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Opinion: Dave Dale, Parallel universes exist in North Bay too

Without going into the weeds for the 100th time, it just doesn’t seem like the Cassellholme board and municipalities are watching the same movie. Or its like two people in the front seat of a car going off a cliff fighting over the steering wheel.
2021 06 03 Cassellholme (Campaigne) 2
The political manoeuvrings continue over the Cassellholme redevelopment.

It’s a wild world these days with so many conflicts between how people perceive reality. I’m not so sure if it’s a result of social media or a freak variant in the evolution of the human brain. We could blame video games if no other theories are available but I think the “truth” ship left port centuries ago.

Whether we’re talking about the COVID-19 pandemic or the Cassellholme long-term care expansion and reconstruction, it seems like people are living in parallel universes.

Last week, the mayors of eight of the nine Cassellholme partner communities appealed to the Ministry of Long Term Care to spike the project until a laundry list of concerns are addressed. Just days before, it appeared Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli had removed a major financial concern for the project by lifting a provincial requirement to guarantee its share — somewhere between $55 and $65 million of the $121-million estimate to add 24 beds and retrofit 240 others. The fact the province didn’t want to guarantee its share of a provincial loan is bizarre enough. None of the municipalities, meanwhile, wanted to bear the burden of the debt for this project either (the preference was for the Cassellholme corporate entity to take out its own loan and partners merely pay annually, but that didn’t play out either. Something to do with banks not wanting to own a long-term care facility if the caring for the elderly business goes bust).

The latest proposal still leaves North Bay and company on the hook for a big jump in debt and the resulting drop in financial ratings or the necessary tax hikes. I’m also hearing they’ll have to cover the interest for Ontario’s share of the loan, but confirmation should come soon about how the dollar commitments are timed and split.

Without going into the weeds for the 100th time, it just doesn’t seem like the Cassellholme board and municipalities are watching the same movie. Or it's like two people in the front seat of a car going off a cliff fighting over the steering wheel. Pick any analogy you want and it works. One key issue being raised is over the planned staged development on site that would create a five-year construction annoyance in the midst of the property that sees hundreds of people come and go daily.

Depending on who you ask, that’s either a really bad idea or no big deal but it raises the question: If not there, where? And what when and how? I get the feeling somebody is cooking up a proposal for another site with a possible public-private partnership to replace the district board concept. Inquiring minds would like to see all the cards on the table. A review of how Cassellholme runs is also needed because, quite frankly, something stinks in the kitchen of both camps on this one.

In another parallel universe example, former prime minister Jean Chretien recently said he didn’t know about residential school horrors as the Minister of Indian Affairs in 1969. That’s when Pierre Elliott Trudeau was top dog in Ottawa and Chretien et all introduced the assimilation-bent White Paper, abolished treaties, and ripped up the Indian Act. I’m slipping this in because it’s treaty recognition week and you’re probably seeing some news about Indigenous communities putting a spotlight on their importance as nation-to-nation legal agreements.

I notice that non-Indigenous communities are less inclined to celebrate treaties and after listening to Chretien bend history, I’m thinking we should educate ourselves a bit more as part of the truth and reconciliation efforts. Many Canadians treat treaties like they are bad car purchase agreements they didn’t read carefully — except we actually wrote them and drove the self-serving side of them like a rental car as our forebear leaders “settled” the country. Look up a story about statues of John A. MacDonald being toppled for more information.

Maybe we should put the flags back up at full staff position as a sign of treaty respect? Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s gambit of lowering them to half-staff months ago doesn’t seem to have an endpoint and it’s getting awkward with Remembrance Day coming. The flags went down after the discovery of unmarked graves at residential schools shocked a few Canadians awake to our dark history and ongoing injustices. The younger Trudeau promised they wouldn’t go back up without some kind of agreement with Indigenous leaders. I question his intellect, actions and intent sometimes.

Pushing aside my Orwellian fears, I’m actually thinking that body cameras are a good idea, not just for North Bay police (trial projects should start next year after some delay) but the politicians should probably wear them too. Maybe a virtual reality headset that plugs into their actual thoughts would be helpful too.

Video evidence of most public board meetings are available but you’ll die a thousand deaths reviewing hours of discussion to find out what happened.

Body cameras on politicians would be handy tools for seeing exactly how people come to the conclusions they do, although I’m sure they’ll have to clean off bits and pieces of their free lunches from the lens once in a while.

I was researching police body camera use in the United States the other day and I found a couple of good YouTube channels that actually use the content for educational purposes.

The best one so far is called Audit the Audit. The channel operates as professionally as anything available, way better than either CNN or Fox News, the two worst examples of journalism in my opinion. Here’s a hint, if the talking head has an inch of makeup and evidence of a Hollywood stylist on staff, it’s probably not worth listening to them.

The "Audit the Audit" channel takes examples of police and citizen interactions and breaks down what they say compared to what they do and cites actual laws and court decisions in the analysis. There are citations and references and everything needed to learn more. If anybody knows of a better channel in this genre or a Canadian version at the same level, let me know.

I like the ones where the police officers try to twist reality into a knot and a well-versed individual schools them on law and how they should actually act. There are also a few good ones showing the opposite, with the police officers doing everything correctly and the citizen is way off base. Here's one that shows a former police officer, who is black, school a white Florida police officer. I like how reality is captured in a calm and cool way.

I was finishing high school in the United States in 1983 when Ronald Reagan was president. Unfortunately for me, George Orwell’s dystopian classic 1984 was fresh in my mind and things were getting a little too weird. You have to know the plot and lived at that time to understand my concern.

Reagan was the first president to announce a plan to build a space-based “Strategic Defence Initiative” to deal with Cold War missile attack possibilities. It was dubbed the Star Wars project. And in 1984, Reagan was caught joking around during a live mic check: “My fellow Americans,” he said with morbid humour, “I’m pleased to tell you today I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever … we begin bombing in five minutes.”

He’s also the one who struck down the law that required television news outlets to present objective reports, spawning the fake-news phenomenon we all love and respect today.

After watching too many of the Audit videos, one involved an actual policeman named “Officer Dick” who was hand-cuffing women wearing thongs on Myrtle Beach, I did come to a few conclusions.

First of all, people are fairly messed up when whether a camera is recording them or not.

And probably the scariest thing a police officer can say to an individual is: “Y’all OK? Are upset or something? You seem angry. I’m concerned for your safety …”

P.S. If you're following the Kyle Rittenhouse trial (the young militia-wannabe protector who shot and killed protesters last year), check out this recent New York Times documentary. It's an informative look at what took place with a long lens from various viewpoints. It's worth a look to be more fully informed.

Dave Dale is a veteran journalist and columnist who has covered the North Bay area for more than 30 years. Reader responses related to his work can be sent to editor@baytoday.ca. To contact the writer directly, email: davedale@backinthebay.ca or check out his website www.smalltowntimes.ca