December 16, 2021 (3 Minute Read)
In the unlikely and surprise saga of Brampton Councillor Jeff Bowman and the $1.0M Caledon barn project, questions are met with not answers, but rather further questions.
The million-dollar question is why?
It is nothing short of perplexing as to why Bowman has rammed through Council $1.0M of tax payer dollars on a barn from Caledon. The value proposition is missing in action. Not only is the barn not originally from Brampton, its materials are in such poor condition that significant amounts of new materials are needed. In addition, the barn has to be constructed to today’s building code standards. These structural aspects remove the heritage culture of the original barn.
Perhaps there is more to this boondoggle than simply poor financial decision making by Bowman. A look into some of his decisions on Council, provides some clues – namely that Bowman has shown a significant lack of judgement for the taxpayer and a constant focus on political gain.
More Politics/Elections instead of Standing Up for Diversity & Inclusion
“The question I have is, is there a time sensitivity to this since we’re headed towards an election?”– Councillor Bowman
For instance, former Regional Councillor John Sprovieri found himself in the spotlight after penning a racist email that said he hopes “that new comers will learn the values of the white people”. At the suggestion of diversity training, Sprovieri responded with “From my understanding the native people want their land back. Any suggestions on how that may happen?”
The City’s Integrity Commissioner at the time correctly ruled that Sprovieri’s comments were against the Council’s Code of Conduct. In response, Council opted to send the controversial Councillor for diversity training. Despite the obvious need, Bowman was more interested in the political effects of diversity training.
“The question I have is, is there a time sensitivity to this since we’re headed towards an election?” said Bowman at the February 21, 2018 meeting of Council during the consideration if the Integrity Commissioner report on Sprovieri.
“All the names need to be in by May 10th and I have no idea how quickly this could be put together and this training could take place.
“If it takes place in the lame duck period, I don’t think there’s much point to it. It may as well wait for a new Council.”
To everyone else, Sprovieri required diversity training. To Bowman, the training was conditional on the timing of an electio
Attacks Non-Profit Sector for Not Contributing Anything to City
“This [the Friends of Bovaird House] isn’t a regular not-for-profit group that doesn’t do anything or doesn’t contribute to the city in any way,” Bowman recently declared. “They certainly don’t cost the City anything.– Councillor Bowman
Not unlike his lack of judgement when dealing with Sprovieri racist remarks, Bowman threw out any attempt at holding himself to a higher standard as an elected official when he callously attacked the non-profit sector serving the community.
“This [the Friends of Bovaird House] isn’t a regular not-for-profit group that doesn’t do anything or doesn’t contribute to the city in any way,” Bowman recently declared. “They certainly don’t cost the City anything.
Bowman’s complete disregard of the essential contributions of the not-for-profit sector is nothing short of offensive. Many non-profit organizations work tirelessly to improve the social fabric of our community – something that Bowman evidently fails to see the value in.
The comments also highlight a track record of lacking financial transparency and accountability. While Bowman would have his colleagues believe that the proponent organization – the Friends of Bovaird House – advocating for the Caledon Barn project costs the City nothing, this is in fact far from the truth.
City staff confirmed that the Bovaird House property has cost taxpayers at least $1.3 million since 2012 with information to date somewhat lacking. Further, it appears that tracking of investments was neither standardized or consolidated according to staff person Jason Tamming, the City’s Director of Strategic Communications, Culture and Events.
“My understanding is in past years the Friends [of Bovaird House] may, depending on the needs and repairs, requested approach a variety of departments,” said Tamming last week. “I’m not sure that was undertaken in a consolidated or consistent way.”
What is clear is that despite Bowman’s account of the Friends of Bovaird House not costing the City anything, there is evidence of the organization regularly engaging the City of Brampton seeking further investments and funds into the property they oversee.
Constitutional Rights are only a Suggestion.
“to be allowed to enter (a) home without search warrants”– Councillor Bowman’s Motion
Not unlike Bowman’s disregard of the non-profit sector, Bowman’s record also includes advocating for policies that would infringe on constitutionally protected rights to get his way.
Earlier this year, it was reported that Bowman went rogue during a meeting between Brampton’s elected officials and Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. According to sources present during the meeting, Bowman went off-script and began advocating for municipal inspectors to have the ability to enter residents’ homes without a warrant to assess City bylaw and building code compliance.
Sources say Minister Clark rightly responded with “You know my position of rights to entry” and dismissed Bowman’s ill-informed request.
Bowman’s proposal, if enacted, would have provided City employees the right of access to residents’ homes without a warrant. Considering the politics-first record of Bowman, this is a dangerous move.
According to lawyer and the Director of the Criminal Justice Program at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association Abby Deshman, “Doing away with the requirement for a warrant for things like building code inspections is likely unconstitutional and would concentrate too much power in the hands of individual law enforcement agents.”
So why the $1.0M Barn?
The combination of Bowman’s track record of significant lapses in judgement and singular focus on political game is neither for the faint of heart nor in the interests of residents.
It is known that Bowman sits on the Friends of Bovaird House committee and it’s been reported his spouse also volunteers for the organization. A review of historical and saved Friends of Bovaird House webpages indicate that Bowman sat on the committee at the time the organization originally purchased the Caledon Barn for $20,000.
While the barn itself was donated to the City, a 2016 report indicated that it was the hope of the organization at that time that the City would commit the funds needed to reconstruct the Barn. One could assume that Bowman would not have supported the organization’s purchase of the barn had he not already engaged City officials to prep taxpayer investment into the project.
There appears to be either a real or perceived conflict-of-interest, neither of which is in the best interest of Brampton taxpayers.
The potential conflict of interest would also fit the Bowman mold of poor judgement and politics-first approach.
It may be time to scrap the project and investigate what’s behind the barn. Perhaps in this instance, the old adage “the power behind the throne” should read “the man behind the barn”.