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.
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Hmm. The above title is the opinion of Martin Regg Cohn as expressed in today's Waterloo Region Record. Mr. Cohn while not remotely defending the plant cancellations nevertheless feels that all the facts can and will come out appropriately via the Ontario legislature. He states "The Liberal government blundered by spending big money on two stillborn power plants.". Mr. Cohn's opinion appears to be based upon the facts that a minority government has fewer oppotunities to shut down or stifle various legislative committees which are currently examining and researching the gas plant closures. Whether the Liberal government was merely responding to NIMBYism from Oakville and Mississauga residents versus an actual Liberal seat saver program is going to be difficult to prove. Also as an environmentalist I'm not going to take at face value the claims of NIMBYism. I have often seen that barb used when there are indeed substantive health, safety and environmental issues involved. Finally again I'm not an expert on political processes and procedures. Mr. McGuinty managed to stifle those very same legislative committees for many months by peroguing the legislature. Are there any other tricks that could still be pulled out of the hat to stymy public transparency?
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Boy am I ever struggling with this one. I've long recognized gambling as a sin denounced by some religious groups as well as many others. The argument in Woolwich Township just north of Waterloo, Ontario is that this issue should not be a moral issue but simply a business, financial one. Seriously I don't think that is the case as the money flowing into these casinos is in theory discretionary income being spent on entertainment. If true then people are spending less on movies, books, theatre, clothing, bowling etc. and simply transferring it to the casinos. If true then casinos will simply compete, probably well, with other areas of entertainment. One of the problems is the folks who spend money beyond their discretionary income. Quite frankly for decades I've always considered things like government sponsered lottery tickets as merely a tax on the stupid. The odds of winning are horrific and yet people spend money week in and week out on them. Personally I don't view casinos as money making ventures for anyone but the casinos and or government.
Getting back to the moral issues. The local Mennonite tradition in Woolwich Township is certainly against the typical sins of drinking and gambling. Yours truly has long enjoyed a cold beer especially after a squash game. At the same time I am fully aware that a certain segment of the population are alcoholics and there is no safe level of alcohol for them. Should alcohol and gambling be banned because there are certain citizens who become addicted? Should one and not the other be banned? There is a certain hypocrisy in my gut feeling that slots and casinos should not be in communities while I'm just dandy having the odd cold beer. Yours truly even worked a few years back in a domicillary hostel which was home to recovering alcoholics and drug addicts. There is another issue. Many drugs are horrific, physically and phsycologically. Other drugs are less addictive and harmful than tobacco and alcohol. Governments have absolutely no problem with alcohol, tobacco and gambling and make billions off them.
Politically Woolwich Township can see the money coming in to help balance their budget and take pressure off of constantly rising taxes. Personally I don't like the idea but to date I don't feel as if I have any debate ending, game changing data or facts to trump the arguments of the pro side. This issue was divisive more than a decade ago in Woolwich Township and I expect it will continue so.
Monday, February 25, 2013
This is so disappointing. I've been posting here in the Advocate for only a little over a year and I've lost count of how many local police officers have gotten themselves into trouble. Saturday's Waterloo Region Record carrys this story "Guelph officer charged after hockey rink incident". Sure one can look on the bright side. We live in a democracy and as parents who get overenthusiastic and get physical with hockey officials get charged; it is appropriate for police officers as well if they misbehave. There are countries where police officers don't get charged regardless. The other tiny ray of light might be that this incident dosen't involve a Waterloo Regional Police officer. To date most of the stories here have involved Waterloo Regional Police misbehaviour. At the same time I know that I'm getting very concerned when I keep learning of these incidents involving local and nearby police. Do we have a systemic problem involving recruitment of officers? Or is it that the various pressures upon them somehow leads to frustration or acting out? Finally the worst case scenario might be are these officers so unsupervised and unaccountable that they eventually begin to get a mindset that they can do no wrong?
Police officers should as a group have an incredibly low rate of criminal or even civil misbehaviour, almost by definition. What the heck is going on? This is a prime example of where civilian oversight as through the Police Board should be stepping up and finding answers. Each and every time an officer is either charged or convicted it erodes public confidence. I am not remotely suggesting here that these incidents should be covered up or kept private. What I am suggesting is that they be examined carefully for the root causes and steps be taken to work on reducing the number of incidents involving our police officers.
Friday, February 22, 2013
I find that number staggering. Today's Waterloo Region Record has the following story "New courthouse will open March 4". In other words over three quarters of a billion dollars for one building and accessories. Keep in mind of course that this is in a period of declining criminal statistics as well as declining economic activity. Maybe our "experts" and "authorities" know something that we don't know. Perhaps there is a link to things like unemployment and underemployment and criminal activity. Or perhaps there is a link between bloated bureaucracys and tax increases. I wonder just how many police and court workers have been laid off during our criminal downturn? I wonder why we are dramatically expanding our courtrooms, jail cells and high tech security during the same period? Is our justice system just one more top heavy bureaucracy that is always expanding regardless of need? Is empire building going on in the justice system similar to the health and education system? Just exactly when did Joe taxpayer lose all control over public spending and or mispending?
Thursday, February 21, 2013
Today's Waterloo Region Record has an Opinion piece by Luisa D"Amato titled "Trustees could learn something from Fraser study". This refers to the Fraser Institute's annual rankings of schools across Ontario based upon province wide standardized tests. These annual rankings of both our Catholic schools and our public schools are routinely ignored and or dismissed by our local boards. This according to Luisa is a tremendous waste of very valuable information. Afterall the province decided to have these standardized tests for a reason and that is that our schools are charged with the duty of educating our children. Certainly just as the children are tested and the results used to help the lower scoring students, similarily there is an opportunity for lowering rankinf=g schools to improve if they are willing to learn from those who are doing well. What Luisa finds unfortunate is that our school boards don't even want to open the conversation. In fact Luisa states "I'd want officials to stop posturing and start asking serious questions." There are huge differences between schools and simply family income and or children entering school without an English speaking background do not explain these differences. In fact one reason some schools are so sucessful can be due to their leadership, ie. their principal. I've indicated my opinion in the past that a good principal with a solid core of good teachers can be sucessful in spite of politics, posturing and gamesmanship at the school board level.
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
The above question is based upon repeated testimony by numerous witnesses at the ongoing Ashley Smith inquest, as reported in the Waterloo Region Record. Today's story is titled "Ashley Smith enjoyed ligatures around neck, inquest hears". This time it is guard Michelle Lombardo who is testifying. The most stunning testimony for me is the alleged "use of force" expert, Ken Allan. Allegedly as an employee of the Correctional Service of Canada he told guards, eight days before Ashley Smith's death, that they were entering her cell too often in response to her ligature tying. He allegedly also stated that the guards' use of force reports were making Grand valley's warden look bad at national headquarters. Last and most horrific "During the same meeting, Allan also told the guards that if Smith died as a result of her ligature tying, it would be deemed "death by misadventure"-in other words, the Grand Valley guards wouldn't be blamed...".
Meanwhile Ashley Smith is confidently tying ligatures around her neck absolutely counting on the guards to save her life, each and every time, while management are essentially telling the guards it's O.K. not to save her. Dear God the only surprise here under these circumstances is that she didn't die sooner, not that she eventually did die.
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
O.K. I am confused about this. Last Friday's Waterloo Region Record carried this story "Police plan $1.5 M expansion of cellblock". This cellblock is located on Frederick St. and has been in existence for many decades. We the taxpayers have just finished the construction of the new courthouse on the corner of Weber and Frederick St. My understanding from Record stories, photos and articles over the last few years is that this brand new facility was in the hundreds of millions of dollars and was supposed to be all things to all people. This included multiple courtrooms, high tech security, judicial offices and cellblocks. This new facilty was also supposed to incorporate two couthouses currently in Kitchener, namely Provincial and Superior Court as well as one in Cambridge. Am I missing something here or did we forget cellblocks in the new building?
Friday, February 15, 2013
What exactly does it take to embarass the Waterloo Regional Police? Seriously? It's one scandal or screwup after another. Since I've started this Blog it seems to me about once a month there's either an officer in trouble with a member of the public for alleged illegal activity or an officer in trouble with their own force for alleged behavioural or legal problems. Now we have this ongoing dispute between the police and a long time criminal defence lawyer, namely Harold Mattson. Oh let's not forget the behaviour of the police when a very young girl drew a picture of a gun and told her teacher that her daddy used it to shoot bad guys. Then there are the multiple victories in small claims court by lawyer Davin Charney against our local police. Come on guys, enough is enough!
Over two years ago Mr. Mattson was arrested at the Tim Horton's across the road from the provincial courthouse for allegedly obstructing justice. The charges were dropped and did not proceed to trial. Understandably Mr. Mattson was miffed being publicly arrested for a criminal offence across the street from his place of business, namely the courthouse. Understandably he is suing whether for financial damages or to send a little message to our local police; to smarten the hell up. Regardless our police have now filed their Statement of Defence which from experience is like waving a red flag in front of a bull. Come on Regional Police. Grow up. Just because you have public coffers to drain in paying for lawyers to defend you, doesn't mean you have to. Sit down and negotiate. And if perchance Mr. Mattson would like a public apology, then bite the bullet and do it. Settle this one more embarassment of your own making and get on with the real business of police work. Today's Waterloo Region Record has this story namely "Police claim accused lawyer "injured his own reputation"".
Thursday, February 14, 2013
Another day and another guard on the stand at the inquest into the death of Ashley Smith while in custody in Kitchener at the Grand Valley Institution for Women. It's beginning to seriously look like the institution should be renamed as the Grand Valley Institution for Woeful Managaement. One more guard under oath is claiming that managers at the facility "...were discouraging officers from entering Smith's cell when she tied ligatures around her neck.". Furthermore "The inquest has heard that managers were growing concerned that too many "use of force" reports were being submitted by guards...". Clearly too many paper reports are serious grounds for putting a human beings life at stake if you're a manager at Grand Valley.
The other new information provided by Gaetan Desrochers was that while he was in Ashley Smith's cell trying to calm her down, he was advised to leave her cell. "Under no circumstances do you leave a suicidal person and walk away". Apparently his understanding and common sense was not shared by others within the institution. Finally the deputy warden of the institution took it upon herself to write him up for allegedly not introducing himself to Ms. Smith when he first entered her cell. Mr. Desrochers explained that that was just silly as he and Ms. Smith were well acquainted over numerous interactions over a lenghty time frame. Today's article in the Waterloo Region Record is titled "Guard says he was told to leave Smith strangling".
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
While I am no fan of the Conservatives nevertheless I acknowledge that they are doing their job as an opposition party in the provincial legislature. That job is to hold the government accountable and if that means holding their feet to the fire in regards to various provincial scandals then so be it. The two that immediately come to mind are of course Ornge ambulance service and the two cancelled gas plants. I'm not sure if it was the Tories or the NDP who coined the phrase the Liberals "seat saver" program, but it sure is a good one.
Both yesterday's and today's Waterloo Region Record carry stories about the cancelled gas plants. Yesterday's is titled " Wynne, McGuinty may have to testify about cancelled gas plants". Today's is "Premier to testify about cancelled gas plants". The legislative committee looking into this scandal was adjourned along with the legislature, courtesy of former Premier McGuinty. His house was crumbling and coming down until he perogued the legislature allowing time for a leadership convention. Well now it's time for this still minority, scandal ridden government to face the music. Quoting Cambridge MPP Rob Leone "We will be asking both Kathleen Wynne and Dalton McGuinty to testify because we feel that they both have a role with respect to spending taxpayer dollars to save Liberal seats,". Those taxpayer dollars are from $230 million and up. This is but one example as to why our taxes are so high. Waste and mismangement are forever with government apparently but this is way beyond the pale. Look forward to a new election but no one other than you and I paying for this boondoggle.
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Today's Waterloo Region Record has an excellent opinion piece by Community Editorial Board member, Janice Lee. It is titled "Canada's judicial, corrections systems failing to serve justice". She is referencing two deaths in custody namely Ashley Smith and more recently Kinew James. The John Howard Society advises that 63% of prisoners in Ontario are those who did not make bail and only the remaining 37% have been convicted and sentenced. Recently released from the Vanier Centre for Women in Milton is Mandy Hiscocks who served almost a year there. She was one of the activists involved with protesting the G20 conference in Toronto in June 2010. She believes that the state creates "...this population of people that are constantly in and out of jail, which is very convenient for people who need the jails to be full.". She describes numerous unnecessarily nasty conditions in jail which only tend to increase disrespect for the whole system.
Janice Lee states "The authorities are trying hard to keep the public eye out of prisons. More public pressure could call, at the very least, for an inquest into all the deaths of Canadian prisoners while in custody, if not major prison reform. Until then, our so-called justice system will continue to fail in serving justice.".
If we the public have learned nothing else to date from the inquest into Ashley Smith's death, it is that the state are totally incompetent at the top and totally unaccountable.
Monday, February 11, 2013
My bad! Sorry, they appealed a $5,000 award. This is a police force with something like a $135 million budget. Today's Waterloo Region Record advises us of their appeal in this story "Police lose appeal in case of drug officer's stolen handgun". Waterloo's finest illegally entered a home , kicked the family out for three days while they searched for a gun they themselves had lost and then obtained a search warrant to do what they'd already been doing for three days. Oh and the "evidence" they had came from "...one witness, a petty thief and drug addict who had told conflicting storieas.".
As ridiculous , invasive and asinine as all this is, then the Waterloo Regional Police appealed a $5,000 damages award given to the family who were illegally kicked out of their own home without food, clothes, money and identification. If this happened in the States the family probably would have been awarded $5 million by a sympathetic jury. But our idiot cops without civilian oversight, common sense or one iota of empathy then appeal a stinking $5,000 award for damages. Have they completely lost all perspective? Through their own incompetence they literally left a loaded handgun lying on the ground and then in their zealousness they attack an innocent family on the advice of a drug addict. I swear to God it's only a matter of time before these idiot cops and their supervisers' arrogance and stupidity costs lives. The irony is that it could well be a cops life as they continue to illegally break into people's homes because they can and they are unaccountable. How incredibly stupid for a spouse and children to lose a parent because once more some idiot senior police officer authorizes an illegal breakin to the wrong home. Do the cops think that just because they are the "good" guys that some honest citizen with the ability to defend his family and home won't do exactly that? This is neither the first nor probably last time this crap happens. Will it take a tragedy, solely caused by unaccountable and overzealous senior officers, before citizens stand up and say no more?
Friday, February 8, 2013
So over five years after her death, the seemingly obvious has been explained by a medical doctor at the Ashley Smith ongoing inquest. Any ligature around the neck is dangerous. The fact that staff removed 50-70 ligatures in the preceeeding three months is horrific. All of this leads me to my next question. HOW MANY WARDENS DOES IT TAKE TO SCREW IN A LIGHTBULB? This is the elephant in the room. "Senior management" ordered guards upon threat of discipline and or criminal charges not to go into Ashley Smith's room to intervene until she had stopped breathing. Criminal negligence charges here anyone!!!
Apparently laying criminal charges against employees asap isn't a problem for our police and Crown. Doing the same against idiots with credentials, degrees or some sort of authority hasn't happened yet. WHY NOT?
I've long understood the deference accorded to "bosses" in almost any setting. Clearly in this setting, even with a union present to protect workers' rights; the Correctional Service management felt they could scapegoat employees who had specifically and repeatedly asked for assistance and direction from management in dealing with Ashley Smith. Instead they received criminally negligent orders which put a troubled inmate's life in jeopardy. Today's Waterloo Region Record has this story "Smith inquest told any ligature posed a danger". Yesterday's Record attempted to give a possible reason for the management directives to stay out of Ms. Smith's cell. Allegedly it was "...aimed to lower the number of reports the prison generated.". Are you seriously kidding me? Bureaucracy run amok. Lessen the paperwork first, use common sense second. Is this what Canadians can expect from fellow citizens promoted to positions of authority; allegedly serving the public interests? These decisions should have been common sense or even medical decisions. They should not have been decisions based on bureaucratic paperwork.
Thursday, February 7, 2013
It's about time someone looked into the sham and farce of civilian police boards in this province. Today's Waterloo Region Record has this article "Police boards should play more active role in policing, lawyer says". The lawyer is Ryan Teschner who was lead counsel in an inquiry into the 2010 Toronto G20 Summit. Retired Justice John Morden conducted an independent civilian review into police conduct at the Toronto G20 Summit. Among his 38 recommendations were interpretations of the Police Act pertaining to civilian police boards throughout Ontario. Apparently Justice Morden feels that police boards have significantly greater authority than they've ever exercised in this province. Traditionally they set basic policy and budgets and no more. Justice Morden believes that they have the legislated authority and responsibility to ask operational questions to ensure that their policies are being followed.
Interestingly it appears as if our local police board is less enthusiastic about the Morden Report. Board Chair and regional councillor Tom Galloway called the report "controversial". Further Regional Chair Ken Seiling suggested that the board's powers are a grey area and that board members who overstep their authority face penalties. REALLY! And who exactly in the past has made the determination that board members have overstepped their authority? In the light of the Morden Report did they indeed overstep or were they merely trying to exercise their legitimate and legislated responsibility and authority?
I am seeing some interesting parallels here. Former school board Trustee (WRDSB) Uwe Kreutshman has stated on a Cambridge website that the school board attempted to discipline and penalize him for allegedly passing on confidential information. Without any legislated mandate, staff at the board introduced a No Voice, No Vote penalty upon him. Mr. Kreutshman sought legal advice which essentially blew the board's position out of the water. It certainly appears to me that both our local police board and others have desperately needed members with the no nonsense, no bullshit attitude of Mr. Kreutsman.
Our local police board requires publicity, transparency and accountability. How long are members appointed for? Who appoints them? What if any are the qualifications required? Are they simply political patronage appointments, no responsibilty or backbone required? The Morden Report may just be the beginning of honest civiliasn oversight of our regional police. This will not be popular with either the police bureaucracy or our local politicians. Too bad.
Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Frankly I'm having a problem with this. Monday's Waterloo Region Record carrys this story "Halloran tops mayors in air miles". Allegedly our local mayors from Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge are travelling overseas including China to help spur business and economic development for their cities. Really? So in essence they are taking turns telling potential overseas customers and investers that hey their waterloo region neighbour isn't as good a place to buy from or invest in as they are? Whatever happened to the British North America Act and division of powers? The feds are involved with peace, order and good government while the provinces take care of local matters. Meanwhile municipalities are at the bottom of the barrel and basically are at the mercy of the two higher tiers. Economic development is both a provincial and federal responsibility. If due to provincial/federal efforts, someone comes knocking I would certainly expect municipalities to put out the welcome mat. That is a whole lot different than travelling at local taxpayers expense half way around the world and duplicating the efforts of our higher tiers of government. Local taxpayers are already paying for the feds and province to make these efforts. Are they falling down on the job? If so the municipalities should advise them and the public of these failures not duplicate efforts and spend even more taxpayers money thank you very much.
Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Junket is defined as "a pleasure trip made at public expense and ostensibly as an official duty". A classic example would be U.S. Senators going on a fact finding mission to Aruba. Of course all they'd be finding is sun, sand and water. Here in Canada our taxpayers are more into apparently paying for ski trips to world class facilities both in Canada and the U.S. Yesterday's Waterloo Region Record advises us that "Ontario taxpayers paid for ski trips" for the CEO of Ornge Air Ambulance. At least one of the trips was blatantly pleasure versus business as the CEO arrived days early, skied mightly and then left after one day of the five day conference. Not too subtle that. Even though the CEO was being paid over a million dollars a year salary apparently things like lift tickets, hotel accomodation, meals, movies and transportation were all paid for by you and me. This is where Canadians inate conte4mpt for politicsand politicians comes from. Anyone remember Bev Oda of the federal government? Things like $30 glasses of orange juice tend to rankle. Just about everything around this Ornge also rankles.
Bad enough when private industry has junkets as bribes and rewards for customers, employees etc. At least the private business is paying. Or is it? How many of these turn out to be taxpayer subsidized in that essentially entertainment gets written off as business expenses and thus tax deductible? What a system for the greedy sociopaths among us.
Monday, February 4, 2013
Well that isn't too much of a surprise. Based on the original plea bargain offerred to Constable Robson it seemed pretty obvious that the marijuana theft charges were merely for the purpose of firing him. I have to assume that drug or alcohol abuse, via the union contract is grounds for intervention but not dismissal. A criminal conviction on the other hand is most likely grounds for dismissal and with an upcoming disciplinary hearing under the Police Services Act the stage is set. Saturday's Waterloo Region Record has this story "Officer who stole pot removed from payroll". This case certainly has dragged on and in my opinion there have been no winners per se. The Waterloo Regional Police are and always have been essentially unaccountable and the civilian oversight board quite frankly is a joke. It may deal with their annual budget but doesn't have any authority regarding policy or procedure.
Friday, February 1, 2013
It shouldn't have taken nearly this long to find out what the hell happened over five years ago at the Grand Valley Institution for Womwn, in Kitchener. Yesterday's Waterloo Region Record carrys this story "Smith response rules changed before she died" and today's Record has this story "Guards "shocked" by order to not enter Ashley smith's cell, inquest told". The second guard on the witness stand, Charlene Venter, has testifed stating "To not go in right away is walking a very fine line. The longer we wait to go in, the closer Ashley is getting to death". She was reacting to the new rules not to remove ligatures quickly from asley Smith's neck. Today's Record describes another guards testimony and how shocked front line guards were with the management plan stipulating they were not to remove ligatures until Ms. Smith had ceased breathing. This plan was not drawn up with any input from these front line guards. Travis McDonald is the third guard to testify and one of four who were initially charged with criminal negligence causing death. The Crown later dropped the charges when they found that Correctional Service Canada failed to disclose evidence about the do not intervene orders the guards had received. Unbelievable! Not only were management incompetent but when Ms. Smith died they attempted to make scapegoats out of those who had advised them against their non-intervention plan. This is precisely why unions were and are needed in this country. Management are too often incompetent, arrogant and totally unaccountable. In a non-union situation these employees would still be without employment courtey of corrupt supervisers.
We have at long last seen one name in print from management at Grand Valley. That would be deputy warden Joanna Pauline. Now lets see the rest of this bunch who seem more concerned with their careers and position than they do about the life of an inmate.