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$36K integrity investigation raises questions about freedom of speech constraints

by | Oct 22, 2023

Small Town Times editor talks with former deputy mayor and veteran former councillor about North Bay City Council decision to punish member following integrity commissioner investigation. Sheldon Forgette, was 23 when his 2014 election success vaulted him into the deputy mayor chair. His young age and lack of political experience was often cited when criticism followed his tumultuous term of service. Deputy Mayor Maggie Horsfield, who filed the complaint against Coun. Sara Inch, also won the top spot in her first election run last year at this time.

Inch is also a newcomer and her opinion that Horsfield would think differently about certain issues if she has more lived experience, which draws the charge of ageism and discriminatory speech. Joining Forgette on this podcast is Dave Mendicino, who served for several council terms, agrees with Horsfield contention that Inch’s comments about her were not welcome and should have stopped sooner.

Forgette believes that Inch should be able to comment on another council’s member’s attributes and abilities to protect her charter right to express her opinion, warning that hard conversations are part of political life. *Freedom of Expression as a Charter right is limited by how it impacts others, such as defamatory libel or Ontario Human Rights Code provisions about prejudice (such as a person’s age and health issues).

More below video …

Editor Dave Dale says Inch went too far only with the Facebook post that left an impression that Horsfield wasn’t forthcoming with budget information when email evidence proved that was not the case. The post was removed soon after and Inch admitted that she was “too casual” with her words. Exactly why Inch would question the bias and ability of the ad hoc committee chosen to pick a new CAO is a mystery. Inch as actually part of the motion that created the committee, her “hindsight” email was just not smart politics.

The mayor and top three councillors are natural candidates for such a committee, and by pointing out (albeit in veiled phrasing) that they all have bias, specifically two may be unsuitable because they were going through life changes (one mourning for a grandchild and another pregnant) is just bad form. The initial email exchange was a private debate and could have ended by either side stopping and blocking if they wanted.

That’s where it should have ended, in many eyes, because $36,000 should be spent on more important matters. Of course, everyone is welcome to their own opinion on that … As always, anyone mentioned in Small Town Times podcasts are welcome to be guests for a future episode to discuss that matter further.

See the Integrity investigation report HERE

See the Echo Essentials coverage HERE

Dave Dale
Dave Dale

Writer, photographer and proud father. My mom’s family is from the Soo with its Algoma Highlands, dad hailed from Cobden in the Ottawa Valley and I spent my teen years in Capreol. Summers were at the beach on the Vermillion River and winters at ‘The Rink.’ Born in East York but Toronto never was my thing. Ever since a kid looking out the window on long trips, I imagined living on the highway in a little house with a big yard and trees growing all around me.

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