Congratulations taxpayers of Hamilton, you have officially won another local scandal. The price? You will be paying perhaps $300 million dollars out of your property taxes to pay for all the lawyers on all sides of the various scandals.
Presently you have been paying millions of dollars to conduct the Red Hill Valley Parkway Judicial Inquiry, which has been going on since 2019, and legal fees keep coming in. Once this inquiry is completed a $250 million class action lawsuit will commence. The largest benefactors from this legal process will be the lawyers.
Your next payments may be for the Chedoke Creek Sewage Leak scandal. Repercussions from this might have been lessened if your politicians and staff had been up front and admitted that the sewage leak occurred. Instead, politicians covered it up and even supported the cover-up after they got caught. And then some politicians wanted the City to investigate who leaked the leak to the public and punish the whistleblower(s).
Now, another sewage leak has been revealed that was dumping sewage into the Hamilton harbour for 26 years. City staff have downplayed the extent of the leak. And that it was all an understandable, inadvertent mistake. That may be so but why would you now believe anything that a city politician or staff member says? The script has likely been written by lawyers at the City of Hamilton Risk Management Department. Does that not give you a clue that the script was written to minimize the future legal implications? Can you really believe that the script was written to properly inform you?
Municipalities in Ontario all have a similar political and staff structure as Hamilton. There are members of the political and staff regimes who believe that they can do as they please because their actions and decisions rarely reach public scrutiny. Whatever repercussions may result from their actions these individuals rightly understand that municipal risk management departments will protect them because they are a part of the corporation. Taxpayer’s money is essentially limitless and, when all else fails, they can simply parashoot out of their positions and work elsewhere. Most municipalities do a good job of limiting their exposures to liability by listening to their handlers at their risk management departments. The unfortunate circumstance with Hamilton is that the actions of certain individuals crossed the line of the standard arrogance and local news media eventually exposed those actions. Unable to control local media the City of Hamilton was forced to come up with new lines of defense, including the invoking of a judicial inquiry. Its about public perception.
We can be sorry for the unknown number of taxpayers who tried to inform themselves about the character of the politicians for whom they voted and who set transparency and accountability high on their list of desirable qualities. For the rest we can simply say: you deserve what you got. You voted for politicians whose goal was to hide whatever could be hidden. You voted for politicians who were willfully blind and did not want to inquire what City staff was up to.
A new City mayor and council have been voted into office and it will be interesting to see if they understand transparency and accountability. The new mayor, Andrea Horwath, has requested an investigation into the latest sewage leak. It remains to be seen whether she will follow the script that her risk management lawyers give her.
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