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Disinformation and Contradiction in Toronto City Council
I was horrified to watch...
To Whomever It Professionally Concerns:
I was horrified to watch, in the most recent council meeting, as the chair made the false statement that council had heard that a judicial enquiry into encampment clearings would cost approximately twenty million dollars, when in fact what council had heard was that an unrelated inquiry in the past had cost this much, and that there was no estimate yet available of the cost of a judicial enquiry into encampment clearings--just as there was apparently no estimate of how much the clearings themselves would cost, in monetary terms or otherwise, before it was decided to engage in these cruel and inhumane abhorrent acts of violence against citizens by the state.
Matlow challenged the chair, which appeared to have no consequence, and those councillors who had not shamed themselves by leaving early voted based on a misapprehension insofar as they relied on what the chair said. From my perspective, this is a failure of meeting procedure, beyond the moral failing of the councillors who voted against this inquiry, and this seems to break the relationship between voters and those who represent them, because the vote was not a function of voters' interests and the facts, but a function of the chair's confusion and a lie. What can be done?
Similarly, council voted on a human rights approach that is logically inconsistent with the zero encampments motion that Wong-Tam felt fooled by. For the sake of argument, imagine that council had voted that 2+2=5 -- because anything follows from a contradiction this would mean that council can effectively do whatever it wants, again breaking the relationship between voters and those who represent them. But as I look through the city council handbook, I find nothing in the procedures about logical consistency, or factual accuracy. Why is this? Where do existing laws and procedures determine what should happen when outright falsehoods and contradictions infect the proverbial mind of council? This is not a matter of differences in political values, unless contradicting and confusing ourselves is a legitimate position, which is effectively impossible unless council rejects the Principle of Explosion, in which case, the public must know which rules really do apply to contradictory votes or else we cannot understand how we are represented, making for a breakdown of the very idea of a democratic society, which I am sure you are committed to.
Speaking as a logician trained in analytic philosophy, I can tell you that these antics should lead to a failing grade in an undergraduate paper, but city council appears to conduct itself by an epistemic standard that is worse than that of high-school students that will lead, not to failing grades, but to death for many residents of a city where homeless deaths have doubled since 2018. Surely there is some procedural violation buried in these events, or do we need new rules of procedure?
- it is undemocratic for council to vote based on a lie, or on disinformation, or confusion
- it is undemocratic for council to vote on motions that have profoundly counterintuitive results for councillors, which will be even more counterintuitive to the public
- it is undemocratic for council to vote in a way that leads to contradiction
- it is undemocratic for council to vote in a way where there is no estimate of how much will be spent, because then there is no way for voters to have any say on the cost. (Doubly so for deliberately off-topic estimates misquoted by the chair...)
All these cases cannot be prevented by a pattern of votes alone, and so must be addressed procedurally--how do we do it?
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