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Smorgasbord of stupidity

Originally published June 1, 2010
Ann-Marie Noyes only had to do nothing to earn an important public relations victory, but instead she turned a luncheon invitation snub into a moral and ethical limbo contest.

The fact that Jim Thibert purposely left the councillor who wants to be mayor off the guest list for the opening day luncheon at the Fort Erie Race Track should have scored her some points in her long effort to discredit the EDTC manager.

But she couldn’t let it go and it became a spectacle — a smorgasbord of stupidty.

First, what the heck is the purpose in having a free lunch for politicians when the Fort Erie Race Track has been a multi-million dollar loser for at least the past five years. Noyes could have hammered that point home.

It’s one thing for a private enterprise such as Nordic Gaming or the Ontario Jockey Club to open up the feed trough for politicians. It’s their dime after all.

But now, it’s our dime.

The people of the town have invested $500,000 a year for the next three years to keep the doors open and to preserve some 700 jobs directly employed in thoroughbred horse racing and the slots casino.

The investment is funded from the municipal share of slots revenue that likely would not be available if racing operations were halted, so it’s not like it’s tax money.

But it is public money and spending it — however paltry the amount — on a free lunch for politicians is not a prudent expenditure.

With the decision having been made to throw a buffet for politicians at one of the classiest establishments in town, it was definitely a low-class move to exclude Noyes from the guest list.

Let’s keep score and put two points in the “dumb” column for Jim Thibert.

Dumb and dumber

Not one to be outdone, Noyes turned the insult into a how-low-can-you-go contest when she turned up at the Prince of Wales Room expecting to be seated.

According to Thibert, Noyes had called the EDTC office looking for her invitation and was told not to expect one.

A follow-up email was sent by the EDTC which Noyes said she did not receive, saying that her computer had been broken for two-and-a-half weeks.

She said that she didn’t know she was not invited. Perhaps she didn’t get the email, okay. But she didn’t get an invitation and was told she wouldn’t get one, but insisted she didn’t know that she wasn’t invited because she didn’t get the email.

So instead of being informed three times, she was informed only twice, and showed up with bells on and presumably an appetite.

Not being there because I wasn’t invited, I don’t know what transpired when Noyes showed up.

But I can speculate: Noyes came looking for a confrontation; Noyes invoked her sense of entitlement as a town councillor to a free lunch; the maitre d’ was probably flummoxed and perhaps embarrassed; a commotion ensued; Noyes likely became louder and shrill; Thibert intervened and gave her a seat to solve the problem; Noyes ate and drank and did not offer to pay a bill; Noyes “had a great time.”

So, let’s put one point in the “smart” column for Thibert and, let’s say, four in the “dumb” column for Noyes.

One point each for thinking she is entitled to a free lunch because she is a town councillor, crashing the event, creating a scene, not paying a bill.

Dumb, dumber, dumbest

That was on May 1. Nine days later at a town council meeting, the newly-hired racetrack manager was introduced.

What does Bob Steckley do? He doesn’t say “Hi, how are ya,” or “Pleased to meet you,” or “Good luck,” or even “How do you intend to protect my constituents’ annual $500,000 investment in the Fort Erie Race Track.”

Instead, he tried to skewer Thibert, and in so doing, added himself to the shish kabob.

“I just found that rather curious that that courtesy was not extended to every member of council,” he said during the town council meeting. “I find that a little disturbing.”

Steckley enjoyed his free lunch, too, as did other members of council, and decided to make it part of the public business that is conducted by the municipality during council meetings.

“By the way,” Steckley could have told the new manager, Rick Cowan, “Thibert and Noyes are in a great big pissing match that we get to watch every few weeks, and I like to get my licks in too.”

That’s worth a point in the “dumb” column for Steckley.

“In my experience, councillor Noyes has always supported anything to do with the track, has never once voted against anything for the track, supported the money for the track, supported money for the EDTC, including your yearly budget. I have never seen her vote against the budget for the EDTC or anything for that,” Steckley said.

Steckley and Noyes have voted against every budget for the past four years, including the yearly allocation for the EDTC. And every budget, except 2009, was dutifully recorded in a registered vote.

There’s two more points in the “dumb” column for Steckley. One for suggesting that the privilege of mowing through the buffet table should be related to how a councillor votes on an issue. The second for saying the opposite of the truth.

Bar gets lowered more

Again, not one to be outdone, Noyes lowered the bar another notch. “I’d like to know the names of the employees” who didn’t want her invited.

The councillor who wants to be mayor wants names. That’s not dumb. That’s scary.

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