If there’s anything that the last two weeks of missteps and miscalculations have conclusively demonstrated, it’s that Pelham Town councillors are tragically behind the curve when it comes to understanding what Pelham residents expect of them.
There is a growing case on council of acute blindness on the matter of cannabis, and borderline malevolence on the matter of the Mayor.
To all reasonable observers, the Integrity Commissioner’s report on Mayor Marvin Junkin’s handling of a vague donation offer by a local cannabis producer was a big bong full of nothing. Brock Political Science Emeritus Professor David Siegel called it a mountain made of a molehill. Bandshell Committee chair Gayle Baltjes said the volunteer organization was happy to accept donations from anyone. The investigator himself concluded that nothing “nefarious” occurred, and that Junkin had simply made misjudgments while trying to make things easier for council, the committee, and residents. He accordingly recommended that Junkin receive only a reprimand.
Against this advice, Town Council, following the lead of Councillor Lisa Haun,voted to dock Junkin a month and half of his salary—roughly $4000.
Of course, none of this exasperating waste of time would have come about if Councillor Ron Kore hadn’t filed his flimsy complaints. It didn’t have to be this way—or this expensive.
Kore refused repeated opportunities to take his case directly to the people through the Voice, as extensively documented in our coverage last week. He refused lower-cost mediation. Instead, by his choosing the route seemingly calculated to create the biggest political headache and amount of public embarrassment for the Mayor, it’s hard not to conclude that Kore’s apparent goal wasn’t justice, but retribution instead. This one-way personality conflict must end—as must its continued enabling by other councillors. We are only a year and a half into a four-year term. Dysfunction serves no one.
Even after declaring a conflict of interest at last week’s council meeting—conveniently meaning he didn’t have to face the Mayor directly— Kore managed to get his digs in through a statement read aloud by Councillor Bob Hildebrandt. This appeared to be in clear violation of the Ontario Conflict of Interest Act. The irony is almost too much. Even as they were debating Junkin’s punishment for minor violations of the Town’s Code of Conduct, councillors sat silently as provincial legislation was violated in real time before their eyes. As cherries on top, Lisa Haun and Marianne Stewart made false statements to rationalize their vote to ding the Mayor that $4000.
On the larger topic of CannTrust’s potential charitable contribution to the Bandshell, well, the residents of Pelham are just fine with it—as conclusively shown in a Voice poll conducted over the weekend. And why shouldn’t they be? There is no reasonable rationale to refuse charitable donations from legally operating businesses who wish to give.
Likewise, readers have almost unanimously condemned council for ignoring the Integrity Commissioner’s recommended reprimand of Junkin. Is Marvin Junkin perfect? Far from it, like the rest of us. It’s long past time for this council to move beyond pettiness. This is politics without vision—and this lack of vision makes them miss what is so plainly in front of their eyes. ◆