On March 8th 2013 the biggest political story ever to hit Collingwood was broadcast on various forms of media across the province. Members of the current council and people closely connected with it were being investigated by the anti-rackets branch of the OPP. I believe this was the biggest black eye our town has ever had, whatever the outcome of this investigation. Some of the people that are being investigated are running for re-election in October along with yourselves. I have had conversations about this with many people that live in Collingwood. There seems to be a lot of cynicism about the local political scene and a feeling that whomever they vote for nothing will change.
Another two part question:
What will you do personally to change that perception?
Have you been interviewed by the OPP in connection with this investigation?
I will answer the easiest question first that being, have I been interviewed by the OPP with respect to their ongoing investigation? The answer is no.
I believe the element of cynicism is not just limited to the local political scene; it’s widespread and deservedly earned by political figures at all levels. Let’s start with the federal government and the Senate scandal in Ottawa. Then we have the gas plants, Ornge helicopter and other fiascos provincially. Further down at the municipal level there’s of course Mayor Rob Ford, now new allegations against Mayor Susan Fennell of Brampton all the way down to the recent issues affecting our community. Whether it is federally, provincially or municipally, the “political rights” of citizens seem to have taken a back seat to the self serving “political agendas” of those that have been duly elected to represent the public-at-large. People in general have had enough including myself which is the primary reason I have decided to run for Council.
Fundamentally, I do not view the role of a Council member as being political. There is no political party affiliation at the municipal level so political ideals or partisan politics should effectively not exist. By its very definition, playing politics is dealing with people in an opportunistic, manipulative, or devious way for personal advancement or financial gain. Is this not the root cause of the cynicism?
Overcoming the current perception within the community is going to take time. As I stated when announcing my candidacy, while we have yet to learn anything of the findings from the OPP investigation, we are tarnished by the mere need for such an investigation into our community’s affairs. How do we look to the outside world? Would a major employer looking to locate here feel comfortable in their dealings with the municipality? What about a developer? Our municipality entered into a three way agreement with the developers of the Admiral Collingwood/Admiral Village lands only to renege on that agreement.
Changing the public’s perception will be dependent solely on the integrity and ethics of the nine members elected to Council in October. None of us can do it alone! Integrity and ethics can’t sought, bought or taught. You either live your life guided by moral principles or you don’t its part of your DNA. Each and every member of our new Council must execute the responsibilities of the position based on strong ethical principles yielding decisions and results that will as universally as possible, benefit the community as a whole. We must also listen to the voices of the community and while it will not always be possible to heed to their desires, they should at least understand and respect why a decision against of for their wishes had to be made.
In one of your prior posts you described me as a “policy wonk.” I take that as a compliment. Following policy, procurement procedures, rules of conduct and conflict of interest guidelines etc. will make good governance, accountability and transparency more than mere buzz words. I believe that those who know me through my past involvement in the community, whether through my business or my volunteer work, know me as a genuine individual, I give selflessly of my time, skills and experience to those I have been chosen to serve. These traits will serve me well in helping to guide the future of Collingwood.
Chris Carrier (Candidate for Mayor)
Let me answer your second question first, I was asked by the OPP for an interview and YES I was interviewed. During the 2006-2010 Council there were no allegations of criminal behaviour. I did request of then CAO, Mr. Gord Norris an email audit of all council members during the time they sat in Council meetings. I should have informed council before but the purpose was to ensure open and transparency of council meetings (that no improper communication such as people who had business before council) was occurring during the period when council were to make decisions on the public’s behalf. No council email content was read.
As Mayor I led by example, my meetings at Town Hall were attended by my then Executive Assistant who took audio recordings of the meetings to ensure accurate minutes were made available to Council members. I posted my expenses online, gave extensive interviews to radio, television, print media and a lot of public speaking engagements with community groups such as Rotary, GTDI (Georgian Triangle Development Institute), PROBUS, the Chamber of Commerce, BIA and more. Our former CAO Mr. Gord Norris referred to me during an interview (just before he retired) with the Enterprise Bulletin as the most open and transparent Mayor he had ever worked with. I am supportive of the open data model of government. “Open Data is about offering government data in machine readable formats to enable citizens, the private sector, and non-government organizations to leverage it in innovative and value-added ways.” http://data.gc.ca/eng/open-data
The Town of Collingwood has made some data more accessible but it is evident from the hiring of a full-time staffer to assist with Freedom of Information requests that much more needs to be done to make more information available and to regain the trust of public in their local elected government officials. As much information that government can provide without breaking privacy regulations can be achieved with the will of council but if there is no will there is no way. It must be made easier and simpler for the people we were elected to serve who wish to make themselves aware of what their local government is doing will be helpful in re-establishing the integrity of our decision making process have access to information. I will support initiatives that will bring better transparency and accountability of government to our constituents.
I am open to listening to new ideas and discussing new ways of making the decision making process more transparent. I worked with several ethical colleagues from 2006-2010 and would like to lead a council once again that will ensure openness and transparency of local decision making is a priority. Some of the strongest critics of the 2006-2010 Council term are now the ones whose decisions are being scrutinized by the OPP. I do not think that is a coincidence and I believe that you the voters of Collingwood think that as well. Contact me at email@example.com or visit my web site at http://www.chriscarrier.com and sign up for my newsletter to continue a dialogue for better local government.
Well, it’s a little early to comment on the investigation until the results are publicized by the O.P.P. – so the CBC story and the investigation for now are flags that there are some unhappy parties that some of our Council members and/or their representation need to explain to. As a resident I’m not privy to the facts that initiated the story. I was embarrassed that our Council would need to come under such scrutiny, but trusting in the process to address them either way. To answer your last question first, I was not interviewed by the O.P.P. regarding the investigation.
Given the amount of fraud and illegal actions within all orders of government lately it is difficult not to be cynical about the political system. Within our municipality, I believe the length of time it has taken for the ongoing OPP investigation has contributed to the cynicism when there are no answers. When decisions seem to benefit a few individuals as opposed to the majority of taxpayers in our community it is frustrating. These are hard financial times and none of us can afford costly errors requiring significant increases to our taxes by Council.
Election time residents should take their voting right seriously and vote for representation they can trust. As a successful candidate what I would be able to do is what I always do – fulfill my responsibilities according to the code of conduct, with integrity, honesty and perseverance and make informed decisions on each issue independently for what I believe benefits our community the most. Open two-way communication is extremely important so that residents contribute to decisions and understand why decisions are made, and I am committed to that communication strategy.