THE DEMOCRATIC REPORTER
Pages of Special Interest;
Other Table of Contents;
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Opening comments: More at the end.
Mississauga News - Sept. 2, 2008 - Letter by Ursula Keuper-Bennett
Stewart’s right, right, rightDear Editor:
Re: Aug. 13 editorial, Citizen issues merit attention.
Veteran journalist John Stewart refers to this issue in his insightful blog entry, “Democracy’s Doorstep” as “the powderkeg subject of public question period.”
Since many Mississaugans typically are clueless about how they are governed, let me provide a little background. Public question period is traditionally item 6 on every Mississauga Council agenda. It is ironic your editorial begins, “Freedom of speech is an essential hallmark of democracy, a right for which thousands of people have fought and died over the centuries.”
You failed to mention Mississauga citizen-activist Donald Barber was removed from council as he defended public question period June 7, 2006.
After 30 years of not enforcing the procedural bylaw provision that an issue raised during public question period must be on the agenda, “staff convinced” Mayor Hazel McCallion to enforce it to the letter.
Yet no one at City Hall bothered to inform the public of that change. Even "Item 6. Public Question Period” on the June 7, 2006, Council agenda looked like it always had — blank, without hint of any change.
That’s why I find your editorial so darkly humorous when it paints Parrish as the baddie and McCallion as defender of democracy and public input.
McCallion is all too happy to boast (according to Stewart) Mississauga Council “is one of the very few big-city councils that affords the average citizen such a rare privilege,” she’s very much like a librarian who is proud of a shipment of new books, but despairs when the library opens and patrons mess up the shelves.
My own experiences with public question period have been severely truncated affairs.
News readers might remember that the last time I appeared before public question period, I was lectured on all the emails I sent asking questions (as the mayor recommended I should), and how I was using up city resources.
Your editorial, “Right to ask,” compared me to a watchdog that had, “been verbally slapped by the mayor” and then states that “a very vocal and often pesky critic of the powers-that-be at City Hall, was stopped cold by Mayor Hazel McCallion Wednesday when she started to ask yet another of her frequent questions of City council.” That editorial is a much better reflection of the Mississauga reality and McCallion’s disdain for public question period.
In Stewart’s words, “The most important message to emerge from Wednesday’s little contretemps and McCallion’s instantaneous reaction to Parrish’s comments is this: In case anyone hasn’t figured it out yet, the mayor really, really, really doesn’t want Parrish to be her successor.”
Stewart really, really, really gets it.
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