The public got their apology, but it was not from who they really wanted.
During a special meeting of council on July 28, city council discussed the Ontario Omudsman’s scathing report that slammed them for illegally closing a December education and training session with the OPUC.
Councillors did not discuss the contents of that report during the meeting, but passed a motion unanimously that, for the most part, accepted each of the watchdog’s five recommendations. The motion ensures that councillors are aware of the correct reasons for closing a meeting for education and training, and along with updating council’s procedural bylaw, will now require a verbal report to be given following any closed session of council.
Councillor Doug Sanders also took the opportunity to stand and offer citizens his regrets for council’s misstep.
“I made a decision as a councillor to go into that closed session,” he said.
“We all make mistakes, we’re all not perfect and we need to stand up and admit we made mistakes.”
However, following the adjournment of the meeting, those in attendance loudly requested another apology, this time from Mayor John Henry, who was heavily criticized in Ombudsman Paul Dube’s report for pushing forward with the December meeting despite several verbal concerns from councillors. It got so uncomfortable that Councillor Amy McQuaid-England eventually stood up and left.
Henry remained silent.
Speaking with the media in his office following the meeting, Henry still did not offer a full apology for his actions.
“In this case, I apologize for the parts that are interpreted as being in error, but there’s still parts within that that needed to be done in closed session,” he said.
“If you’re looking for me to say I’m sorry on that part, I am, but on the parts that needed to be discussed in closed session, I still stand by that.”
Labelling the situation “an interesting learning experience,” the mayor’s main assertion is that cities have no avenue under the Municipal Act through which to conduct meetings with third party businesses to discuss sensitive business issues, a fact that is also pointed out in the ombudsman’s report.
“For municipalities throughout Ontario, whether you have a gas company or a phone company or other companies, this is a wake-up call on how you manage your business,” Henry says.
“If you read the Ombudsman’s recommendations at the end, there’s some challenges on the other end too, at the provincial level and how you identify this type of issue. Going forward, it will be a great leaning experience.”
Regardless of that fact, resident Gord Vickers says he is disappointed all of council did not apologize to the public.
“It takes a man to stand up and say he was wrong,” Vickers says.
“I don’t see too many men, or women who are actually woman enough or man enough to stand up and say, ‘I was wrong, I made a mistake, I apologize to the people of Oshawa.’ They could have moved on today. It would have been over.”
Vickers also took the chance to give credit to both McQuaid-England and Dan Carter, who voted against going into closed session in December, as well as patting Sanders on the back for offering an apology.
Speaking after the meeting, Sanders explained that apologizing was simply the “right thing to do.”
“I think there’s a lot of the members of council that believe that it’s the right thing to apologize. You make a mistake, you move forward,” he said.
“We’re all just human and do we make mistakes periodically? Yes we do.”