Citizen Action Monitor

Ontario MPP Sandra Pupatello’s disappointing non-response to G-20 concerns

No 115 Posted by fw, February 9, 2011

On January 11, 2011, my wife, Helga Wintal, and I met for a second time with Ontario Liberal MPP Sandra Pupatello’s Special Assistant, Marion Fantetti. We were following up on five previous attempts to get a response from Ms Pupatello regarding our concerns about political and police abuses surrounding the July 2010 Toronto G-20 Summit.

The primary purpose of this post is to recount highlights of our January 11, 2011 conversation with MPP Pupatello’s assistant, Marion Fantetti. But first, to put that conversation in context, here’s a brief chronological summary of events that led up to the Jan 11 meeting – half a year after our initial July 6, 2010 letter!

Putting the January 11, 2011 meeting in chronological context

July 6, 2010 – Helga and I emailed a letter to Minister Pupatello’s constituency office to express our concern about her party’s breach of citizens’ civil rights at the G-20 Summit. We requested a meeting with the Minister at her convenience. Details about this initiative are available here on this blog.

August 5, 2010 – Following at least three follow-up attempts to get a response to our original letter, we finally received an email reply from the Minister’s constituency office with a promise to arrange “a meeting with Sandra or with her Special Assistant.” Details are available here.

October 19, 2010 – At a meeting with Ms Pupatello’s Special Assistant, Marion Fantetti, we presented her with a letter documenting in detail our specific concerns surrounding the G-20 Summit. She promised to brief Minister Pupatello, share our letter with her and keep us informed of relevant developments. Moreover, she mentioned that Ms Pupatello liked to “just pick up the phone and talk to her constituents personally.” An account of this meeting is posted here.

November 19, 2010 – When we failed to hear back from Ms Fantetti (or the Minister), we hand-delivered yet another follow-up letter to the constituency office to express our disappointment at the tardy response. To clarify our expectations, we stated: “We anticipate that our concerns/questions will be addressed by Ms Pupatello . . . by December 10, 2010.”

December 9, 2010 – The day before our December 10 deadline, Ms Fantetti phoned to invite Helga and me to meet with her in the constituency office on January 11, 2011. We accepted.

Selected highlights of the January 11, 2011 meeting with Ms Fantetti

  1. Only four Windsor residents contacted Pupatello’s constituency office regarding the G-20 fiasco. I can’t say that Helga and I were surprised to learn that so few Windsor citizens bothered to contact Minister Pupatello’s constituency office regarding the G-20 abuses. Canadian commentators and scholars are bearing witness to the emerging crisis in Canadian democracy. For example, Murray Dobbin writes this in his article, Four ways Canada’s democracy crisis is deepening, May 3, 2010, The Tyee.ca:

Canada is witnessing a continuing catastrophic decrease in voter turn out with just 59 per cent voting in the October 2008 [national] election — a result which put us 16th out of 17 peer nations. This aspect of the crisis is largely the result of . . . a deliberate plan by the political right to downsize democracy through relentless partisanship and people’s frustration at seeing their votes count for nothing.”

And in his book, Court government and the collapse of accountability in Canada and the United Kingdom, Donald J. Savoie, professor of public administration at Université de Moncton, argues that Canada now operates under “court government” rather than cabinet government. By court government, he means that effective power now rests with the prime minister and a small group of carefully selected, trusted minions to do his bidding. For things that matter to the prime minister and “his court”, the decision-making process shifts from formal to informal, involving only a handful of players. For things that matter less to them, the decision-making process is horizontal, cumbersome, and consultative, involving a multitude of people from different government departments and agencies as well as a variety of individuals operating outside government. Savoie calls for new accountability requirements that will enable Canadian democracy to confront the twin challenges of reduced political accountability and citizen disengagement in the twenty-first century.

2.  We were disappointed, but not surprised that Ms Pupatello declined to respond to our concerns. Ms Fantetti assured us that she had debriefed Ms Pupatello regarding our October 19 submission, adding, “she cannot respond to your concerns while investigations are in progress.”

That was it? Half a year of follow-ups and waiting . . . for . . . “I debriefed her and she can’t reply.” Although we said nothing at the time, in hindsight, we were very disappointed by the Minister’s non-response. At the very least, Ms Pupatello could have “just picked up the phone” or signed her name to a pro-forma letter to thank us for our sincere and thoughtful inquiry. She did neither. There was so much she could have said, but didn’t bother to.

3.  Ms Fantetti assured us, again, that the Roy McMurtry review of the G-20 would address our concerns and questions. However, as we pointed out to Ms Fantetti, the terms of reference of the Review of the Public Works Protection Action (the exact title of McMurtry’s review) are narrowly circumscribed. As one critic observed, “the review will not look at the effect the law had during the G-20. Mr. McMurtry will not consider or comment on any litigation or legal matters before the courts. . . . the review will look at the law’s historical applications.”

Nor did the media share Ms Fantetti’s enthusiastic endorsement of the McMurtry Review.  Five media outlets greeted the McMurtry appointment with cynical scepticism. “More smoke and mirrors from the Liberals,” read one headline. (Citations to the five articles are provided at the bottom of this post).

An historical review of a 1939 act will not address the key issues. Ontarians deserve, but won’t get, an independent commission with a broad mandate to report on the political and police actions underlying the G-20 abuses. When they opted for a “review”, the Ontario Liberals may well have been looking in the rear view mirror at what happened to the Federal Liberals in the 2006 election: the political fallout from the 2005, 2006 reports by the Gormery Commission Investigation into the Sponsorship Program and Advertising Activities devastated the federal Liberals in the 2006 election. Five years later, they show few signs of having recovered from that disaster.

4.  Ontario Ombudsman’s report addresses our G-20 questions and concerns. Anticipating Ms Pupatello’s  “cannot respond while investigations are in progress” position, Helga and I shared with Marion a side-by-side comparative summary of our original five questions/concerns and the Ontario Ombudsman’s related findings and recommendations. His scathing report answered most of our questions, (excluding, of course, those pertaining to Ms Pupatello’s personal reaction to the G-20 events). Our purpose in preparing this comparative analysis was to illustrate to Marion (and possibly to Ms Pupatello if Marion debriefs her) the high level of relevance of our original G-20 questions/concerns. Moreover, we set out to demonstrate that we are responsibly informed citizens who take seriously flagrant violations of our civil liberties, and are prepared to hold politicians accountable for their missteps and misdeeds.

5.  The G-20 fiasco in general and our politicians’ perceived complacency in particular have further undermined our confidence in Canada’s political leaders and democratic processes. In retrospect, the secretive manner in which five Ontario cabinet ministers simply rubber-stamped a police demand for enhanced powers during the G-20 Summit in Toronto, clearly reflected:

  • a decision-making process in which an elite group of five cabinet ministers unilaterally and arbitrarily decided that police authority took precedence over citizens’ rights;
  • that protection of the interests of privileged elites, domestic and foreign, is paramount; and
  • that the principles of democratic governance are imperiled as we seemingly slip-slide our way towards oligarchy. (I define oligarchy as rule by a privileged elite in favour of other privileged elites).

We left Ms Fantetti with this question for Ontario MPP Pupatello:

“What will you do to rebuild public trust in the judgement of our political leaders and to restore confidence in our democratic processes and institutions?”

Addendum

Today I received another non-response, from another Ontario MPP, Tim Hudak, Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario. Note the dates: half a year elapsed between the date I sent my email to the date I received a non-response:

Not read: Use of Public Works Protection Act during G20 Conference

From: Hudak-CO, Tim [tim.hudakco@pc.ola.org]

Sent: Tue 08/02/2011 10:29 AM

Your message

To:     Hudak-CO, Tim

Subject: Use of Public Works Protection Act during G20 Conference

Sent:  Mon, 5 Jul 2010 18:51:13 -0500

Was deleted without being read on Tue, 8 Feb 2011 10:29:06 -0500

REFERENCES CITED re media reaction to news of the appointment of Roy McMurtry to head a Review of the Public Works Protection Act

RELATED READING/VIDEO

Caught in the Act. Investigation into The Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services’ conduct in relation to Ontario Regulation 233/10 under the Public Works Protection Act by André Marin, Ombudsman of Ontario, December 2010.

Toronto G-20: Will Police be Held Accountable after Scathing Ombudsman’s Report? A Real News video report featuring excerpts from André Marin’s review of the major findings of his investigation of political and police abuses surrounding the G-20 Summit in Toronto in July, 2010. Watch this 10-minute here.

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This entry was posted on February 9, 2011 by in political action and tagged , , , .
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