Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Investigation Into The MoE Fiasco Demanded

It may turn out to be another Windsor black-eye and disgrace depending on the true facts. Windsorites should be demanding an independent investigation to uncover the truth immediately! It goes right to the heart of our Democracy in this City.

I am going to give myself a big pat on the back today and one to Chris Schnurr as well. We deserve it and earned it by our own hard work and digging.

Do you really believe that there would have been the big Page 3 story in the Star today revealing that DRIC had prepared a 33 page response to the Ministry of the Environment memorandum but for Windsor Bloggers? The Mayor released the MoE document and it was splashed over the front page of the Windsor Star in an effort that seemed designed to discredit DRIC.

It became, as I suggested before, another MoE "Dr. Diamond" bombshell that turned out to be a huge dud. It is another embarrassment for this City and its leadership. Where the Diamond document was merely a response to the draft DRIC EA, in this case there actually was a DRIC response to the MoE document that was not disclosed to Windsorites in a timely fashion.

Why not is the big question that needs answering. If lonely Bloggers could get the answer and Blog it within hours, so could our leaders and the biggest media outlet in town!

I am certain that the Star would have run another story because DRIC would have complained but it certainly in my opinion would not have been the size of the story in the Star today but for Schnurr and my BLOGs yesterday and today. The size and placement in my opinion only took place because both Schnurr and I posted the 33 page DRIC response online for Windsorites to read.

Now you will understand why there is a concern about EH-News closing!

As I said before, I have no idea from a technical point of view which document is correct. What I am concerned about is how this story got out there and why.

In my opinion, Jim Venney, the Publisher of the Star, is not off the hook to explain exactly what happened with this story merely because of the Page 3 story today. Is the Star guilty of shoddy journalism, was the Star misled and if so by whom or was the Star complicit in a plot to mislead or deceive the public?

These are important questions of trust and integrity of our leading media outlet that demand an answer. Venney, as Publisher, owes it to the Star’s paying subscribers, its readers and its advertisers to give us the truth. We need to understand whether the Star is acting responsibly as a newspaper or if it is nothing more than a mouthpiece for certain interests that have their own agenda that may not necessarily be in the best interests of the City of Windsor and its citizens.

But there is more. And this is the part that troubles me greatly. Can Windsorites trust our Mayor and Council? Who knew what at City Hall? That must be disclosed as well immediately. I need to know as do other citizens that what we are being told is true and accurate by our leadership. The issue is not winning and losing a case but what is in the best interest of the City of Windsor.

Clearly, I disagree with the Mayor and Council on their approach with respect to the border file. That should not bother anyone because in a democracy people are free to form their own opinions and to advocate their point of view to try to convince others of their correctness of their position. That is what my BLOG is really all about.

If the Mayor and his counsel did not have the information about the DRIC response and had no reason to believe that there was one when the Mayor released the MoE document that is one thing.

However, I do expect the Leader of my City to present to me the facts, good and bad, no matter what they are, so that I can make an informed decision. It is not acceptable to me to be lied to or to be given half-truths or to have information hidden from me so that I am put in a position where I do not have all the data available in order to make a reasonable choice as a citizen. It is not acceptable to me to be led into taking a position based on nondisclosure of relevant information for whatever reason.

What are the true facts in this case, who knew what and when? In my opinion, Council has an absolute duty now to conduct its own investigation in this matter to determine what the facts are and to report to the citizens of Windsor what the results of its investigation are.

In my opinion, Council is now in the position where it must retain the services of an outside organization that is completely unrelated to the City to determine what has happened and what role the Mayor and the City’s outside counsel have played.

This section of the Star story today is very instructive:
  • Health study valid, DRIC says
    Project leader says concerns over research methods addressed

    Ministry of the Environment spokeswoman Kate Jordan said at least some of DRIC's response would have likely been in the file when it was retrieved by Estrin. "Whether he saw it or not I don't know," said Jordan.

    "It is important to note that this is part of the normal process for the ministry to seek additional information. It is part of the approval process."

    Mayor Eddie Francis said it is not the city's job to put forth DRIC's positions.

    "It's not the City of Windsor's job to do DRIC's job," said Francis.

    "Our lawyers are bringing these memos forward to us. Why didn't they (DRIC) release these memos?"

    "…DRIC's responses to this community continue to be a slap in the face because they ignore the facts," said Francis.

    "We would welcome them to come to this community and explain themselves. There are a number of issues they are not responding to and they continue to run away."

I challenge the Mayor to ask Council to undertake a full and complete investigation into this matter with the proper Terms of Reference and not to ignore the facts. Otherwise it is a slap in the face of citizens.

Clearly, an important question is how did Mr. Estrin get a hold of the MoE document and when. Was the DRIC response in the MoE file at the time and did Mr. Estrin see it? If he did not see it, then this gives rise to some very troubling concerns. If he did see it, did he give a copy of it to the Mayor or tell him about it considering that he gave the Mayor a copy of the MoE document? If not, why not? If Eddie received the MoE document from our legal weapon of mass destruction did Eddie ask the obvious question whether DRIC responded? What was the answer? If he did not ask, why not? Was there a “wink wink, nudge nudge” not to ask? If the Mayor had a copy or knew about the response, then why did he not reveal it and disclose it at the same time as he disclosed the MoE document?

If one reads between the lines, the strong suggestion by the Star is that they were not told about the DRIC response. However, it is interesting to note that the Star, even in this story, has not asked some of the tough questions that I have posed above. Does this mean that the Star acted in an unprofessional manner in its reporting or editing and is trying to cover it up or that it knowingly acted as a mouthpiece for certain interests? What is Mr. Venney's response?

It is more urgent to get answers to these questions because the Star also did an Editorial on the same day demanding that the Premier come to Windsor to bow down to our Mayor. Moreover the Story and Editorial were placed in the paper the day before the CIBPA meeting that one can conclude will denounce the position of the Mayor and Council.

To be direct, I am disgusted with our Mayor’s position as outlined in the story. I think that it is time that he forget that he is a lawyer and start remembering that he is a Mayor of a City. He ought not to be trying to win a case but rather to do what is best for this City.

No one is asking Eddie “to do DRIC's job.” It is however his “Job” to act as the Mayor of Windsor. It is his obligation to present the facts to us in an open and honest manner. If he is wrong, he ought to admit it and move on and do what is right for us.

The facts must come out and Council has the obligation to investigate immediately. Once we know the true situation then decisions can be made.

As you can tell, I am very troubled by this entire situation. To offer some assistance respecting how this matter might to be looked at by you, I offer to you, dear reader, one of the Rules of the Law Society and its Commentary.

  • 4.01 (1) When acting as an advocate, a lawyer shall represent the client resolutely and honourably within the limits of the law while treating the tribunal with candour, fairness, courtesy, and respect.

    The lawyer has a duty to the client to raise fearlessly every issue, advance every argument, and ask every question, however distasteful, which the lawyer thinks will help the client's case and to endeavour to obtain for the client the benefit of every remedy and defence authorized by law. The lawyer must discharge this duty by fair and honourable means, without illegality and in a manner that is consistent with the lawyer's duty to treat the tribunal with candour, fairness, courtesy and respect and in a way that promotes the parties' right to a fair hearing where justice can be done

    This rule applies to the lawyer as advocate, and therefore extends not only to court proceedings but also to appearances and proceedings before boards, administrative tribunals, arbitrators, mediators, and others who resolve disputes, regardless of their function or the informality of their procedures.

    Role in Adversary Proceedings - In adversary proceedings the lawyer's function as advocate is openly and necessarily partisan. Accordingly, the lawyer is not obliged (save as required by law or under these rules and subject to the duties of a prosecutor set out below) to assist an adversary or advance matters derogatory to the client's case.

    When opposing interests are not represented, for example, in without notice or uncontested matters or in other situations where the full proof and argument inherent in the adversary system cannot be achieved, the lawyer must take particular care to be accurate, candid, and comprehensive in presenting the client's case so as to ensure that the tribunal is not misled.

    In civil proceedings, the lawyer has a duty not to mislead the tribunal about the position of the client in the adversary process.