Is Richmond Hill the most dysfunctional Council in Ontario?
In a word, yes.
The long-running feud between Richmond Hill’s two Regional Councillors, Joe DiPaola and Carmine Perrelli, came to the boil last week.
(Photo: DiPaola front row 2nd from right. Perrelli front row second from left)
On 15 September the long serving Mayor, Dave Barrow, abruptly resigned from the Council days after returning to work following a six month long leave of absence, taken for medical reasons.
In Barrow’s absence the Council has been frequently deadlocked 4-4, paralysing decision-making.
In a parting shot, Barrow persuaded his colleagues at a special council meeting on 8 September to eliminate one of the two deputy mayors. Carmine Perrelli lost out to his rival, Joe Di Paola, who has been Acting Mayor for seven months.
Barrow’s resignation has triggered a battle for the succession with DiPaola and Perrelli being the two most likely candidates.
DiPaola wanted to commission a polling firm to consult local voters on what to do next. A by-election would cost over $600,000. DiPaola believed this to be a complete waste of money given there will be a council-wide general election next year, in October. An alternative would be to appoint someone to act as Mayor until then. The Municipal Act permits this.
Carmine Perrelli, belligerent, argumentative and self-important, demands a by-election, saying the people must decide who is to be Mayor.
After a tumultuous Council meeting, councillors decide on a by-election which will be formally agreed at the next Council meeting on 13 October 2021.
Perrelli’s boorish behaviour has been, by any measure, beyond the pale.
He protests that DiPaola rudely interrupts him “without any procedural justification”.
Yet he interrupts others.
As I see it, DiPaola is a model of self-restraint, making his position clear in a tranquil, understated way while Perrelli rages and bellows and shakes his fist at the Moon.
Perrelli demands silence from others so he can concentrate on what he is saying:
“I would appreciate it Mr. Chairman if you would stop chewing while I'm speaking and making noise with your candy bar. It's very distracting.”
Perrelli demands the Council suspends its sitting while he takes a bathroom break:
“I don't have a point of order (but) I don't want to miss any of the comments my colleagues are making but I need to have a bio break so if you could just hold the process for two or three minutes I would really appreciate that.”
DiPaola calmly replies:
“You're welcome to leave (but) we are not going to recess.”
No longer welcome
DiPaola decides to exclude Perrelli from the meeting, citing his disruptive behaviour. He tells the Council Clerk:
“Councillor Perrelli is no longer welcome in this meeting, OK. His votes are not gonna count. I'm going to exclude him from the proceedings going forward. I've been as nice as I possibly could but… please mute his microphone. He is no longer part of this meeting.”
Perrelli is incandescent.
DiPaola’s ruling is challenged and the Council divides 4-4. The clerk advises that in a tie the Chair’s ruling stands.
DiPaola is pressed by Councillor Beros to allow Perrelli back into the meeting:
“When it comes to a vote of this magnitude I believe it is important that all members who are in attendance are able to vote. They’ve been democratically elected to their position and each vote matters.
I am gonna ask you for the last time, Sir, Deputy Mayor, Regional Councillor Perrelli, is here. His vote should matter on this motion."
“Councillor Beros, I certainly don’t want a vote of this magnitude to be affected by the absence of a member who was present at one point during the meeting. If Regional Councillor Perrelli is standing by and wants to sincerely apologise for his behaviour, accept responsibility for disruption of the meeting I will permit him to sit in and cast a vote so long as he agrees not to speak out of turn. We appreciate that.”
“… Thank you Council for reinstating me back into this meeting. (Laughs) Everybody knows who I am. I am very passionate about what I believe in and sometimes I get carried away."
"Thank you for the opportunity to come back because I think it’s important. And I will try to keep my passion under control.”
Note 1: Richmond Hill is represented on York Regional Council by its Mayor and two Regional Councillors - Joe DiPaola and Carmine Perrelli. Currently Joe DiPaola sits on York Regional Council as Richmond Hill's Acting Mayor. Godwin Chan is Acting Regional Councillor. And Carmine Perrelli as Regional Councillor.
Note 2: Regional Councillor Perrelli blocks critics from commenting on his tweets – just like Newmarket-Aurora’s newly re-elected Liberal MP, Tony Van Bynen. York regional Council will be holding a seminar in the Fall on how elected members use social media. It is expected the “You are Blocked” issue will be considered. The question is whether politicians (and not private individuals) whose salaries are paid for by taxpayers should be able to block on-topic comments which are not abusive or threatening.
Note 3: Richmond Hill's Council Mettings are streamed on YouTube. The meetings on 29 September 2021 are here and here.
Update on 12 October 2021: Minutes of the special meeting of Richmond Hill Council on 29 September 2021 are here.
Southlake Regional Medical Centre has agreed to an Independent Review of patient safety and staffing levels in the Medical Assessment Consultation Unit (MACU).
The MACU is described as "an acute, intensive in-patient unit for patients who don't require the Intensive Care Unit but have medically complex issues needing assessment and whose conditions can change instantly".
Separately, nurses have been raising concerns about the team-based nursing model in the Intensive Care Unit but the hospital has brushed these aside.
The Chief Executive, Arden Krystal, herself a former nurse, even refused to meet the nurses.
Update on 30 September 2021: from the Era Newmarket: Health Minister must stop "unsafe" care at Southlake. Vicki McKenna, the President of the Ontario Nurses Association, says Ontario's Health Minister and Newmarket-Aurora MPP, Christine Elliott, has not responded to requests for a meeting with the nurses "even though they are her own constituents".
This morning I sent the following email to my MPP:
Dear Ms Elliott
I am a constituent of yours.
You will have read the article in today’s Newmarket Era in which the President of the Ontario Nurses Association, Vicki McKenna, claims that:
“Team nursing in (Southlake’s) Intensive Care unit is dangerous. It was tried - in a failed attempt to save money - and discarded decades ago.”
She says that 95% of the hospital’s ICU registered nurses and registered respiratory therapists want team-based nursing in the ICU stopped. We are told they have asked for a meeting with you but have received no response.
Besides being my MPP you are also the Minister of Health.
Can I ask if you intend to meet the nurses to hear their concerns? And if not, why not?
I look forward to hearing from you.
Update on 10 Ctober 2021: Dawn Gallagher Murphy, the MPP's Office Manager, writes:
"Your concerns are acknowledged. Your email is received. As to the specific concern raised, yes, I can acknowledge that MPP Elliott is aware of these concerns. I cannot comment on anything further."
Update on 18 October 2021: The Ontario Nurses Association confirms that the nurses have not, as yet, been invited to meet Christine Elliott to discuss their concerns.
Leadership hopefuls have to appeal to a tiny unrepresentative base to stand a chance of winning. And then, to win a Federal Election, they have to dump the commitments made during the leadership contest and appeal to the wider electorate. It is a Sisyphean task.
And yet the knives are out. The Conservative caucus meets on 5 October 2021 and MPs will decide whether they want Erin O'Toole to stay or go. (Right: O'Toole voting on 20 September)
The Globe and Mail sums it up this way:
"Whatever happens, both sides of the debate need to acknowledge two things: (A) yes, in a sense Mr O'Toole did betray the Party's most fervent supporters; and (B) if he wanted to win the election, he had no choice - thanks to the way the party chooses its leader."
O'Toole v Mackay
The Federal Conservative leadership vote is decided using a points system which gives ridings equal weight regardless of the number of members casting a vote. O’Toole targeted Quebec ridings with tiny memberships, playing to their passions and prejudices.
A riding-by-riding analysis by the CBC tells us there were as few as 1,210 votes between O’Toole and Peter Mackay, not the official margin of 27,000. And if Mackay had gotten his act together - targetting riding associations with miniscule memberships and telling them what they wanted to hear - he could have won.
In politics there are no prizes for coming second.
Mackay should have had a quiet word with the master of political manipulation and skulduggery, Ontario’s former Progressive Conservative leader, Patrick Brown.
Brown's modus operandi is set out for all to see in his vengeful autobiography: “Takedown: the attempted political assassination of Patrick Brown”.
It is a classic guide on how to climb to the top of the conservative greasy poll when ethics don’t matter.
Brown v Elliott
Brown courted the votes of New Canadians by taking up their concerns. Any concern would do. He explains how he defeated Christine Elliott, now Newmarket-Aurora's MPP, in her own backyard of Oshawa. He boasts about signing up 10,000 Tamil members.
“It was thanks to the support I had in the Indian, Tamil and Filipino communities. They won the riding and the leadership contest for me.”
"These communities supported me because I had supported them."
Christine Elliott subsequently ran for the PC leadership against Doug Ford but lost (again) even though she had more votes from individual members.
Sleight of hand
Leadership contests shouldn't be conducted by sleight of hand.
We need full transparency to help us understand how our political leaders get to the top - and what they said and did to get there.
Note: Justin Trudeau won the 2013 Liberal leadership contest getting 81,389 votes out of 104,552 ballots cast during the week-long vote.
The voting system gave Canada's (then) 308 ridings equal weight in the final tally. Each riding was given 100 points, and a candidate got the number of points equal to the percentage of votes they won in that riding.
For the Liberal Party, the Federal Election on 20 September 2021 was a damp squib.
True, they have the most seats in the House of Commons but that is a quirk of our First Past the Post electoral system which rewards Parties whose support is geographically concentrated rather than thinly spread across the nation.
“… for the second election in a row, the winning Liberals obtained fewer votes than the party they defeated. With 32.5 per cent of the vote at time of writing, the Liberals have the weakest mandate of any government in our history, breaking the record set … in 2019.
The Liberals did not just lose to the Conservatives in the popular vote the past two elections: they have done so in five of the past six.”
He says it takes nearly four times as many votes to elect an NDP MP as a Liberal (114,000, to 33,000).
He could have added that the People's Party of Canada got 842,969 votes (5% of the national total) and doesn't have a single MP.
Coyne says we are trying to run six-party politics on a system built for two, and it’s not working.
Trudeau rules out Proportional Representation
When the Prime Minister visited Aurora during the election campaign (18 September 2021) he was asked about electoral reform.
In the 2015 Federal Election he made a commitment to replace first-past-the-post but didn't follow through. (See below: from the Liberal Platform 2015).
He makes no mention of a democratic deficit which allows a single party Government to be formed (not a coalition) with the support of less than one third of those who voted.
He rejects PR because it gives more weight to smaller parties. His preference is for the ranked ballot - no doubt on the grounds that most NDP voters would put Liberals as their second choice rather than Conservatives.
The Prime Minister said:
"This is something that we approached years ago. There was no consensus. If ever there is more of a consensus, it could be interesting to follow up on, and I'd be open to that, 'cause I've never flinched in my desire for ranked ballots...
"But that's not the priority, and this is the first time in 36 days that anyone has asked me about about electoral reform."
It seems to me the chances of electoral reform being resurrected as an issue in the new Parliament are close to zero.
Voting system shapes our politics
If we had a different electoral system - and more political parties - the way we do our politics would change.
"Big tent" political parties would still exist but, over time, they would likely shrink and fragment.
The US Congresswoman, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, talks about the straightjacket of America's two-party system:
“In any other country, Joe Biden and I would not be in the same party, but in America, we are.”
In the United States, with its ossified institutions, it is impossible to imagine three or four or five functioning political parties.
Almost as difficult as imagining Canada with proportional representation.
Note 1: With the Ranked Ballot voters list their preferred candidates - 1st, 2nd, 3rd and so on. If no candidate gets 50% of the vote the one with the fewest votes is eliminated and their supporters' second choices are distributed to those still in the race. This continues until one candidate achieves a majority.
Note 2: In the virtual election "Meet and Greet" hosted by Aurora Public Library on 14 September 2021, Newmarket-Aurora's newly re-elected MP, Tony Van Bynen, gave his clearest exposition to date on his views on electoral reform:
“I for one believe that we should also always take a look at improvements in any system or any process and I do think that is something we should look at. I'm not sure that proportional representation is the only solution.
I don't know what got in the way of looking at that since I wasn't in the House at the time. I think we should be looking at reviewing it but we should be doing it in consultation, consulting with our communities and broadly looking at the options that are available so, yes, every organization, every society, should take a look and see if there are better ways to accomplish the representation that we need so that their government looks like the people it represents.
I think that's an important commitment on behalf of our Party and I think that will be done. As to when that can be accomplished I think we have a number of very critical priorities ahead of us immediately. We need to get on top of the pandemic and we need to make sure that we get back into an economic environment where people feel safe; have a place to call home…I think we should look at it.”
The Greens favour proportional representation. The Conservatives are not in favour of electoral reform.
The CBC reminds us that two Provincial referendums on electoral reform have been held since the Liberals abandoned their 2015 pledge to get rid of First-Past-the-Post in Federal Elections. In December 2018, British Columbians voted against PR by 61% to 39%. In 2019 Prince Edward Island rejected PR by 52% to 48%.
In 2007 a referendum in Ontario rejected rejected mixed member PR for the Provincial Parliament.
Below: from the Liberal Party 2015 Federal Election Platform:
Update on 16 October 2021: From the Toronto Star: Provincial Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca says he will bring in the ranked ballot or quit.