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Well, you can’t say this is a boring election

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Believe it or not, there are some smaller municipalities in Ontario where the municipal election is no big deal. We now have less than a week to vote in what is turning out to be a very interesting election. Despite the ugly and annoying bits, this is still a good thing.

There are 444 municipalities in Ontario, and according to the Association of Ontario Municipalities (AMO), 120 municipalities have had their head of council (mayor, reeve, etc) acclaimed in this election. These numbers are up from the last municipal election. Of the 3,273 municipal positions up for grabs this election, 536 have been acclaimed. Journalists from several media outlets are fretting the state of democracy itself.

Thankfully — with the exception of the various school board positions — this is not the case in the City of Kawartha Lakes.

Five candidates were acclaimed in this election: four English public school board trustees and the city’s lone separate school board representative. This should give us pause: our local school board TLDSB (which covers more than the CKL) had a budget in 2017-18 of just shy of $214 million dollars. That’s a lot of public money being spent on our kids and the trustees are our voice in all the important decisions and oversight on our kids’ education. So here’s hoping that next election there are people willing to put themselves forward for what is often a thankless job.

But, if the number of candidates running for a council seat is is any indication, democracy seems alive and well in the CKL: there are 40 people running for nine positions. Following the various social media sites reveals that in some wards (Ward 5 for example) voters are suffering from an embarrassment of riches — there have been several posts by voters lamenting the number of qualified candidates. The reduction from 16 to 8 wards has no doubt intensified the battle to represent our wards.

This election is also the first with the new laws for third party advertising. The City’s only registered third party advertiser, Bill Denby, is most definitely stirring the pot, so to speak. He has now claimed authorship for the anonymous, so-called report on Mayor Letham, and he has been contacting candidates in every ward. Denby’s latest crusade is to call for a forensic audit of the last council and claims that he will get this through his close relationship with “honest Premier Ford.”

Readers will remember that Denby finished a distant last place in the race for Mayor in the last election. Denby’s involvement is not a welcome addition for many voters and candidates alike, with several candidates complaining to The Lindsay Advocate about his style and treatment of others. But like it or not, he is a registered third party advertiser, and according to Aaron Sloan, manager, municipal law enforcement in the CKL, “we have had a number of queries and complaints [about Denby’s signs]. The MLE Division’s staff investigated and removed a couple of Mr. Denby’s signs. Mr. Denby has been very open and approachable about the signs and the MLE division has provided education and direction to Mr. Denby. The current version (as seen Monday morning) meet the requirements of the Election Sign By-law.”

And then you’ve got Ontario Proud, the right-wing advocacy group that is running promoted and branded ads on Facebook targeting the CKL. As discussed previously in the Advocate, Ontario Proud is not a registered third party advertiser in the CKL. Complaints have been made to the City about this so hopefully the issue is at least investigated at some point. If it’s not investigated, the third party rules are pretty well useless. (Maybe they should go on wherever the pile is that we keep studies about a second bridge in Fenelon Falls or the Colborne Street Bridge in Lindsay.)

Elections have always had an element of rumour and hearsay, and for that matter, outright lies. These days, we have social media to amplify and ‘echo-chamber’ any number of half-truths: spin can now reach lightning speed — and nothing has to be true to be believed. Let’s face it — too many people get all of their ‘information’ from social media. The Russians know this — it’s why they used Facebook and Twitter to hack the last U.S. election. Ontario Proud knows this, too.

Arguing about politics with someone on Facebook is kind of like wrestling with a pig. After about 15 minutes, you realize the pig likes it. Call me old-school, but I think facts are important. And facts need context, research, comparison, and reason.

Perhaps nowhere in the city is the combination of reduced wards, the effect social media can have and a ‘good-ole bare-knuckled’ election more evident than ward six, the battle royale of this year’s election. This ward has an astounding seven contenders vying to represent the ward (which includes Downeyville, Reaboro, Dunsford, Omemee.) Among the seven are two sitting councillors and two former councillors (making the argument over who can use the word ‘re-elect’ in a brand new ward, well, interesting.)

With only five days left in the election, this race shows no sign of calming down. At least two campaigns have made complaints to the police. There have been any number of allegations — and the last all-candidates meeting (held at the Coronation Hall in Omemee on October 11) had two security guards and two uniformed police. Things seemed to reach a fever-pitch at that Omemee meeting when one candidate, Ron Ashmore, was alleged to have used the ‘c-word’ and ‘b-word’ towards a female candidate.

The Ashmore campaign has vehemently denied the allegations. The Lindsay Advocate was told, on the record, by candidate Jeff Farquhar at that debate, that he heard Ashmore say those words. The on-line squabbling is just as acrimonious: In a post on Ashmore’s election Facebook page (using an image of Winston Churchill) Ashmore claims the high ground decrying “The social media mob attacks anyone whose ideas they dislike.” This post makes no mention of a now-deleted tweet from the Ashmore campaign where he called one candidate a “compulsive liar and mentally ill” and accused another candidate of a sexual assault in 1982 — all in the same tweet. Social media mob attack, indeed. (After the original publication of this article, Ashmore has  apologized for that deleted tweet.)

More interestingly, Ashmore’s Facebook page has reposts of the Ontario Proud posts, proving that this campaign is being used to influence the election. Ashmore’s campaign also features several reposts of Gord James’ campaign for mayor. This is a glimpse of what will happen when we allow provincial and federal groups into our election surreptitiously through groups like Ontario Proud: even municipal elections will become a partisan screaming match, with ‘slates’ of candidates. For his part, James has not officially endorsed a candidate in the ward, telling the Advocate, “I have not endorsed Ron.”

All of the mayoral candidates, when specifically asked about the tone of this campaign, reported to the Advocate that for the most part it has been a very civil campaign, which is promising. Some candidates reported missing signs but in general this was described as being ’on par’ with previous elections.

For those of us who have already voted, we can now just watch — hopefully not as one would a WWE cage match. I think one commentator on the dodgy (at least as far as third party advertiser rules go) Ontario Proud posts got it right when they said ‘you have to get out to meetings.’

Deciding who to vote for isn’t the hard part of democracy, it’s the easiest. Holding your representatives accountable, through reasoned debate, vigilant oversight and civil discourse — throughout their term — is the real work. Simply liking a Facebook meme is not going to do that hard work for us.

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A graduate of the University of Toronto, Trevor Hutchinson is a songwriter, writer and bookkeeper. He serves as Contributing Editor at The Lindsay Advocate. He lives with his fiancee and their five kids in Glenarm, Kawartha Lakes.

6 Comments

  1. I take exception to the denigrating of any candidate for posting news stories to their facebooks pages. Many candidates like the opportunity to debate stories. It doesn’t mean that if, for example, Emily Nigro posts a story written by CNN that she is therefore a Democrat. It means the story is interesting. End of.

    Take a look at Pat Warren’s page and you will see her posts are almost exclusively pro-environmental activism. Can we therefore conclude she will support Kawartha Conservation against local developers at every turn? Some developers have certainly said she has done just that in the past and that they expect she will continue to block business development in KL in the future. But why not ask her yourself?

    I don’t think it is fair to make conclusions about any candidate without asking the source. So far as I know, Ontario Proud has the same status as Connecting in the Kawarthas, another Facebook group like Ontario Proud except with left-leaning politics, where Ron’s opponents have posted vicious false accusations to impugn his integrity, the integrity of his family and my integrity.

    While the views of Ontario Proud may be offensive to socialists just as the views of Connecting in the Kawarthas are offensive to Conservatives, both are legally posted in Facebook groups. Read the election rules.

    So far as I know, Ontario Proud has not put up any signs or done anything else to suggest it is pretending to be a third-party advertiser trying to influence the election. From what I have seen, the Lindsay Advocate is just as guilty of trying to influence the vote by posting allegations for which it has absolutely no evidence whatsoever.

    For example, your allegation Ron Ashmore used the “c” word – and I don’t suppose you mean “civil” – is the first I’ve heard it. Nowhere else has anyone made that allegation. Yet you have done so, presumably to influence the vote.

    Full disclosure: Ron has small “c” conservative policy ideas. He wants to shrink the debt. He wants to attract business to Kawartha Lakes. He wants to grow industry to support growth and development.

    Ron supports federal guaranteed income law administered by the CRA that would triple the income of singles currently on OW and save taxpayers a lot of money in shelter expenses. Ron has himself struggled with hardship and loss. He knows what it is like.

    Ron Ashmore is a champion for the underdog, including victims of crime. Including victims of sexual violence and harassment. He speaks out frequently in favor of women’s rights and equality under the law for all. He supports police and will do whatever he can to support their roles in our community.

    Ron Ashmore cares about the growing numbers of us who have no primary healthcare provider. He will recruit doctors, even if it means thinning out the bureaucracy currently posing the biggest barrier to physician access.

    So, yes, Ron has conservative ideas. But he is no partisan. Ron belongs to no political party and will work hard to represent all constituents, unlike some of his opponents.

    In the interests of full disclosure, online Advocate readers should ask candidates and their advocates, including journalists who work for the Lindsay Advocate and other media, what their political affiliations are. It might explain a lot.

    You see, this is a very important election. We are in terrible debt and four more years will break us. Lindsay will get new downtown roads because the Wynne government gave KL a grant but if you do not live in Lindsay, you can forget it. And if we do not elect councilors who care about all constituents, we will see the municipal bureaucracy grow so big that it will bankrupt us all and enslave us in debt. Ghost town anyone?

    Ron Ashmore understands mayoral candidates do not endorse councilor candidates because, like himself as a councilor candidate, they have to be able and willing to work with whoever is elected. Ron is no different than Gord James. He likes some of Gord’s ideas – especially his plan to promote local democracy by replacing the 8 lost councilors with 24 volunteer citizens – but he will gladly work with whoever is elected.

    Ron has great relationships with all of the mayoral candidates and most of the other councilor candidates. It is only a few flinging mud – including your very offensive and absolutely false claim he used the “c” word in any context – that are making the race a little dirty. But then, that is the nature of politics today, sadly.

    I hope the mud sticks to whoever throws it, as it should.

  2. I have not spoken out until now because, when I first heard the allegation that I called candidate Martin the “b” word and told her to “STFU”, it was on the Facebook page of the daughter of one of my opponents. As Martin herself has publicly made no such claim and since it simply did not happen, I decided to forgive my opponent’s child for her unfounded personal attack. I left the damage control to my manager.

    But much like that party game where a whisper in one person’s ear becomes something completely different when the last person whispered to repeats it, I feel I must now speak out to clarify a few points.

    I did not call candidate Martin any bad word – not the “b” word or the “c” word – nor did I address her with any profanity whatsoever. She complained to me that the hosts seated her next to me and I told her to “settle down”. That was it. Candidate Farquhar was upset by our chatter and told us if we didn’t shut up, he’d make us.

    From what candidate Farquhar has said online, he heard the chatter between Martin and me and was “disgusted” but he has not said what, exactly, he heard, despite repeated requests he do so. Candidate Farquhar is being coy, hoping the mud of his innuendo will attach to both Martin and me so he can take the lead.

    The Advocate has not named its source for the allegation Hutchinson has, in this piece, exponentially escalated the malignancy of. Nor do I ask it to. But the allegation that I treat women with disrespect, as has been alleged by the Advocate and others, is absolutely and utterly false.

    I hereby proclaim, before all of you and before God, that I did not call candidate Martin the “b” word or the “c” word. Nor did I tell her to “STFU”.

    On 3 October, Martin threw down the gauntlet on Facebook by calling me “a liar” for promising to take the concerns of Pigeon Lake residents seriously and to advocate for their interests in a healthy lake.

    Both Martin and Warren say nothing can be done about the farming of rice by our First Nations neighbours. But Pigeon Lake residents pay exhorbitant taxes for lake access and if, together with Ontario, Canada, other municipalities and Pigeon Lake residents on both sides of the Lake, I cannot, by 2020, negotiate a resolution to the conflict caused by the issuance of two conflicting permits – one to Curve Lake to seed and one to KL residents to cut planted rice before it seeds – I will advocate to council to lower the taxes currently paid by KL Pigeon Lake residents for clear lake access.

    My view on the issue of farmed rice and a healthy aquatic habitat opposes that of both Martin and Warren who say nothing can be done. But that does not make me a liar. It makes me an independent thinker.

    Despite our differences, candidate Martin and I have a lot in common. We are both fiercely competitive and I respect her. I have always treated Martin with the respect she deserves and I always will.

    As to my Twitter, yes, it is true that when I was brand new to the social medium, I had a wobble. Several constituents had expressed fear of a fellow candidate and some said he sexually assaulted (the word they used was “groped”) them at work. That angered me and I posted the allegation on Twitter. But I regretted it almost immediately and I took it down accordingly because I realized that social media is not the correct forum to adjudicate accusations of serious criminal offenses like sexual assault.

    Thank you, Trevor, for bringing to the attention of your readers the very healthy and vibrant democratic process that is alive and well in our local electoral process, despite the sometimes grubby nature of the competition. I value democracy and I applaud all my fellow candidates for running.

    Politics has been called a blood sport and, in my view, everyone willing to be figuratively bloodied by the process has not only my respect but my deepest gratitude.

    Now if only we can convince our supporters to go to their phones or computers, right now, and exercise the greatest of our freedoms – the freedom to vote – we will all of us succeed in bettering our community. Because #LocalDemocracyMatters.

  3. Mr. Ashmore and his campaign manger have suggested that I, as the writer of this piece, am somehow trying to ‘influence the election’. That claim is absurd. What I did was report the facts as they were presented to me. I approached his campiagn first, and Mr. Ashmore’s alleged comments were vigorously denied. Another candidate said he heard those remarks personally. We have changed the original story to directly attribute those comments to the candidate involved. We also added that Mr. Ashmore has since apologized for a tweet which the story references. (To be clear: That apology was not publicly available when I wrote the story.)

    Furthermore, the idea that The Lindsay Advocate (or myself as a writer) can’t be trusted as a news source because we have certain leanings is again absurd. My piece was about the tone of the election. I reported on-the-record facts, not rumours. I have been questioning Ontario Proud’s role because they are not a registered Third Party Advertiser. I would do the same if a left-wing advocacy group were participating and posting promoted (= paid for) ads without being a registered Third Party Advertiser. I have mentioned several times that Mr. Denby is a registered Third Party Advertiser.

    We have also ran a column from the former Libertarian candidate about how to decide who to vote for. Do we have a take on certain things? Yes. We are pro-Basic Income, like the 100 CEOs who urged the continuation of the program yesterday. I have written pieces that are clearly not in favour of the proposed hospital merger. I feel a vast majority of residents are in agreement with me, or willing at least to hear my ‘take’ on the issue.

    But trying to influence the Ward Six election? Absolutely not. The tribalism of “they questioned me therefore they must be left-wing or right-wing and can’t be trusted” debases our democratic process. It may get votes, but it is a sad way to get those votes in my opinion.

  4. In response to Joan and Ron

    I am strongly in favour of sustainable development that adheres to the Provincial Policy Statement. We need development so we can grow our economy.

    Yes, I care deeply about leaving a healthy ecosystem for future generations.

    Please read the settlement between First Nation and the Federal Goverment regarding The Williams Treaty so you have the correct information about the issue .

    Thank you
    Let’s have less drama and more action!

  5. Oh come on, Pat. Quit trying to cast Ron’s policy position as ignorant when yours is clearly biased.

    You have done yourself no favours by telling Pigeon Lake residents they must simply suck up the financial losses they have sustained from rice that is being aggressively farmed on property where there was never any rice until the property was flooded. The original leases clearly prove that.

    In addition, the farmed rice has choked out aquatic plant life that indigenous fish and wildlife need to thrive. The commercial rice farming practices of the First Nations has hurt the ecological balance of the Pigeon Lake habitat.

    The residents of Pigeon Lake are not the slant-browned knuckle-draggers some among us paint them as. Nor is it the NIMBY issue some local artists believe it is. Residents of Pigeon Lake on both sides care deeply about the land they were born on.

    And many of our First Nations neighbours agree. They do not want the commercial interests of an individual or of the collective with which he may be associated to hurt wildlife or their neighbours regardless of history or ethnicity.

    The issue on Pigeon Lake is certainly one in which municipal representatives have a role to play. To pretend otherwise is to fail constituents.

  6. WOW, and I thought I was stirring the Pot! I am the only Registered Third party Advertiser in this Municipal Election and I want to thank the Lindsay Advocate and Trevor for explaining to the readers my role! It is to wake up the voters ,we need a change of direction, I am very concerned with the level of Debt and Wild Spending that has gone on at City Hall over the Last 4 Years! I have asked Premier Ford and is Minister of Municipal Affairs& Housing to conduct a Forensic Audit on Mayor Letham and Council after the election! I hand delivered the 170 page Report to the Premier and Minister Clarke on Oct.9/2018 for them to review and act on as promised! We need a Forensic Audit, line by line, every Department at City Hall to know what our debt is and where all the Property Tax and the $ 25 million has gone! WE need to know how many projects went over budget by how much?? This will stop all the Special Interest Groups, friends, developers from getting special treatment at City Hall! It will show the new Council all the areas that need attention in each of the Departments in City Hall! Mr Letham says he has nothing to hide but when I contacted him ,he had some choice words for me and said No to a Forensic Audit on Council over the last 4 years. also most of the Councillors refused a Forensic Audit done by the Province! There were only three that are running for re election supported the Forensic Audit, they were Andrew Veale & Cathleen Seymore Fagan & Ron Ashmore! Pat Warren was against having a Forensic Audit done by the Province. All the other new Candidates for Council supported a Forensic Audit and thought it would be both good for the Tax Payers and the New Council! Now from the rest of the Mayor Candidates Brian Junkin, Gord James & Peter Weygang all supported a Forensic Audit if elected to be Mayor! Now it is all up to the voters to decide who they pick for Mayor and Council! The results of both studies are posted on my Face Book page Bill Denby and a lot more information for Voters!! Please get out the vote for CHANGE in Kawartha Lakes Municipal Election! It is all up to the voters!! Registered Third Party Advertiser, William J Denby 3900 ,HWY 35 ,N,Cameron.On, ph 705-359-1602 C 705-328-7197 email moc.l1560655094iamto1560655094H@tro1560655094serdn1560655094alsie1560655094rusae1560655094rt1560655094 face book page Bill Denby I have followed the Rules of Registered Third Party Advertiser to the Letter and have been fair to all Candidates running in this Election! Test results do not lie, People do!!

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