On Friday we attended the Ontario Professional Planners Insitute disciplinary hearing for Chris Pidgeon, planner for the City of Stratford’s Xinyi project in 2018-21.
The hearing was a result of Get Concerned Stratford’s complaint of 2021; in an agreed statement at the hearing, Pidgeon admitted that he had violated sections 2.12 and 3.5 of the OPPI Professional Code of Conduct:
2.12 not, as a consultant to a public planning agency during the period of contract with the agency, give professional planning advice for compensation to others within the jurisdiction of the agency without written consent and disclosure to the agency in situations where there is the possibility of a conflict of interest arising;
3.5 not in professional practice, extra-professional activities or private life, engage in dishonourable or questionable conduct that may cast doubt on the Member’s professional competence or integrity or that may reflect adversely on the integrity of the profession;
Get Concerned Stratford learned that Pidgeon had been paid for services by both Xinyi and the City of Stratford on the issue of the annexation of land. The tribunal agreed that this conduct was a violation of the rules and the parties agreed on discipline to be a one month suspension, (reduced to two weeks if he undergoes mentoring) a reprimand, and a publication of the decision with names removed. Pidgeon’s lawyer also requested that the name of the City involved be withheld in the public report.
It was quite refreshing to see how seriously the OPPI regarded our complaint. The decision should not be seen as a slap on the wrist; suspensions are very serious consequences.
Chris Pidgeon unilaterally resigned from the GSP Group on December 31, 2023.
Mike Sullivan has been working tirelessly on this complaint. You probably won’t be surprised to learn that these hearings are quite rare; it is fairly difficult to learn how to bring an action against a planner, but GSC Steering Committee member Doug Tripp argued in 2021 that we should attempt it. And, of course, we thank all of you who have encouraged us over the years.
Still, we are left with a question. Stratford was the first city to face an MZO issue. Mayor Mathieson wrote letters requesting the MZO in November 2018 and March 2020, and was refused. He was finally successful in his letter of April, 2020 (see documents), This seems to suggest that Queen’s Park was not keen on the plan. Where did the idea of using the MZO originate? After all, until it appeared in Stratford, it was a rarely-used procedure, designed for special circumstances in mostly rural areas. After Stratford, it became a major weapon in the provincial government’s war on thoughtful planning.
As always, we welcome your comments.