Updated September 30 at 4:30 pm:
This afternoon I received a note from the Project Director of the Electrification Study, Karen Pitre. She concurs that the confidentiality agreement goes beyond what is necessary, and is preparing a revised version.
I hope to be free to report on the dialog at the workshop.
Today, I received the agenda for an upcoming “stakeholders’ workshop” regarding the GO electrification study. In the same email, there was a gentle reminder that I must sign a Conflict of Interest and Confidentiality Agreement to participate.
(The term “reminder” is amusing, but condescending, considering that this is the first time I have received this document.)
Metrolinx wants to make sure that I don’t tell you anything that has not already been released to the general public unless they authorize such release, and that if I do tell you, then they can come after me legally, although with unspecified effect. Also, I agree not to create a conflict of interest by being involved in some work that may benefit from the outcome of this study.
This is obviously a boilerplate agreement used for all sorts of consultation with external bodies, but it is entirely inappropriate here. This is, for all practical purposes, a public consultation session not unlike many that Metrolinx has conducted for individual projects and for “The Big Move”. Indeed, this exercise is so far removed from real policy and budgetary decisionmaking as to be laughable. Is this the same organization that commissioned the creation of the Metronauts?
- The stakeholders will make suggestions to the advisory committee.
- The advisory committee may or may not heed our advice, and will write terms of reference for the study as they see fit.
- Metrolinx consultants and staff will conduct the study. I will give them the benefit of the doubt that they will actually follow the terms of reference faithfully, without omission or artificial misconstruction of their intent.
- A report will be prepared for the Board.
- The Board will make recommendations to the Government of Ontario.
- An announcement may, or may not, be forthcoming.
- The study may, or may not, be published in whole or in part.
This entire study arose in response to strong community and political pressure in favour of electrification. Leaving aside the specifics of that debate, it is a travesty that Metrolinx would consult with representatives of the broader community but wouldn’t allow them to actually tell people what was discussed. This reinforces the impression that Metrolinx does not want real debate, real input, because whatever is discussed can be denied or represented as Metrolinx sees fit.
Maybe we will spend a few hours in what diplomats call “full and frank” discussions, only to read in The Star that we all happily ate our cookies and drank our tea and went home satisfied.
This is no way to build trust with communities and faith in the results of the study.