Done deal from start

Dear Mr. Editor:
I find it difficult to comprehend the majority position of town council relating to the most significant matter confronting Fort Frances (and the surrounding municipalities) in many years.
The issue revolves around the purchase agreement of the old Fort Frances Clinic and council’s resolution mandating a family health team program based on rostering.
I further question Coun. Hamilton’s attitude as it relates to the release of public information, community input, and council responsibilities.
An advertised informational meeting was held Oct. 12. Officials running this meeting promised further information, input, and dialogue with the concerned public prior to any council decision being made.
Several hundred residents were in attendance, with many opting to withhold their concerns pending future information (I was one of those who elected to wait).
I was in total shock when council elected to pass a resolution to proceed—without regard to further public information or community input.
In hindsight, I must conclude that Coun. Hamilton and the majority of council had no intention, other than the mayor and Coun. Albanese, of telling the public anything. Please let me explain:
(1). Council did not purposely advertise their intent to adopt the clinic resolution prior to the regular council meeting. Why? Because they did not want your input or advice.
It was, in my opinion, a done deal.
(2). Council did not provide any further public information (beyond the community informational meeting of Oct. 12) as promised. Why? Because the Oct. 12 meeting was not held to get the public involved as a community, but to fulfill a legal requirement under the act so an application could be made to the Ministry of Health re: the family health team concept (rostering).
(3). When asked by concerned taxpayers (who scrambled to attend this council meeting) to allow further public information and input as promised, Coun. Hamilton clearly stated, “there would be no public input,” nor would he allow taxpayers in the gallery to speak to this resolution, either.
Thanks to Mr. Nick Wihnan, who asked Coun. Hamilton “Who the heck he thought he was to exclude the taxpayers,” stirred Coun. Albanese, and Mayor Onichuk to allow—on a hotly-debated motion—a few residents to speak to the resolution.
Coun. Hamilton strongly objected. Why? Because it was a done deal, worked on and conceived behind closed doors.
It was, in my opinion, never intended to allow members of the public any say or input into this matter.
(4). Against all objections, Coun. Hamilton pushed this resolution through, with Mayor Onichuk and Coun. Albanese voting against it.
Why do I make such statements? I make them in part because of the memorandum of understanding dated July 15, 2005—a hidden document not made public by Coun. Hamilton or council.
This is a seven-page document outlining the agreement between the Sault Ste. Marie Group Health Association, Fort Frances Clinic Partnership, the shareholders of the Fort Frances Clinic Holdings Limited, and the Town of Fort Frances.
There are many items in this document that will lead to further press releases or letters to the editor at a future date. But I wish to refer to a couple of items in this MOU, specifically “confidentiality.”
Item #6-6.1 Confidential information defined—the parties can’t release information “without the express written consent of the other party” and “that it shall not release confidential information to any third party.”
Item #7-7.1 Public announcements—“in addition to the obligations contained in article six (above), no party will issue a formal public announcement or statement concerning any matter related to the project without the consent of the other parties.”
Item #8.6 binding effect—“The parties agree that the confidentiality provisions contained in Article 6 shall survive termination of this MOU.”
When I view council’s refusal to release public information and not allow public input, I must conclude (my opinion) from the memorandum of understanding that this agreement entered was meant to be a done deal, and so structured as to be kept as secret as possible—even if the agreement happened to terminate.
Was this agreement written to suppress the rights of the public? That’s the only conclusion I can draw from council’s action.
If this is not the case, I invite Coun. Hamilton and members of council to come clean by publicly placing all cards on the table and allowing those who seek information and input a democratic voice on this very serious issue.
Many excellent public ideas are ignored and short-changed by this very closed process.
Thank you, Mayor Onichuk and Coun. Albanese, for your efforts and full support on this matter. I only wish the other members of council would appreciate these serious taxpayer concerns and follow your lead.
It makes me wonder who they were elected to represent.
In Canada we have a full democracy, designed to take into account the views and values of the people—a lesson council ought to hold and treasure dearly.
I ask council to enact true democracy, rather than exercising the dictatorial democratic principles of Idi Amin.
Our legal options are under review and a report to the public will follow shortly.
Yours truly,
Allan Bedard
Fort Frances, Ont.

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