To get good insightful answers, how the question is framed matters. I missed an opportunity on Thursday
Hamilton City Council wants control of the Hamilton Police Service.
City Council voted 8-6 to ask the province to hand them the keys to the Hamilton Police Service. They did so with the full knowledge Queen’s Park isn’t going to entertain the idea.
Area provincial cabinet minister MPP Ted McMeekin was in the Council Chamber for the vote. Afterwards, he told media that his advice to Hamilton City Council was to get a mediator to assist with the personality conflict between Council and the Police Chief.
On the idea of giving Council control of the Police Service, McMeekin said “You don’t want politicians running your police force.”
Merulla’s motion was expected to easily pass Council, until Clark changed his position and systematically took apart Merulla’s arguments for Council controlling the Police Service.
Very telling was how the vote on Ward 4 Councillor Sam Merulla’s motion nearly lost on a tie – only one Councillor switching their vote would change the result. Ward 3 Councillor Bernie Morelli’s sick leave meant one vote in favour was missing and Ward 13 Councillor Russ Powers left the meeting before the vote.
It was this near lost that brought the decorum of the Council meeting into the gutter – again – as Merulla and Clark spared, again.(Note: Merulla’s comments about Clark begin at 49:40)
“I appreciate Councillor Merulla bring forth his motion and he actually gave us ample notice of the motion, which enabled us to actually reflect on it,” remarked Clark following Merulla’s 13 minute opening statement. “I had actually told Councillor Merulla I would support it.”
After this, Clark put the elephant in the room on the table – the motion was about Chief Glenn De Caire, he said.
“I don’t see why we’re now going to take this argument we are having with our Police Chief to the provincial level … do we really want to be the one who are doing that?”
Clark ended “I would strongly suggest that it’s probably appropriate that the bodies that are having personality issues sit down over a coffee, for God’s sake, and work it out.”
Ward 15 Councillor Judi Partridge was the next to speak. After asking the City Solicitor questions, Partridge didn’t reveal how she was going to vote. It appeared she may vote against the motion.
Ward 1 Councillor Brian McHattie spoke and stated, upon reflection, he could not support Merulla’s motion as worded.
“I’m a having a hard time supporting this motion tonight unless the language is more about entering into a discussion as had been talked about before asking for a review of governance, rather than a direct request to amend the Municipal Act to change how the Hamilton Police Services Board is governed.”
Ward 10 Councillor Maria Pearson next spoke against the motion.
Then Merulla spoke for a second time and took shots at Clark for being a member of the Mike Harris cabinet.
“Councillor Clark, god bless him, was part of the Mike Harris government that imposed the downloading and I understand that he apologizes for that,” stated Merulla “And now he’s apologizing for the Police Board and the legislation associated with that.”
“In my time on this Council, I’ve noticed a pattern with a certain member from Ward 4 that every time certain members oppose what he’s putting forth, there’s this outrage of infantile partisan prattle that has absolutely nothing to do with the debate,” responded Clark. “And his facts are usually misrepresented to the enth degree.”
At that moment, Merulla tapped his glass to respond to Clark.
Clark turned to arguing that Council does in fact have control of the Police Board with three members of Council and one citizen appointee for a “4-3”.
Merulla then took the floor and called Clark a “lap dog for Mike Harris” and that he ran for the Harper government in the last provincial election.
This was the usual batter between Merulla and Clark. Until Clark took a direct shot back at Merulla: “He still continues to be upset that he lost the nomination in Stoney Creek to Paul Miller,” referring to Merulla’s run for the provincial NDP nomination in 2007 that was a surprise upset.
Whitehead’s comments followed this. He argued Council only had three seats because the Mayor is automatically a member of the Board under the legislation.
Much heckling followed, and it eventually degraded into an argument into who had the floor. Ferguson called the question and the debate ended with the vote.
In favour: Merulla (mover), Collins (seconder), Duvall, Farr, Ferguson, Jackson, Partridge, Whitehead.
Opposed: Bratina, Clark, Johnson, McHattie, Pearson, Pasuta/
Absent: Powers, Morelli (sick leave)