Continuing with my series of questions asked of some of the candidates for the Collingwood 2014 Municipal Election. Here is my next question which piggy backs onto my last post about bloc voting.
Over the past three and half years I have constantly witnessed bloc voting by the Mayor, Deputy Mayor, Ian Chadwick, Kevin Lloyd and Sandy Cunningham on most major issues. My opinion is that bloc voting in municipal politics is undemocratic and serves the needs of a few rather than the needs of the public at large. We elect people to municipal office as individuals, that’s why political parties are not part of the municipal political process in Ontario.
What is your opinion?
I wrote about that voting bloc over a year ago, and nothing has changed since then read:
“They” continue to flaunt it publicly read:
I have attended almost every council meeting over the past 2 years. Regarding Collingwood’s voting bloc, 2 things are both obvious, and sad, to anyone who attends.
First, when it comes to contentious issues like the Admiral site, you can actually predict the way councillors will cast their vote in advance of the motion.
Second, not only does Mayor Cooper vote the same way as Deputy Mayor Lloyd 100% of the time, but if you pay attention, you will see that she actually has to look directly at him, in order to remember which way she is supposed to vote.
Simple answer from me – agreed (with Nobody’s opinion) absolutely.
In my opinion bloc voting is the epitome of partisan politics and it has no place at the Municipal Council table where elected officials are charged with making decisions that should impact the community fairly as a whole. Politically driven decisions are seldom good ones. Too often they ignore pertinent facts, go against better judgment, are made out of spite and are done solely for the benefit of a select few. Bloc voting has been far too prevalent not just with this Council but with prior ones as well. I will say however that at times, bloc voting has been flagrant within this Council and I sight the Admiral Collingwood/Admiral Village site remediation agreement as the prime example.
Our Municipal Council is made up of nine individuals and while I would hope the next candidates to be elected will work to cohesively together for the betterment of Collingwood there will at times be differences of opinion. As long as these opinions are based on fact with each member of Council having made their choices based on a thorough review of report(s) prepared by staff, from other sources of relevant information or by looking at similar circumstances in other municipalities, then the environment will exist where bloc voting simply will not prevail. While bloc voting is the combined actions of a group, the irony is it is the mentality of the participating individuals that allows it to happen.
The 5 – 4 vote is a perplexing one. It feels like things are just squeaking through. While it would be more comforting to have a better majority of Council on matters of consideration, this phenomenon seems to happen with regularity in our municipal Councils over the past decade at least. And I agree that in some cases the needs of one or a few are met rather than consistent policy development to serve the largest majority possible. It can work the other way too though.
I’ve pondered your question for the long weekend. While I’ve seen it first hand myself, I’m not sure how you would combat it except through the election process. The voters have to elect strong independent thinkers – and that can be difficult to accomplish if candidates present themselves one way during the election and perform differently once in office.
The ward election process as opposed to the at-large scenario may or may not address the situation. But currently I tend not to be in favour of a ward system for our municipality as I feel we are too small in geographic size for any real benefit.
It may also come down to leadership and the ability of the Mayor to develop a cohesive and unified approach by Council members to the strategic goals of the municipality.
Chris Carrier (Candidate for Mayor)
Of course Bloc Voting is undemocratic and perhaps there may be times when the Ontario Provincial Police, the Ontario Ombudsman, the Closed Meeting Investigator and others with oversight will be asked to review the decisions of a council to ensure the integrity of the decision made. The public is privileged and entitled to see a decision made by their elected Council after a thorough discussion by members asking questions of clarification of staff (who have produced a report on the matter being discussed) and then putting their own view on matter in the public realm in a scheduled Council meeting. While members inevitably must vote yes or no to a matter the term “bloc voting” refers to matters being predetermined before any substantive discussion occurs in the public realm. To me “bloc voting” seems more to be about maintaining a political system that serves the interests of others before the public’s interest. During my time as Mayor (2006-2010) I chaired our meetings and a lot of the meetings did last 3-6 hours. The discussions were often robust and while often times members were tired from a long evening’s work all of us went home knowing the public was well served by hearing our questions and concerns about a particular issue in an open, transparent and honest process. It is my hope a new 2014 Council will be one that will always put the public’s best interest first.