The death of democracy in Windsor is one of a thousand slices through the heart by the city’s non-elected administrative elites. Most of these people seem, on the surface, to be minor, like paper cuts, and thus easily dismissed by the unobservant.
But, collectively they map out an unrelenting and unapologetic march to full administrative control.
It is simply a bloodless coup in which the city inches toward becoming a fiefdom over which taxpayers will have little control.
A good example, typical of how the administrators are working diligently to take over, is a report presented at the July 18 council meeting. It actually, and boldly, recommended that councillors be removed from setting fees for new services.
Pragmatically, the bureaucrats argue, the councillors should give up their role in setting prices for new recreation and cultural programs which come along between budgets.
Jan Wilson, an executive director, thinks it best not to wait for the annual budget. It is something the administrators can easily do on their own.
She proposes to have the Chief Administrative Officer, “… approve new rates outside of the budget process. The Recreation and Culture Department would ensure the requirements of the User Fee Policy are followed in recommending the rates, and the City Treasurer would be required to sign off on the proposed new rates.”
It all seems innocuous, but it is just another step in administration’s quest to run the city untethered to council.
Wilson seems to forget that council meets regularly and, as it usually does with most matters, its members could simply rubber stamp the changes, to at least maintain the veneer that they are in charge. Although, in exchange for this new power, the bureaucrats do promise to follow the rules.
Nonetheless, their decisions will be made out of public view or oversight.
The councillors themselves are almost equally at fault in supporting administration’s crusade to end government by the people for the people. Their recent complaint about having too much work might suggest they are bone idle.
This became obvious in a report presented at their June 20 meeting in an agenda item on capital project variances. Administrators are obligated to report semi-annually on all capital projects. They are encouraged to report potential variances. This usually results in voluminous information.
Apparently, the councillors are opposed to such detail.
So, because of, “… past feedback received from City Council relative to the significant detailed nature and complexity of various City Council reports, …” the administrators diligently amended, “… the Capital Project Variance Report format to provide a more condensed and summarized information package for City Council’s review.”
A democracy works best when all information is transparent and provided. Condensation is nothing more than editing.
There are eleven sets of eyes on council for a reason. Taxpayers would be right to hope at least one is open wide enough to spot something when it is amiss. This is not to say there is something wrong, but full reports are like the good fences which make good neighbours.
This anti-democratic trend began in 2008 with the passage of infamous by-law 208-2008, which gave administrators unprecedented powers. Despite the free range it allowed, the by-law has actually been updated to enhance staff power and to further remove council from being involved in decision making.
The potential end game in this is nicely summed up with a quote from famed Saskatchewan politician Tommy Douglas.
Let me remind you what fascism is … Fascism begins the moment a ruling class, fearing the people may use their political democracy to gain economic democracy, begins to destroy political democracy in order to retain its power of exploitation and special privilege.