allows theft to run rampant and that can only subside with decisive action.

Fred Bracken will be given an opportunity to remedy the situation. After that the choice is his own. Councillor Andy Petrowski sadly has shown that all politicians see truth as a convenient toy and on a scale of 1 to 10 that doesn't rate even a zero.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Has Mayor McMullan admitted to the Affair?

St. Catharines Mayor Brian McMullan continues to toy with his penchant for intimidation and harassment, although this time there is a new twist. As reported previously Christopher J. Bittle of Lancaster, Brooks & Welch LLP served, on behalf of his client, a Notice of Action on July 9th 2014. Four articles were singled out from Mayorgate which were claimed to have hurt his client's feelings.

Christopher Bittle's chant begins with “Your articles wrongly state an allegation of an affair as truth and use that as a basis to malign Mr. McMullan's character. These allegations are untrue.” The background music should now be building to a crescendo of thunderous proportion, “You have alleged the following conduct on the part of Mr. McMullan that is false: a) He has been involved in a affair with Debbie Zimmerman.” A crash comes sounding from the bass drum, “The above noted allegations are false and are presented as fact without any evidence of support.”

This is page 4 from the original Notice of Action served July 9th, 2014.

A Plaintiff's Claim was served on me as publisher of Mayorgate on August 26th 2014. This claim should have been a mighty climax, instead it turns out to be a tiny piccolo squeaking in the background. All protest and denial of the affair with Debbie Zimmerman had been dropped. Describing the so called defamation from point 12 through to point 21, Brian McMullan no longer denies the affair nor brings it up in his rhetoric, which in itself brings forth a serious issue to be dealt with momentarily. In fact not one single word is made to deny the affair. At this point regardless of how biased one may be to the truth or fact a simple observation comes screaming forth. Since Mayor Brian McMullan has stopped denying the affair with Regional Councillor Debbie Zimmerman, in legal documents at that, then he has finally succumbed to the weight of truth and admitted that fact. What other reasonable interpretation is possible by any reasonable individual?

Page 7 from the Statement of Claim served August 26th, 2014

Page 8 of the Statement of Claim served August 26th, 2014

In publishing and writing the articles on Mayorgate that span such a variety of relevant topics to our society one thread remains constant. As a writer, and author of any piece remaining on topic from the beginning to end is crucial in order to hold on to credibility. True evidence or documentation may need to be introduced, but the thread can never be lost. Those who write fiction or fantasy may have the luxury to meander into divergent fields but not an author of fact. Christopher Bittle as a lawyer on behalf of a client is in a way a writer, an author relying on the foundation of law for a clear and concise treatment of truth. That being said the main thread of his client's allegation from the Notice of Action, which begins any action under the Rules of Civil Procedure, has been dropped. The consequences are very serious.

Dropping all denial of the affair from his Statement of Claim, Brian McMullan has apparently admitted to the affair. That in itself is somewhat bewildering though there is a great deal more to examine. Christopher Bittle as a lawyer joined Lancaster, Brooks & Welch in 2010. He claims to specialise in Civil Law and Defamation Law. It would be expected that he would be quite familiar with the Rules of Civil Procedure. On behalf of his client Brian McMullan he served the Notice of Action on July 9th 2014, and now served the Statement of Claim on August 26th 2014. The Law Society of Upper Canada provides help and guidance on their website for the public and separately for lawyers. For lawyers the headings range from 'About Your License', 'Professional Rules' and 'Become a Lawyer'. Separately there is a heading titled 'How to Commence a Civil Action'. It would seem that years of university and passing the Bar Exam is not sufficient, a how-to guide is still required.

Under the heading 'How to Commence a Civil Action' there is a “How-to Brief,” truly there is, I do not jest. Quoting the Law Society of Upper Canada official website it states, “This How-to Brief outlines the steps to take when commencing an action.” There are eight steps outlined and step 3 is titled “Analyze the Case.” Bullet 5 here states quite clearly, “Where time is of the essence, prepare and issue a notice of action (form 14C). Note that if a notice of action is used, the statement of claim in Form 14D must be filed within 30 days of the notice of action being issued.”

In case Christopher Bittle missed this how-to guide there is a website provided by Law Help Ontario. This guide is called “Starting a Proceeding in Superior Court.” In simplified form a chart is provided, on the left “Start the Claim using,” in the centre the heading “Action.” Now I quote again, “If you start your claim with a Notice of Action, you must file a Statement of Claim (Form 14D not Form 14A) with the court office within 30 days after the Notice of Action is issued.” Mind you before one is able to file with the court office any notice of action, statement of claim or statement of defence, that notice or statement must first be served on the defendant or plaintiff and proof of service provided to the court.

Small Claims Court is the lowest rung on the ladder for the justice system of courts. It is used to adjudicate minor disputes so as not to clog up the court system and so as to get faster results. Brian McMullan had decided to not follow his lady friend and only lower his claim to the Small Claims Court. Yet all the rules under the Libel and Slander Act apply and rules of service. At point 16 of the Statement of Claim he attempts to provide an explanation as to why he missed the time limitation period under the Libel and Slander Act for one article in particular. Equally he has to comply with time limitations relating to the service of his statement of claim.

These rules which the courts and various legislation expect all to abide by are set to bring a unified and fair system of justice. They are also designed to permit a timely resolution to grievances. One such rule is simply a requirement that as an action begins with a notice of action it then continues unchanged, renovations and add-ons are not accepted. Christopher Bittle of Lancaster, Brooks & Welch threw this gem into the Statement of Claim point 13 (h), “Such further and other items as counsel may advise.” He continued again with point 14, “Despite the lack of evidence to support the defendant's allegations, Davidoff refused to print a retraction.”

Evidence, what is evidence? Webster explains the word to mean “2. something that makes another thing evident, indication; sign, 3. something that tends to prove; ground for belief, 4. Law, something presented in a legal proceeding, as a statement of a witness, an object etc; which bears on or establishes a point in question.” Rather simple and clear to understand one would think, it is for that reason that my Statement of Defence which was served on Christopher Bittle at Lancaster, Brooks & Welch and his client Brian McMullan on September 15th 2014, was 629 pages deep of evidence.

It appears that Lancaster, Brooks & Welch LLP's budget on copying ink must be extremely limited, as many of the pages copied by Christopher Bittle in his Statement of Claim relating to my articles are so very faint, and barely readable. I have provided them loud and clear to ensure no error is made. Soon more evidence will be provided at the mandatory Settlement Conference, and it will be interesting to hear how the Lancaster, Brooks & Welch orchestra supports the piccolo solo act.

Christopher Bittle and his client Brian McMullan have slandered both me and my website,, twice. First in his Notice of Action, Bittle states, “The above noted allegations are false and are presented as fact without any evidence of support.” Then the Bittle and McMullan tag team claimed, “Despite the lack of evidence to support the defendant's allegations, Davidoff refuses to print a retraction.” Now comes the opportunity to put Brian McMullan under oath and prepare the list of questions (oh, most are prepared already) that will come from the 629 pages of evidence. It is time for Mayor Brian McMullan to answer under the threat of perjury and finally provide the truth. Brian McMullan ran from taking the oath in his attempted intimidation of Regional Councillor Andy Petrowski, he cannot escape this now.

Reading each of the quotes chosen by Christopher Bittle for his client Brian McMullan one point stands out over and over again. Each of the quotes are intentionally taken out of context, no sentence simply stands alone. An example is the very first one labelled as #5 from Mayorgate's article 'Brian McMullan's Fear of Mayorgate'. “How far will the machinations of Mayor Brian McMullan reach past common dignity and continue to be motivated by the fear of truth?”.

This particular quote in fact is the opening to the article and appropriate to use here and now. It reads in full: “How far will the machinations of Mayor Brian McMullan reach past common dignity and continue to be motivated by the fear of truth? The answer to such a question is not easy to settle on, as time and time again Brian McMullan has proven that something new is always on the horizon.”

Christopher Bittle did leave out this quote from paragraph 4 of the article, “Still Brian McMullan's fear of Mayorgate grows and if that is not to be considered truth then another explanation of these actions by McMullan is welcomed, by Brian McMullan himself!”.

Brian McMullan chose threat and intimidation so as to silence a voice that reaches for the truth and raises very uncomfortable questions. Each article that appears on Mayorgate searches for the truth, raising questions and comment from its readers. The Supreme Court of Canada made it clear in its decision after hearing the Grant v. Torstar appeal that the threat of litigation against journalists silences the free exchange of debate.

McMullan claims that he had been hurt by facts being discussed openly, yet he is an elected public official paid by public funds. He claims that his credit had been affected by articles on Mayorgate, yet he intentionally lost his home and had his utilities cut off on an income of $160,000 plus. As one listens to the words of City of St. Catharines' Merritton Ward Councillor Jennie Stevens, in her own voice, stating that the Mayor had fixed a fine, can it be possible to make a fair comment that it was wrong? Will the voice of Councillor Jennie Stevens on the answering machine raise comment? Regardless of whether an individual is aware of the Municipal Act or of law itself, will there be comment?

Reading the divorce papers filed by the wife of Mayor Brian McMullan where she raises adultery in legal court documents and names Regional Councillor Debbie Zimmerman as the partner in adultery, is it fair to raise questions of conflict of interest? After all both Brian McMullan and Debbie Zimmerman are sitting on council together, and the nature of adultery is based on daily dishonesty. Does a husband tell his wife that he is off to a hotel with another woman rather than really having a business trip and expect that his wife will be calm about the whole thing? No, the husband lies! Can those lies then find themselves creeping into all other areas of his life? Do the people who he and in this case she, represent have the right to question the situation?

Truth, facts and the right to question is the foundation of journalism. At the same time those who prefer to stay under the cover of darkness threaten and intimidate to ensure that nothing or as little as possible leaks out.

In a bold and strong decision the Supreme Court of Canada decided that the protection of free speech was an absolute necessity to protect. The Supreme Court decisions in the Grant v. Torstar and WIC Radio v. Simpson cases have set the benchmark for both protection and defence of journalistic expression and freedom of speech.

Paragraph 31 from the Grant v. Torstar decision states; “In addition to the privilege, statements of opinion, a category which includes any “deduction, inference, conclusion, criticism, judgement, remark or observation which is generally incapable of proof” (Ross v. New Brunswick Teachers' Assn., 2001 NBCA 62, 201 D.L.R. (4th) 75, at para. 56, cited in WIC Radio, at para. 26), may attract the defence of fair comment. As reformulated in WIC Radio, at para. 28, a defendant claiming fair comment must satisfy the following test: a) the comment must be on a matter of public interest; b) the comment must be based on fact; c) the comment, though it can include inferences of fact, must be recognisable as comment; d) the comment must satisfy the following objective test: could any person honestly express that opinion on the proved facts?; and e) even though the comment satisfies the objective test the defence can be defeated if the plaintiff proves that the defendant was actuated by express malice. WIC Radio expanded the fair comment defence by changing the traditional requirement that the opinion be one that a “fair-minded” person could honestly hold, to a requirement that it be one that “anyone could honestly have expressed” (para. 49-51), which allows for robust debate. As Binnie J. put it, “[w]e live in a free country where people have as much right to express outrageous and ridiculous opinions as moderate ones” (para. 4).”

In this action brought about by Mayor Brian McMullan and his lawyer Christopher Bittle the issues extend far beyond the points of fair comment, public interest or of fact. A greater and more alarming facet of our society has to be defended. To this point Brian McMullan has been served with some 629 pages as a statement of defence, it is only the outline which the defence is to be based on. A further set of documents will be served on Brian McMullan prior to the court imposed settlement conference. The actual defence will begin with the dozens of questions Mayor Brian McMullan will answer under oath on the stand.

Our democratic society thrives under the belief that we as Canadians have certain rights which are protected under law and legislation. Although the laws and legislation do exist their protection is far from automatic. The issues here go far beyond a journalist being threatened or the public's interest. Rather the battle line is drawn on a greater field, one that we as Canadians cannot believe, or simply will not believe is possible in Canada.

Censorship is generally a tool used to weaken and control a society, in a way forcing it into submission of its will. Self-imposed censorship is an abomination of corruption of society, and no Canadian will believe that it is possible anywhere in Canada. In this case THEY ARE WRONG!

Quoting again from Grant v. Torstar, paragraph 36, “In the last decade, this recognition has sometimes been extended to media defendants. For example, in Grenier v. Southam Inc., [1997] O.J. No. 2193 (QL), the Ontario Court of Appeal (in a brief endorsement) upheld a trial judge's finding that the defendant media corporation had a “social and moral duty” to publish the article in question. Other cases have adopted the view that qualified privilege is available to media defendants, provided that they can show a social or moral duty to publish the information and a corresponding public interest in receiving it: Leenen v. Canadian Broadcasting Corp. (2000), 48 O.R. (3d) 656 (S.C.J), at p. 695 aff'd (2001), 54 O.R. (3d) 612 (C.A.), and Young v. Toronto Star Newspapers Ltd. (2003), 66 O.R (3d) 170 (S.C.J.), aff'd (2005), 77 O.R. (3d) 680 (C.A).”

Media has an obligation to provide the information to the public. Self-imposed censorship by the media is corruption of our society and it cannot be permitted under any circumstances. We are no longer so naive as to expect a completely unbiased media, as businesses form alliances and in turn pay dues on favours received. Politics is a business which has the power to demand such alliances and therefore extends massive influence on the media. Yet extending influence is completely different in nature to complete censorship.

In St. Catharines, Ontario every word of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms has been sold and forced to conform to corruption of free speech and thought. As alluded to earlier this is the centre of the action before the courts here. Brian McMullan will take the stand under oath and answer all the questions as demanded. In addition to McMullan absolute proof will be provided before the court of a system of censorship put in place which must be torn down. It is an opportunity that will not be allowed to pass.

Our public officials are elected by the public and are accountable to the public on every issue which in any way may or may not affect the public. Secrecy is unacceptable and full accountability demanded. Free flowing comment, the open exchange of information and discussion of facts are cornerstones of our democratic society. The Supreme Court of Canada in its decision of WIC Radio Ltd v. Simpson in paragraph 75 states: “People who voluntarily take part in debates of matters of public interest must expect reaction from the public. Indeed, public response will often be one of the goals of self-expression. In the context of such debates (and the risk of mixing metaphors), public figures are expected to have a thick skin and not to be too quick to cry foul when the discussion becomes heated. This is not to say that harm to one's reputation is the necessary price of being a public figure. Rather, it means that what may harm a private individual's reputation may not damage that of a figure about whom is known and who may have had ample opportunity to express his or her own contrary views.”

Public life brings with it public attention and accountability. In this case the issues extend beyond a public official hiding behind a lawyer and intimidation. Here the media has become a willing partner in the most unacceptable alliance imaginable by providing a self-imposed blanket of censorship. It is time to walk the halls of our Canadian Justice System and open all the doors to expose this corruption of our society.

There is a need to protect reputation against wild and intrusive media, against baseless accusations or innuendo. At the same time the over zealous demand to protect reputation only becomes a cover for those who have something to hide and the threat of litigation only becomes harassment and intimidation.

I leave the close to our Supreme Court of Canada once again and the Grant v. Torstar Corporation decision paragraph 62, and wait for the opportunity to stand before the court to defend against this harassment, intimidation and threat by Mayor Brian McMullan.

The protection offered by a new defence based on conduct is meaningful for both the publisher and those who reputations are at stake. If the publisher fails to take appropriate steps having regard to all the circumstances, it will be liable. The press and others engaged in pubic communication on matters of public interest, like bloggers, must act carefully, having regard to the injury to reputation that a false statement can cause. A defence based on responsible conduct reflects the social concern that the media should be held accountable through the law of defamation. As Kirby P. stated in Ballina Shire Council v. Ringerland (1994), 33 N.S.W.L.R. 680 (C.A), at p. 700: “The law of defamation is one of the comparatively few checks upon [the media's] great power.” The requirement that the publisher of defamatory material act responsibly provides accountability and comports with the reasonable expectations of those whose conduct brings with them the sphere of public interest. People in public life are entitled to expect that the media and other reporters will act responsibly in protecting them from false accusations and innuendo. They are not, however, entitled to demand perfection and the inevitable silencing of critical comment that a standard of perfection would impose.”

Statement of Claim served by Christopher Bittle for Mayor Brian McMullan

Statement of Defence by Alexander Davidoff 

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