North Bay, Ont – There’s the role of a secretive sub-committee that reports back to municipal councils. A hushed consultant’s report filled with financial costings and projections of millions of dollars to buy out yearly contributions to Cassellholme that the mayors and councillors know the content of, but aren’t sharing with the public. There’s a ‘letter of intent’ (LOI) that seemingly binds councillors to a gag order. But councillors have the power to shed the gag order at any time. This is all clear from Freedom of Information (FOI) request documents tied to the “transition” of Cassellholme to a private nursing home, recently obtained by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).
“What’s also clear is that many of the mayors and councillors are knowing participants to what amounts to the shedding of a public service, the area’s one and only municipal nursing home, Cassellholme without any consultation with the community. The best way to describe it is, a seeming complicit secrecy on the part of the municipalities and the Cassellholme board,” said CUPE Ontario president Fred Hahn at a North Bay media conference today, where the contents of the documents obtained through a formal FOI process, were made public.
Included in the slim package of materials provided by the City of North Bay is a letter from December 2015. It’s marked “private and confidential” and addressed to councillor Chris Mayne in his other role as chair of the Cassellholme board, and signed by mayor Al McDonald that spells out the “nature of the proposed transition” of the home to private entity. The letter also says that within five days of signing, that all the information in the Cassellholme consultant’s report as well as other relevant materials would be made available to the municipality.
“So they all know what’s going on. We’re asking area mayors in particular to stop the charade that they don’t know what the plan to privatize Cassellholme is. Shed the yoke of this ‘letter of intent’ they’ve unwisely signed, stop the complicity and be open with Cassellholme residents, their families and all in the communities who elected them. The closed meetings have to stop,” said Hahn.
CUPE is exploring options under the mandate of the Ontario Ombudsman’s office and the potential to investigate the conduct of the municipalities and their part in the “behind closed doors” plan to divest municipal operation of Cassellholme.
In the meantime, CUPE has filed a separate FOI for Cassellholme board documents, which should include the so far, “secret” report by hired consultant KPMG. Hahn also called on the Cassellholme board to post updated minutes of board meetings, a process that has not been followed in recent months.
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President CUPE Ontario