Listen Up! Sorting fact from fiction



Hugh Mackenzie
Huntsville Doppler

Let sleeping dogs lie? Maybe not!

Sometimes I find I can only write when I am facing a very tight deadline. This is one of those times. I have been torn by asking myself if I should write further about the decision Council must make tomorrow evening in relation to how to choose our next mayor or, as I have been advised by some, to let sleeping dogs lie.

What caught my eye however, just a few minutes ago, was a clip from a news interview on CNN where this comment was made. “This is where we are now. There is zero shame in lying…just straight up lying…constantly.” This, of course, is an American talking about American politics and in that country it is frighteningly close to the truth.

I would like to think that we have not gone that far in Canada, but I do believe we are coming very close to a culture where there is no shame in demonstrating a lack of respect for the facts and an increasing acceptance of innuendos that cannot be supported by the facts. We have seen that in our recent federal election from both sides of the aisle. We see it in the media and, sadly, we are seeing it here in our own community. And in this latter respect, I cannot let sleeping dogs lie.

Comments have been flying around lately, mainly on social media, related to the manner in which Council should decide how to select the next mayor of Huntsville, a decision made necessary by the resignation of Mayor Scott Aitchison, the newly minted Member of Parliament for Parry Sound-Muskoka. The ones that bug me the most are those, however obliquely implied, that suggest there is only one person on Council that can represent Huntsville’s interests when it comes to hospital care in this community.

As most people are well aware, only two people so far have indicated an interest in seeking the mayor’s office and these are Karin Terziano and Tim Withey. Both are members of Council and Mr. Withey in particular has been extremely verbose in his attacks on the Muskoka Algonquin Health Care Board in relation to their latest recommendation for hospital care in Huntsville. It is a strategy of confrontation, that some question, at a time when the MAHC Board is moving closer to keeping a fully equipped acute care hospital here. To imply in any manner that Mr. Withey is best able to represent all the people of Huntsville when it comes to an up-to-date acute care hospital here is, by definition, to imply that Karin Terziano is not. That in my view is sheer nonsense, with perhaps a dollop of misogyny thrown in.

I need to state a bias here. If we do have a by-election in Huntsville, I will cast my single vote, for what it is worth, for Karin Terziano. I believe she would make an excellent mayor of Huntsville. However, whether or not she becomes our mayor, no one should underestimate―or question―her qualifications, her experience, her record, or her ability to stand up and to stand up tall in the best interests of Huntsville and that includes issues related to our hospital. She is eloquent and persuasive in her own way, and she knows that confrontation is a tool of last resort and not the best way to achieve effective goals.

There are other statements that have been made recently in relation to selecting our next mayor that are not consistent with the facts. One such is that most people in Huntsville prefer a by-election over an appointment. We do not know that. A recent poll suggested the Town is split on the issue, but it was not a scientific poll, we do not know how the question was framed or the context in which it was asked or whether it was conducted by a special interest group with a particular agenda.

There have also been comments stating that a by-election would only cost $50,000 and that additional work could be done by existing staff to reduce costs. Not true. An election is expensive and subject to strict conditions related to security and authenticity by law, conducted by people with the experience to know what they are doing. There are no shortcuts. As one member of Council put it to me recently, “The fact is, if we go for a by-election, there will be a cost to taxpayers of $100,000 in 2020.”

Although I have my preference, I have no idea what Council will decide on Monday night. I do believe however, that Acting Mayor Terziano will be content to seek the office of mayor in whatever manner Council believes is in the best interest of Huntsville citizens. I also have faith that Council will do this without having been swayed by fear-mongering, bullying or threats.

That is why they were elected. That is the way it should be.

Hugh Mackenzie

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  1. Perhaps tying your two themes together, I have noticed a bit of an anomaly in the past 6 years of living in Huntsville. In all the communities I have lived in, it was common (or a requirement) that candidates for council or mayor to present a summary of their qualifications (other than “nice” person and years of “experience”). While in and of themselves, education, employment, and roots are not deal breakers. But I find it odd, as I am a bit of a political wonk, I know nothing about any of the councillors (save Ms Alcock who I believe teaches in some capacity at Ryerson and Mr Withey has an insurance company).

    So now, in trying to understand on what basis one would decide to elect or appoint a mayor. I gather Ms Terziano would be a popular appointment choice. But as far as I can tell she hasn’t run for anything for 4 years being appointed in the last election and being appointed Deputy Mayor. Prior to being appointed or elected should she or Mr Withey or any other candidate not present a CV to the community at large?

    To those who have lived in Huntsville all their lives this may seem like an odd request (perhaps they all personally know the players). But as you have noted, facts should matter, all this would seem less of a Star Chamber if objective qualifications were presented prior to a decision being made

  2. Hugh I think you have made yourself quite clear as to what you would like to see happen. That being said your right it is up to counsel to decide what they want to do and it’s up to the rest of us to support there decision whether or not we agree with it. That is what we elected them to do.

  3. Tammy McAughey on

    Hugh I had no idea you were a journalist and a campaign manager. To imply Mr.Withey is not the right person for Mayor also implies Karin is the only one capable to do the job. Do you stand to gain or lose if one over the other takes the Mayors seat? Do you have a personal stake in this?

    • Hugh Mackenzie on

      Tammy, no. I have no involvement in a campaign for Karin Terziano as Mayor. I simply support her for that position as is my right, just as you have the right to support Tim.

  4. Frances Botham on

    A subject that has been beaten to death and again dredged up! Talk about trying every angle to sway opinion. I say it again. Appointment smacks of backroom closed door politics, the way of the “old boys”. The people should decide. Put the decision to election.

  5. Maybe this question is redundant BUT, Was this the strategy in the municipal election – I for one believe Scott Aitchison had every intention that he would run for MP – I wish he had had the conviction and confidence to step out of the Mayors chair and allow the people to make the selection of Mayor for the next 4 years Was it the intention to place Karen in the seat and know the council would support her as an appointment Just asking “who is controlling the municipality? Thank Scott for one more problem along with roads, hospital and affordable housing that you have not addressed in the last several years. Oh and to add to that list the lack of vision to what you wish our “TOURIST TOWN to achieve.

    • When Scott ran for mayor no one knew Tony was going to get in the mess he did and end up resigning. I’m sure if Scott had of been able to predict the future he would not have ran for mayor but hind sight is always better than looking ahead. As for now council has to decide just what they want to do as far as I know that is the way things are supposed to work .

  6. Hugh, I read your statement “I also have faith that Council will do this without having been swayed by fear-mongering, bullying or threats”, perhaps incorrectly, as a thinly veiled attack on my earlier opinion piece on this important topic. Were you saying that I was purposely doing those bad things to our town Council? Please clarify this inflammatory sentence for me. Thank you.

    • Hugh Mackenzie on

      No Dave, the particular comment you refer to was not directed at you. It was general in nature and reflective of concerns I referenced earlier in my article that a disregard for facts and a penchant for innuendos, are sadly creeping in to our daily dialogue with potentially negative consequences.

  7. I have a suggestion! Since the $ 1,000,000 cost of the election seems to be such a burr under the saddle of Some people’s hobby-horse, let’s make Scott pay for it! After all he caused this alleged mess! TIC*

    (TIC-tongue in cheek)

  8. Waldi Frankiewicz on

    That night, many of us go to bed knowing that tomorrow will be the next stage of our lives, where true democracy has once again died before our very eyes, others for whom democracy is worth no more than last year’s snow will be fully satisfied with themselves.We will not have to wait long for results. Recent decisions are tangible proof of this.We have three hard years ahead of us. How we’re gonna get out of this political chaos is hard to predict.. We have to live with it.

  9. Karen Wehrstein on

    Re degeneration of the public discourse, I don’t think we have a problem anywhere near what they do south of the border, but insofar as we do, I think part of the problem is the nature of social media and internet communication generally. When you write a tweet or comment or blogpost, you aren’t in the presence of the person you want to berate or calumniate, and in fact they may not even know you at all. Thus there is a sense of safety and protection from consequences. It’s a bit like being in traffic within the safe confines of your vehicle; you might flip the bird at someone who you wouldn’t dream of flipping the bird at if you were standing face to face.
    What people need to do is read over their message, after they have written and before they hit “send” or “publish”, and ask themselves, “Would I say this to the person’s face?” Or in the case of a posting that will be widely read, “I’m standing in front of an audience of 100 (or 1,000, or whatever) people, all with their eyes on me and listening closely. Should I say this?” In a small town, we should assume that a reasonable percentage of those people know us personally and we might well run into them tomorrow at the supermarket.
    If everyone did that, we’d have a much more civil, decent and bearable Internet. I have to commend you, Hugh, for generally being pretty careful in this way with your writing.

    • I totally agree, Karen: The President’s investigation into Mr. Biden; and particularly, his choice of resources is an impeachable offense. And sadly, I truly believe that he feels that he did nothing wrong. It’s merely an extrapolation of his “art of the deal”, which directed his business career. Of course, there is a quid pro quo (nudge, nudge, wink, wink); but to the extent that we don’t know what it is, or its potential importance, the general public is divided on whether he should be given a pass.

      Nothing that the Prime Minister has done (save his highly questionable handling of the SNC Lavalin affair) is worthy of defeat by non-confidence; not least because he had a majority at the time. With his present minority situation, I cannot see him being as cavalier as Mr. Trump in any of his dealings. Even Premier Ford has buried the hatchet: Politics truly do make strange bedfellows.

      With respect to the Town appointment, any individual (in particular, an editorial writer) has a democratic right to support whomever they wish. Although also permitted by freedom of speech, no mudslinging was used against other potential candidates.

      And Karen, the main thrust of your comment vis-a-vis tempering our behaviour and speech by not hiding in anonymity is well taken; especially by yours truly.

  10. I don’t understand the reason there is even any discussion, Deputy Mayor should just become Mayor in any situation that our Mayor leaves office. The Deputy Mayor was appointed by the Elected Mayor, right?

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