100 Watts : Situation Critical


My column this week has to do with freedoms.

Particularly freedom of the press and freedom of expression both of which have been under attack in our town by a small band of morons intent on silencing criticism outright.

You can read it here:

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 Corazon Aquino, the first woman to run for President of the Philippines, faced an avalanche of criticism during her political career.  She embraced it, saying:

“Freedom of expression – in particular, freedom of the press – guarantees popular participation in the decisions and actions of government, and popular participation is the essence of our democracy.”

The sentiment was not shared by the majority of council last year, one of those councilors who was re-elected considers herself a defender of the pathetic “gold standard of democracy” that was termed during last year’s election and proved to be anything but.

Clr. Wendy Gaertner who at the council meeting of Tuesday October 11th stated :

“I believe we have a code of ethics and a code of conduct in place. And I believe that council decisions are not allowed to be criticized in the media.  Just want to make that point.”

Unbelivable, I know.  You can watch the section of the meeting between 50:07 – 50:27 online here:  http://www.rogerstv.com/page.aspx?lid=237&rid=69&gid=85962

Well Clr. Gaertner, 

Your understanding is a farce.

I would like for you to explain how Aurora’s shodily constructed Code of Conduct supercedes section 2 (b) of Canada’s charter of rights and freedoms which states that “Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms: … freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication.”

Understanding freedom of expression requires not only understanding its place in the Canadian constitution, but also, understanding it within the context of society and society’s competing values.  You can find out more here:

I just wanted to make that point.  Which I am “allowed” to do so whether you like it or not.

The fact that the Clr. is uncomfortable with criticism is irrelevant as Murray I. Gurfein correctly points out:

“A cantankerous press, an obstinate press, a ubiquitous press, must be suffered by those in authority in order to preserve the right of the people to know.”

An annual event known as “World Press Freedom Day” helps celebrate these rights and  freedoms:

The Press Freedom Index, an annual ranking of countries compiled and published by Reporters Without Borders (http://en.rsf.org/press-freedom-index-2010,1034.html) ranked Canada in 21st place in their 2010 report.

This is well above places that implement severe restrictions on freedom of speech like China (171, Iran (175) and North Korea (177), which are no doubt models that Clr. Gaertner is looking to emulate.

So how does the specific clause that Clr. Gaertner cites (the same one that required 2 integrity comissioners to rule on complaints from Clr. Evilina MacHekron last term) actualy serve our rights and freedoms as Canadians or the town of Aurora?

Clause 3. Communications and Media Relations.
Members of Council will accurately and adequately communicate the attitudes and decisions of Council even if they disagree with the majority decision of Council.
Members shall allow respect for the decision making process of Council
Official information related to decisions and resolutions made by Council will normally be communicated to the community and the media by council in an official capacity by the Mayor or designated staff member or through a press release issued by the Corporation.
Information concerning adopted policies,procedures and decisions of Council shall be conveyed openly and accurately.
Confidential information will be communicated only when and after determined by Council.
Communications with the media and Members of Council shall be conducted through proper interviews or media releases. Members shall refrain from writing letters to the editor or writing a regular column in the newspaper or hosting or co-hosting a regular televised program .

For a member of council that squaked incessently about being “gagged”, it is laughable that she believes this clause serves anything but that purpose.

This has been writen with the intent to overtly control what can and cannot be said regarding matters of the town.

It is counter-intuitive, downright insulting and needs to be removed.

Those that respond in a continualy hyper-sensitive manner to criticism not only have no place in government, they are a detriment to it.

I have written several posts on the subject of criticism and how it is a necessary element of political discourse, of which the following are most applicable:

William Congreve once said:

He who closes his ears to the views of others shows little confidence in the integrity of his own views”

The business that needs to be attended to by council is the town’s, not a bunch of delicate egos.

Imagine if Clr. Gaertner, or former one-term Mayor Phyllis Morris had spent a fraction of the time and resources they spent fighting and attempting to censor their critics and instead looked to address them for the betterment of the town.

For Aurora to regain its sense of community, continuity and most importantly integrity its politicans must 
stop trying to escape critcism of their actions and learn to engage it.

1 year into a 4 year term it looks to me that Mayor Dawe, Dep. Mayor Abel Clrs. Pirri, Thompson, Buck and Humpfreys understand and accomplish this.

Clrs Gallo, Balard and Gaertner have a lot to learn,

and yes that is a criticism.

Watts on your mind?

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