January 24, 2022 (2 Minute Read)
The controversial decision to spend over $1.16 million of taxpayers’ money, to reconstruct a barn from Caledon, is back on the Council agenda today.
During the 2022 budget deliberations, City Council was split 6-5 in approving the barn reconstruction at the historic Bovaird House. Currently, staff report that the barn’s deconstructed components are being stored at a city yard in “sea cans” and “tarps”, where “rodents and the weather pose a risk of deterioration and damage”.
The actual cost for the project has not been calculated as some of the material required for the construction would would need to be sourced. Costs will also be impacted in order to meet the City’s building codes.
No Transparency With City Funding
The Bovaird House is operated by a volunteer committee called Friends of Bovaird House. Councillor Jeff Bowman sits on the committee. Over the many years, the group has received City funding. However, the Director of Strategic Communications, Culture and Events, Jason Tamming, previously advised Councillors that he was “unsure” if funding requests from the volunteers were “undertaken in a consolidated or consistent way.”
Councillor Rowena Santos sought to discuss the property itself and how City money is transferred to the non-profit organization. This prompted an interesting exchange by Santos and Bowman.
Bowman: “Is there any additional information other than Bovaird House, because if it involves the Friends of Bovaird House for instance, would they be open to be coming and delegating?”
Santos: “This is specific, Councillor Bowman to the Bovaird House property itself”.
Bowman: Ok…that being said, is there an opportunity for Friends of Bovaird House to be involved in the closed session discussions because its about their contract?”
Under provincial legislation, municipalities must hold all Council meetings in public save and except for several key exceptions. Those exceptions permit Councils to meet privately (often referred to as ‘closed session’), for topics such as legal advice, ongoing negotiations, and labour relations. It is highly irregular for organizations that are the subject to negotiations, also participate in the closed session of Council decision-making.
Which is why Bowman’s request for the Friends of Bovaird House organization to take part in speaking to a confidential item is so highly unusual.
For Santos’ part, she appeared equally puzzled at the Bowman’s request and suggested the organization speak at the “public” portion of Wednesday’s meeting.
This is not the first time Bowman has raised the eyebrows with his unwavering support of the Friends of Bovaird House. During budget discussions, Bowman sullied the reputation of the entire non-profit sector by describing the Friends of Bovaird House as not being “a regular not-for profit group that doesn’t do anything or doesn’t contribute to the city in anyway”.
This prompted a strong rebuke from Gurpreet Malhotra, the Chief Executive Officer of the non-profit Indus Community Services.
When contacted by The Bramptonist, Malhotra responded, “The nonprofit sector in Brampton is both vibrant and active. For any Councillor to suggest that we are useless and do nothing is both hurtful and demonstrates a complete lack of awareness of what the nonprofit sector does for Brampton”, he continues, “Indus Community Services, for one, supports Bramptonians with free English classes for newcomers, family violence counseling, support to families under stress, and a safe place to go for South Asian seniors with cognitive impairments.”
“Most of us also know that there are many other busy and contributing nonprofits helping, for example, with emergency food, wonderful sports programs and important arts activities.”
When asked about the barn, Malhotra states, “What is especially troubling is that some City politicians seem to think that reconstructing a Caledon Barn is worth $1.16 million plus, on City land, when the real people of Brampton experience hunger, family violence and a desperate need for affordable housing and quality Long Term Care. Can any of the thousands of local citizens who volunteer at or benefit from a Brampton nonprofit think of a better way to use our tax dollars?”
The Bramptonist will continue to follow this story.