Comment 31390

By Councillor Terry Whitehead (anonymous) | Posted May 29, 2009 at 14:29:54

I appreciate all the comments made on this issue and I feel compelled to clarify some points. Chris Ecklund and I have been friends long before I entered politics. The City lawyers have clearly stated that the test of whether a gift should be refused is if you were not a councillor would you have received the same opportunity? The answer in this case would be "yes." The City lawyer indicated in that case a councillor would not be in violation of any code of conduct. I have season tickets for the Tiger Cat games and was made aware that Chris was renting a box and asked me to drop by. At half time, I dropped by his box as well as others to say hello. He bounced ideas, as he has in the past, about his waterfall branding. There has never been a cost to the City in relation to these ideas. He has always looked after the funds without City assistance of any kind.

I think the Water Fall Branding is great. This is why I suggested it for the forecourt of City Hall. Chris will not gain anything from this suggestion, whether it goes through or not. It would merely benefit the City. Whenever a citizen proposes a good idea to me, I will bring it to my colleagues. As elected officials, that is what we are suppose to do. There is a big difference between this and having someone lobby for their personal benefit.

Chris is not in politics. He has the good fortune to be in a position to give back to the City. I meet him in 1992 and he had been actively donating to different organizations even before then. His Water Fall Branding is an extension of his monetary donations to these causes. I have met both local people and out-of-towners on many of the walks my family and I have taken around these falls. Everyone has always told me how much they love these walks and how surprised they are to find these treasures in Hamilton.

The context of the discussions at the Transparency Committee was about developing a Code of Conduct that addresses matters of gifts and what constitutes a gift. I absolutely agree with the principle that Joanna has put forward. I do not agree that the example she gave adequately shows the problems with excepting gifts from lobbyists. Chris does not stand to gain any monetary advantage from the ideas he put forward to me; he is purely philanthropic in any interaction I have had with him. However, this disagreement on what constitutes a gift, what is acceptable behaviour and what is in conflict is the very reason that the Transparency Committee exists. Currently there is no clear policy and that is why we are having the discussions. To this the end, if it is decided that even situations such as this should be reported, I will respect the decision of the majority. We will have to wait and see what the committee puts forward.

What is unfortunate is that comments were made about a philanthropist in our community at a City Committee attended by the press. I feel that Chris Ecklund's name could have been left out of the discussions and the point still could have been made. If it was absolutely necessary to name people, it could have been done in a constructive manner. In the end, this was not the case.

I have seen many comments calling Chris "thin-skinned." He is not a politician. He has never announced that he would like to run for mayor. His motives for his philanthropy have always been for the good of the City. Why is anyone surprised that he feels his generosity has been for nothing when the media turns his good deeds into an ulterior motive? Why is anyone surprised that he is hurt by these allegations? You are right - if he was a politician, he is being too sensitive. But he is not!


Councillor Terry Whitehead
Ward 8 - West Mountain
City of Hamilton

Office: (905) 546-2712
Fax: (905) 546-2535
Cell: (905) 317-6001

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