Saturday, January 20, 2018

More Public Intimidation and Misrepresentation of Facts from Greater Sudbury Councillor Kirwan Over Upcoming Arena & Casino Public Meeting

On his Valley East Facebook group, Councillor Kirwan is sharing a private email between citizens that someone has shared with him. Very classy.
I've reproduced his lengthy post at the bottom of this blog. It's the latest in a string of social media announcements that this Greater Sudbury Councillor has made as part of what to me is a clear campaign to intimidation and misinformation over the upcoming public meeting regarding applications filed by a private developer to permit a casino and an arena/event centre on lands owned by the developer on the Kingsway, in a location on the urban fringe of the former City of Sudbury. The public meeting is a required component of provincial legislation. It is inappropriate, in my opinion, for a member of Council to misrepresent the public process in the way that this Councillor has been doing - and it is completely unacceptable that he has engaged in name-calling and bullying those who do not share his opinion of the development proposals.
Let the public process unfold as it the legislation requires it, Councillor. You'll get your chance to participate when the matter comes up for a vote. And if appeals are filed, remember: that, too, is part of the public process for these applications.
Here are a few other observations I'd like to share:
1) The Councillor has said elsewhere that he uses this Facebook group to engage constituents in his role as municipal Councillor - and clearly, many of the posts are written from his perspective as Councillor. So that's something to keep in mind when he publishes a private communication made between two individuals about a matter that has nothing to do with him, personally.
2) The Councillor is now taking the outrageous position that the City MUST approve the applications made by the developer to permit a casino because of the money that Gateway Casinos has already spent based on what the Councillor refers to as being both a "good faith commitment" and an "agreement" between the City and Gateway Casinos. It certainly sounds to me as if the Councillor might be privy to information that the rest of us don't have about an "agreement" of some sort that our City appears to have entered into with the casino operator. Very interesting.
3) What is absolutely fundamentally clear to me is that either Robert Kirwan is deliberately trying to mislead Valley East group members - many of whom are his constituents - or that he just really doesn't have the first clue about how the municipal land use planning system works. Given that he has been a member of Council now for over 3 years, I find it hard to believe the latter. But how else to explain statements which are completely erroneous, like, "So I hope that reason prevails in the end and people avoid filing appeals unless there is something in the applications that is a serious violation of the Acts and Regulations. That is the purpose of the public hearing on Monday, January 22, 2018. We want people to show us where the applications may not be in compliance with the Acts and Regulations."
No, Councillor Kirwan, this isn't about violations of "Acts" and "Regulations" - things that are usually illegal, by the way. The tests that Council will need to apply when making decisions related to the land use applications are as follows: a) having regard to provincial interests as set out in Section 2 of the Planning Act; a decision which conforms to and/or does not conflict with the Growth Plan for Northern Ontario (and any other applicable provincial plans); c) is consistent with the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014; d) conforms with the City of Greater Sudbury's Official Plan; and, e) is good planning.
All of those tests are policy-based tests - they have nothing to do with "Acts" or "Regulations". I'm sure that the Councillor understands the difference between regulatory instruments and policy - so why is he confusing these matters? Perhaps because regulatory instruments tend to put things into a more black and white perspective, whereas policy is a lot more nuanced and subject to interpretation. Again, this is part of his campaign to intimidate and silence opponents to the development proposals, by insinuating that the test for an appeal are at a higher threshold than they are. This is very shameful.
4) The statement made by Councillor Kirwan that "We do not want to hear people who simply do not like the decision that Council made," is really problematic - first because it suggests that Council has already made a decision. No, Council hasn't. The applications in front of Planning Committee have yet to be discussed at Council, much less there being a decision. It could be that the Councillor is referring to Council's decision to select the Kingsway as a site for an events centre, subject to property purchase and rezoning. But there is only one application in front of Planning Committee right now for that project - the other 3 pertain to a casino and a parking lot - uses which have NEVER gone before Council for a decision of any sort - at least in open session. The more the Councillor makes these statements, however, coupled now with the notion that there may be some sort of agreement in place between Gateway Casinos and the City, it leads me to wonder whether there have been decisions made behind closed doors where Council has made some kind of commitment to Gateway to locate the casino on lands owned by Zulich.
And finally, it does not matter what the Councillor wants in terms of who stands up and says what. First, he's not even on Planning Committee, so he gets zero say about who has a chance to speak and who is denied one. And second, the statute that this public meeting is being held under gives residents the opportunity to speak at a public meeting, period. It is the obligation of the City to ensure that all residents who want to have a chance to speak get that chance. Instead, this Councillor seems to want to deny people their right to speak their minds. And that is a real concern.

(opinions expressed in this blog are my own and should not be interpreted as being consistent with the views and/or policies of the Green Parties of Ontario and Canada)