My university professor said, “Facts separate a fable from the truth. We are only interested in the facts.” Fables are stories, and stories are “account[s] of imaginary or real people, and events told for entertainment”. We use “story” in politics – a lot. It is something I have always disliked. It reports without a guarantee of truth. Administration prefers to give “balanced” reports showing equal numbers of pros and cons – this is not untrue, but it is not the same as a report showing all the facts regardless of the imbalance of pros and cons. There is trend among governments to tell a “story” instead of facts, allowing them to control the narrative, controlling your ability to draw your own conclusions. Transparency and honesty – and facts – are vital. You pay taxes; therefore, you have a right to know what is done with them.
Elise Stolte, from the Edmonton Journal, recently wrote about her frustration trying to get information on the LRT. “…[W]e need to start again. Transparency must come from a new attitude within City Hall, right at the top.” I agree. Ronald Reagan once quipped, “Trust, but verify.” We trust Council and Administration to do their jobs, but we can only verify the value and quality of their work through vigorous and robust public transparency. Being declined information from the City and having to resort to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIP) is unacceptable and absurd. This should raise alarm bells.
I have tried bringing information I believe belongs to the public to light; Administration has overruled my requests citing protection of the City’s corporate interests. We could let this slide, as some things do need to be held back, but recently a report regarding the remediation of contaminated land came back to Executive Committee that basically said Administration oversight will let Council know what Administration decides Administration is going to do, meaning people whom you did not elect are deciding what you – and Council – will and will not know. This gives Administration extraordinary freedom to do things without regulation or consequence. The taxes Administration spends are yours, yet you do not get to see the scope and scale of their spending. Not publicly disclosing vital information is a violation of your democratic rights.
I, too, want to raise the alarm.
We can do better.