COLUMN: South Stormont makes news for wrong reasons (again)

by Phillip Blancher

SOUTH DUNDAS — The Township of South Stormont is making news for all the wrong reasons. South Stormont Mayor Jim Bancroft, and a majority of the council, have opted for legal opinions about a policy that would force anyone at a public council meeting to obtain permission to use a recording device. This means everyone, including journalists, and includes cameras, video cameras and even audio recording.

Citing the example of the Upper Canada Playhouse, Bancroft stated that cameras aren’t allowed there, so they [township] should get to control who records what at council meetings. Sorry Mayor, but you are wrong. The Upper Canada Playhouse, or any other venue like it, does not allow recording devices because you are paying admission to view a copyrighted work in a controlled setting. It is stated very clearly when you purchase a ticket, what the terms and rules are and by agreeing to purchase the ticket, you accept those rules.

When it comes to public council meetings, the residents have already purchased the ticket, they pay taxes, that admission is paid. As such they are allowed to record what goes on, who says what, by any means necessary. Government meetings, public government meetings, are not subject to the same rules as private events. Journalists do not need to seek permission because we have a legal framework called the Canadian Constitution, which allows for this.

I understand the logic behind this, given the controversy surrounding the previous term of council and the irresponsibility of certain individuals in the community, but in this case, a few bad apples don’t get to spoil the bunch.

Pay goes up, pay goes down

Someone stop the Merry-go-round at Cornwall City Council please. A move by council in the previous term, during the election campaign, to raise the pay of the mayor and councillors has now been reversed by this term’s council. Increases will be adjusted yearly based on the “Cost of Living” index.

My only question on that is, who gets that kind of increase in the private sector anymore? One person online suggested they get paid based on the average wage in Cornwall, so that councillors have to work on growing the economy in Cornwall and their pay will increase or decrease based on the results. I don’t think that will work well given how well the regional economy is. Just pick something, and stick with it.

South Dundas gets a “new” website

Interestingly, the Municipality of South Dundas has launched their new and improved website. I state interestingly because what was billed as a “clean up” and “updating” looks more like a complete rebuild. Also interestingly was the price tag, reported in the local press to be over $7,400, and it was a firm from Markham, Ontario that received the sole-sourced contract. It appears to be a grey area, when it comes to procurement in South Dundas, if it should have been tendered to a bidding competition. Hopefully the new council gets their ducks in a row when it comes to clarifying procurement in South Dundas. A frequent complaint heard here in South Dundas is that local government does not support local business. Maybe that will change.

Target missed?

As I write this, the retail sector in Canada is shaking with the announced closure of Target, two years after the celebrated launch of Target. Locally, this is affects the 11-Points Logistics facility in Cornwall. Again Cornwall’s lack of diversification is coming back to bite them. Any municipality has to work for a diversified employment base, after Domtar closed, Cornwall focused on call centres. After that didn’t work, they looked at logistics. What’s next? Maybe government call centres for Employment Insurance claims. Given the oil price drop, Alberta spiraling towards recession, Ontario’s high energy prices shooing away manufacturing and national retailers failing, this may be the only growth industry for a while.

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