by Gary McHale - The Regional
September 28, 2011
Monday night's council meeting heard repeated calls that Council, lead by Mayor Hewitt, had betrayed the residents of Haldimand county by secretly reaching a deal that encouraged the building of wind mills and solar panels. The crowd was so large that the doors were locked to stop additional people from attending due to fire code limits.
There were 39 speakers who addressed council and the anger of residents was heard one speaker after another. Near the end one man started his presentation by saying to Mayor Hewitt, "It must suck to be you tonight" then he proceeded to say, "I have a nice property where my sons were going to build their homes to raise my four grand children. My home is here, I belong here - Samsung doesn't"
At the heart of all the anger was the fact that Mayor Hewitt had actively worked behind the scenes to undermine a resolution passed on March 21, 2011 which demanded a moratorium on wind mills and solar panels until the province addressed the concerns of residents.
On March 28, 2011 Hewitt issued a press release that stated, "The motion formally requesting the Province to enact a moratorium on industrial wind turbines and solar projects in Haldimand County has been sent to the Premier... Haldimand residents can have their voices heard by contacting the Premier to show their support of the motion Council has sent forward for the Province's consideration."
Mayor Hewitt also stated, "in addition to contacting the Premier of Ontario, Haldimand residents are encouraged to contact their local MPP, Toby Barrett. There is a petition available at http://tobybarrett.com/petitions.html."
In March of this year both the Mayor and council were publicly demanding a moratorium on these projects and the Mayor was asking for public support for this moratorium.
Imagine people's surprise when out of nowhere there were news stories of how Haldimand Council had reached a deal with the Corporations that their moratorium is against.
What the public didn't know was that for the past 6 months Mayor Hewitt had been working secretly with Samsung and others to undermine the moratorium resolution which hasn't been rescinded.
What the public wasn't told was that Mayor Hewitt had received a $2000 gift from Niagara Region Wind Corporation in July in the form of free golfing tickets. This corporation didn't pay $2000 for Hewitt to play golf without expecting something in return.
This past weekend I saw a Samsung commercial on TV which featured Mayor Hewitt as a spokesperson for Samsung. Meanwhile Haldimand still has a moratorium resolution on the books and the council hadn't passed the so-called Community Vibrancy Fund Agreement.
You will be hard pressed to think of one example where any elected official has ever done a commercial for any corporation - it simply doesn't occur. Governments may create their own promotional material to support public policies but you do not see elected officials appearing in corporate commercials.
The timing of this commercial is during a provincial election where Green Jobs and the Samsung deal is a key point in both the Liberal and Conservative platforms.
Poll numbers are down for McGuinty from last election and media is repeatedly reporting about the myths of green energy jobs. Samsung, faced with a public P.R. problem, looked around to see which politicians would be willing to star in their promotional video which is designed to influence votes.
They knew neither McGuinty nor any credible Liberal politician would star in the video - even McGuinty understands politicians don't do corporate videos. Of the 77 counties that have signed a moratorium that Haldimand claimed to be united behind these communities, only Haldimand's Mayor Hewitt appears both on the Samsung corporate website and in the TV commercials.
There was a call that Mayor Hewitt and Leroy Bartlett remove themselves from the debate and vote on Monday night due to personal conflict of interest. Bartlett agreed and he didn't take part in the discussion. Mayor Hewitt claimed he wasn't in a conflict of interest but it was hard to tell whether he was referring simply to doing the commercial or referring to receiving a $2000 gift from a wind company.
What is clear is that Samsung knew they needed someone to help McGuinty sell his Green Energy Plan and Ken Hewitt was willing to do it. The commercials are clearly designed to support McGuinty during this election and Haldimand's sudden announcement of millions of dollars and jobs coming from McGuinty's plan is timed to undermine Toby Barrett in this election. In fact, Hewitt told Bill Jackson that the deal will be used against Hudak if he wins.
In Canada we have election laws. Everyone who spends money to take part in the election is required to register as a third party - Samsung didn't do this. I guess if they had it would be too obvious that Hewitt was doing a political commercial against Toby Barrett and Tim Hudak. As a result of not registering and the reality that the Hewitt/Samsung commercial is a political ad during an election, I have filed a formal complaint with Ontario Elections.
What is also quite troubling is the fact that Hewitt and council are misleading the county about the importance of their so-called deal. While the county is about to lose 600 jobs related to Nanticoke the council is aware that these green jobs will amount to no more than 40-48 long term jobs - hardly something to be happy about.
In addition the deal states the companies only have to make "reasonable efforts" to hire locally and the so-called millions the county is going to receive are based on "voluntary contributions".
Out of the kindness of their heart Samsung and other multi-national corporations are going to voluntary contribute money to Haldimand and council is praising this as a great deal while wilfully undermining Toby Barrett and the Conservatives during an election.
However, the greatest concern is that Hewitt sees no problem in receiving expensive gifts from corporations. If he thinks it is okay to accept $2000 golf tickets then what other gifts has he received or will receive from corporations seeking special deals in Haldimand?