St. Catharines Regional Councillor Andy Petrowski Tells Local Newspaper He’s Calling It A Day
A News Commentary by Doug Draper
Posted January 5th, 2018 on Niagara At Large
According to a report in The St. Catharines Standard this January 5th, St. Catharines regional councillor Andy Petrowski – a political lightening rod who has been the subject of several code of conduct complaints for comments and actions members of the public have found deeply offensive – says he won’t be running for a third term on Niagara’s regional council.
Petrowski, who is now of on a second leave of absence from the council in the wake of another code of conduct complaint is reported to have told the newspaper that he has decided not to run in the October 2018 municipal elections because he is “a strong proponent of term limits.”
However, it has also become increasingly clear to those of us following politics in Niagara that, despite so much of the populist support that propelled him to a seat on the council as a self-proclaimed “champion for the tax payer,” Petrowski has turned many people off with toxic comments he has made about Muslims, Gay people and others, and with a circulation last year of an image of a young woman, sitting naked with her legs spread out, from a device of his that he claimed, at one point, must have been commandeered by someone else to send that pornographic picture to dozens of individuals, including members of regional council and staff.
This past December 7th, around the same time news of Petrowski beginning a second leave of absence from regional council was posted, St. Catharines resident Haley Bateman made a presentation to regional the council, urging the council and its chair, Al Caslin “to show Niagara residents that you, at the very least, value your reputation” and remove Petrowski from his seat completely.
“I have been working since I was 13 years old,” said Bateman during her presentation, and “one of the greatest lessons I have learned is that when we have a misstep or failure, take full responsibility and when we have success, share it with others.”
“Councillor Petrowski hasn’t learned this life lesson – he is full of excuses and lies,” she charged. “Your efforts (as a regional council) to support Councillor Petrowski have been ignored and he continues to show blatant disrespect for each of you and residents of the Niagara Region.”
For his part, Petrowski has frequently defended comments he has sent out in the past on social media – comments of a kind that others have found hateful and offensive – by arguing his right under Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms to express his personal and religious views. He has also repeatedly argued that the regional government’s code of conduct rules should not apply to councillors when they are saying and doing things outside their council duties.
Petrowski may have a case that he has a right to express his views, but not without consequences. Others have just as much right to condemn his views and to do as Haley Bateman did this past December and call for something akin to his political impeachment. Should he turn around and decide he is going to run again, others also have a right to mount a campaign to vote him out of municipal office.
Yet simply seeing Andy Petrowski off the regional council is not going to solve the problem there.
What impressed me about the presentation that Haley Bateman made to the regional council last December 7th is that she went beyond just focusing on Petrowski to pin the tail on the donkey, which is most of them.
“I cannot tell you how disappointed I am with council’s lack of response – and I believe that you inability to act and remove Councillor Petrowski from his position has left (people like) me vulnerable (to any counter punches),” Bateman told the councillors before at last a few of them were good enough to rise and thank her for showing the courage to speak out. “You have left the responsibility up to residents of this Region to lodge formal complaints and stand independent publicly before you this evening.”
This journalist has previously harkened back to lessons I learned during my university years as an undergraduate student in psychology about the so-called “identified patient” in a dysfunctional family, and argued that Andy Petrowski, to the extent he is a problem at the regional government level, is the identified patient on what, for the past three years under the leadership of Chair Caslin, has been a mostly dysfunctional council.
Indeed, Andy Petrowski was not even in the council chambers this December 7th when, shortly after Haley Bateman made her presentation, members of that regional council and some members of regional staff participated in the seizure of a St. Catharines Standard reporter’s computer and notes, and had the reporter removed from the regional headquarters property, only to find out later that the same reporter was not recording the council while it was in closed session.
They didn’t need Andy Petrowski at all to commit that disgusting assault on a reporter’s constitution right to do his job as a watchdog for the public.
Petrowski was also not one of the 10 members of regional council who sits on the board of a Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA) that sued a Niagara area citizen after he raised questions and concerns about the way that body is spending millions of dollars of our tax money – a lawsuit, by the way, that an Ontario judge rightfully dismissed out of hand following a two day court hearing last fall.
Petrowski was also not part of the same NPCA board that publicly pilloried a long respected regional councillor and former mayor of Lincoln, Bill Hodgson, with a censure motion it approved behind closed doors, without ever disclosing the details of what Bill Hodgson allegedly did wrong in the wake of his efforts to fight for a full, independent audit of the NNPCA’’s operations.
Nor was Petrowski one of the two members of regional council responsible for tabling and seconding a motion this past year that smeared Welland Riding MPP Cindy Forster, another vocal critic of the NPCA, as someone who tolerates anti-Semitism in her riding association – a charge regarded as grossly absurd by anyone who knows Cindy Forster and her record for decency.
One could go on and on with raising these examples, and I suspect and hope many others will as we get closer to this coming October’s municipal elections, but the point here that there is an awful lot more wrong with this current regional council than Andy Petrowski.
In fact, I would go so far as to argue that as repulsive as I believe many of Petrowski’s views are, he has, for better and certainly for worse, at least been mostly open and honest about his views and where he intends to go with them.
What that says about a number of the others on that council is commentary for another day.
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