I strongly support fiscal responsibility, investment in infrastructure and our community that will produce dividends for the community and openness and transparency in government for all individuals. I will work for getting bus service for Lambeth and a Community Sports Complex for South West London. I will fight for fiscal responsibility, moderate and responsible growth and job creation to help create employment and help get people off welfare and to help London prosper.
As your councillor between 2000 and 2003, and also our former Councillor Gord Hume, now Controller, helped produce many of the positive developments that occurred in Lambeth, Byron and Westmount over the last 6 years. Team work pays off. No one individual can claim credit for these developments.
The Ontario Municipal Board decision to create 14 Wards gives use both challenges and opportunities. The intent behind the OMB decision was to create communities of interest and to connect the elected official with the Ward. Having a strong connection is important and one of the main ways to do this his living in the ward and having a strong connection to the Ward. You can choose to vote for someone who lives in the ward or vote for someone who does not live in the Ward. You have to decide who represents your views and interests best.
I also have represented Ward 7 between 2000-2003. I voting record was exemplary. On all of the controversial issues I voted the right way. This gives us an opportunity to compare voting records. This is really what you are electing us for our skills, ability, judgment, integrity and our performance as politicians and community leaders. We now have an opportunity to compare voting records between Susan Eagle and myself.
I have in my hand a copy of the Urban League Voting record for City Councillors 2000-2003 prepared for the 2003 election. I have a number of copies of this report if you are interested. What is remarkable is that Councillor Eagle and I voted the same on many issues. However, there are some important differences. One example is that Susan Eagle voted for Jeff Malpass's $4,500 a month pay increase and 13 weeks vacation package to get him to taken on the position of Acting City Manager. I was one of four councillors who voted against this pay package. There was such an explosion of public outrage, especially over the 13 week vacation package that it had to be given back and it set in motion a change of events that eventually lead to Jeff Malpass's dismissal.
Another difference was that I voted in favour of an industrial land strategy which called for an investment of 3 million per year for 20 years to purchase and service industrial land so that it was ready for immediate use by industry and other employers that were looking to invest in London. If we were going to attract new jobs and investment and create new tax assessment in London we need to be able to compete with other centres in southwestern Ontario and with municipalities in the United States. Simply put we would lose the opportunity of bringing these jobs and investments to London. I supported the Staff recommendation, Councillor Eagle opposed it. There is another difference I supported a 3% increase in Councillors pay which brought us up to the inflation increase and to around $28,000 per year salary. Councillors certainly do not run for these positions because of the money. Councillor Eagle is listed as absent for this vote.
My attendance record was exemplary and I do not believe I missed a single council meeting and perhaps only one committee meeting, if that, because I was sick. I did not miss a single important vote when I was on City Council. Councillor Eagle cannot say that.
Coucillor eagle states on her Web site that she opposed the hiring of a $535 an hour lawyer to fight the Imagine London OMB decision. City Council voted to fight the decision and as I predicted lost the judicial review as the OMB had the jurisdiction to divide the wards. What Councillor Eagle does not say is that she voted for this same $535 an hour lawyer, George Rust-Dye to fight a case which went to the Ontario Court of Appeal where the City lost. The case is now going to the Supreme Court of Canada The London Free Press reported that the City had spent over $300,000 on the case so far. The costs are going to mount significantly and as I believe that the City will loose the case you and I as taxpayers will have to pay the tab for the other party. The cost in this case will no doubt mount to around a million dollars. The issue is can the City Council discuss and vote upon a matter behind close doors because there is a potential legal challenge to the City's actions.
The Ontario Court of Appeal overturned the lower court decision. They held that attaching a legal report to a document "does not operate to cloak all of the documents with privilege." The Court of Appeal held that in terms of law that all matters before Council must be debated and voted on in public. Only those matters that met the narrowly defined exemptions set out in the Ontario Municipal Act should be considered in secret.
Openness and transparency are the hallmarks of democracy. This principle applies to all decisions that would affect any individual, including developers. Only property purchase matters, personnel matters and narrowly defined legal matters should be not open to the public. The Court of Appeal decision was based on sound principles.
There also have been many legal disputes over zoning of land. Land owners, and even citizen groups like Imagine London, have gone to the Ontario Municipal Board to challenge decisions made by London City Council. There are numerous instances where the City has lost these battles and been held responsible for paying a substantial amount of legal costs.
City Council is currently embroiled in a costly legal battle with RSJ Holdings over what started out as an attempt by the City to freeze development for one year on Richmond Street. The developer bought land that allowed the building of a fourplex. Concerns from the neighbourhood over student housing led to an interim control bylaw being imposed. In arguing the case City Solicitor Jim Barber described interim control bylaws as "draconian."
The impact on an owner who buys property with specific zoning and then has a development freeze imposed after the fact hurts the property value and the rights of the owner. The issue, however, was debated and voted by City Council behind closed doors. The Ontario Municipal Act states that all matters "shall" be open to the public unless they fall under narrowly defined exceptions. The exceptions are property matters being looked at for purchase, employment matters where an identifiable individual was involved, and litigation or legal matters covered under solicitor client privilege.
RSJ Holdings challenged the Interim Control Bylaw arguing that it was not debated and voted on in public as required by law. The Ontario Superior Court upheld the City's position that this was a potential litigation matter and therefore fell under the litigation exemption. RSJ Holdings appealed.
The City has appealed the case to the Supreme Court of Canada. This issue is not yet over. However, an important question is how much is this going to cost. It was reported in the London Free Press that a $545 per hour lawyer has been hired to fight the case and more than $300,000 has already been spent. Expenses will surely mount in this case. One has to wonder if this legal battle, to limit pubic access to City Council's decision making, is worth the tremendous cost to the City of London taxpayers.
Toronto's purchase of the Green Lane Landfill has been seized upon by some London Council members as an election issue. Councillor Eagle was reported to have said, "The city should close roads or install toll booths to stop Toronto trash from being dumped in the Green Lane facility..."( London Free Press September 23, 2006).
Most of Elgin County, including St. Thomas and Aylmer, use the Green Lane facility to dispose of their garbage. They need the roads. Toll roads also require the permission of the lieutenant-governor in council. Toronto has 22 ridings. No political party is going to ignore that reality.
Green Lane applied for an expansion of their privately owned facility and it was approved by the Environment Minister in June of 2006. Toronto's shipments of garbage to Michigan are to end by 2010. This was not a secret. City Council could have intervened in the Environmental Assessment and pressed for limits on garbage from outside of the region. They failed to do so.
Do not be fooled by political posturing and costly dead end legal challenges. City Council clearly dropped the ball on the Toronto garbage issue.
Ontarians pay by far the highest property taxes in Canada. Municipal taxing powers are restricted to property taxes and fees for permits and services. A property tax system is unfair to those on a fixed income.
Under the current system municipal property taxes, in Ontario, subsidize provincial programs and services over $3 billion per year. It is not appropriate to fund provincial programs from municipal property taxes.
The money grab does not end there. Councillor Susan Eagle is reported to have supported a request for $1,000,000 for a drug treatment program "aimed a reducing substance abuse problems in London's core area's." (London Free Press September 25, 2006). This problem clearly falls under provincial responsibility. London's property tax payers should not be burdened with this additional cost.
According to Association of Municipalities of Ontario "Ontario's unique situation of requiring municipalities to subsidize provincial programs and provincial services is not good public policy and it is not economically sustainable." Why would a senior level of government pay for a program someone else is funding? Ward 9 property tax payers should not be forced to pay for programs that are not municipal responsibility.