Some perspective and background before we begin… The local lobby group, MidlandCommunity.ca (whom many have renamed to MidlandCUTmunity.ca) is the brainchild of Roy Ellis, Stewart Strathearn and George Dixon. They have been highly critical of past councils for not bending to their wills or running the community the way that they see fit.
They mounted a successful campaign to support their hand-chosen candidates for election last fall. Of them, most notably is Stewart Strathearn from Ward 3 (Sunnyside), who sits on a variety of important boards including the police services board and the library board, to name but two.
George Dixon, one of the most outspoken founders, who’s rants are all available for public consumption at www.midlandcommunity.ca did not seek office but was successful in securing the chair’s seat on the Midland Police Services board after having spent two years maligning the board for their inadequacies and even calling their actions illegal. Since he’s taken the reigns, he’s doing the exact same things that he complained so bitterly about when he was on the outside looking in… namely holding countless in-camera meetings where there is no oversight or public accountability as well as awarding the police a 7% raise over three years after promising, along with Strathearn, to hold the line at 0%.
Roy Ellis, who was so vocal for the past few years, and also chose not to run for election where he would only have one vote, has fallen silent as of late, preferring to defer the MidlandCommunity updates (sent to their e-mail subscribers) to other party faithful members. Roy has taken a co-chair seat on the Economic Development Corporation of North Simcoe (EDCNS) that he co-founded with the chair Kevin Cowie (another lobby group member). Since then, he has been lobbying as usual with the now former CAO as well as pushing council for more funding for his pet project that has yet to produce anything of substance for Midland (and the surrounding communities who are also supposed to chip in dollars along with the County of Simcoe).
Now it seems that Roy has secured one of the two “citizen” positions on the selection committee whose role will be to fill the interim role of CAO replacing the one who was terminated suddenly just over a month ago. During her tenure, the past CAO was known to be meeting almost weekly with Roy Ellis as he lobbied for his group’s special interests. It comes as no surprise that he would find himself on the committee responsible for selecting the next CAO…
Their lobby group has long been called “Midland’s Back Council” and any of the puppetry artwork published over the months clearly implies that the invisible puppet master is this unelected lobby group with what many feel is un-healthy, undemocratic and unethical access to the local politicians and their decisions in chambers.
Now, it should come as no surprise that when the group’s mandate to cut taxes and control what they perceive as waste in Council, town offices and departments started to rub the past CAO the wrong way, that she should find herself kicked to the curb and soon to be the beneficiary of a substantial severance and its accompanying non-disclosure agreement.
Let’s move forward a bit to the council meetings as of late… we see the Mayor’s failed attempts to push through cuts to achieve the 75th percentile tax rate by means other than those supported by MidlandCommunity.ca’s leadership, so they have their inside man, Stewart Strathearn, arrive at a meeting with a carefully constructed motion to kill the whole process thus far since it did nothing to address their desire to cut wages and benefits from town employees.
The rest of council, eager to kill that fool’s errand which was causing them so much grief outside of chambers, happily supported that motion even knowing that it meant that there would be a new one with cuts aimed squarely at town staffers. It was a means to an end and to the Mayor’s dismay, it passed. The mayor then started calling his councillors and tried to get them back on board, concerned about the lack of cohesion in council that was forming around the divisive policies being considered.
At last Monday’s council meeting we saw Councillor Strathearn return with a desire to carve $1.5 million dollars from the staff wages and benefits to fund other things – such as EDCNS (hmmmm). He did not say how he intended to find that much money from wages and benefits but his plan should soon be evident as he returns with some plan on how to manage those cuts… could it be job elimination (more severance), maybe job pay reduction (make everyone minimum wage?), or remove benefits from employees?
Is it a coincidence that Council needs $1.5 million dollars to “re-allocate” to other areas (un-named) when that is the amount we estimate they will have to pay out in severances for their recent rash of forced retirements and terminations?
We will have to wait and see what plan the lobby group crafts for him to present to council. Concurrent to that exercise, we have Mr. Ellis on the selection committee looking to find the perfect “patsy” who he can influence much as he is reported to have done with the last CAO. Money will flow into his EDCNS project, he will have control over the CAO, he still has his relationships with the Mayor and several other councillors and he has his MidlandCommunity blog to reach out and push the mandate to his followers.
Funny how we have yet to read any disdain for his fellow founding partners’ (Strathearn & Dixon) inability to hold the line on police wages, nor do we read any cries of foul over the millions spent on severance for those who have been fired or retired over the past two years. Those payouts alone could make up the $1.5 million they now seek to extract as pounds of flesh from the backbone of the town’s labour force.
We are being governed, for the most part, by Roy Ellis’ lobby group. Will this be allowed to continue unchecked?
Local media is actively uninterested in pursuing these connections and won’t ask the simple questions surrounding all that is wrong with our local political scene – we keep hoping that they will. Perhaps the voters and residents are concerned? Perhaps not, but we bring you the facts for your consideration and any action that you deem appropriate.
Here is a story published by our local newspaper: http://www.simcoe.com/news-story/6381946-councillor-presses-for-hiring-freeze-by-town-of-midland/