TORONTO - Donald Trump did not win the election. However, thanks to his dominance at the Electoral College (where a select group of voters can determine personal careers and, consequently, the political direction of the country), he is now President.
It is a lesson not lost on “strategists” advising the joint venture partnership, VCI/TCDSB, determined to steamroll community opposition to a real estate development plan that threatens the very heart and soul of the Italian-Canadian community and all that it has inspired among the other ethnicities in Canada’s mosaic.
Their tactics are deplorable. To gain their goal, they offend every principle of community engagement, democratic involvement.
The partnership has not always been successful. North York City Council told them there needed to be more public consultations before the Planning Department would authorize construction and the demolition.
Toronto City Council did as much and more: it recommended the Heritage Department examine the value of the Columbus Centre to Toronto’s historical and cultural patrimony.
VCI, on behalf of the partnership, filed an application to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) in an attempt to circumvent having to justify the project to the Community.
The TCDSB initially said that they were not apart of that tactic, but supported their partner until recently when “they persuaded” VCI to withdraw [temporarily] the application.
In the interim, combined, they commissioned not one but two consulting firms (for approxmately $75000) to conduct “public consultations” to measure community support.
Each of these has been tightly controlled and structured so that the end goal (demolition and construction) appear as a fait accompli.
For example, concerned individuals need to register to participate and the number of participants in limited. In effect, a mini Electoral College.
Secondly, TCDSB, through the consulting firms, is conducting its own set of consultations with Principals, teachers and presidents of Parent Councils. Senior Staff also attends.
The outcome is predictable. The objective clear: have a sufficient number of “mini-consultations” with a desired outcome so that each in and of itself can be presented as supportive of the initiative.
Even if these meetings are criticized by angry Save the Columbus Centre group as “sham exercises organized and led by the ‘useful idiots’. Even if in total the number of participants, including the required attendance by TCDSB employees has not yet reached 200.
By way of contrast, the public meetings sponsored by the CASA group have been attended by close to 2000 – not including the several hundred that attended two School Board meetings.
No one seems to be able to make rhyme or reason of the TCDSB’s complete commitment to building a third school on an under-utilized site.
Not the local Trustee at any rate.
She is “calling the shots” so to speak. She speaks about supporting an option that is not on the table, not being placed before the public or before these small ‘electoral college” type groups. But she and senior staff “have had conversations”.
VCI keeps pushing the TCDSB hard to stay the course. Such is the allure of potential profit. The din of their persistence in public protest has dulled the aural capacity of Trustees and Staff at Canada’s largest faith-based educational organization to distinguish the public policy objectives that underpin the rationale for their very existence.