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I watched Grey County Council in action on the health unit file this week. Readers can view it on YouTube.

The meeting does not reflect serious municipal governance. This is performative. Per T.S. Elliott, County Council delivered gesture without motion.

Once again, let’s get the obvious out of the way: Our Medical Officer of Health is incredibly dedicated to his job. No one has suggested otherwise.

But here is what County leadership could have looked like:

County Council could have asked the Grey Bruce Public Health Board to provide a full accounting as to how a salaried employee managed to double his income through overtime, earning over $200,000 more than any of his provincial peers.

County Council could have read the appalling allegations against Dr. Arra set forth in a publicly available lawsuit against the health unit by one of its outstanding managers.

County Council could have asked Dr. Arra to pull out an organizational chart of the health unit so they could appreciate in detail how in just two years the place has lost so much of its brightest and best. And how so many of them are strong females.

County Council could have ended the meeting by calling on the health unit board to do what any competent board of directors would do in these circumstances: Ask an outside investigator to conduct the standard interviews, to examine how this demoralized institution can find its way again and to recommend whether it has the right captain to navigate those waters.

And County Council could have protected local democracy by asking Dr. Arra to publicly apologize. For what? For ending his embarrassing Powerpoint to city council with his expressed fantasy that a man emerge from the grave and take a flamethrower to my council seat. Council could have asked itself this rather obvious question: If our CEO (ironically, in charge of public health and safe living) feels free to utter such sick, violent dreams in public, with the camera rolling, against a 58 year old lawyer who can hold his own, what might he be like in private when dealing with far more vulnerable subordinates?

Those would have been acts of real leadership. Instead, County councillors clapped their hands over their ears and refused to ask a single difficult question. In a circle of self-congratulation, they take lipstick to the mirror and write “I love you” to Dr. Arra, while he, in a cringeworthy response, says he loves them too. They actually voted to circulate a letter for all county councillors to sign in full support of Dr. Arra. Governance by means of Hallmark sympathy cards.

For added measure, Dr. Arra actually referred to our third covid death and speculated that perhaps that man could have been saved had we “all been pulling together.” His critics are, apparently, killing people.

The focus on me personally is unfortunate. No one forced the doctor to haul in the kind of overtime pay he put in for. No one but himself caused him to be a leading Sunshine List figure on the national news. It was his management style which forced a manager to sue the health unit and which led to a serious personnel crisis in these perilous times. Pinning it on this or that critic may make County Councillors feel better but they misjudge the real anger out there about his compensation and the deep concerns of so many concerning his management. In recent weeks, I have heard from physicians, nurses, real estate agents, businessmen, lawyers, past health unit employees, current health unit employees and random pedestrians outside Tim’s. If our mayor wishes to dismiss all of this as social media noise generated by one person, he is sadly mistaken.

The fact is that many remember what a great institution the health unit was and they lament what it has become.


John A. Tamming




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