"Cowardice asks the question...is it safe? Expediency asks the question...is it politic? Vanity asks the question...is it popular? But conscience asks the question...is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but one must take it because it is right." ~Dr. Martin Luther King

Tuesday 29 April 2008


So now we know the cost of George Rust D'Eye's "investigation" into the infamous "leak" that informed the community of the decision to refuse an offer by York Regional Police to purchase, at the appraised value, land we had for sale for the purpose of building a multi-million dollar Regional Police Headquarters which would have brought eight-hundred of the highest paid jobs in the Region to funnel into the economy of the Town of Aurora.

A story to that effect had appeared in The Auroran in mid-November. It was assumed there had been "a leak" from an in-camera meeting held early September. THREE MONTHS BEFORE.

The Mayor called a Meeting to deal with the urgency of the matter and to retain the services of Mr.George Rust D"Eye's a renowned municipal solicitor. The Mayor refused to say why Nor do I recall the terms of reference being shared with council.

I do declare,I think our Mayor believes when she was elected she was endowed with The Divine Right of Kings.

Mr Rust D'Eye completed his work before the year's end.

Before starting, the gentleman informed me,myself,alone, that he had read letters to the editor, emails and Blogs written by myself. He enquired had I retained legal counsel , floated the idea of Conflict of Interest and indicated it was a serious offence with severe penalties.

At no time was I asked about the" leak" Nor I understand ,was the editor and publisher of The Auroran.

A written report with a verbal presentation was made at an in-camera meeting before the year's end. The document was collected back from councillors immediately .We were informed the material must remain confidential.

Nothing has been heard of the matter since.

The cost of the exercise was $16,200. What we got for it I cannot tell.The rules must be obeyed.

Regulations require that matters dealt with behind closed doors must be reported out in public when completed. There is no time limit as to when the reporting should happen. The taxpaeyers may never know Unless there's a leak

Think of that:
Sixteen thousand , two hundred smackeroos collected in taxation. . Filched from taxpayers' pockets and spent will-nilly on something they are not even allowed to know about.

So much for much trumpeted Openness and Transparency.

Sunday 27 April 2008

The Great Campaign

There has been a flurry these last few days and I don't mean precipitation. The Mayor is on the attack. Staff received an email seeking information or confirmation of talk the town had legal costs because of action taken by residents in which I was named as the cause.

If there was substance to the "talk" I knew nothing of it. It would be odd to be party to legal action in the circumstance. But the possibility intrigued me. If a house can be stolen out from under, maybe a person can be a party to la law suit and not be aware.

Last Wednesday, after a Planning Meeting the Mayor announced a Special Emergency Meeting to discuss potential liability to the town from legal action as a result of what happened at Tuesday's Council Meeting.

That's a subject for another Blog.

Following the in-camera meeting, in a public space, the Mayor was heard shrieking abuse at Councillor Grace Marsh. It's a familiar routine to associates and positively horrendous.

"How dare you!"
"Don't you dare!"

Accusations of perfidy and transgression abound.

The other routine is the extended baleful glare.

It is not rational discourse. No logical response is possible. Grace Marsh, the epitome of grace and dignity resigned her seat the next day. She gave no reason but those favoured to regularly witness or be a target of the histrionics can readily understand.

In response to an email from myself expressing my concern about the haste to make a decision about filling the vacancy. I stated expressions of regret to staff about Councillor Marsh's resignation have a hollow ring to those who know the circumstances.

An email response from the Mayor advised me that for my own good I should stop sending negative emails.

There is a weird perception among some current councillors that their actions should not be subject to critique. Criticism for positions taken and/or their rationale should never be allowed.

"She must be stopped", one councillor has been heard to lament. Councillor MacEachern has suggested has suggested I should stay at home.

This group has no comprehension of the shared authority of a council.

Though the freedom of our elections can allow it to happen, it is not anticipated an amorphous blob will form a municipal council. It is why we do not have the division of the party system of politics at the local level. It is the reason nine members take their separate seats.

That's what forms the substance of openness and transparency. It served our community well long before there were Regulations or Codes of Ethics.

At no time in history has the phrase Openness and Transparency had more meaning than the Age of The Blog. No Councillor is ever powerless with this magical tool of communication.

The Mayor and her faithful acolytes are having trouble dealing with the new reality.. That's tough.
It is here to stay for those who wish to use it. . Politicians would be wise to govern themselves accordingly. It may not be a camera watching and recording every action, but it surely is the next best thing.

I sent the following letter to my former colleague ., Grace Marsh:

Good Morning Grace

I know you decided to be a candidate because you thought you could make a contribution. I encouraged you. It was the same reason I decided in 2003 to try to restore the lost dignity and order to Aurora Council; an institution I regard as the most important in the life of the community.

I know when you began to have doubts and fear that on balance, frustration might be far greater than satisfaction. The time away from your family kept growing and productivity steadily diminished.

I know when one councillor did his yelling jag you were deeplyoffended.. It was especially difficult because of your own innate sense of dignity and civility. Under no other circumstance would you choose such an association.

When it happened a second time, you were quiet for weeks afterwards. I felt you were struggling with a decision. You felt both honoured and humbled by being chosen to serve the community in the last election.You said so on the night of The Inaugural. Now you were fighting the realisation you might not be able to continue to serve.

I know the issue of a contribution to capital reserves in the budget could have given you the professional incentive to think it might still be worthwhile. Then to watch the manipulation as it was jerked this way and that and finally removed would be another hope vanquished.

I heard about the yelling and shrieking abuse on Wednesday night. I did not have to be there to know the words. I was afraid it would be the last straw for you.
When I received your message I was devastated but not surprised. I know how hard it was for you to break your commitment. I also knew you had reached a point of no return.

So, waste no more time grieving than you must my friend. Do not believe your experience was typical. The current term of Aurora Council is a gross aberration of how it should be.....

It was never thus.And it may not be again.

Tuesday 22 April 2008

Oh My God.

The Honorable Dalton McGuinty may be everything Mike Harris said he was. And Mike Harris was no prize to bring home to mother either.

Dalton is telling women the clothes dryer uses 6% of the household consumption of hydro power. They should stop using it and hang the wash out to dry.

Yes Indeed we've come a long way baby.

I wonder if he checked with his female MLA,S before he launched that initiative.

Did he check with any of the people who happily signed the covenant that meant they would not have a neighbour's unmentionables flapping in their face or blocking their view when they had time to enjoy their ribbon- width backyards after working full time and spending three hours a day commuting to the city.

I have a daughter who lives in a single family detached house. She uses an umbrella style clothes dryer. She has a family of six. Hangs the wash out to save money. It is one of the measures that allows her to be a stay-at-home mother. Albeit much of wash-day outside in the fresh air at least eight months of the year.

I have a clothes line. Last year I replaced my washing machine with one that sits under the counter in the kitchen. I gave up my dishwasher because carrying a full basket of laundry up the basement stairs was not an option.

I have not used a dryer since the last of my children finally moved out of the house.

I am a single unit household. I dry outside because it's cheaper and sweeter, not because some suit thinks I should. Shows how much attention he was paying when he was growing up in a household with seven brothers.

Every time I think things can't get any sillier.

They do.

Monday 21 April 2008


Last Tuesday Aurora Minor Ball came to council as a delegation. They are having problems accommodating their numbers on existing facilities. Overuse of facilities are creating undesirable even dangerous conditions. The need for additional fields have been identified in the Capital Forecast for the past several years. Each year a recommendation is made. Each year it is dismissed.

Last year, two million dollars were included in the Administration budget for purchase of land to accommodate the growing need. Funds were available in the Cash-in-Lieu Reserve Account. The money was collected from developers for the purpose. They cannot be used for any other purpose. If not used for the purpose collected, it cannot again be identified in new calculations for the next round of development charges.

Still council dismissed the staff recommendation.

Minor Ball came to council to emphasize the need and to discover why, once again provision for the facilities had been removed from the budget.

It was interesting to watch the issue being stickhandled. The normal process of tabling a motion for debate went by the board. Bafflegab was fast and furious. 'Is that all you want? What about a club house, a stadium? What else do you need ?' Finally, the Director was directed with a flourish to find a location and get to work on designs the very next day.

The delegation appeared to be understandably impressed.

Designs have been on hand for the past two years. There are two potential properties All that remains is for the Budget to be re-opened and the financial commitment made.

This year's budget is on council's agenda to be approved tonight. Will there be a motion to amend to add oodles of dough ? Perhaps by the same person who moved it be removed ?

We shall see.

Skullduggery II

A reader has asked about the "leak" and "investigation" that followed at the end of last year What was the upshot and what did it cost??

The matter arose from a story which appeared in The Auroran that Council had turned down an offer to purchase land by York Region Police for the purpose of relocating Central Headquarters. It would have been a spectacular building housing eight hundred of the best-paying jobs in York Region. The decision was made on September 11Th The story appeared in November. After it appeared it seemed everybody but me had known for ages the plan was in the works.

Yet it seemed the Mayor and others were sure a heinous crime of "leaking" had been perpetrated and they sought to discover the culprit They retained George Rust D'Eye a former city solicitor to follow the trail.

The Mayor apparently had asked Mr. Rust D'Eye to attend council . After opening the meeting she introduced Mr.Rust D'Eye, then refused to answer a question as to his purpose Immediately she declared an emergency meeting and council trooped into the back room to examine the entrails.

All except the Mayor and Mr. Rust D' Eye. He was introduced to myself. He asked had I retained legal counsel ,said he had read numbers of emails and letters to the editor I had written and floated the idea I should not attend the in-camera meeting due to a vague reference to conflict-of-interest. It didn't seem like particularly useful advice. I went anyway.

Mr. Rust D'Eyehas had two consultations with council and obviously others with the Mayor,the nature of which have not been revealed. He advised his final report was solicitor-client privilege and could not be released. It was circulated , then collected . There has not since been even a whispered reference to his findings. What I can reveal is that neither Rust D'Eye nor anyone else ever inquired of myself or The Auroran as to the source of "the leak".

I suspect the purpose was a political exercise to divert attention from the awful truth. Counci, on a split vote, did in fact turn down the opportunity to have York Regional Police Headquarters locate here with all the economic advantage that entailed..

In my opinion , it was an error in judgement of gargantuan proportions. The reasons given being so puerile as to defy logic completely.

The rule calls for decisions made behind closed doors to be publicly reported . Thus far it has not happened.

I am currently awaiting a response to my inquiry about the legal cost of the boondoggle

Stay tuned.

Monday 14 April 2008

A Reader's Comment

The following email was in my inbox this morning. I've removed the writer's name:

----- Original Message -----
From: "Blog Reader"
Sent: Monday, April 14, 2008 8:22 AM

The province isn't following up on its mandate to protect our water resources by protecting the moraine and is leaving the municipalities to carry the load. Mrs. Buck, Why aren't you angry at the province for not doing their job? Instead you are angry with Mayor Morris because she is doing a job the premier should be, but isn't.

When the floodwaters are pouring in Mrs. Buck, you don't wait for the appropriate authorities to tell you to buy a boat. As usual you are barking up the wrong tree, looking to save a dollar, when the farm is at stake.

What saddens me most about you is not your opinions, but that there are enough people out there not paying attention, that someone like you got elected.

It is a Sad, Sad world indeed.

My response:

Good Morning Reader,

Thank you for your message. I'm sorry you are disappointed. that I do not share your views and that I was elected despite that fact.. I was not however elected to disregard the town's own Official Plan and ask the taxpayer's of Aurora to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to argue against the law at a Municipal Board Hearing .Municipal Board decisions are based entirely on evidence of the law They do not stray outside the law. That is the reality.

The current provincial government was re-elected after they passed the Oak Ridges Moraine Act. I believe we may assume the majority of Ontarians support The Act. I do not recall Mr. Klees making an issue against the Act during the election.Nor did I observe the Green Party arguing The Act was inadequate. Were you active in the Provincial campaign arguing against The Act? I do not recall Aurora's Mayor making an issue of it during the Provincial Campaign either.

Yet that is when opposition to the terms of The Oak Ridges Moraine Act should have been fought.The millions of dollars the Province spent to take land out of development in Richmond Hill might very likely have been used by the McGuinty government to demonstrate their commitment to preserve sensitive land masses.

You are free to express your opinion and your passion for the environment and you should be. Legislators,and Aurora Councillors are legislators, must abide by the law. I believe candidates for office should be honest with the electorate. They should not make promises they know they cannot keep. That is my passion. I know it is not realistic to expect seeking votes to be absolutely straightforward But In taking the position I do, I am keeping my commitment to those who elected me.

Perhaps you will acknowledge while we may have different principles, we have the same right to adhere to our own..And to fight for them if need be.


Evelyn Buck

Saturday 12 April 2008

A Calisthenic Guaranteed To Secure an Excruciating Self-Injury

I was wrong. The price tag for OMB proceedings on the Westhill Development Proposal up to April 8th was $119,000 not $10,000. Obviously, the consequences of supporting the neighbours' requestfor a Joint Board Hearing were not fully understood. Professional advice bought and paid for was not accepted.

Instead the rallying cry went out to members of S.T.O.R.M.(Save the Oak Ridges Moraine). Support was on hand to refuse the application and join the demand for a Joint Board Hearing. The Mayor subsequently and publicly dismissed concern about legal costs.

It's a familiar scene. Advocates of nature are free to embrace their passion without regard for pesky details like law.. Politicians are free to exploit that passion and ignore the hard reality They may even have made a commitment during the last election.

I have referred before to a similar fateful decision made on October 22, 2003.during a council meeting during the campaign.. A staff report was presented for closed door discussion and to meet a provincial deadline. Legal connotations were cited. They were dismissed by some councillors.with a hint of an accusation impropriety.

Councillor MacEachern argued the matter should be discussed in the open.. Councillor Vrancic dictated a resolution off the top of his head and declared" we should not fear legal costs.We should show the way for other municipalities ." A lawyer resident said talk about legal costs was ridiculous.. He offered to represent the town himself if it came to that.Emotions were high. The Council chamber was full. Ms. Morris, a candidate for council was there with Sue Walmer, to join the crusade toSave the Moraine. .
Next year's audit revealed not-to-be-feared legal costs were $270,000. Nothing was accomplished then or learned either apparently. The crusade paid off in votes for the valiant.

During the last election, at a meeting sponsored by the Coalition of Ratepayers, random questions were pulled out of a hat. A written questionnaire had already been circulated. Candidates views were known. I was asked how I would respond to an application for development on the Moraine.

I said:for the second time:and in the second election;" There is no simple answer. The Town's Official Plan governs. The Provincial Oak Ridges Moraine Act governs . If money is to be spent to protect The Moraine , it should be provincial money. I would not put the burden on the home-owners and businesses of Aurora.

Candidate Wilson was asked the same question. His response was loud and emphatic. He declared he would not permit development on The Moraine .

Evelina MacEachern's question was a bit of a twist. She was asked whether she had ever observed a conflict of interest while on council previously. She said she couldn't believe she had received that question. She had no idea it was coming. She answered in the affirmative. On one occasion, in-camera, the matter of raises for non-union staff was on the agenda. Mayor Jones, whose wife was on staff, declared a conflict and did not participate. Later however when the matter was reported out he failed to declare. Ms. MacEachern said she did not draw attention to the oversight because she didn't know she could.

Of the twenty candidates in the contest only four had previous experience. What was the chance anyone but Ms. MacEachern could have given that answer ?

I have a basic philosophy. I trust everyone until they give me reason not to. then I never do again.

The event and the questions were organized by Sue Walmer. As was the Coalition of Ratepayers in time for the election. As was STORM. Ms. Walmer is still is a member of the town's environmental committee. As was the Mayor. Ms. Walmer was understood to be heavily involved in Morris' bid for the Mayor's chair. It was understood the coalition had a slate of candidates

It often happens when I start on a particular topic the writing takes off in in a circle before it comes back to main theme.

The price tag for the refusal of the Westhill development application and support four of Westhill's neighbours request for a joint board hearing is currently $119,000 and counting – half legal, and half technical expertise.

Had the process been allowed to continue, fees for the expertise would have been paid by the developer. The appllication was refused. .The work became redundant from the applicant's perspective. The Municipal Board will make the decision and t taxpayers of Aurora will pay for the redundant work. The town required it to be done. .

Three weeks had been set aside for the scheduled hearing. That time has since been revised to six weeks. Projected cost is $150,00. Add that to the $119,000 already spent.

The neighbours' lawyer has appealed the OMB decision againsta Joint Board Hearing to Divisional Court .. The town is not supporting it but our previous action will bolster his argument.

A Joint Hearing requires seventeen weeks or therabouts.Our cost for that process will be close to half a million dollars. Add that to $119,000.

Our advocacy budget for 2008 is spent. Pending a decision from Divisional Court the anticipated extra cost will have to be added to this year's budget. It represents between two and three points on the tax rate.

I think this may be where the generational gap between myself and fellow councillors becomes apparent. $10.thousand dollars wasted is to me unpardonable. Make that half a million and you will understand the extent of my despair.

The Westhill lands are designated in the Aurora Official plan to permit a golf course and residential development. There were serious issues that needed to be settled prior to a site plan being approved. Under the guidance of town and regional staff and Toronto and Region Conservation Authority and the Ministry of Environment, the developer has already spent three-quarters of a million dollars .. Their OMB costs will not be less than ours.

The Ontario Municipal Board cannot disregard the Town's Official Plan. The town cannot argue against The Town's Official Plan at an OMB hearing or a Joint Board either for that matter.We cannot argue in that forum against the Oak Ridges Moraine Act or the Ministry of the Environment or the Region or The Toronto and Region Conservation Authority.

I do not profess proficiency in math. I do not profess to the expertise of a Chief Financial Officer responsible for a Corporate Budget of fifty-one million dollars and counting. Neither do I claim the Wisdom of Solomon. But I believe there is an obvious conclusion here.
We dug our collective selves in deep this time..

Tuesday 1 April 2008


Martin Short was the focus of a television feature replayed recently. The late John Candy, Dan Ackroyd, and others were part of the program. They talked about early years as high school students in Hamilton. Martin about how he learned he could entertain people. When he was quite young he discovered he had a talent for impersonation. Then he discovered he could make people laugh. He was paying particular attention to individual styles of expression.He watched television a lot and listened carefully.

It seems everyone has a unique style. They adopt certain words and phrases and a speech cadence. In Second City, Martin created his own hilarious characters and has gone from strength to strength in the North American entertainment industry.

When I met Logan, Heather Sisman's son, he was seven years old. He latched on to words and phrases like candy to be savoured. He likes to discuss things and is no slouch in the art of persuasion. Soon after we met, in an argument with his mother he raised his arms in a classic gesture and said, " As Evelyn Buck would say, where's the logic in that?"

At the beginning of this term, Aurora Cable camera people had a pool going. They bet how often and when a phrase would be used by one or other councillor. It seems I was in the habit of saying "Forty years ago". After I learned that I tried to avoid being so predictable. I would say instead "a hundred years ago". I am not about to give up an advantage.

When the flurry of nasty anonymous comments came in response to my Kangaroo Court Blog, I used the process to devine the authors. Words and phrases were a dead giveaway. The writers were not strangers.

Heather Sisman argues I can not make assumptions. Why not, I say? Why should they have all the fun I was simply exercising my intuition. At my time of life, it is a well-honed skill. It's my business to listen carefully and store away for future reference.

Paranoia is probably the main occupational hazard for politicians at every level. We are deemed to have thick skins. In fact, the opposite is the case. A reputation for honesty and straight talk is a precious asset. It is built in the face of conventional wisdom that there is no such thing as an honest politician. It is easy to lose and easier to squander.

Remember the old maxim: "You can fool some of the people some of the time. You can not fool all of the people all of the time" Relatively speaking, politicians tend to have a short shelf life. Life in a goldfish bowl is not how it seems. and things are always tougher than imagined.

It's a bit like being a new parent. You don't know anything about it. But you know you wont make the same mistakes your parents did.

If you are lucky, your parents will still remember what it was like to be new parents. Their advantage is knowing everything new parents know ... and a lot more besides.