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Mayor pleads for peace

Linda Jackson launches plan to work with council

MAYOR Linda Jackson laid out her Working Together for Vaughan plan at a press conference Jan. 11. (Philip Alves/Vaughan Today)

Less than a month after Vaughan’s eight councillors demanded her resignation, Mayor Linda Jackson is working to end the cold war that has gripped city hall.

On a frigid Sunday afternoon outside Vellore Village Community Centre, Jackson pledged to work with her council colleagues to end what she called the acrimony that has impeded important city work.

“No one person is to blame for the recent political difficulties, but I firmly believe now, the beginning of the new year, it is a time to turn the page and move forward together,” she said. “That is why today I am here launching the Working Together For Vaughan campaign.

“It is my commitment to work with all members of council and to try to set aside our personal differences, return professionalism to city hall, and to improve accountability and transparency.”

Included in the proposed campaign are recommendations for shoring up the city’s expenditure policies, which have been the cause of much recent controversy. Proposed changes include:
• requiring three signatures to verify the accuracy of expense claims;
• mandating cellphone and BlackBerry use standards;
• restricting expense claims to business meals only, no alcohol;
• mandating standards for personal expenses, corporate credit card use and companion expenses.

“My goal is to make the City of Vaughan the standard bearer in Canada for accountability and transparency when it comes to expenses,” Jackson said. “We want to raise the bar to an entirely new level.”

Regional Councillor Gino Rosati and Councillor Peter Meffe were at the announcement Sunday. Both said the mayor’s initiative is a step in the right direction.

“It’s the first time that there’s been an attempt at providing some leadership and moving ahead and beyond what we’ve been accustomed to over the past two years,” Meffe said. “I’m very enthusiastic on the mayor’s step and look forward to seeing over the upcoming few months what may come out of it.”

Rosati, the city’s audit and operation committee chair, acknowledged expense policies can be improved and welcomed a review. He said Jackson’s announcement provides an opportunity to begin.

Jackson admitted administrative problems with her office expenses and expressed regret the ensuing controversy has been a distraction at city hall. She added Councillor Bernie DiVona’s proposal to post expenses online monthly is a good start on the way to improving accountability and transparency.

Council is set to vote on DiVona’s proposal Feb. 3.

Vaughan Today
In print: January 16, 2009, page 1
Online: January 15, 2009 [link]