Municipal Election 2006

CATCH Election Pledge: Where do the Candidates Stand?

RTH contacted city councillors and registered candidates to find out where they stand on the Citizens at City Hall election pledge.

By Ryan McGreal
Published August 30, 2006

In the wake of last week's election pledge campaign launch by Citizens at City Hall (CATCH), RTH contacted our city councillors and registered candidates and asked them if they support the campaign and will commit to it - or if not, then why.

The responses we received fell into four categories: those who support the pledge; those who will support it if everyone else supports it; those who support it in principle but object to the timing mid-campaign; and those who raised concerns. (Several councillors and candidates did not respond to our request by press time.)

Nothing to Hide

Exactly two sitting councillors agreed unconditionally to support the pledge.

Brian McHattie, councillor for Ward 1, did not accept any corporate or union donations in his 2003 campaign, so he had no problem stating, "I do support this campaign and am committed to it." Asked whether he worries, as some other councillors do, that the pledge may violate provincial law, he replied, "If it does then we need to change the provincial law."

Margaret McCarthy, councillor for Ward 15, wrote, "My campaigns have always been completely self-funded; therefore, I would definitely support the initiatives not to have campaign donations from developers or special interest groups."

Keith Beck, a candidate for Mayor, is familiar with the CATCH campaign and has already committed to sharing the list of donors over $100 before election day.

He is accepting donations from corporations and unions, but supports making those donations public. He is also willing to "stat[e] for the record that some organization was a donor if that organization has business before council."

Diane Elms, another candidate for Mayor, also supports the pledge. Her own policy is to make available the list of contributions over $100 and accept no contributions from unions or corporations.

She believes further that the amount of contributions should be deducted from the elected representative's pay over the term in office, and that up to $100 in household contributions should be deducted from property taxes.

Sean Gibson, a candidate for Ward 3, is a small business owner himself. He stated that his campaign focus is on community and local business, and volunteered to provide the names of some of the local businesses that have contributed to his campaign, including: Sealed Art ($100), Sam's Auto ($100), Main Hearing Center ($100), Hamilton Fire Control Co. ($200), and Ab Mendosa ($100).

V. Shawn Des Jardins, a candidate for Ward 6, says the CATCH campaign is "fair and transparent" and thinks it should be the policy for all public offices. He does not see any problems with following it.

Aznive Mallett, a candidate for Ward 12, responded, "Absolutely I support this!"

Peggy Chapman, a candidate for Ward 13 (Dundas), is willing to make her campaign finances public and transparent. She believes "politicians owe the public that level of openness." Chapman also decided at the start of her campaign not to accept donations from corporations or unions.

Julia Kollek, another Dundas candidate, is planning to fund her own campaign, and will welcome donations from individuals only.

I'll Show You Mine if You Show Me Yours

Bob Bratina, councillor for Ward 2, initiated a discussion among his fellow councillors with an email on Monday, August 21 asking them to endorse the pledge at the next council meeting.

Asked whether he will take the pledge, Bratina responded, "I would support this campaign if my opponents agreed to as well." He explained that disclosing this information without reciprocal disclosures from his opponents would confer "some advantages" to them.

Sam Merulla, councillor for Ward 4, also stated a willingness to comply as long "all candidates sign on to the agreement," including "incumbents and new candidates. This can only work if applied globally."

Mark-Alan Whittle, a candidate for Ward 7, wrote, "I've never accepted union or developer money and have always self-funded." As for making his books public, he said he will take the pledge if councillor Bill Kelly, the incumbent in Ward 7, takes it.

Kelly did not respond to the RTH request for his position by press time, but he has since announced publicly that he will not seek re-election.

Joseph Baiardo, a candidate for Ward 11, would support the proposal "if the rules applied to all candidates by way of a change in policy." He believes the policy of disclosure should also apply to gifts received during public office.

Timing is Everything

Mayor Larry Di Ianni did not respond to this request before press time. According to a Hamilton Spectator article from August 23, Di Ianni supports the principle, but argued, "You don't change the rules midstream."

Councillor Merulla expressed concern that the CATCH campaign "should have been pursued at the beginning of the term and not during the election period." He wondered whether "logistically it is practical from a timing perspective."

Phil Bruckler, councillor for Ward 9, responded, "I believe improvements can and should be made to the elections Act respecting donations. Such changes should be well thought out and offer extensive opportunity for debate. As stated by some of my other colleagues, I believe the timing is off."

Concerns about the Pledge

Joseph Baiardo cautioned that such a change in policy needs careful consideration to assess its consequences, including the effect it may have on voter turnout and whether citizens decide to run for office.

He asked whether it could have a "reverse effect favouring only those who are rich and/or well-connected (incumbents) or those who can afford to finance their own election campaign".

When councillor Bruckler was asked whether he would voluntarily take the CATCH pledge even if the election act doesn't change, he responded that he has "some questions beyond timing and that is why I feel a full and open debate is required." He would not be drawn on his questions, saying he will "leave that for the debate."

David Mitchell, councillor for Ward 11, stated that he does not have a problem with the pledge in principle, but "in my position I have to make my decision on what council can and cannot do by what our professionals tell us."

He explained, "The rules on this issue I understand are governed by provincial stature which we in Hamilton have no say over." He added that he is interested in the debate.

When asked if he thinks provincial law may prohibit the pledge, Mitchell replied that he does not know. "That is a legal question that will have to be answered when this issue comes forward."

Bill Cottrell, a candidate for Ward 8, expressed "full support" for an open donation process and agreed he would be willing to disclose his donation list. However, he said the decision to recuse oneself from council decisions affecting corporate or union donors is "more problematic."

"My decisions will always be made with the best interest of the residents of Ward 8 in mind and to the larger picture of Hamilton as a whole and not necessarily the best interests of the donor."

No Response

Councillors Bernie Morelli (Ward 3), Chad Collins (Ward 5), Tom Jackson (Ward 6), Bill Kelly (Ward 7), Terry Whitehead (Ward 8), Maria Pearson (Ward 10), Murray Ferguson (Ward 12), Art Samson (Ward 13), and Dave Braden (Ward 14) did not respond to our inquiries before press time.

Ferguson, Kelly, and Samson have announced that they will not seek re-election.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

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By markwhittle (registered) - website | Posted August 31, 2006 at 09:55:56

Now that Alderman Bill Kelly has left the building, and decided not to challenge my campaign, that leaves yours truely (MAW) and the NDP recruited, ex-officio militant labor union, double dipping retired executive, Scott Duvall to battle it out for the hearts and minds of the ward seven constituents.

Whittle they know, Duvall they don't. Case Closed.

While Scott Duvall was busy undermining the sale of Stelco by mounting a concerted attack on the proposed owners for not feathering the unions nest more outragiously, a work ethic that produced declining productivity and strike threats at every turn, I was busy rolling up my sleeves and helping Hamiltonians one at a time if necessary, it's the Whittle way.

For example, a call was received from John M., a home invasion victim who was rendered a paraplegic and left for dead during an unsolved home invasion in upper Stoney Creek a few years ago.

Whe John M. called me for help, he was holed up in his hospital room, where he had been living since the home invasion, scared stiff because he had just recieved a letter from Murray T. Martin, the CEO, informing him he was about to be kicked out onto the street.

He had nowhere to go, he would have been rendered homeless.

I immediately went to the rehabilitation Hospital to defuse the situation and get John to open his door and come out of his barricaded room before they called SWAT.

When I arrived there where security guards swarming all over so I got right to the point.

I informed everyone in attendance who I was and told them that I would be signing on to Johns cause and would guarantee in writing that I would have him moved out and on his own with minimal support in exactly three weeks.

I signed on the dotted line right then and there, I'm a man of my word and a hand-shake.

I further stated that if they didn't go along with my well thought out transition plan I would create a public relations disaster unlike anything they had see, past or present.

I'm also a registered Lobbyist and freelance political consultant of great renown.

after all, dumping homelessness onto the city of Hamilton from the closed social system incorporated by the hospital and paid for with provincial tax dollars was not what I had in mind as a candidate for councilor, ward seven.

I hopped right to it.

I'm happy to report John M. has his own place now, with wheelchair access and a swimming pool and he moved out of the hospital exactly three weeks from the day I stepped in to advocate on his behalf.

Mayor Larry DiIanni can confirm this is true because I asked him to give me a hand.

Turns out I didn't need it because I made a call to the Effort Trust Company that owns the building where John M. now resides.

I guaranteed the rent personally, being a millionaire and all, and helped John move in with my Braun Corporation Mobility Limo used to transport my deceased son Logan around in style, he recently passed away, God bless him.

Every morning a nurse drops by to assist him in his morning routine, then the rest of the day is his.

That's what I call leadership, and thats what ward seven voters will get, someone who is not afraid to roll up their sleeves and get the job done.

Win With Whittle, Ward Seven.

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By adrian (registered) | Posted August 31, 2006 at 10:28:17

Great renown aside, perhaps you'd care to address the point of this article: will you take the pledge or not?

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By markwhittle (registered) - website | Posted August 31, 2006 at 19:43:12

When my fellow ward seven candidate Scott Duvall pledges to not accept money from any unions nor their members, of whom many are members of the NDP, the provincial political party that recruited him, so will I.

The odds are pretty long that Scott will fall on his sword any time soon, why else is his silence so deafening?

As to making donations public, why not, I may be the only contributor to my campaign, so there you go.

So my question is this, is it ok for a provincial political party like the NDP’s Hamilton Mountain members, and their elected member for Hamilton Mountain MPP Chris Charlton to recruit an ex-officio union executive and member of the provincial NDP party to run for municipal office using the NDP's riding association members to canvass for the candidate they overtly recruited, because I sure don’t?

Maybe I should fight fire with fire and lower myself to their level? Not on your life.

Instead, starting tomorrow when I pick up the keys to my new home in ward seven, I’m going to introduce myself to everyone on Bluebird Avenue, give them my business card with the date of the election on the back and pray like heck they remember me at the ballot box, then till November 13, continue knocking on doors, it’s the only way that will work without taking development community donations to mount the same kind of slick advertising campaign the NDP and Scott Duvall are planning to run to plow me under like yesterdays corn.

To that I say, bring it on brother, I have Logan’s fire in my belly to win.

Unless I mount the same type of usurious ‘unionized’ campaign using members of the ‘development’ community to mount it with, I do not have an even playing field to run on and the accountability measures you would like me to completely agree to will not help me one bit counter-acting the NDP’s onslaught at the ballot box.

What to do, what to do.

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By A Robot (anonymous) | Posted September 04, 2006 at 02:26:03

Dear Mr. Whittle,

You sound like the worst candidate ever.

Sincerely,
A Robot

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted September 07, 2006 at 12:53:34

I just received a response from Brad Clark, a candidate for Ward 9. He wrote that he agrees with the CATCH pledge and would "propose and support a bill at City Council that creates a level playing field by banning corporate and union donations and forces the publication of donors names prior to the election." He will also publish the names of donors who give him over $100.

However, he won't refuse corporate or union donations at this point in the current election campaign, and he won't recuse himself from city matters involving organizations that have made donations to him.

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By scriptorium (anonymous) | Posted September 07, 2006 at 20:25:20

Can any one confirm if Bob Bratina is running again in Ward 2? I can't fathom voting for Judy MacDonald-Musitano

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted September 09, 2006 at 14:49:19

Scriptorium, Bratina is going to announce his intention this week. Let's keep our fingers crossed.

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 10, 2006 at 22:37:33

i hope he stays in ward 2. there's too many people running for mayor, including 2 that will receive considerable support from the local media. We need him downtown AND on council.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted September 11, 2006 at 10:33:32

I just received a reply from Russ Powers, a candidate for Ward 13 (Dundas). He has stated that he will not accept any corporate or union donations, and will publish all personal donations on his campaign website, which he will update daily.

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By RUSTY (registered) - website | Posted September 11, 2006 at 12:28:33

I was wondering what other folks thought about Russ Powers candidacy for Dundas? I'm glad to see that he is supporting the Fair Financing Campaign but I don't support the 'job for life' mentality of our long serving councilors. Get in, set some objectives, serve a couple of terms, do what you can and then move on or up and let someone else have a go - that's my sentiment.

Thoughts?

Ben

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By Marlon Picken (anonymous) | Posted September 12, 2006 at 14:14:40

Oh Mark Allan Whittle,
One need only google you to figure you out.

Just a few things.
1. Charlton is a FEDERAL MP.

2. NDP already has the word 'Party' in it, don't sweat being redundant.

3. I'm certain Charlton isn't forcing anyone to work in Duvall's campaign. I worked in Chris's 04 & 06 and I haven't been even called about Scott.

4. "Fight fire with fire and lower yourself to their level"...... I don't think there's a problem for like minded people to help eachother out. Mind you, there must be few organizations in Ward 7 appealing to neo-conservatives that you could "fight fire with fire" with.

5. One need only visit your blog: http://theworldaccordingtomaw.blogspot.com/ to see how out of touch your position is with the hardworking people of Hamilton Mountain.

6. I applaud your persistance, keep pounding the pavement. Good luck.

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 12, 2006 at 14:48:26

I agree with Ben's point on life-long councillors. I would LOVE to see term limits for council and mayor. However, good for Powers for deciding to take the donation challenge and give the citizens of his ward the same level of importance as the corporations or unions. Now a multi-millionare CEO has the same clout as an artist at the Dundas Valley School of Art. That's proper democracy.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted September 14, 2006 at 10:08:26

Hamilton Community Action Network (CAN), with which RTH contributor Ben Bull has been involved, has also endorsed the CATCH election pledge:

http://hamiltoncan.org/CAN_PR_Sept%2014.pdf (PDF link)

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By Be Realistic (anonymous) | Posted September 16, 2006 at 21:51:27

Everyone must be realistic:

The Municipal Elections Act would over-ride any Council decision on the issue because the City is a creation of the Province. If you all want to persue change, go after the Province to change the Act.

Also, it's smoke and mirrors with developers/unions. Unions/Developers could always give money to people within their organization and then those people donate to the candidate. Same money!

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