Opinion Editorial

Houghton best person for CAO job

It's said that there's lies, damn lies, and statistics.

You could also throw Internet polls into that mix.

We can't say we're surprised by the results of last week's poll, in which we asked the question whether people agreed with Collingwood council's decision to elevate Ed Houghton to the role of the municipality's acting-Chief Administrative Officer, following Kim Wingrove's 'parting' - for lack of better term - with the Town of Collingwood.

At last check, about 35% supported council's decision to appoint Houghton. The other 65% is pretty representative of the most of the coffee-shop talk we've heard in the last week or so.

But anyone who takes the results to heart, or attributes any level of credibility to them, is horribly mistaken. We post those polls to gauge how the community feels about one issue or another, but otherwise there is little to no scientific basis to them.

And unlike a poll that's usually conducted by the likes of Ipsos, Leger and Gallup - who use scientific principles to conduct many of their public-opinion polls - the results of an Internet poll can easily be 'plumped' by one side or the other enlisting family, friends and associates to vote, regardless of their level of understanding of an issue.

In the case of Houghton, that 65% who appear to oppose either council's decision are ignoring some basic facts.

There's no question Houghton can be a lightning rod; as president and CEO of the Collingwood-owned utility, his wages - unlike other public sector employees - are shielded from the public as Collus, like all municipally-owned utilities, is a company incorporated under the Business Corporations Act.

There's also an element of jealousy; Houghton is a local boy who started out on the lower rungs of the public utility and had a meteoric rise to the top.

But if you look at his record, there's a reason for Houghton's professional success. He has a proven track record of getting things done, and doing it in the best interests of the municipality.

As then-executive director of the Collingwood Public Utility Commission (the pre-cursor to Collus) in 1996, Houghton successfully led the utility through the cryptosporidium scare and boil water advisory, lobbying the provincial government to fund a state-of-the-art water filtration plant, and striking a partnership with the developer of that technology, Zenon. While it was never conclusively proven that the town's water had been infiltrated by the parasite, the end result was a win for the municipality - thanks in large part to Houghton's efforts.

That partnership with Zenon led to other opportunities for the utility, such as the Collingwood PUC's role in managing the sewage treatment facility in Creemore using the same technology.

That cross-boundary inventiveness also led to deals with New Tecumseth to build a water pipeline to Alliston, and with Clearview Township and the The Blue Mountains to take over hydro facilities in Stayner and Thornbury.

And most recently, under direction of his board, Houghton negotiated a deal for 50% of the local electrical distribution company to PowerStream, an agreement that now proves fortuitous as the province eyes merging local distribution companies.

Add to that his role as executive director of public works, a position he has held for a dozen years, in which he has successfully followed council's direction and undertaken an aggressive renewal of the town's sewage collection facilities, and major redevelopment projects such as the revitalization of the downtown core and the refurbishment of First Street.

Houghton doesn't do all that work alone, of course, but he has done it by nurturing and encouraging a management team that works collaboratively - exactly the structure he has in mind for town hall.

We do not lament Houghton's appointment, rather, we applaud it - based on the actual record of the man, and not relying on the calumny of the chattering classes.

In our opinion, Houghton is the top person for the job. It's time to let him get on with it.

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