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Opinion: Clang, clang, clang, clang, clang

By Mike Williscraft

As I was watching the show Monday night I was racking my brain…trying to think of what Coun. Randy Vaine and Coun. Kevin Ritchie remind me of as they trample over top of valid questions and opinions of other council member.

Statler and Waldorf from the Muppet Show came to mind, but that wasn’t it. Those characters had wit.

First we had Ritchie chewing on Coun. Lianne Vardy with a side of Vaine chiming in just for good measure as she questions Grimsby bylaw “expert” Henry Boese about the portable sign bylaw report he had brought to council Monday night.

Much of the initial dust up was caused by Vaine choosing to take Vardy’s and Coun. Dorothy Bothwell’s comments out of context regarding a bylaw officers’ ability to show discretion when dealing with residents and issues. Neither Vardy or Bothwell suggested Boese or any other bylaw department official did not have discretion in the first place.

The line of questions arose after Boese gave a definitive statement while presenting the report, then backtracked somewhat to note the Town’s portable sign bylaw does have exemptions and that bylaw officers have discretion as to when fines should be levied or a warning issued if there is an infraction.

Vaine went off, again, about his tremendous experience and made sweeping statements about the rights of peace officers across the nation. I was waiting for him to break out into a solo rendition of O’ Canada there for a second. It was a thing of beauty.

The only problem was, that was never one of the items being challenged by either Vardy or Bothwell. Vardy’s point was the bylaw, which “does not permit portable signs to be erected on residential or rural properties” was too restrictive and took away residents’ right to free expression under Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The restriction was acknowledged by the Town’s legal counsel John Mascarin who danced the all-too-familiar line, creating enough grey verbiage that both sides of the debate could find ammo with which to arm themselves. Yes, the bylaw restricts, but not enough to contravene the Charter…Mascarin’s comment in summation.

So just to get away from all Vaine’s presentation of “the facts” and Boese’s “expert” (according to Vaine) comments for a moment…as the whole argument wore on the thing that kept nagging at me was governments – all levels – in Canada…remember we are in Canada, people…should be fighting to preserve if not enhance the rights of Canadians, not find ways to dance into shadows and limit those rights.

On the simple face of it, take away all the intense dislike and vilification of some of these councillors for a moment and get your mind around the fact Vaine, Ritchie, John Dunstall (when he is there and Dave Sharpe are seeking ways to limit them all because one resident, John Smees, cheesed off some councillors by getting his own lawn sign created asking, “Who speaks for the people of Ward 3?”

Next thing you had was Ritchie ordaining himself as “speaker” for Ward three on his council zoom status.

And by the way, I somehow missed the town hall press release making Ritchie assistant clerk. Again on two occasions Monday when Bothwell asked questions of clerk Sarah Kim, Ritchie jumped in to provide what he believed to be answers.

Now, Mayor Jeff Jordan should have ruled Ritchie out of order and allowed the queries to go in the direction for which they were intended, but Ritchie kept talking over top of Bothwell, bringing her line of questioning to a halt – as so often happens.

It was during the second set-to that it finally dawned on me.

You know those cymbal-banging monkey toys?

That’s them, the pair of them. You wind them up, you know they are going to go off and when one starts to lose steam the other picks up and keeps on going.

“Clang, clang, clang, clang.”

It is the same, constant, off-base, inconsiderate sound over and over and over and over.

That is exactly how they conduct themselves at every council meeting. It’s embarrassing for them and the Town as a whole.

Now, I’ve been covering Grimsby council since 1995. I’ve published my own paper for more than 16 years of a 35-year newspaper career. I have been president of both provincial and national newspaper associations. Many would consider me to have an “expert” opinion, yes?

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