The Sunshine List 2016 – Public sector salary disclosure

Posted by on Mar 31, 2016 in Commentary, Local Politics, Politics |

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The Public Sector Salary Disclosure Act, 1996 (the act) makes Ontario’s public sector more open and accountable to taxpayers. The act requires organizations that receive public funding from the Province of Ontario to disclose annually (Sunshine List) the names, positions, salaries and total taxable benefits of employees paid $100,000 or more in a calendar year.

The act applies to organizations such as the Government of Ontario, Crown Agencies, Municipalities, Hospitals, Boards of Public Health, School Boards, Universities, Colleges, Ontario Power Generation, and other public sector employers who receive a significant level of funding from the provincial government.

The Sunshine List 2016  (Disclosure for 2015) searchable online

The Sunshine List 2016  (Disclosure for 2015) .csv file

 

Municipality of Brighton Employees on the 2015 Sunshine List disclosure

Gayle Frost – Chief Administrative Officer – $134,972.16*
*
It should be noted that Ms. Frost was attending her office for only approximately two months of 2015. It is not clear whether Ms. Frost remains employed by the Municipality of Brighton.
Linda Widdifield – Director of Finance and Administrative Services – $110,775.24
Lloyd Hutchinson – Fire Chief – $103,314.72

Brighton_Sunshine_List_2016

Municipality of Brighton Employees on the 2015 Sunshine List disclosure

 

Definitions:

Salary – The amount shown as “salary paid” in this compendium may not represent the employee’s annual rate of salary in the current year. The salary required to be made public under the Public Sector Salary Disclosure Act, 1996 reflects the amount to be reported to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) on the employer’s T4 slip for the employee. The “T4 amounts” may include components that relate to a year prior to the current year. These may result, for example, from retroactive revisions to salary scales, from grievance payments or from vacation pay-outs upon exit from employment. Note also that the “T4 amounts” may exceed the employee’s annual rate of salary if the employee worked overtime during the year. The “T4 amounts” may be less than the annual rate of salary if the employee worked only part of a year.

In addition, remuneration paid in the form of per diems and/or retainers to an individual defined as an “employee” under the act are also subject to disclosure. These amounts are reportable, whether or not an information slip for CRA has been prepared/issued.

Taxable Benefits – The amount shown as taxable benefits is the amount shown on the T4 slip as prepared for the Canada Revenue Agency. These amounts can include free or subsidized housing, board and lodging, travel in a designated area, personal use of employer’s vehicle, interest-free and low-interest loans, other payments made on behalf of the employee such as relocation costs, employer contributions for basic life insurance, and tuition reimbursements. Travel and meal expenses incurred by the individual and reimbursed by the employer are not considered a taxable benefit.

“Sunshine Lists” – Public sector salary disclosure (previous years):

 

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Rural Broadband is Critical Infrastructure for the 21st Century

Posted by on Mar 4, 2016 in Commentary, Local Politics, Politics |

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As many readers know, I am a strong advocate for greater access to technology in classrooms and also for greater access to fast, reliable and affordable rural broadband internet service.  I believe that by giving our students the technology resources they need to learn effectively in a 21st Century classroom, combined with fast and reliable internet access; it will not only create opportunities for them as they grow, it will strengthen our community as a whole.  In the last few years there have been some gains in both of these areas, but without continued focus and pressure from residents in our community, our politicians will continue to underestimate the incredible community and economic value that true high-speed broadband connectivity offers.  If we are not able to convince our leaders and decision makers to take the time to educate themselves and also motivate them to play a strong leadership role in this area, our community will be left behind to collect digital dust!

The lack of fast and reliable rural broadband has far greater impacts than just the inconvenience and frustration caused by the constant buffering of your favourite YouTube videos.  Having access to high-speed broadband offers residents numerous community benefits such as greater accessibility to services for all residents, but in particular those with mobility issues; improved healthcare delivery; increased educational opportunities and perhaps the greatest benefits are with economic development.  Not only will existing businesses continue to thrive, there will virtually limitless new opportunities for businesses and individuals to create new products and services to offer to the world.  These new opportunities can generate valuable export revenues while having only a negligible environmental impact.

Fortunately, some politicians are not content to live with 1990’s dial-up speeds. Allan Thompson, Mayor of Caledon, Ontario wrote an article titled Connecting rural Canada that was published in the National Post.

 

Connecting_Rural_Canada rural broadband canada

Connecting Rural Canada – Photo Credit Matthew Sherwood for National Post

 

In his article, Mayor Thompson includes the following quote from Prime Minister Trudeau.

A Liberal government will also help municipalities fund investments to make better use of data and technology. In rural communities, we can — and should — aim much higher than the government’s current broadband access goals. And across Canada, improved wireless and digital technologies can make life easier — and businesses more productive. Municipalities cannot shoulder that burden alone. The federal government must be a strong partner as municipalities prepare for the future. – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a campaign speech to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities on June 5, 2015.

Prime Minister Trudeau is correct, the current definitions and goals are already past their ‘best before date‘.  In Canada, broadband is defined as a download speed of 5 Mbps, whereas last year in the US the FCC changed its definition of broadband from 4 Mbps to 25 Mbps.  Canada must also adopt at least 25 Mbps as the new standard definition of broadband internet service.  It should perhaps consider setting goals for even higher speeds such as 35 Mbps, 50 Mbps, or even 100 Mbps, so that we can sufficiently transform our digital economy and step out from under the massive economic shadow cast by the United States.

This past Monday I met with MP Mike Bossio who represents the riding of Hastings–Lennox and Addington and is also the Chair of the National Rural Caucus.  We discussed a wide variety of topics related to rural broadband delivery, a number of which are mentioned in this blog post.  It was quite refreshing to listen to a politician that not only had a deep understanding of the technology and issues, but is also motivated to find solutions that are transparent and accountable to the public.

I firmly believe that we must look for new methodologies that approach the current broadband issues and funding solutions from a fundamentally different perspective; otherwise we will still be having this conversation 10 years from now.  It seems pointless to use the same old models where governments enter into secret agreements with private corporations giving them hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars with little or no accountability.

Broadband internet should be considered a utility as it is an essential service and regardless of whether the service is provided by a public or private utility company, there needs to be well defined regulation to ensure that minimum basic standards are offered and more importantly that these standards are met.  If service providers are selling internet services based on “up to” speeds, there needs to be regulation to specify that on average, the speeds delivered must be close to those advertised.  For a variety of reasons there may be times where the “up to” speed is not met, but the consumer must have a reasonable expectation that on average they will receive close to the advertised speed, otherwise consumers are being scammed.

Consumer Scam Definition:
A deceptive sale of goods or services to a consumer designed to extract money unreasonably excessive given the services rendered or goods provided.

Private businesses will not infill service gaps or improve existing services unless there is a compelling business case to do so.  One of the most compelling cases is the presence of healthy competition, but this is sadly lacking in Eastern Ontario and in many other regions across Canada.  The distribution of tax dollars to a very small number of corporations has not increased competition; to me it seems to have had the opposite effect.  Instead of our tax dollars helping to increase competition, our tax dollars have actually helped to entrench monopolies.

It is also important that politicians and taxpayer funded groups like EORN to stop making statements such as “93% of residents have broadband coverage“.  Not only are they inaccurate, they are extremely misleading.  Statements like these are based on theoretical coverage maps and do NOT reflect the actual reality on the ground.  For example, according to the coverage maps, I am supposedly able to receive download speeds of “up to” 10 Mbps from my ISP, Xplornet Communications Inc. and despite the fact that my signal to the tower is good, Xplornet is only able to consistently deliver approximately 2 Mbps (20% of the package speed).  Theoretically, according to the computer models I have access to broadband internet, but the reality is that true broadband and all its benefits are not available to me.

In previous centuries, our governments invested in critical infrastructure such as roads and bridges to connect residents and facilitate trade.  When they did this, they did not hand out millions of dollars to private companies and say, “here go build a road and when you are done, you can charge users whatever you want”.  Instead of doing this, they built the infrastructure and retained the assets for the continued benefit of the community that funded the construction.  Retaining ownership gives the community control over service offerings and service levels.  Using the road analogy, governments can decide if they want to deliver services such as repairs and snow clearing directly, or contract out those services.  If the roads are not being plowed to the required standards, then the contractor can be replaced as needed.  The same applies with broadband internet which is the critical infrastructure of the 21st Century.  If you have control of the assets, you have control of the service levels.

Brighton has significant issues with traditional infrastructure such as drainage and wastewater treatment.  These are issues that need to be addressed, but they should not consume so much of Council’s time and Municipal resources that strategic planning for our community is ignored.  I agree that we need the federal and provincial governments as strong partners, but our municipal government must take a lead role to ensure that the residents of Brighton have access to fast, reliable and affordable broadband internet services.

The following are links to some very interesting and informative documents and articles.  Some are from the US, but the issues and solutions are still applicable here in Canada. I encourage all residents (urban and rural) to click on some of the links and take some time to inform yourselves on the issues and opportunities and then engage with your neighbours and elected officials at all levels of government. By doing so, your efforts will help to ensure that our community is not constantly playing catch-up to the rest of the country and the world.

If our community is to remain economically viable in the 21st Century, we MUST become leaders instead of being content to follow.  It seems apparent to me, that any real solutions to the current rural broadband issues will only come through municipal and community partnerships.

Broadband Access in Rural Canada:
The role of connectivity in building vibrant communities

 

Broadband has the power to transform Rural Canada. Connectivity is now as important as roads and bridges to the sustainability of rural and remote communities, and to the success of rural institutions and organizations.  The so-called ‘broadband gap’ remains a reality throughout Rural Canada, with lower average speeds compared to urban centres, and with limited connectivity in the most remote regions.

 

rural Broadband Access in Rural Canada The role of connectivity in building vibrant communities EN

 

Connecting 21st Century Communities
A Policy Agenda for Broadband Stakeholders

 

The development of fast, affordable, and reliable broadband Internet for communities often requires a wide range of stakeholders contributing in a variety of ways, from providing a broadband-friendly regulatory climate, to demonstrating the value of networks, to empowering key voices.

 

Connecting_21st_Century_Communities rural broadband

 

Community Based Broadband Solutions
by Executive Office of the President

 

Affordable, reliable access to high speed broadband is critical to U.S. economic growth and competitiveness.  Upgrading to higher-speed broadband lets consumers use the Internet in new ways, increases the productivity of American individuals and businesses, and drives innovation throughout the digital ecosystem.  As this report describes, while the private sector has made investments to dramatically expand broadband access in the U.S., challenges still remain.  Many markets remain unserved or underserved. Others do not benefit from the kind of competition that drives down costs and improves quality.  To help fill the void, hundreds of towns and cities around the country have developed their own locally-owned networks.  This report describes the benefits of higher-speed broadband access, the current challenges facing the market, and the benefits of competition – including competition from community broadband networks.

 

Community_Based_Broadband rural broadband

 

What Fiber Broadband can do for Your Community

 

In a century of telephone communications, the bandwidth on voice channels changed very little. Today, however, Internet bandwidth needs are growing exponentially.  Cisco Systems estimates that global Internet traffic in 2018 will be equivalent to 64 times the volume of the entire global Internet in 2005.

Telecommuting and home-based businesses are on the rise, too.  A quarter of all owners of home-based businesses say they could not operate without fiber to the home, and telecommuters say their employers would be less likely to let them work from home without fast, reliable fiber broadband.

 

BBC_Fiber_Broadband_Your_Community rural broadband

 

Building the Benefits of Broadband

 

By providing a secure, flexible and convenient way to connect with people, broadband applications help individuals and businesses acquire information that is useful in their daily lives, thereby improving their efficiency and productivity. Numerous studies show that a strong link exists between broadband growth and rapid economic development.

 

Building_the_Benefits_of_Rural_Broadband rural broadband

 

Chattanooga’s super-fast publicly owned Internet

 

“People understand that high-speed Internet access is quickly becoming a national infrastructure issue just like the highways were in the 1950’s,” Berke said.  “If the private sector is unable to provide that kind of bandwidth because of the steep infrastructure investment, then just like highways in the 1950’s, the government has to consider providing that support.” – Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke

 

Do you have issues with your Internet Service Provider (ISP) that they have not been able to resolve? If so, file a complaint with the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services (CCTS)

 

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Brighton to Trenton Public Transit System

Posted by on Feb 4, 2016 in Commentary, Local Politics, Politics |

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The new Brighton transportation initiative is operated by Quinte Access transportation in conjunction with the Brighton Accessibility Advisory Committee. The inaugural run of the Brighton Transit System will be on Monday February 8, 2016.

The bus service is available to ALL residents, from students to seniors and it allows individuals with disabilities and/or special needs to use the transportation, as all buses are accessible.

Download a copy of the schedule and route map

Media Release from Brighton’s Mayor Walas

The service will operate Monday to Friday with stops within Brighton at:

  • Prince Edward Square (plaza behind the LCBO)
  • Gosport (Presqu’ile Bay Outfitters)
  • Brighton by the Bay (Sandpiper Community Centre)
  • Brighton Health Services Centre
  • Sobeys
  • King Edward Park Arena
  • No frills

The service will drop off riders at the Trenton Walmart, or behind the Dollartree in downtown Trenton upon request.

Trips within the town of Brighton will be $2 each way and trips between towns will cost $5 each way, which includes one free transfer within the Trenton public transit system.

Trenton residents can also use the service to visit with friends and family in Brighton, or to shop in downtown Brighton.

 

Brighton Transit System Quinte_Access_Brighton_Transit_Poster

Brighton to Trenton Public Transit System – Schedule

 

Brighton Transit System Quinte_Access_Brighton_Transit_Poster_Map

Brighton to Trenton Public Transit System – Route Map

 

Residents are asked to call ahead to book a seat, as seating is limited. For more information on the Brighton Transit System, call Quinte Access (613) 392-9640 or visit their website at www.quinteaccess.org

 

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Merry Christmas from the Smiling Idiot

Posted by on Dec 23, 2015 in Commentary, Local Politics, Politics |

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Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year.

I would liked to have included a nice wintry scene from beautiful Brighton, but with a high of 13° C forecast for tomorrow (Christmas Eve.) and no snow or ice anywhere to be found, I have included a photo taken at Lake Louise, Alberta back in November.

Merry Christmas from the Smiling Idiot

Lake Louise, Alberta – Nov. 11, 2015

 

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The Corporation of the Municipality of Brighton New Year’s Levée

Posted by on Dec 19, 2015 in Commentary, Local Politics, Politics |

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Brighton’s Mayor Mark Walas and Council are hosting a New Year’s Levée on Friday, January 1, 2016

What is a levée?

Today, levées are the receptions (usually, but not necessarily, on New Year’s Day) held by the governor general, the lieutenant governors of the provinces, the military and others, to mark the start of another year and to provide an opportunity for the public to pay their respects. – Wikipedia

Brighton's Mayor Mark Walas and Council are hosting a New Year's Levée on Friday, January 1, 2016 Brighton_Council_New_Years_Levee_2016

“Enjoy your visit to the charming harbour town of Brighton, located on Highway 2 along the scenic shores of Lake Ontario, an hour and a half east of Toronto.

Brighton offers the tranquil atmosphere of a small town with a wide range of boutiques and annual activities destined to leave you with lasting memories! Our range of services appeal to seniors, young families, and new residents including well-maintained parks, an attractive education system and an active Community and Recreation Centre for all ages! These assets, paired with the diverse selection of residential housing and our positioning in the region, make Brighton an attractive place to live.

One of the greatest year round destinations in Brighton is Presqu’ile Provincial Park; famous for lakeside camping, swimming, windsurfing, hiking and birding with over 220,000 visitors annually. Visitors to the park receive a warm welcome at ‘The Gates’, a gallery and performance space for those who share an interest and passion for promoting arts and culture! Lasting memories are also made each fall during Brighton’s Applefest, a celebration of our rich agricultural land and abundance of apple orchards!

Explore Brighton’s history with a visit to Memory Junction , Hilton Hall Heritage Center and Proctor House Museum.

These experiences and assets within the community strongly impact Brighton’s business climate. With its heritage mainstreet, front-porch Victorian flavour and proximity to the 401, Brighton provides the backdrop for a thriving commercial area. This year we are thrilled to be offering new business opportunities with 50 acres of industrial lands that will be serviced and available for investment. This will provide much needed space for growth of our industrial/ commercial business base.

Located at the western gateway of the Bay of Quinte Region and east end of Northumberland County, we invite you to visit Brighton and let us provide you the best of both worlds in this region!” – www.brighton.ca

 

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Ontario Ombudsman’s 2014 – 2015 OMLET Annual Report

Posted by on Dec 16, 2015 in Commentary, Local Politics, Politics |

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Ombudsman’s Message – A New Day for Municipal Transparency

Read the Ombudsman’s fourth annual report on the work of the Ontario Ombudsman’s Open Meeting Law Enforcement Team (OMLET), which is solely devoted to upholding Ontario’s municipal open meeting law, also known as the Sunshine Law.

Ontario Ombudsman’s 2014 – 2015 OMLET Annual Report

OMLET Annual Report 2014-2015 – Facts and highlights

 

Ontario Ombudsman OMLET_2014-2015_Report

Ontario Ombudsman’s 2014 – 2015 OMLET Annual Report


OMLET Annual Report 2014-2015 – Ombudsman’s remarks

Thank you all for being here today, in person, through teleconference and via our live webcast.

 

The report I am releasing today is our fourth Annual Report on our investigations of closed meetings in municipalities across the province. But it’s also an ideal opportunity to discuss the exciting changes that are coming just 16 days from now, when our office will be able to take complaints about all aspects of municipal government for the first time.

 

We know there is strong public demand for this new oversight. Since I arrived at the Ontario Ombudsman’s Office in 2005, we have had to turn away more than 11,000 municipal complaints – more than 2,200 of those in the year since Bill 8 was passed.

 

Today’s report illustrates how far we have come in eight years of handling complaints about closed municipal meetings. We have seen cases increase – especially in the past year. But we have also seen many municipalities improve their practices as a result of the hundreds of recommendations we have made.

 

A few familiar issues continue to crop up – like informal gatherings of council members that sometimes veer into discussing business. And a few new ones have surfaced, like exchanges of emails that become illegal “meetings” when councillors use them to make decisions away from public view.

 

In the past few months, we have issued findings on another 30 meetings on top of the 85 covered in this report. We received good co-operation and constructive feedback from municipalities about our recommendations and process. We also participated in consultations with the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing on the Ministry’s review of municipal legislation. Our
recommendations reiterated what we have said in our OMLET reports – for example, that enforcement of the open meeting rules should be consistent, with one investigator for all municipalities, and there should be consequences for violating the law.

 

After January 1, we will finally be able to help the public with their concerns about any aspect of municipal government, from garbage and snow removal, to social programs, to conduct of councillors. And we will do what we have always done with provincial government complaints: Refer people to the right place to fix the problem, cut through red tape, investigate when needed,
and recommend solutions to systemic problems.

 

We have been very busy over the past few months, reaching out to municipalities and explaining how we work. We have made it clear that our role is not to replace accountability mechanisms at the local level. In fact, I strongly encourage all municipalities to have their own. We will be there to make sure they work as they should, and to step in where they fail, or cannot go.

 

Our Office will continue to use our resources to educate government officials and the public about our work. For those who may be watching, I want to add that we invite municipal stakeholders to contact us if they have questions about what’s to come. We look forward to being able to help all citizens with their unresolved municipal issues in the future.

 

Now, I’m happy to take your questions – first here in the studio, and then we will go to the journalists joining us by phone.

 

– Acting Ombudsman Barbara Finlay

The Ombudsman is an independent officer of the Legislature who investigates complaints from the public about Ontario government services.

Learn more about the Ombudsman

 

In 2015 there were five complaints against the Municipality of Brighton and the Ontario Ombudsman conducted one investigation and filed one report that was presented Brighton Council in October 2015.

 

Do you have a complaint about an Ontario government service? Start the complaint process here.

 

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Happy Holidays 2015 from Brighton Council – [Unofficial Video]

Posted by on Dec 4, 2015 in Commentary, Local Politics, Politics |

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Some residents have expressed their concerns over whether members of Brighton Council are able to work together to ensure that the operations of the Municipality are managed professionally and transparently so as to provide the best value to our community.

The following videos clearly demonstrate that if council members put their minds to it, they are certainly capable of operating as a well choreographed team.

Let’s hope that this joyous spirit of collaboration carries over into the New Year!

 

Happy Holidays from Brighton Council 2015 – Unofficial Video

 

 Brighton Mayor Walas and Deputy Mayor Tadman – Happy Holidays 2015

 

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Ontario Ombudsman Closed Meeting Investigation Report October 2015 – Municipality of Brighton

Posted by on Nov 1, 2015 in Commentary, Local Politics, Politics |

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Full reportOntario Ombudsman Investigation into the Municipality of Brighton’s alleged violation of the Municipal Act on May 28, 2015

Ontario_Ombudsman_Closed_Meeting_Investigation_Brighton

Ontario Ombudsman Investigation into the Municipality of Brighton

 

Summary of report content quoted directly from full report

 

Complaint:

1. On June 9, 2015, my Office received a complaint about a closed meeting held by council for the Municipality of Brighton on May 28, 2015.

2. According to the complaint, council proceeded in camera to discuss and vote on the termination of a senior municipal employee. The complaint alleged that the in camera vote was taken in violation of the Municipal Act, 2001 (the Act).

Opinion:

40. Council for the Municipality of Brighton was permitted, under the exceptions contained in the Municipal Act, 2001, to meet in closed session on May 28, 2015 to discuss the performance and compensation of various municipal employees.

41. However, council technically contravened the Act and its own procedure by-law when it voted on five resolutions in camera. While the substance of these resolutions was to direct staff, the wording of the resolution did not reflect this intent.

42. My investigation also found that council for the Municipality of Brighton violated section 239(4)(a) of the Municipal Act, 2001 by failing to state by resolution the general nature of the matters to be considered in closed session.

Recommendations:

43. I am making the following recommendations to assist council for the Municipality of Brighton to improve its practices with respect to open meetings.

Recommendation 1
All members of council of the Municipality of Brighton should be vigilant in adhering to their individual and collective obligation to ensure that council complies with its responsibilities under the Municipal Act, 2001 and its own procedure by-law.

Recommendation 2
The Municipality of Brighton should refrain from voting on matters in closed session unless the vote is for a procedural matter or for giving direction to staff.

Recommendation 3
The Municipality of Brighton should ensure that closed session resolutions intended to provide direction to staff are clearly worded as such.

Recommendation 4
The Municipality of Brighton should ensure that its resolutions to proceed in camera provide a description of the issue to be discussed, as well as the exception authorizing the discussion.

Recommendation 5
The Municipality of Brighton should ensure that its audio recorder is functioning properly for each meeting of council.

 

For future meetings, I hope that Brighton Council will carefully consider if it’s even necessary to go into closed session. The open meetings provisions in the Municipal Act. are designed to ensure transparency by maximizing information disclosure to the public.

In my opinion, Council should only go into closed session if there is a clearly identifiable detriment to residents by holding the meeting in public. Individually, Council members should challenge each closed session request based on this criteria.

If Council does decide to go into closed session, Council should follow the advice of Ombudsman’s office and “provide a description of the issue to be discussed, as well as the exception authorizing the discussion” so that “the wording of the resolution…do more than simply refer to the section of the Municipal Act that permits the closed meeting exception”.

 

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Federal Election 2015 Final Results

Posted by on Oct 23, 2015 in Commentary, Local Politics, Politics |

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Federal_Election_2015_Canada_Final_Results

Federal Election 2015 Final Results – Image Credit – CBC News

“Justin Trudeau’s Liberals won a decisive majority government, capturing 184 seats. The Conservatives, who were seeking their fourth consecutive mandate, will now form the Official Opposition. Find detailed ridings results in our map, see where each party gained and lost support and view the demographic split by party and riding. A total of 88 women were sent to House, see how the vote splits by party. And, track the Liberals surge in the polls over the course of this 78-day campaign.” Source – CBC News

Federal Election 2015 Final Results – CBC News – Canada Votes
(after searching scroll down for additional info)

 

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