Douglas W. Judson
David Kircher is Lying, while Council Blocks the Truth
In January 2022, Council learned that Mayor June Caul illegally leaked a legal opinion to David Kircher, as part of a months-long campaign to undermine our staff and advisors at the Rainy River Future Development Corporation. Mr. Kircher has since taken to running weekly, full-page ads in the Fort Frances Times which are riddled with lies and falsehoods about the efforts of the RRFDC, municipal staff, and others to save the Fort Frances mill (which is now demolished).
At Council's meeting of March 14, 2022, the Mayor obstructed me from asking questions of the RRFDC which would dispel Mr. Kircher's misinformation and the libel and lies he has been publishing about municipal and RRFDC staff and members of Council. Council refused to let me speak on this matter, despite inviting Mr. Kircher to Council twice to spread his conspiracy theories and misinformation.
The Mayor and the rest of Council are obstructing any discussion about the actual facts of the allegations made by the Mayor's "friend" that she illegally leaked confidential information to. In doing so, Council continues to protect the Mayor and Mr. Kircher from facing any accountability for their efforts to undermine and libel RRFDC staff, the Town’s forestry advisors, and myself.
Here is what I would have said last night, had Council not engaged in anti-democratic censorship and cover-ups:
I want to comment on a number of recent ads which have appeared in the Fort Frances Times, and here’s what I have to say about them: David Kircher is not telling the truth about this Council.
In fact, his dishonesty is the worst kind, because he knows what he is saying is untrue, and he is doing it to misinform our community. Mr. Kircher appears to be doing this because he thinks the citizens of this community are naive enough to believe him.
Well, the citizens I talk to know better. They know that this Council, our staff, and our advisors at the Rainy River Future Development Corporation did everything we could to secure a new operator for the Fort Frances mill and access to wood fibre to run it. We weathered legal threats, corporate bullying, and put in hundreds of hours outside of our regular Council duties. We mobilized citizens. We filled these Council chambers 3 years ago to demand provincial action, speaking as one community voice.
We engaged our allies in the community, in politics, and in organized labour. We had multiple meetings with cabinet ministers and with officials in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. We hired lobbyists, and lawyers from one of the top firms in the country. As a lawyer myself who comes from one of the other top firms in the country, I called in favours to identify as many different approaches to the issue of the mill and the wood rights as possible.
None of those approaches were viable for the municipality, in large part because all of the relevant law is under provincial control. The decisions that were made, that paved the way for the demolition crews, fall at the feet of policymakers in the provincial government – not this Council or any of its members.
Mr. Kircher would have the people in this community believe that this is not the case. That some gross impropriety is playing out behind closed doors. That perhaps the people at this table or who work with the municipality had an interest in shutting down our mill. This is patently false, as is almost every word of the three-ring circus he is running in the Fort Frances Times.
Mr. Kircher knows this, and yet he continues. So let’s review his falsehoods:
Mr. Kircher claims our municipality has licensing powers or a role governing provincial Crown forests. That is untrue. We do not have these powers. When issues are outside of our jurisdiction, all we can do is advocate for policy reforms.
Mr. Kircher believes the municipality can launch a judicial inquiry under the Municipal Act to look into the forest licensing and audit issues he is concerned about. That is untrue. Municipalities can only initiate judicial inquiries over matters within their jurisdiction. Natural resources and Crown forests are not within our jurisdiction. We were not a party to the former license for the Crossroute Forest and we have no independent legal standing to commence a proceeding in contract or under forest management legislation.
Mr. Kircher claims that because he cannot find the 2017 independent forest audit on the internet, it must be a fake. That is untrue too. It’s also a baseless and libelous accusation about the forest audit company.
Mr. Kircher claims that Councillor McTaggart and myself are withholding information of some particular importance or that we owe some explanation. That is untrue. We have been very public with efforts to challenge the province, Resolute, and the former Minister of Natural Resources.
Mr. Kircher claims that the 2017 forest audit was done improperly and could have been used to save the mill. That is untrue. The municipality has no control over how the province chooses to license Crown forests, regardless of the state of an audit or the licenseholder’s compliance with the Crown Forest Sustainability Act. These are all matters of provincial jurisdiction, in which the Minister retains discretion under the legislation.
Mr. Kircher suggests that the Town did not receive sufficient legal advice. That is false. While I cannot disclose privileged information in public, the fact that Mr. Kircher has illegally received one legal memo on one specific issue does not mean that that was the extent of our legal advice. There is no customer limit on legal advice or on the number of lawyers who might assist with any matter.
Mr. Kircher has been provided with sufficient information to respond to all of his concerns on multiple occasions, from various officials. All of the relevant information is publicly available, and yet he continues to misrepresent what that information says or who is responsible for the outcomes he doesn’t like on this file.
So why won’t David Kircher tell the truth?
Because he can only get elected when he’s enflaming scandal, instead of presenting ideas. The continued insinuation that someone here is hiding something or in cahoots is patently false, and frankly, it’s a disgusting and offensive attack on the career public servants and professionals who work with us.
Mr. Kircher has spent thousands of dollars to advertise this misinformation in the Fort Frances Times because he imagines himself on this Council later this year, but he can’t imagine a reality for Fort Frances that isn’t stuck in 1995.
The mill closed 8 years ago. It is gone. It is not coming back. We have moved on. We have mobilized resources to find new opportunities. We now have an active role in the governance of the Boundary Waters Forest. We have taken steps to prioritize economic development at Council and in administration. That is what forward-thinking leadership looks like. We adapt to new conditions. We are not stuck in the past.
In contrast, Mr. Kircher’s histrionics offer nothing but baseless grievances on dead issues and sunken ships. He contributes nothing to actual questions people should be asking about the mill and the wood rights. For instance:
Despite being a realtor, Mr. Kircher has no solution to offer about the restrictive covenants which were affixed to the land title for the mill properties;
Despite claiming to have performed his own extensive research, Mr. Kircher has nothing to say about the misdeeds of Resolute Forest Products or the actions of successive provincial governments which brought us to this point; and
Despite buying weekly full-page ads attacking this Council and our staff, Mr. Kircher appears to be afraid to use any of that ad space to take on Resolute or the Government of Ontario. Those are parties we went toe-to-toe with at several points early in this term – speaking truth to power and enduring SLAPP libel threats for calling out their misdeeds.
Mr. Kircher has nothing to say about any of these issues, or the culture of government complacency and corporate ransom in this country that surrounds these legacy industries. Those are real issues that the public should care about when we talk about wood rights and land use, and $23 million dollar taxpayer-funded grants for scrapped biomass facilities.
But Mr. Kircher isn’t interested in that accountability. He only wants to spread dishonesty and innuendo about members of this Council, the RRFDC, and our staff – to the exclusion of any other relevant topic. This behaviour does nothing to move our community forward. There is no ‘big reveal’ coming. It is nonsense intended to sway low-information voters, and it has been abetted and emboldened by people associated with the municipality.
This needs to stop, as does the lack of advertising standards and editorial scruples at the Fort Frances Times. It is shocking to me that anyone who pays enough money can run full page lies in our local newspaper.
David Kircher is lying, and in this challenging time for our community and political discourse, we simply do not need more disinformation cluttering our media and casting baseless doubt and conspiracy theories on the public servants who fight for this municipality.
In making these comments, I would normally hesitate, and take the view that ignoring this behaviour would be a better approach. However, these weekly, insufferable, and outright false statements in our local media cannot go unaddressed. It is now clear that there are other people who share Mr. Kircher’s interest in undermining the credibility of our administration, our advisors, myself and other councillors. And that requires a response.