I’m writing this post because on Wednesday Oct 3, 2018 I was the subject of a post on Facebook and email distributed to Port Hope Citizen’s Association (PHCA) members by the executive urging voters to reject my candidacy (see image 2). This letter was the result of my speaking out against the behaviour of the executive at an all-candidates meeting they hosted on Monday Oct 1, 2018.
The all-candidates debate hosted by the PHCA was a “speed-dating” meeting and was the first public opportunity for voters to meet the candidates. The advertisement for this event on Facebook is attached and shows it listed as being a partnership between Ken Morden and the PHCA, Mr. Morden is featured in the event image (image 1).
In random order, each candidate was given 60 seconds for an introduction. An open question period followed during which citizens could ask single questions of candidates before allowing someone else a turn. To close, candidates were instructed to bring their most interesting question to the front of the room for a final session where they could share their answer. Importantly, the candidates were instructed not to repeat an already-answered question so as to answer the most issues for those attending.
The candidates sat at the front of the room, with the moderator, and Communications Director for the PHCA, Ms. Caroline Thornton in the center. The PHCA was described by Ms. Thornton as a ratepayer’ group, with no additional explanation, other than an invitation to visit their membership drive table. When describing the process, Ms. Thornton explains that the candidates may say “whatever they like”. [n.b., ratepayers’ groups are non-partisan watchdogs and not groups whose mandate includes putting favourable candidates into office, see below].
No conflicts of interest were made to open Monday’s meeting including:
- i) Failure to declare that the PHCA did not endorse its chair, Ken Morden;
- ii) Failure to declare that the PHCA did not endorse Urban representative, Sam Whittaker;
- iii) Failure to declare that the moderator, Ms. Thornton is the wife of candidate, Mr. Morden;
- iv) Failure to announce that Mr. Morden had that day stepped down as PHCA chair;
- v) Failure to announce the Mr. Whittaker’s status with the executive;
- vi) Failure to clarify that the PHCA website indicated just prior to the event that the executive included these two members.
- vii) Failure to make an official statement online or elsewhere about the change in the board in relation to the election; the record of their stepping down is on the PHCA Contact Us listing their positions as vacant. Ms. Thornton, continues as communications director.
- viii) Acknowledgement that by attending, non-PHCA affiliated candidates appeared to implicitly support the mandate of the PHCA, which includes electing two of its members.
When I spoke, I introduced myself and shared my concerns about the behaviour of the PHCA executive and the event. There was little time to elaborate beyond citing disagreement with the PHCA and their methods.
My objections to the PHCA on Oct 1 were as follows:
1) “I do not support their election platform…” , for the record, because:
- i) they are not a candidate;
- ii) I have my own platform and I am not affiliated with the PHCA;
- iii) the PHCA platform’s problems have been covered by Deputy Mayor Greg Burns); and,
- iv) based on PHCA description (in their newsletter), the methodology in drafting the platform uses a biased sample, and there is lack of transparency about its authors who have not been disclosed but potentially include individuals running for council and whose platforms bear remarkable similarity to the PHCA’s.
2) “nor their behaviour during this election cycle”.
- i) Sept 13, 2018 the PHCA published an article containing factual inaccuracies about the town’s finances. They have been fact-checked by the town and others. The article remains on their site and Facebook without correction.
- ii) Sept 18, 2018, representing the PHCA Mr. Morden made inaccurate statements about the MPH’s finances and was corrected by council. Mr. Morden misreported accounting numbers (published in the article described above), falsely claimed that the town attempted to censor him (when, in fact, they asked for a correction and retraction) and refused to answer questions related to the PHCA membership and function. On this date, Mr. Morden was running for office while acting as PHCA chair.
- iii) Sept 18, 2018, Ms. Thornton asserted to council that the municipality had not acknowledged survey work completed by the PHCA that duplicated municipal efforts regarding rural roadside garbage pick up, and claimed MPH had not circulated an announcement about its cessation which had been done;
- iv) The PHCA requested comment on their election platform and explain our candidacy from candidates for circulation to their members indicating, “The responses to these questions will be collated (Not edited) and published in our September newsletter.”(personal communication); however, the PHCA Election Newsletter was published with several of our responses edited or misquoted;
- v) As detailed above the PHCA advertised an all-candidates meeting with clear conflicts of interest, failed to acknowledge or be transparent about them, and put competing candidates in a disadvantaged and questionable position in order to participate;
- vi) the PHCA details in their election platform a need for transparency; however, the PHCA July August newsletter contains contribution from an anonymous source, nor does the PHCA reveal the authors of their strat plan or election platform (and refused to divulge the latter when asked directly on October 1, 2018); and,
- vii) the PHCA July August newsletter contains a section “How to influence who gets elected”, the Publisher of the paper is listed as Mr. Morden, chair, Ms Thornton, communications director, Mr. Whittaker, urban representative.
3) “Tonight, the PHCA gets to endorse two of its board members but does not seem to recognize this conflict of interest.”
- i) The all-candidates meeting was a chance for the PHCA to follow its mandate, and strategic plan (to “vet new candidates who are willing to stand in the upcoming 2018 Port Hope municipal elections and form a government” and “Develop a pre-election platform and endorse candidates who are willing and able to support the Community priorities”;
- ii) The PHCA executive members running for office have stepped down following Monday’s meeting, but were not announced to the attending audience as having independence. As of publicizing this, no public announcement has been issued indicating a separation between the executive and the PHCA;
- iii) The executive/candidates are referenced as the publishers of the PHCA Election Newsletter; and,
- iv) Mr. Morden was listed online as a host for the all-candidates debate (image 2).
4) “their leadership has spread misinformation online and refused to correct it, hidden behind anonymous writing (the newsletter with anonymous contributors has been removed from their site as of this writing, but is still reachable through direct link), and avoided questions about their function and membership.”
[n.b., Per description on their website footer, the PHCA is a division of “Experience Ganaraska” a registered not-for-profit that has claimed to be defunct though continued to file taxes. Mr. Morden is listed as a chair of this organization.]
On October 2, 2018 Ms. Thornton emailed me notifying me of her intent to publish a retributive post for my behaviour. She indicated that she would message the entire PHCA membership and all of the candidates. This was my chance to comment. I ignored the message as previous interactions detailed above taught me that I could not trust the PHCA to represent me.
On October 3, 2018, the PHCA executive continued their problematic behaviours by posting content on Facebook and emailing their members about me. Specifically, the PHCA executive alleged that because I do not support their platform I oppose:
- Value for money;
- Attracting new businesses;
- Distributing regular, accurate feedback to the community;
- Increasing the business base; and,
- Addressing road maintenance and snow removal problems.
With such a claim, the PHCA has purposefully mischaracterized my position in an effort to discredit me in the eyes of voters as a response to my holding them accountable for their actions in a public forum. For reasons I have detailed above, I reject the PHCA platform and the inappropriate and irresponsible tactics engaged by certain members of the PHCA executive during the course of this election. Such rejection is not a rejection of any of the above-listed concepts. Several of my election engagements and my website further detail my position .
In sum, facts matter. I encourage voters in this election to cast a critical eye towards the information provided to them and its source. Before council, Mr. Morton claimed that if the PHCA spreads misinformation to sway voters, “If It’s wrong, then it’s our problem”. Such a statement is callous and nothing could be further from the truth – this behaviour affects all of us.
On October 22, 2018, Port Hope as a whole gets to decide what they deem the consequences for such action.
Whether you vote for me or vote for another candidate, please make an informed vote.