Weeknotes, Sept 29 – Oct 5 2020

Today we should find out who is the new councillor for Ward 7 once polls close after 8pm.

On Friday, the Mayor suggested that Ward 7 residents should exclude candidates who don’t live in the Ward and suggested that it was somehow related to their position on the matter of the location of the proposed hospital. This is a good time to remind people that previous Ward 7 Councillor Irek Kusmierczyk did not live in Ward 7 until he won its council seat. I wonder which candidate(s) the mayor is trying to throw under the bus?

And I don’t want to put too much weight to it, but doesn’t this statement from the Mayor sound like a dig to the younger candidates running in the race?

“Don’t forget, you’re electing someone to sit around the table and spend your tax dollars,” he says. “This is an $850-million corporation, this is not a student council at a high school.”

There’s no city council meeting today on account of being the last day of the Ward 7 by-election. I’d love to report to you about what happened about last council meeting (for example, what happened to the request from the City Diversity Committee??) but there are no timestamps on the video of last council session and the whole thing is too time-consuming and painful to navigate otherwise.

There’s a larger problem here. Local media might write of potential conflict before a council meeting but unless there is something novel or newsworthy in the outcome, very rarely is there a media record afterwards of what happened at council. (If you have ever tried to research local issues, you might recognize this pain of always uncovering half-a-story). Occasionally a journalist will livetweet council but no one here does it consistently and rarely for the whole council meeting. Minutes from Council Meetings come out the next meeting so there’s frequently at least a two week delay in any written record of how a vote went down at council. I find that the whole thing makes it hard to follow local issues.

On September 30th, it was said that the Windsor Police Services nor its Board still have not given a substantive response to the Canadian Civil Liberties Association over its use of a database of COVID-19 health records.

Also on September 30th the City announced that it would be holding Virtual Community Consultations via a telephone town hall format, mere days later

To accommodate pandemic guidelines and maximize resident outreach, a series of five telephone town halls will occur in early and mid-October. Residents in each ward will have an opportunity to hear a presentation from the Mayor and Ward Councillors and participate in a question period regarding constituent and city-wide issues.

These unique telephone town hall sessions are technologically enabled and will automatically allow ward residents with a home telephone/landline to participate without requiring any action on their part: At 6:30 p.m. on the date of each teleconference, landlines will receive a call and residents can automatically join the meeting just by answering. Those residents who do not maintain a home telephone but have a mobile phone are asked to pre-register their mobile no later than two days prior to their ward town hall date via on-line registration:

DateWards (two per call)
Tuesday 6 October – 6.30 p.m.Ward 4 & 5
Wednesday 7 October – 6.30 p.m.Ward 8 & 9
Thursday 8 October – 6.30 p.m.Ward 2 & 3
Tuesday 13 October – 6.30 p.m.Ward 1 & 10
Thursday 15 October – 6.30 p.m.Ward 6 & 7

While I appreciate that this is safe approach to engage with the public in these times and that the phone could be argued as more accessible technology than a computer, the ability to listen to a presentation and then have only the possibility for a question to be selected for a response does not feel like consultation to me. A city is involved in so many aspects of daily life – from parking to climate change to electrical rates to noise bylaws to bus routes to social housing to social media… I feel that the format of the town hall is inherently going to be a conversation that’s all over the place with the brashest voices being the only ones brave enough to be heard.

If the city was really interested in consultation with its residents, it could use the same platform that it uses for feedback on its Sewer Master Plan – called Bang the Table – and survey residents to ask them what they need from their city and what they already appreciate.

On Tuesday, September 29th, I joined a zoom call update of the #TimeToTopple Report from Unlock Democracy. While I waited for the call to start, I grabbed these slides from Toronto’s RaBIT’s Introduction to Ranked Ballots:

What I heard on that Zoom call was inspiring.

The next meeting from Unlock Democracy is going to feature representatives from London Ontario who are going to be there to share their experiences with running Ontario’s first ranked ballots election. I will keep you posted.

I have been trying to re-balance my media diet as of late and have been finding that subscribing to news programs from the CBC, NPR, and the BBC as podcasts has helped tremendously in broadening what I learn about beyond my immediate interests.

I also have been subscribing to the RSS feeds of a variety of journalists. I’ve been finding Dale Smith’s Roundups of Canada’s Federal Political scene as particularly good.

Thanksgiving is next weekend and the Ontario government is leading us into disaster. The communication strategy of the Ford government is going to kill people.

That seemed to be the case at Friday’s provincial COVID-19 news conference, when reporters repeatedly asked if families should gather for Thanksgiving next weekend.

The press conference came just as the province issued a news release saying that it is “pausing social circles” and advising Ontarians to “allow close contact only with people living in their own household.”

Instead of echoing that advice, Premier Doug Ford, Health Minister Christine Elliott and other health officials all gave responses that seemed to contradict it.

Ontario’s ‘dog’s breakfast of guidance’ around COVID-19 sowing confusion, distrust, some experts say: Friday’s news conference contradicted earlier directive to restrict contact to own household, Adam Carter – CBC News, October 02, 2020

Clear communication is an essential part of a pandemic response and health communication experts agree: Ontario is doing a terrible job.

But even more damning is this headline: Many experts advised Ontario for months to boost COVID testing capacity. Sources say they just didn’t want to spend the money. The lack of testing capacity has rendered contact tracing so ineffective that in Toronto its Health Unit has opted to restrict contacting only those who have received a positive test. This means that we don’t have a clear understanding of what the real COVID numbers are in the province.

We had months to be ready for this second wave and the Ford government is trying to address the lack of staff in LTC facilities only now.

When Toronto has to go into lock down three weeks from now, I don’t want to hear that it was the fault of young people who chose to go to (or work at) bars that remain open. I want the blame to be squarely placed on a government that clearly doesn’t want to be responsible for the health of its people if it requires spending money.