Hamilton Deserves Better than Whitehead's Constant Spiteful Posturing

Councillor Whitehead compared moving administrative jobs to "raping" his community, then sort-of apologized, then retracted his apology.

By Ryan McGreal
Published July 05, 2016

The General Issues Committee voted to approve a $450,000 forgivable loan to Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) to move 350 administrative jobs from the closing Chedoke Hospital on the West Mountain to leased space in the Stelco Tower in the downtown core.

Naturally, this provided Ward 8 Councillor Terry Whitehead with his latest opportunity to fill the vacuum of petty, thin-skinned, mean-spirited and divisive posturing that was left when former Mayor Bob Bratina left Council for higher office.

There is a legitimate debate to be had over whether the City should be providing a subsidy for an institutional public sector employer that does not pay property taxes to relocate its employees, but Whitehead dolphin-dove right over the top by accusing HHS of "ripping and raping part of the community" with the move.

Suggested Statement of Apology

Facing a quick backlash online for his use of the term "raping" to refer to moving some administrative jobs, Whitehead posted a message on Twitter: "no insensitivity intended . Apologize to those offended. Please read".

The tweet included an attachment with a photograph of a printed document. Following is the text of the document:

So Twitter is tripping over themselves to attack Terry over his use of the phrase "ripping and raping" parts of the community, in referring to the move of the jobs from the Chedoke properties to downtown.

Its [sic] likely you'll have to make a statement about this and I suggest something like:

"My statement on ripping and raping parts of the community should not be interpreted in any way to be disrespectful to survivors of sexual assault nor was its intention ever to draw a comparision between to [sic] the moving of jobs from one place to another to that of sexual assault. The word rape ahs several meanings in the English language and in the full context of the conversation it should have been clear which meaning I was referring to. For clarity the word in question means according to the Oxford dictionary [sic] as: 'the wanton destruction or spoiling of a place'.

It is my view that the loss of healthcare services and jobs in healthcare [sic] on the mountain amounts to a wanton destruction and spoiling of what represent pristine grounds that were donated for health care purposes. One such loss that hits me and my family quite hard is the loss of the autism program that used to operate out of the quiet and peaceful Chedoke campus. This program was relocated as so many health care services have been [to] the lower city. The program now operates at the General Hospital in a much more noisy and chaotic environment than parents of autistic children (myself included) were previously used to.

Once again I meant no disrespect or offense to anyone for my choice of words and did not assume at the time that people would misapprehend my meaning. For those that did, I unreservedly apologize."

First of all, this was obviously written for Whitehead, not by him. While he instructed others to "please read" the letter, we must wonder if he bothered to read it himself.

The letter attempts to rationalize the expression "ripping and raping" to describe moving 350 administrative jobs from one part of the city to another by claiming it is analogous to the way an environmentalist might use the term to refer to the destruction of a natural environment.

It also strategically conflates this relocation of administrative jobs with the prior relocation of the Autism Program and other medical services to the Ron Joyce Children's Health Centre on Wellington Street near Barton Street.

But we know the real reason for Whitehead's outrage: he has built a cottage industry out of resentment and spite for anything that brings any benefit to the lower city.

Just look at his description of the new location for the Autism Program as a "noisy and chaotic environment", in comparison to the "pristine grounds" of the "quiet and peaceful Chedoke campus."

Apology Denied

The original comment and his ham-fisted attempt to justify and apologize for it would all be bad enough, but of course this is Terry Whitehead, and one of the defining characteristics of a Terryism is that it keeps digging in deeper and deeper.

Just a few hours after posting the letter with the suggested apology as an apology, Terry began denying it was an apology. In a subsequent reply on Twitter, he wrote that the letter "was not meet [sic] as an apology proper context was used. Should we be offended when environmentalist [sic] use it?"

The attempted comparison to an environmentalist using the word "rape" to describe the destruction of a natural environment quickly became Terry's go-to rebuttal, and in typical Terryism fashion he began applying it liberally, growing increasingly aggressive.

He wrote: "should we be offended when environmentalist use this term to describe what is happening to our forest?"

And: "are u also offended by environmentalists use of the word describing what is happening to our forest?"

And: "it has been used for decades to describe what is happening to our forests and development..."

And: "need to understand the definition, check your dictionary and tell me how it was not approriate."

Clarifying that he was not, in fact, apologizing after all, he wrote, "correct. It was used in proper context. U only need to look at ur dictionary to understand."

When another person suggested that language evolves and should not be used to harm people, Whitehead replied: "I know that the context was correct and u are only using to bait at the expense of the ones u report [sic] to care for."

Then he quickly followed up by going even harder on the offensive: "I had another that understood the context and was offended by ur actions."

So at this point we've gone from Whitehead reposting a message written for him with a recommended apology, to Whitehead denying that he was apologizing and justifying his original statement, to Whitehead actually accusing someone who took issue with that statement of being the one causing offense.

We Deserve Better Leadership

None of Whitehead's sturm und drang would be worth covering - except that he is not just some guy online with an axe to grind.

We're talking about an elected Councillor, a civic leader of the City of Hamilton, and one of the 16 people whose job it is to determine the city's strategic vision, long-term plans, public investments, policies and policy implementation details.

Hamiltonians need and deserve better from our leaders.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan wrote a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. His articles have also been published in The Walrus, HuffPost and Behind the Numbers. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.


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By fmurray (registered) | Posted July 05, 2016 at 07:07:37

Sadly, none of this behaviour by Terry Whitehead shocks me. My hope is that Mr. Whitehead will decide not to run for Councillor of Ward 8 in 2018. It's time for him to vacate the seat for someone who can focus on the goals of the position - to bring about positive change for the ward and city.

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By fmurray (registered) | Posted July 05, 2016 at 12:07:00 in reply to Comment 119634

Wrote this comment while still half-asleep. Clearly I was dreaming that unicorns are real.

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By Cultosaurus (registered) | Posted July 05, 2016 at 07:22:05 in reply to Comment 119634

Terry will just be replaced with someone as equally awful. His ward is filled with voters trapped in the 1950s and the rest of the people don't vote.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted July 05, 2016 at 08:30:34 in reply to Comment 119635

If an unapologetic urbanist like John Paul Danko can come within a whisker of winning against a big name candidate in Ward 7, I have a lot of hope for ward 8. I think someone relatively young running a positive, progressive, inclusive campaign could give him a real run for his money.

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted July 05, 2016 at 14:55:43 in reply to Comment 119639

One person ran against Whitehead in 2014 and he got absolutely pasted. Whitehead in ward 8 will be a reality for a long time to come unless he runs for mayor.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted July 05, 2016 at 21:42:02 in reply to Comment 119667

The guy who ran against him:

  • had no website

  • Did not do any door to door (never saw him at my door nor did I hear about anyone in the wad having him visit their door)

  • Had no material

  • Had no platform I could see

So how could one vote for somebody other than "he's not the other guy"?

Terry's been at this a while and he's a lifer for politics. He knows his base (old, white people who vote, and in numbers) and panders to them. If you can get a viable candidate, I don't think it'd be a contest as to who would win.

Comment edited by DowntownInHamilton on 2016-07-05 21:42:50

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted July 05, 2016 at 07:23:13

Trumpism is alive and well in Hamilton

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted July 05, 2016 at 08:49:51

Again, I used to be able to play devil's advocate about Whitehead... but each of his outbursts is worse than the last. He's getting more and more outlandish every time.

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By jason (registered) | Posted July 05, 2016 at 08:59:39

Can anyone direct me to similar comments made by him when the Hamilton school board took 400 jobs from downtown and put them on the Mountain?

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By mountain66 (registered) | Posted July 05, 2016 at 09:25:46

As a resident of Ward 8 (Lower Mountain) here is what I find missing from the issue. Since Councillor Whitehead has a son in the Autism program he would have to know the following, HHS does not own the property, it is owned by The Bay Area Health Trust. Please see attached link from last year.

HHS leased the buildings and the following are conditions of the sale from the article: “The group has outlined four strategic principles that it expects to be addressed in all submissions. - Support community health care initiatives that support overall needs for health and wellness. - Initiatives that benefit transitional wellness will be promoted. (Transitional care is usually aimed at individuals who require a place to recover after hospital care, but before going home) - Support neighbouring institutions and community health/education partners. - Reduction of the site maintenance costs and liabilities after 2015."

The sale announced well in advance and townhouses have already been built on the Evel building parking lot on the north side of the property, Columbia College has bought a number of buildings on the east side of Sanatorium Rd. which they have converted to residences, built a new residence and taken over operation of the parking lots on the east side. Since Councillor Whitehead had to know about the sale and conditions in my opinion the real issue is the use of public funds to subsidize the move and the distribution of funds in the city as a whole. This would have to ignore where money has been spent on the Mountain. Ward 8 spent over $1.3 Million on the Bocce Court at Chedoke, I’m not sure how many jobs that created. HWDSB relocated the administrative office to Upper Wentworth, moving jobs from the core to the Mountain. St. Joseph's has moved some clinics to the South side of the West 5th Campus and it now has a brand new MRI as well. The city has spent over $2.5 Million so far on Auchmar and it is projected to cost as much as $ 14 million to fully restore it. HSR has built a new hub at Mohawk College that is also in Ward 8. That is what I can think of off the top of my head and doesn’t include all the roadwork done on West 5th for example. When I moved to Hamilton the downtown core was a vital part of the city, if there are 12 floors of empty office space available why would you not try to repurpose it before building new? You only have to look at Detroit to see what happens when the other parts of the city don’t support the downtown core.

Comment edited by mountain66 on 2016-07-05 09:26:30

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted July 05, 2016 at 10:24:55

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By HungryHamOnt (registered) | Posted July 05, 2016 at 10:55:29

SACHA has now invited Mr. Whitehead out to their workshops to learn why the language he chose to use was so problematic. Although I fear it is unlikely, I hope he will take them up on their offer.

Comment edited by HungryHamOnt on 2016-07-05 10:55:38

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted July 05, 2016 at 11:00:05 in reply to Comment 119646


I must admit a small residual sympathy for him, because the metaphorical use of the term had/has grown and metastatized to a level that threatened to overwhelm the literal meaning.

So, the lesson as always: listen and learn!

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By Kris (registered) | Posted July 05, 2016 at 14:28:13 in reply to Comment 119647

To be fair, I don't think the use of the term "rape" was metaphorical. And the non-sexual, non-metaphoric use of the word is hardly unheard of in political discourse. Both of these points where made by the Councillor. I suspect making his use of the word "rape" such a big issue is really about the politics of disliking Mr. Whitehead in general (perhaps for good reasons) and is not really in good faith, nor on point regarding the issue at hand regarding the value of downtown development. I think the worst you can say about his rhetoric is that he was being hyperbolic, which is a common enough vice for political participants or all stripes. When a Marxist or environmentalist talks about capitalism raping the environment for profit no one invites them to a SACHA workshop.

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By HungryHamOnt (registered) | Posted July 07, 2016 at 10:12:32 in reply to Comment 119660

I would absolutely invite them. The point is that the term hurts sexual assault survivors. Survivors spoke up during the discussion to say that. It costs us nothing to be respectful with our words. I am not a Terry Whitehead fan, but, as one of the people who called him out and as the person who the 'apology' was directed to, I would have called out ANY Councillor using the term.

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted July 05, 2016 at 15:42:03 in reply to Comment 119660

The use of rape for spoilation is metaphorical, not literal, and although it has come to cannibalize a portion of the literal meaning (it is at its origins in English a purely legal term for the seizure and capture and/or sexual defilement of a woman) those are not literal meanings and SACHA and others who argue for non-sexist language are right to attempt to clarify them.

As for a "Marxist or environmentalist" being invited by SACHA to a workshop on language's impact on sexual assault survivors, you don't f*ing know that, so why offer it? What would you possibly think you can gain by offering it? This is a Terry Whitehead level of rhetorical point-scoring, accusing someone of hypocrisy ENTIRELY WITHOUT EVIDENCE and to no possible gain to the defence you wish to lead. SACHA work in Hamilton, they are responsible to this community, and comments by a leading local public figure are front and centre of their concerns.

A lot of people have been asked by SACHA to reconsider their language as part of the #UseTheRightWords campaign. If they're missing out on some people, fill in the gap yourself and encourage those people to change their ways! Don't worry, I know you won't.

Comment edited by Tybalt on 2016-07-05 15:45:28

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By Kris (registered) | Posted July 05, 2016 at 16:08:34 in reply to Comment 119669

I think the yelling at me ("ENTIRELY WITHOUT EVIDENCE"), swearing at me ("you don't f*ing know that") and the sarcastic belittlement ("Don't worry, I know you won't") is not in keeping with the tone of my own remarks where I tried to speak dispassionately. In any case, that sort of language is bullying and it discourages people from joining the conversation. Please don't do that (<-- asking nicely).

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted July 05, 2016 at 11:52:48

All the Sturm und Drang of Terry’s offensive comments has the unfortunate effect of detracting from the real issue. Health care is a provincial responsibility. The provincial government has available to it the full range of revenue tools, and the city does not.

I see from the Spectator article that this is in essence a grant.

The forgivable loan — in essence a grant — comes with some strings attached, such as the recipient must occupy the offices for 60 months for the loan to be forgiven. But it basically gives HHS — a hospital corporation that does not pay property taxes — local taxpayer money to help it renovate three floors of vacant office space in the Stelco Tower that it wants to lease.

Suppose City Council said “no” to this grant. Would the province eliminate health care services from Hamilton?

$450 million is a lot of money. It is almost 1/20 the amount that the province is giving Hamilton for the LRT. Is this getting 1/20th of the scrutiny and debate as the LRT? Perhaps it should.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted July 05, 2016 at 12:10:03 in reply to Comment 119648

Where did you get $450 million?

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By Haveacow (registered) | Posted July 05, 2016 at 14:24:44

I am a parent of 2 thankfully, mildly autistic boys and I can sympathize for the need for certain types of autistics definitely needing a quite environment. I have 2 Boys both with different types of autism both from the same family ( the latest stats show there are no fewer than 129 separate main types of autism, not counting other related spectrum disorders). This can cause some interesting happenings when the behavior in one brother triggers an autistic reaction in the other leading to behaviors that trigger autistic reactions in the first brother, fun times!

Councilor Whitehead is anti urban, he is a suburbanite and definitely anti transit. He knew that this debate was coming so he planned his outburst. His reactions regardless of the issue, are designed to show his supporters that he believes in, what they do. I am also sure the whole "ripping and rape" fiasco is because he doesn't have a fully equipped sense yet, of what you can and can not say politically when you plan your rants ahead of time!

Whitehead is playing to a audience who is scared, usually older home owners, who do not see their professional, personal and financial lot in life improving, ever! They don't want change, especially something that may undo the value of the core personal and political beliefs as well as the value of their largest asset, their home. They like there house and property and feel anything that screws with that or attacks the development model that created it, is to be fought in any and every way. Even if its not true! Concepts like "Complete Streets" and LRT no matter how you explain it will undo that reality and spend their precious taxes doing it! Anything that goes beyond the basic needs of what that scared suburban voter needs at that time is considered wasteful government spending. Those are the intended beneficiaries of his rants, always remember that!

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By Kris (registered) | Posted July 05, 2016 at 14:40:25

The OTAP grants program is specifically intended to attract tenants from "outside the city", according to its own preamble. This hardly seems to be the case here. It doesn't make sense to me to use public funds to subsidize business moving around within the city, whatever direction they are moving, up or down the mountain. Secondarily, the OTAP policy also requires additional property tax generation, or strongly implies that is the intent (v. item #23) but apparently that's not the case here. Finally, they tried to approve $700K which is well above the maximum allowed. So it seems like this is a gift to HHS that has been shoe-horned into a program where it does not meet the eligibility criteria or broader purpose; a gift that HHS may not even need. This is not responsible government. Still, I favour the program and root for the Downtown. But this is dumb and councillors should have voted against it.

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted July 05, 2016 at 15:50:56 in reply to Comment 119663

The full preamble of the OTAP program description, since we're going to be all persnickety about what it's supposed to do:

"The Hamilton Downtown Office Tenancy Assistance Program (the “Program”) provides financial assistance to either building owners or tenants for eligible leasehold improvements to office buildings located within the Downtown Hamilton Community Improvement Project Area. The intent of the Program is to facilitate the increased attractiveness and marketability of the Downtown office stock and reduce the Downtown office vacancy rate by attracting new office tenants and owner-occupied office uses from outside the City, and to assist existing Downtown businesses to expand in the Downtown.

"Acting as a lender, the City provides financial support for the Program in the form of a low interest loan. Development arising from the Program must be consistent with the Downtown and Community Renewal Community Improvement Plan and other policies and regulations as may be applicable, such as the Downtown Hamilton Secondary Plan, the Zoning By-law, Urban Design Guidelines, and building permit requirements." (Emphasis mine)

So there are two intents or purposes, it would seem, if we're going to trust the preamble.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted July 05, 2016 at 16:13:49 in reply to Comment 119670

The problem is, this grant recipient is not a business.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted July 05, 2016 at 16:28:25 in reply to Comment 119672

I'm dubious about this grant too, but there's no need to belittle HHS. They may not pay corporate tax, but they are our largest employer, generate spin off businesses and support services, and they will be a rent-paying downtown tenant. The cost of this grant will be offset in no time.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted July 06, 2016 at 00:46:06 in reply to Comment 119673

I am not belittling HHS. I am just noting that they are not a business, but a charitable entity.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted July 05, 2016 at 15:19:20 in reply to Comment 119663

I live in Durand and also root for the downtown. But I oppose this program because it provides a direct subsidy that requires the City to pick individual businesses for support. In the USA and other countries, this has led to competing cities being in subsidy “bidding wars” to lure companies.

It is my opinion that the correct way to attract business is by putting in attractive transportation and other infrastructure as well as social and economic policies that create an environment that people want to be in and to put their business in. Yes, that means being pro-LRT.

People should move their businesses here because they want to move here because Hamilton is a great place to live and do business, not because they were paid off.

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By stone (registered) | Posted July 05, 2016 at 19:19:04

HHS is trying to consolidate as much as they can, the McMaster Children's Hospital and St Peters on Maplewood are closing as well but are getting new buildings(building?) near the Hospital on Barton. I'm sure Terry will have no reaction to those moves.

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By Dylan (registered) | Posted July 09, 2016 at 07:13:08

His use of the word rape doesn't offend me half as much as the disrespect for the English language he displays daily, and his obvious stupidity in posting the letter his staff wrote for him.

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