Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Would I Lie To You?

Faith can be a marvelous thing, one that people take strength from as they go about their daily lives. One meaning of faith, as offered by Oxford Dictionaries online, encapsulates this idea:

strong belief in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual conviction rather than proof.

However, there is another definition of faith that is not necessarily so benign:

complete trust or confidence in someone or something.

It is this second definition of faith that many would have us place in the integrity and purpose of unfettered capitalism, usually accompanied by the mantra that private enterprise is always more efficient and productive than public ownership/direction/influence. I suppose for some, that faith does take on religious dimensions and fervour if we listen to some well-known right-wing ranters. (I'll let you fill in the blanks here.)

My theological reflections were prompted by a couple of stories I read in the morning newspapers, one in The Toronto Star and the other in The Hamilton Spectator.

The first story, Watchdog orders Brampton to reveal details of huge contract, revolves around a massive downtown redevelopment project, the financial details of which both the citizens and the councillors have been denied access to up to now.

Councillors and residents have tried unsuccessfully for more than a year to learn more about the pricing of the winning bid by Dominus Construction, which could cost taxpayers more than half a billion dollars for all three phases. Only the first phase was approved by council last August, at a construction cost of $94 million for a nine-storey building, parking and a two-storey expansion of city hall.

Brampton resident Chris Bejnar was one of many who tried to get details about the Dominus bid, one of only two considered by the city for the project. He asked city staff for the exact square footage of each part of the project and the cost per square foot, but was denied. He then filed a freedom of information request, but it was also denied.

Finally, he appealed to the Ontario Information and Privacy Commission. In her decision, dated July 31, adjudicator Cathy Hamilton writes: “In my view, the city has provided speculative, unsupported assertions of economic and financial harms in the event the information in the record is disclosed. The suggestion that disclosure will place a chill over (bidders) when they consider participating in future (bids) and that future bids will be higher as a result of disclosure is self-serving” and unsubstantiated, she concludes.

Similarly, the rights of taxpayers and councillors to know the costs of public projects is being scrutinized in Hamilton regarding the rebuilding of Ivor Wynne Stadium for the Pan Am Games:

Councillors frustrated by stadium secrecy - Infrastructure Ontario keeping details under wraps

City staff were asking for council's approval to enter into discussions with Infrastructure Ontario to determine the “roles, relationships, joint and separate responsibilities, authorizations and obligations” for the Pam Am stadium.

According to the report, the capital cost for the stadium is $145.6 million. The operating costs for 2012 are $340,300. However, the staff report offered few details about how the costs and operating responsibilities of the stadium will be shared.

The story goes on to reveal that if councillors want that information from Infrastructure Ontario, they must sign confidentiality agreements. The 'explanation' for this secrecy?

Infrastructure Ontario has said that keeping details of the stadium proposals under wraps protects taxpayers by making sure developers are not unduly influenced by public scrutiny.

Secrecy about how taxpayers' dollars are being used, in order to protect developers?

For one of little faith in right-wing ideology, all I can say is thanks for the peak behind the curtain.


  1. The problem with right wing ideology, Lorne, is that has become right wing theology.

  2. All I can think to say about your perceptive observation, Owen, is 'Amen.'