Fixing a hole

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There’s a story about the Beatles back in 1967 (fifty years ago!). Paul McCartney was reading the music papers where there was speculation that the Beatles were done, finished, no new record from them in months and months. Of course, what the press didn’t know was that the band were in the studio putting the tracks together for possibly the best album ever: “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”.

What McCartney did was very cool. Rather than issue a press release condemning the press for spreading rumours, or undermining the band’s fan base, he simply smiled happily to himself and said: “Just wait. You’ll see”. And, boy, we saw! And when the album arrived, that really was A Day in the Life.

On an unrelated topic (!), we are all hoping that the deal on Kemptville College, so long in gestation by the Municipality, is a Sgt Pepper, and not the soundtrack to the movie of the same name. No-one wants it to be a bad deal, neither do we want it to fall apart at the last minute. That is not the point, nor has it ever been the point. The point is that throwing your toys out of the pram because someone else might be willing to get involved in the College, is not a cool thing to do, especially when it includes the CAO of North Grenville attacking the press simply for reporting facts.

An article by Councillor Jim Bertram in this issue encourages patience and some faith in the Municipality that a good deal is on its way. Why didn’t the CAO use David Gordon’s name to issue that kind of statement, instead of the one he did? We also have a new press release in this issue, in which the Mayor (that is, the CAO), partly apologises to the Times. What he says is that “it was not my intention to suggest that no representation had been sent to the Province or that letter(s) to that affect did not exist”.

Then why did he state that what he called an “inference” that “a local firm representing investors who manage a humanitarian fund was involved in discussions with Premier Wynne and Minister Leal to acquire the property”was” out of context and unsubstantiated”? The suggestion was not only made, it was stated to be a fact that we got it wrong. We did not.

Yes, this may be a storm in a teacup for some people, but a newspaper depends on its credibility, and for the Mayor and CAO to suggest that we publish unsubstantiated reports damages that credibility and could be considered libellous, especially when the letters they denied existing were already in their possession.

Perhaps the most insightful and expressive response to all of this came from a reader on our Facebook page: “What were they thinking?” Why on earth deny something they knew to be true? Why attack the Times when all we have ever written about the two men in question has been positive and supportive? That relationship is pretty well done now, isn’t it?

We all hope that the draft agreement with the Province is a good one for North Grenville. We are asked to be patient and trust the municipality, in spite of the fact that the full financial details of the plan won’t be released until after the deal is finalised and signed. What choice do we have, anyway? There is a viable alternative to the municipality’s deal, as has become apparent recently. This, by the way, is something the Times knew about months ago, but did not publish so as not to interfere with the municipality’s talks with the Province. We only published the news after we knew that a tentative deal had been reached there.

I don’t know. It all seems such a stupid and pointless conflict. All it needed was for the CAO or the Mayor to let us know that they would prefer us not to talk about the deal for a few weeks, until everything was settled. We have kept their confidence before on a number of issues, and they know that. They could have trusted us, instead of coming out and basically lying. Now they ask us to trust them. Fine.

But there is a genuine need for talk here, and neither Brian Carré nor David Gordon have even answered my e-mails asking for such a meeting. Given our past relationship, that is more than sad, and also rather upsetting generally. What, after all, do they think the media is for, if not to report news and encourage discussion? Remember that amazing sentence in their original press release: “Council and our CAO have been clear, transparent and on the record when providing details of the negotiations with the Province of Ontario.”

I was really angry about all this. Now I just feel sad and discouraged that our municipal bureaucrats and Mayor don’t seem to understand the role of the media, or the meaning of friendship. Let’s hope for a Sgt. Pepper from them.

1 COMMENT

  1. Can you take legal action against the Mayor and CAO?

    Libel and slander, known broadly as defamation, are untrue statements made by someone that are harmful to someone else’s reputation. The statements can be about a person, business, organization, group, nation, or product that tends to hurt the person’s reputation. Also, the false statements must be made to other people, not just to the person it is about. Libel refers to written statements and slander refers to oral statements. Under the law, both are grounds for a civil lawsuit.

    If you are suing because your reputation was damaged due to a libelous statement, you do not have to prove that it caused you financial loss because the law presumes that you suffered a financial loss as a result of the loss of your reputation. However, you may have to prove actual financial loss if you are suing for slander. There are some limited circumstances when you do not have to prove financial loss in slander cases, including when the slanderous statement damaged your professional or business reputation.

    If you are suing a newspaper, radio or television station, you must usually give them notice of your intention to sue within six weeks of learning of the incident, and start your lawsuit within three months. If you are suing someone other than a newspaper, radio or television station, you must normally start your lawsuit within two years. If you are defending such a claim, publishing an apology may help to limit the amount of damages that may be awarded.

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