Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Commish and Scholarly Conflicts

Oh boy, another possible mind bending question for the Integrity Commissioner to opine upon if someone decides to file a complaint. If I was the Commish, I know that this would be another toughie to decide.

Remember this video clip I posted before.

It is of Edgar (aka Eddie) telling us that he has no pecuniary interest in the daycare matter even though his daughter goes to private daycare

However, Edgar did declare a pecuniary interest out of an abundance of caution when his University of Windsor Alumni Association appeared in front of Council re the Food and Wine Festival.

A bunch of people it seemed thought Edgar's action was a big joke as you can hear but they do not know the rules the way that Edgar does since he IS a lawyer. And he is never wrong.

Being an alumnus is automatic it seems and lifelong:
  • "The very first day you set foot on the UWindsor campus, you received a lifetime membership in the Alumni Association, a tight-knit community of classmates, faculty and staff that's here to support you throughout your career. This network can help you find a new job, adjust to a new city and recruit the best and brightest employees."

He made the point that they would receive proceeds from the event so in that case, well you saw how quickly Edgar took off.

Wouldn't his daughter possibly receive "proceeds" if the Municipal daycare closed down, but in this case he stayed.

It is those two actions of the Mayor that have me wondering. In one scholastic case there was no "interest" and in another he declared one.

For some help, the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act states the following way:

  • “child” means a child born within or outside marriage and includes an adopted child and a person whom a parent has demonstrated a settled intention to treat as a child of his or her family;

    3. For the purposes of this Act, the pecuniary interest, direct or indirect, of a parent or the spouse or any child of the member shall, if known to the member, be deemed to be also the pecuniary interest of the member.

    5. (1) Where a member, either on his or her own behalf or while acting for, by, with or through another, has any pecuniary interest, direct or indirect, in any matter and is present at a meeting of the council or local board at which the matter is the subject of consideration, the member,

    (a) shall, prior to any consideration of the matter at the meeting, disclose the interest and the general nature thereof;

    (b) shall not take part in the discussion of, or vote on any question in respect of the matter; and

    (c) shall not attempt in any way whether before, during or after the meeting to influence the voting on any such question.

Clearly, the Mayor has no direct pecuniary interest in the Alumni Association matter so his interest must be indirect.

Clearly Edgar's daughter has no direct pecuniary interest in the daycare matter but does she have an indirect one ie her daycare would remain open if they got new students or fees might be kept down if there were new students. If she does, then Edgar is "deemed" to have her interest under Section 3 and he may have a problem under Section 5.

That is the question....Was the Mayor wrong? Is there an indirect pecuniary interest that can be attributed to the Mayor in the daycare issue based on his alumni action?

Here is what complicates it even more.

Remember when the daycare issue started, even before it got to Council, operators said:

  • "Daycare operators worried

    Owners of daycares and Montessori schools are concerned that the province's new full-day kindergarten option will cause a significant drop in business at private-sector child care centres.

    "Everyone's scared," said Saskia Iannicello, executive director of Come and Play Day Nursery. "We're hearing that in two years, none of us are going to have jobs and they'll take our business."

    Full-day kindergarten will become available in 14 Catholic school classrooms and 26 public school classrooms in September 2010.

    The following year, the program will add seven Catholic school classrooms and 11 public school classrooms. Schools will also offer before- and after-school care from as early as 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

    That could be bad news for people like Julie Roy, who owns three Montessori schools in the area.

    "People are just seeing free daycare," she said, of parents who may opt to save on fees at her schools by enrolling children in kindergarten.

    "Competing with free is impossible."

    Roy's schools offer educational and care programs for infants and children between the ages of six months and six years.

    She explained that it's the older children who make her business viable, since the student-to-teacher ratio is higher.

    "That's the meat of your program. A lot of times, we're in the red for the infant care."

    Children aged 21/2 to six years have one teacher for every eight students, while toddlers and infants have a ratio of one-to-five and one-to-three respectively.

    Roy fears if there's a mass exodus of older children from her schools to kindergarten, her business simply won't be viable.

    "There will be a definite employment impact if we lose 30 per cent of our kids," she said. Her three Montessori schools employ 200 people in Windsor."

However, the City getting out of the business of daycare could be considered a salvation for the private operators since they would get proceeds from monies paid by new students. Here are a couple of examples from the Council Minutes about what private daycare could do

The issue is not academic either since Councillor Halberstadt tells us the following to compound the problem:

  • "McNamara and Burton would be wise to focus on the benefits of the closure to the many non-profit and private daycares paying taxes in Tecumseh. Municipal centres like the one on Lesperance are exempt from property taxes.

    Jacquie Bourgeois is executive director of A Smart Start Daycare and her landlord at 11958 Tecumseh Road is paying the town $7,000 in taxes a year for the 3,500 square feet space.

    “Children are going to be displaced (by the closures) and I hope to get some here to keep us afloat,” says Bourgeois. “We are small and quaint so it won’t be such a huge transition for them...

    With the September closures, the provincial share of $4.7 million of the region’s child care funding will be re-directed to the private and non-profit centres to provide additional spaces and enhance the salaries of ECEs.

    It is anticipated that the system will have no difficulty absorbing the 425 children impacted by the closure of the municipal centres.”

The poor Commish! Having to decide this. Imagine the headache.