This Blog will discuss politics, government, corruption, police, S.I.U., courts, education, min. of attorney general, min. of labour, v.o.i.c.e. and other current and past events of interest to concerned citizens. In the "About me" section to the right and down I have included the names of persons whom I have tremendous respect for. Their influence on me however has been primarily environmental (and personal) and this is therefore a disclaimer that all words posted on this Blog/Website are mine and I alone am responsible for them. I say this with the greatest respect and affection to my friends.
Tuesday, October 8, 2019
ELMIRA WATER WOES: THE TRIUMPH OF CORRUPTION, DECEIT, AND CITIZEN BETRAYAL
TABLE OF CONTENTS
169.....Woolwich Council are Publicly Humiliated Again
Woolwich Council are Publicly Humiliated Again
There are times when I actually feel sorry for those misfits on Woolwich Council. One of the cartoons (from Chapter Nineteen) published on June 20, 2015 in the Woolwich Observer was so on the money. It shows several Woolwich councillors and a Municipal Clerk in a saloon, shooting themselves in the foot. “Dang”, “That’s gonna leave a mark.” Priceless. A word of advice to activists taking on the power structure. Really enjoy moments like the one in the cartoon. They will get you through the difficult times.
As mentioned at the end of Chapter Twenty, Woolwich Council once again made some boneheaded moves. Yes, most councillors actually think that they are competent to govern this Township. I beg to differ. On March 22, 2016, Dr. Dan Holt presented himself at Woolwich Council to speak about some Chemtura Canada issues affecting the public interest. He had registered days in advance of the council meeting, including providing the topic of his delegation to council. CPAC members and I were present to give Dr. Holt support. Councillors waited until Dr. Holt had stood, taken his papers with him and was in front of the lectern before the Chair interrupted him. Various news media responses pinpoint Woolwich Council’s attempt to prevent the former CPAC chair from addressing Woolwich Council in regards to a Chemtura and Canagagigue Creek matter.
The Woolwich Observer published its editorial comment two days later. Entitled, “Councilllors fail democracy with embarrassing act” and opened with these two paragraphs: “Things went from awkward to really embarrassing in Woolwich Council chambers Tuesday night as councillors first refused to hear from a registered delegate, then couldn’t really explain their decision before finally relenting and letting the speaker go ahead.
While some of the councillors fished around for explanations involving technical issues and subcommittees, it would be hard for Dan Holt and assembled members of the Citizens Public Advisory Committee to see the goings on as anything more than a hastily–arranged , and obviously not thought-through attempt to prevent him from speaking."174
The Observer then discussed the history of the current CPAC (known since late 2015 as the Citizens Public Advisory Committee) with the former Chemtura Public Advisory Committee (CPAC). The Observer also suggested that the purpose of the two new environmental committees (RAC and TAG) was “…aimed at bringing disgruntled Chemtura and Ministry of the Environment representatives back into the fold."175
The Observer then made comments in the March 24th article regarding me: “ As a not unintended by-product, the changes also sidelined vocal critic Alan Marshall, a member of CPAC in its current form and one of those in the gallery Tuesday night."176
The editorial also reported some events regarding Dr. Holt, myself, and Richard Clausi’s attempts to bring accountability to three Woolwich councillors in regards to the Municipal Elections Act. The Observer’s editorial reported, “While councillors may have been able to separate all of those issues when coming up with a reason to prevent Holt from speaking, the poor handling of the situation certainly raised suspicions to the contrary.
Perhaps not an outright attempt at censorship - a word bandied about in the audience - but clearly a bid to avoid dealing with certain people and topics. It was not a proud moment for Woolwich officialdom."177
The editorial continued with a discussion of a “Shantz-led motion” asking staff to develop a policy for directing would-be delegates to the township’s various committees as appropriate rather than hearing the issues directly. The editorial ended with “Better still, councillors who supported the ill-considered move should quietly let the matter drop, hoping that no one ever mentions the cringe-worthy spectacle from Tuesday night ever again."178
It was not to be. Not by a long shot. I am hoping that readers can understand how the entire Uniroyal/Chemtura remediation failures over the previous twenty-seven years, as described by Dr. Jackson, are so closely tied to local politics. It was outrageous enough that Elmira and Woolwich citizens were thrown to the wolves by the province (MOE) but it was made that much worse by having multiple municipal councils so sympathetic to the polluter while promoting what they knew and intended as lip service public consultation. One last point needs to be made clear. While Woolwich Councillors attempted to put a brave face on their censorship attempt by passing a mayor-led, asinine motion, the petty character of councillors shone through as Dr. Holt gave his delegation to council. His delegation was actually a sincere thank you to council and the mayor for their earlier but recent decision to go it alone and erect warning signs in three locations along the Canagagigue Creek advising anglers not to eat their catches. This action stood in stark contrast to Terri Buhlman and the MOE’s refusal to take this action and Dr. Holt felt it appropriate, despite past conflict with these councillors, to give credit where credit was due. Unfortunately, by attempting to censor Dr. Holt, councillors made him and his words look very impressive and they and their actions look incredibly petty, vindictive, and frankly stupid.
On March 29, 2016, the Waterloo Region Record entered the reporting fray. Paige Desmond, Record reporter, wrote an article titled, “Woolwich moves to curb speakers."179 Desmond’s article also included a photograph of Dr. Holt standing beside the Canagagigue Creek and the sub-title below the photograph was “Township councillor says past conflicts played into decision, but mayor says motion is about efficiency."180 Good one there, Sandy Shantz. Nobody bought into that crap.
In this Record article, Councillor Patrick Merlihan suggested that emotion and past conflicts were involved in council’s behaviour and is quoted as saying “I’m not going to say that yes there’s a link, but I am going to say it is extremely difficult to not make that connection because the optics is just terrible and I was really disappointed in my council Tuesday night."181 Wow.
Ms. Desmond also went through the history between CPAC and council in regards to Chemtura Canada, RAC, and TAG as well as in regards to half of council’s run-in with the Municipal Elections Act. While Councillor Mark Bauman did not reference these items in the article he did say there was a power struggle between council and some members of the public. I would suggest that Mr. Bauman’s choice of expression “power struggle” was not an accurate one. Frankly, I think it makes him look bad because what remote sort of power struggle is possible among the duly elected councillors and citizens anyway? What might have played a little better with the public is if he had suggested that councillors were learning the hard way that what comes around goes around. I’m sure that some citizens had long figured out that council’s treatment of duly appointed citizen volunteers to a committee of council should not subject those citizens to the incoming council’s anger, hostility, and vindictiveness. Mayor Shantz then stuck her foot in her mouth yet again with her description of council’s motion: ”We’re not saying don’t come to council, it’s saying, let’s not use council as a soapbox."182 That last comment about a soapbox came back to appropriately bite Sandy.
Before that happened back at Woolwich Council chambers, Luisa D’Amato of the Record got into the act. On March 30, 2016, she wrote an opinion piece titled, “Woolwich council should be listening to its citizens, not censoring them."183 Well done Ms. D’Amato. She stated right at the start that the proposed Woolwich motion would stop citizens from coming before council on certain matters. She then clarified that by saying “No, let me be clear: It censors Woolwich Township residents from speaking to council."184 Ms. D’Amato repeated the gist of Dr. Holt’s delegation to council thanking them for the signs they put up and as well as urging them to warn residents not to swim, wade, or play in the creek. Ms. D’Amato also pointed out the possibly embarrassing fact that Mayor Shantz actually was a co-chair for one of the two environmental committees that she produced after dismantling CPAC. It would appear that Ms. Shantz is simply drumming up business for her pet committee.
On the other hand, there may be a more nefarious reason for making citizens jump through hoops and loops before getting a chance to present at Woolwich Council. Ms. Shantz and Mr. Bauman had manufactured a CPAC crisis likely in conjunction with Chemtura Canada and the MOE. Then, Sandy handpicked the TAG committee members as well as those for the RAC committee although the latter consisted mostly of government bureaucrats. If it seems likely that most of Woolwich Councillors were kept intentionally in the dark by Ms. Shantz and Mr. Bauman, then these two committees could certainly serve as insulation between two groups: knowledgeable citizens and councillors. What a great way to prevent informed citizens, such as CPAC members, from also bringing the rest of council up to speed. The last thing Sandy Shantz wanted was for CPAC members to publicly spill the latest Dr. Jackson revelations about Chemtura Canada and the MOE to the rest of council.
Luisa quoted comments made by the lone dissenting Councillor Patrick Merlihan. He described his colleagues’ behaviour as “an embarrassment."185 He also stated that “It’s not good for the township. We need as many perspectives as we can get."186 Finally, Luisa D’Amato suggested “… that listening to citizens, especially on the compelling subject of polluted waterways, is absolutely the business of an elected council. If that isn’t its business, what is?"187
Both on April 5 and 6, 2016, the Waterloo Region Record weighed in again. The April 5 Record published an editorial titled, “Council shouldn’t gag the public” and on April 6, an article was published written by Anam Latiff entitled “Woolwich council won’t block speakers.” The April 5 editorial asks, “So what’s it going to be in Woolwich Township after tonight, when council debates a foolish, unnecessary motion?"188 This statement was followed by “The reason for this new rule seems petty, and entirely to benefit the politicians. The proposal came forward after local resident and environmental activist Dan Holt asked council to react more strongly to chemical concentrations that “far exceed any acceptable threshold for human exposure” at a “hot spot” on Canagagigue Creek."189
The Record’s editorial continued, “While the politicians who already voted for the new curbs on public speakers didn’t say so, it looks like they’re trying to stifle a handful of the most outspoken environmental activists."190 This, of course, is one hundred percent accurate as the council actions were taken against Dr. Holt, CPAC Chair and me the author, a current CPAC member as well as a past UPAC, CPAC, and SWAT member. Furthermore, the Record even stepped in with comments about council’s favourite red herring: delegates’ behaviour. The Record stated, “If politicians don’t want to listen to citizens who get worked up about a public issue, who get excited, maybe even lose their tempers - tough. Being willing to listen to the people is part of the municipal politician’s job description."191
The last paragraph of this editorial states: ”For politicians to say citizens have to jump through hoops like trained poodles before addressing council is insulting, undemocratic and plain wrong. Let’s hope council comes to its senses tonight, digs a deep hole and buries this ugly, dangerous motion."192
The April 6, 2016 Record article was written after Woolwich Council backed down while also attempting to save face. Council pretended that oh, they’d been misunderstood. They weren’t really trying to censor or stifle delegates from appearing before them. It was all a big mistake. They had independently decided on their own with no pressure from or response based upon the stories and editorials in the Record, the Observer, or local CTV television to amend their motion to merely a suggestion that citizens present to committees of council first, rather than directly to council.
Both Sandy Shantz and Councillor Mark Bauman attempted to rewrite history as they suggested at the Tuesday April 5, 2016 council meeting that their intent had simply been misunderstood. Far from either banning citizens from speaking to council or making them jump through unnecessary hoops and loops, they were simply trying to make council “efficient.” I was one of a few Woolwich citizens who spoke to council that night. I asked, “Since when does efficiency trump democracy?"193 I followed that with “No council should ever ban delegates from speaking on important concerns."194 The Record article also stated “Marshall argued the subcommittees meet too infrequently, four times a year to be able to address issues in a timely manner. He called council’s attempts to silence him and Holt “ill-advised."195
Woolwich resident and very brief CPAC member, Lynne Hare, addressed Woolwich Council telling them that they should listen to the people who voted them into office. She then took a nifty shot at Mayor Shantz when she replied to the mayor’s earlier metaphor: “Yes, this is a soapbox, and the right to use it is protected."196
Councillor Patrick Merlihan was the only councillor who voted against the revised and much less offensive motion just as he had voted against the original, far worse motion two weeks earlier. He stated, “When I look at our jobs as politicians, having a motion like this is not going to help us."197 The revised motion simply added that staff could suggest that delegates speak to council committees first but if the delegates wished to speak to council first then that would be accepted. Frankly, to the time of publication of this book I have never been asked by staff to go through a committee first such as RAC or TAG. Staff knows better.
The Woolwich Observer was next to take a round out of a richly deserving Woolwich Council. Its article was published on April 7, 2016 and titled, “Woolwich backs away, but not all the way down, from divisive delegate policy.” Steve Kannon of the Observer jumped right into the Woolwich Township inspired mess by stating that Woolwich Council was backpedalling and that in the process they offered “ a revised version of recent history."198 That sounds to me as if Mr. Kannon is suggesting that Woolwich Councillors are fibbers. Mr. Kannon in his April 7 article also draws attention to councillors’ behaviour from two weeks before when they responded to Dr. Dan Holt’s request for an explanation. Mr. Kannon observes their response was “… with embarrassed silence, mumbled explanations and clutched straws."199 He continues that Mayor Shantz “attempted to deflect criticism with a pre-emptive statement that took a revisionist slant on what happened in council chambers two weeks prior."200 Councillor Bauman introduced his amended motion, which essentially was for staff not to screen would-be delegates but simply advise them of options.
Dr. Holt spoke to Woolwich Councillors and made it clear that their actions and behaviours from two weeks previously had been roundly condemned and in fact council had attempted to prevent him from speaking before backing down. I spoke to council and criticized Sandy Shantz’s attempt to rework what happened the last time around. I also blasted councillors for their attempted censorship. Resident Lynne Hare stressed that she believed it was council’s role to listen to the people of the township rather than “closing doors and censoring citizens."201 Councillor Merlihan condemned both motions as a solution to a problem that didn’t exist and a poor solution at that. Lastly, even Councillor Martin got into the act. The Observer unlike the Record felt that Councillor Martin also voted against the motion but for an entirely different reason to Councillor Merlihan’s. Councillor Martin felt that the motion didn’t go far enough and “doesn’t have any teeth."202 Councillor Martin also made rude references to “those kinds of people."203 apparently referencing local and committed environmentalists and democracy advocates—of which I am clearly one.
The hits just kept on coming for Woolwich Council and their anti-democratic attempts. The next one was a cartoon by Arnold published in this same edition of the Observer as Steve Kannon’s article of April 7, 2016. It shows Woolwich Councillors around a table with Mayor Shantz petting a skunk that’s on the table with “Censorship Policy” written on it. In the next frame, the skunk has let loose with a cloud that seeps through the entire council chambers. One of the councillors jumps up and says, “I’ll open a window!” Presumably, it is Councillor Merlihan who says “Like we couldn’t see that one coming …” In my opinion, this cartoon is worth more than a thousand words.
On April 14, 2016, a Letter ToThe Editor of the Woolwich Observer from Dr. Dan Holt was published. The title that the Observer put on Dr. Holt’s letter was “Standing up for the environment shouldn’t invite council’s disdain.” I refer to Dr. Holt’s letter as a combination of kudos and brickbats. Dr. Holt praises Councillor Patrick Merlihan, Observer Editor Steve Kannon, both Paige Desmond and Luisa D’Amato of the Record, and Eric Drozd of 570 Talk Radio. He advises that all these news media people and one councillor stood up for free speech and democracy. Dr. Holt also praises “those people” who have been fighting for the environment while urging Chemtura, the Ministry of Environment, and Woolwich Council to do the same. This praise includes “those people“ who are current and recent past CPAC members. Dr. Holt, however, uses an unfortunate term that Councillor Murray Martin used to disparage current CPAC members. In fact, Dr. Holt specifically addresses Councillor Martin’s unenlightened and indeed reactionary attitudes thusly: “And lastly, I’d like to thank Coun. Murray Martin for lumping me in with that type of people council is dealing with. ” I’m proud to stand with “those” citizens who see an injustice or problems and are willing to put their time, fortune, and effort into making it better for all."204
I am preceding these next words with an apology. I asked permission to write about correspondence that was sent to the six members of Woolwich Council by an individual citizen expressing disappointment in council’s behaviour regarding their handling and mishandling of the censorship policy. This individual’s words were direct, blunt, respectful yet, in my opinion, devastating. This citizen may well be but one of many. Obviously “private” correspondence on public matters sent to elected council’s rarely become available for public knowledge. I asked for permission to use the correspondence in its entirety as well as the name of the author. The answer was if council has made the letter public via its minutes, for example, of a council meeting, then permission was granted. Otherwise not. Well that’s a quandary. I’m doubtful that council would do any such thing with a signed letter sent to them privately even though it is in regards to a public matter. The next difficulty is if council did include it in a public document, which document, which date and would council release it anyway if requested. Therefore my apologies but I’m going to use some of the contents of that letter in this book albeit without identifying the author or presenting the letter in its entirety.
A private citizen in a letter to Woolwich Councillors expressed surprise at Mayor Shantz’s behaviour at the April 5, 2016 council meeting in speaking prior to two registered delegations to council. This letter was in regards to her apparently trying to pre-empt if not pre-judge the two upcoming delegations. Her assumptions and claims were ridiculous, rude, and inaccurate. The author of this letter went on to suggest that council had violated their own procedural by-laws. The letter ends with a plea for mutual respect but that for councillors to so receive they must behave in accordance with their own rules.
If prior to publication of my book I were to discover that this letter had somehow been made public by council, then I would reproduce it in its entirety along with the author’s name.
ENDNOTES for Chapter 21
174 Editorial, Councillors fail democracy with embarrassing act”, Woolwich Observer, March 24, 2016, p.6.
179 Paige Desmond, “Woolwich moves to curb speakers”, Waterloo Region Record, March 29, 2016,p.A1.
182 Ibid. p.A2.
183 Luisa D’Amato, “Woolwich council should be listening to its citizens, not censoring them”,
Waterloo Region Record, March 30, 2016
188 Editorial, “Council shouldn’t gag the public”, Waterloo Region Record, April 5, 2016
193 Anam Latiff, "Woolwich council won't block speakers", Waterloo Region Record, April 6, 2016
198 Steve Kannon, “Woolwich backs away, but not all the way down, from divisive delegate policy”,
Woolwich Observer, April 7, 2016, p.8.
204 Letter To The Editor, “Standing up for the environment shouldn’t invite council’s disdain”, Woolwich Observer, April 14, 2016