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LETTER: Oro-Medonte council candidates have much to answer for

'How can we hold them accountable when the voting block of councillors fail to show up for two town hall meetings?' resident asks
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OrilliaMatters welcomes letters to the editor at dave@orilliamatters.com. Please include your daytime phone number and address (for verification of authorship, not publication). The following letter is in response to an article about Oro-Medonte Mayor Harry Hughes seeking re-election, published Aug. 28.
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Since March 2020 when in-person council meetings were suspended due to COVID, members of Oro-Medonte council have been less accessible to the public. The virtual world is cumbersome and a poor substitute for a meeting where council can see and hear all of our concerned faces.

With the election, we finally have a chance to expose the records of the incumbents. But how can we hold them accountable when the voting block of councillors fail to show up for two town hall meetings? Besides putting up signs, their campaigns seem to be limited to meeting one on one on front porches.

So, I thought I would prepare some questions about byelections versus appointments, just in case any candidates seeking re-election drop by. Perhaps you should consider asking some of these questions, too, starting with this one:

Q: When Deputy Mayor Scott Jermey and Coun. Scott Macpherson died suddenly in late 2019, why didn’t council hold byelections? Why were the vacancies filled by appointing people to council?

If the answer you get is, “Well, that is what council decided,” gently remind the candidate that council was split 2-2, and it was Mayor Harry Hughes who cast the deciding vote in favour of appointments.

If you are told that the vast majority of people preferred appointments, then explain that of the 73 letters on the public record, 57 letters asked that byelections be held. That’s more than 75 per cent of the people from all walks of life and all professions who wanted byelections.

If you are told, as council was told, that many of the letters in favour of byelections were “cut and pasted,” then ask the candidate to kindly review those 57 letters again and to show you the letters that have been cut and pasted. Don’t be surprised if you never hear from the candidate again.

At council we heard one member claim that “of 61 emails, 15 were identically worded,” suggesting the support for a byelection was a “copy-and-paste effort rather than reflecting a thorough understanding of the report’s contents.” This simply is not true. Again, ask them to show you the cut-and-pasted letters.

You may be told what council was told by the mayor: “What it tells you is there is somebody or some group that is mounting a campaign.” Mounting a letter-writing campaign to protect democracy? Even if it were true, which it isn’t as no such evidence was ever offered, it would be a far nobler cause than assuming control of council by appointing two followers.

Back in December 2019, given a recent federal election, we were told that voters were “fatigued” and that the “electorate is weary.” We were even told that “appointments are an integral part of democracy.” If you hear such words at your door, then ask, “What is democratic about taking control of council by appointing people whose voting record shows they have followed the agenda of the mayor?”

As for voter fatigue, if there ever was such a thing, don’t you think we could overcome our fatigue, and muster the energy required to go online and mark an X in the name of democracy? That’s not something that requires a lot of effort. It is easy to do. That’s why in 2018 voter turnout was the greatest yet and 72 per cent of the people voted online. Too bad, though, the majority block of council voted to eliminate e-voting, vaguely pointing to security problems. No evidence was ever provided showing e-voting in Ontario in 2022 was insecure. Consider asking the candidate, “If you are elected, will you restore e-voting in Oro-Medonte?”

If you are told that holding byelections was going to be too expensive, then remind the incumbent candidate seeking election that the township has recently spent millions of dollars on litigation related to cannabis, Burl’s Creek, short-term rentals, and Zone 1 water. Where is the benefit to the ratepayers from these expenditures? Even if byelections would have cost us $100,000, don’t you think defending and supporting our democracy is worth it?

Ask these questions. It is important to be informed. The answers I hope will help you be a better judge of the porch tales being told. This is about governance, honesty and integrity and adherence to democratic principles. Judge these attributes at your door and your voting choices will be much clearer. Please vote for the kind of township you want, not just for you but for your children and your grandchildren.

We are blessed to live in a free and democratic society. Let’s make it even better by electing a more responsive and responsible council that will make this a greater reality.

Frank Hutcheson
Oro-Medonte

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