Monday, September 20, 2010

Regarding Bustamante vs Pearson

Bustamante’s Boondoggle

On Monday September 13, candidate for Ward 10 Councillor José Pablo Bustamante held a press conference at City Hall, during which he shared the details of his allegations against Maria Pearson, incumbent Councillor, information filed in Provincial Court on September 8th concerning purported Municipal Elections Act, 1996 transgressions relating to the 2006 Election. October 20, 2010 is the court date.

The merits the charges are for the judicial process to decide, but it’s important to take a look at how this development might impact the campaign’s complexion.

Mr. Bustamante has both full latitude -and full intent, it would seem- to continue hammering away at this issue, at Ms Pearson's reputation, at her credibility, and tangentially, the viability of her role as City Councillor. Here's what his prepared statement declared:

"I believe that Maria Pearson acted arrogantly and careless (sic) regarding her duties as candidate in the Municipal Election of 2006. For this reason, I am seeking the maximum penalty in these cases, that of a fine of $5000 according to Section 94 and the forfeit of her position of City Councillor and the ineligibility to be nominated for or elected or appointed to any office until the sixth anniversary of voting day according to section 80 of the Municipal Elections Act."

As for Ms Pearson, at the time of this letter’s composition, I believe that she is heeding the advice of counsel and will not be issuing any statements on the matter, nor will she be engaging Mr. Bustamante nor the press nor her constituents with specifics; this is remember, an unresolved issue not yet before the courts.

It deserves to be additionally pointed out that while Mr. Bustamante spent whatever small amount was required to file the information, Ms Pearson, in having to retain a lawyer, will incur substantially higher costs to ‘defend’ herself...

...and for what?

It's been suggested that the issue should not have been accepted as filed; the Municipal Elections Act, 1996 says:

"No prosecution for an offence under this Act in relation to a regular election shall be commenced after December 1 of the fourth year following the year in which the regular election was held. 2009, c. 33, Sched. 21, s. 8 (68)."

As an online commenter noted: "The regular election was held in November, 2006, therefore, as of Dec. 1, 2009, no prosecutions will be considered. (Nov. 06, 07, 08. Dec. 09) The intent of this clause is to protect incumbent candidates from the very thing that Mr. Bustamante is attempting to do right before the 2010 election."

Mr. Bustamante has demonstrated that while he seems to want to wrap his motivations in the paper on which rules, regulations and laws have been written, when it pertains to his own behaviour, he seems to prefer to listen to his heart and his own entrenched convictions regarding what’s ‘right’ and what’s ‘wrong’ than accepting such external guidelines. (I’m referring not just to this situation, but his insistence that he be given the opportunity to participate in this year’s Canada Flag Day parade as a candidate for Councillor, which was denied, while Ms Pearson participated...however not as an ‘incumbent candidate’, but as the standing Councillor for one of the Stoney Creek wards. 

“Regarding Canada Day Parade,” Mr. Bustamante commented publicly, “Yes, I did seek permission from the organizers. I asked if I can (sic) be in a spot in the parade and contribute. But this permission was denied. I believe that it was unfair that the incumbent can (sic) participate of (sic) the parade and I couldn't.”) So it wouldn’t surprise me if Mr. Bustamante’s response to all of this being moot (see the point above) was one of ‘She still did something illegal and should have to suffer the consequences!’ Hardly the stuff on which solid, informed, mature leadership is made.

My own belief is that Mr. Bustamante should, at the very least, apologize. Not just to Ms Pearson, but to her constituents as well as the people of Hamilton at large.

And if he possessed as much credibility as he maintains, performing the self-appointed role of Watchdog of Propriety, standard-bearer for Truth, Justice and The Canadian Way, I think it would be fitting for him to withdraw from the race.

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