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LETTER: Legion member responds to Ramara meeting criticism

'Perhaps he should organize future all-candidates meetings, if he can find a hall to hold them in,' letter writer says of resident who complained
From left: Marg Sharpe, Joe Gough and Richard Black are shown at a Ramara Ward 4 candidates meeting in April.

OrilliaMatters welcomes letters to the editor at [email protected] or via the website. Please include your full name, daytime phone number and address (for verification of authorship, not publication). The following letter is in response to a letter about an all-candidates meeting in Ramara, published May 14.

I’m Dann Oliver, the “officious uniformed ‘sergeant-at-arms’” from the all-candidates meeting held at the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 488 in Brechin on Monday, May, 6, 2024 — the same “sergeant Dann” who was vilified on Facebook, and then in a letter to OrilliaMatters.

After 14 years of service, starting as a private, I actually retired as a captain. I have been an active Royal Canadian Legion member for 42 years. Last year, I was one of the 54 international recipients of the United Nations Universal Peace Federation’s Ambassador for Peace Medal for my work with veterans. My wife and I have been snowbirds since 2000 who enjoy our winters in Florida and summers in Ramara.

Most of us in Ramara Township don’t pay much attention to certain offensive Facebook pages of misinformation, or the taurus excreta they spread to a few followers. But, when a person resorts to telling untruths, dispensing misinformation, and attempting to insult me, in the local news, it’s time to speak up. I have received a lot of support from folks who actually know me.

To my knowledge, and others’, there was no earlier all-candidates organizing committee in Ramara. We did hear that one of the candidates was trying to find a space to hold a meeting, but no one would provide what he wanted.

After the lies and innuendo thrown about by mudslingers during and after the last election’s all-candidates meetings, the Ramara Chamber of Commerce didn’t want to host any again. The Legion, which tries to stay out of politics, didn’t want to host any political event. Mike and June, the kind folks at the Robert L. Bowles Nature Centre, finally agreed to host an all-candidates meeting at the Brechin Legion, thereby taking the responsibility off the Legion. All the Legion did was provide the space. No one at the Brechin Legion had, or wanted, anything to do with the organization of the event.

The Legion and nature centre people had heard about the open mike, and the type of questions asked at the Hayloft in Bayshore, and wanted nothing to do with what that type of meeting could turn into. Mary Reed, a lady who greatly respects the nature centre folks, offered to help them, and they started preparing a guideline. This was something they had never done before, and they did a remarkable job.

Since this meeting was being held as a favour to them, there was no thought to exclude anyone from Ward 4; all were welcome to attend.

Mary, who knows me from several successful past events, asked for advice. I provided some, and it turned out to be not too far off what they had already been thinking. She told me they had lined up Bill Duffy as moderator. I know Bill quite well, and appreciate him as a very fair person.

As I learned more about the host’s and Legion’s concerns, I offered to assist in any way they thought I could help in maintaining the decorum on that evening. The folks at the Legion thought that was a good idea, and since I am commander of Royal Canadian Legion Post 144 Pinellas County, Fla., and have many years of experience in maintaining fairness at all kinds of meetings, the president at Branch 488 appointed me as acting sergeant-at-arms for the night of the all-candidates meeting. This was to uphold the values of the Royal Canadian Legion, and the decorum the nature centre hosts and Brechin Branch 488 desired for this meeting.

To avoid confusion as to who I was, and who I was representing, it was agreed that I would dress in Post 144’s Royal Canadian Legion accepted Florida short-sleeve order, which our council (executive) members wear at all our Post 144 meetings.

The small group of volunteers, who managed to pull this event together in less than a week, with no other help, were all introduced at the start of the meeting so everyone knew who they were. I then read the prepared guidelines, and answered Ken’s questions in the manner the Legion and our hosts wanted. No one else spoke up. I have heard that some Ward 4 people didn’t attend this meeting because they feared a repeat of the Bayshore event.

A reason for having people write out their questions in advance is to avoid duplication, and a waste of time. With an open-mike situation, it is easy for a small group to dominate, and be insulting. Our hosts wanted to have a mature discussion of the issues by all candidates, so the questions were vetted, and only three, that were felt to be pointedly inappropriate, were rejected. All other submitted questions, along with several more from previous meetings, were asked, by the moderator, in a friendly, civilized manner. The three candidates then answered in a prescribed rotation to make it fair for all.

Personal insults were avoided. Most attendees left with a lot more information than they had before, and took away no bad thoughts about anyone. Many stayed and talked with the candidates.

People’s privacy must legally be protected. Without the approval of all in attendance to be recorded, it is thought best to not be allowed. The township’s stance and warning of recording and livestreaming is well known, so anyone attending a township council meeting knows what to expect. But even there, personal video or recording is still frowned on. This is to avoid unscrupulous individuals from editing recordings into insulting, misleading sound bites, taken totally out of context, designed to show people in a bad light, and posting them on their nefarious social media sites.

What would you do upon seeing someone playing with their cellphone standing behind the audience? I asked a simple question, and accepted the answer that Ken was taking notes. To my knowledge none of these complainers has stepped forward to set up, and be responsible for, legally recording, and disseminating to everyone, an all-candidates meeting. They expect others to do it, and then dump on them. Each time I’ve been involved with a question about being recorded, the vast majority said, “No.”

The Ramara Chamber of Commerce in 2022 was following the advice of council, and the will of the majority, not the wishes of a few disturbers. Maybe people should read the privacy laws, regulations, rules, and other guidelines.

The only one I know of who characterized the Bayshore meeting as “raucous with unruly behaviours” is the nasty letter writer. Perhaps he should organize future all-candidates meetings, if he can find a hall to hold them in.

This is 2024, not the ‘old days.’ Let’s do our politics in a civilized manner, which is what the majority of people, and candidates, have indicated they really want.

Neal Donald Walsch might ask: I wonder what hurts Ken so bad that he feels he has to disparage others in order to heal it?

By the way, the candidate I specifically chastised thanked me after the meeting for keeping him on track; then he went on to win the election.

Congratulations to all candidates for their efforts.

Dann Oliver
Ramara Township