“I get paid by the taxpayers of Barrie to do whatever I can to make Barrie better and to maintain our quality of life.”
Barrie MP Patrick Brown says he has always gotten involved locally “whenever I believe our quality of life is threatened,” and has no intention of backing off despite being criticized for allowing Ward 6 councillor Michael Prowse to piggyback on one of his mailings.
“I think at the heart of it a politician should do whatever he can to serve his community. Historically, politicians point fingers at each other and say, ‘that’s their job to do.’ My opinion is that anywhere I can help to serve Barrie, I will.”
Last month Brown drew the ire of the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation after he included information from Prowse in a July mailing opposing the high-density Village of Essa Woods, a project that ultimately failed to gain the support of city council. In an interview with City Scene Barrie, Brown says there was nothing inappropriate about the mailing, and in fact is reflective of his determination to stay involved in Barrie at the grassroots level.
“When Michael Prowse asked for my assistance on this matter, and he convinced me of the merits (of stopping) the development, why would I say no to that? It’s my job – I get paid by the taxpayers of Barrie to do whatever I can to make Barrie better and to maintain our quality of life.”
After getting wind of the mailing, the federation called for a review of MPs’ free mailing privileges; the mailing included a flyer from Prowse outlining his objections to the project. The mailing also attracted the attention of Carolyn Bennett, Liberal critic for democratic reform, who asked House of Commons Speaker Peter Milliken to investigate the matter.
Calling any suggesting that the mailing was “campaign literature” for Prowse ludicrous, Brown says he included the material from the councillor because he asked him, and because he agreed with his stance against the project.
“I know that when I was first asked by Michael Prowse for my assistance in the spring, he told me his concerns over this project, and he made a lot of sense. We made sure the public was aware of why this was not in the best interests of Barrie, and I was so proud that council turned it down by a 10-1 vote in early September.”
Prowse told City Scene Barrie that he printed and mailed about 5,000 postcards to residents of Ward 6. He then printed another 5,000 “simple black and white versions” to be including in Brown’s mailing.
“There was no added cost to it being included and it allowed me to ensure as many of my residents as possible were informed by using two separate mailings of the same information.”
Councillors are allowed about $3,000 a year for purposes such as communications with residents.
“In this fiscal year I have done two postcards – one about 10 months ago and the (Village of Essa Woods) postcard. In other years I have always sent out information pieces to my residents, including postcards, newsletters, etc.
“I did not pick the timing of the (Essa road) application. It could have come forward six months sooner or six months later. My approach and desire to ensure as many of my residents were aware of it as possible would have been the same.”
Prowse added that all his re-election campaign material was paid for by his campaign.
The MP says that anyone who knows him, or has followed his political career, is well aware of his activism on the local level, citing his opposition to the ethanol plant that has been proposed for the grounds of the old Molson brewery, and his efforts to attract doctors to the city, as examples of that local involvement.
“When it comes to doctor recruitment, that’s not my level of government – I get involved because I know it’s (a concern) I’ve heard at the doorsteps in Barrie.
“I will continue to do that … regardless of what level of government, I will get involved if it affects Barrie.”