This evening, Stephen Ledrew interviewed candidates, Michelle Wasylyshen, the Sussex Group PR consultant who was engaged by the Toronto Humane Society to pull together a Save the THS slate of candidates for the upcoming board election and who is, herself, running, and Dr. Johanna Booth, a veterinarian running for the board as part of the Faces of Change slate.

As with all things CP24, the pace of the interview was urgent with questions and answers coming thick and fast.

There were some easy initial questions about the special general meeting to be held on May 30 to elect the new board. This is an important meeting because the old board was requested to resign as a result of the findings of an investigation of the shelter by the OSPCA that began last November.

Stephen asked who was eligible to attend the meeting to elect the new board. Michelle was first out of the starting gate, stating, “everyone”. Well, in fact, it’s only people who had memberships prior to the end of last November and who fall within certain other criteria.

Stephen asked what the issues were, and Michelle piped up: “lack of governance”,  so he probed further: “Like what, Michelle?”

She cited the fact that the previous executive director (Tim Trow) had also been the board chair then, glancing at her sheaf of talking points, slid directly into her script about a recent OSPCA photo-op (Frank Klees and Peter Kormos are challenging the mandate of the OSPCA and Michelle wangled a pic of herself with the politicos). Her governance discussion segued into a statement that a change to the OSPCA would benefit everyone, hardly something her slate had thought of before the Newmarket debacle presented a grandstanding opportunity this week.

Johanna pointed out some specific issues with the Toronto Humane Society, having been there for eight months as a veterinarian. Governance was totally lacking, she said, with no one willing to help the hundreds of volunteers and staff begging for assistance with the animals, and this prompted them to pursue change for the THS.

At this point, Stephen opined that both slates seemed to want reform and asked whether the real issue was the euthanasia mandate.

Johanna agreed that the euthanasia policy was a key issue for the suffering, dying animals since, under the current board’s watch, the THS had refused to euthanize (Ed. note.: statistics were kept artificially low by allowing animals to die in their cages rather than through proven life-saving programs which had, in fact, been cancelled).

Michelle interrupted, saying that her slate would use euthanasia as a last resort not a first resort and that was the difference between the two slates. (This blogger’s opinion is that her statement is a total fabrication.)  Curiously, she also advised that “there are people on your slate (Faces of Change) who are no-kill, and that is just non-sustainable”.  This might not go over well with voting members and donors who want their dollars directed to programs to shelter, rehabilitate and rehome animals.

Johanna corrected her, saying that euthanasia was, in fact, a last resort for the Faces of Change.  Michelle interrupted her: “Some say it isn’t…” but then Stephen cut her off.

You can look at the Faces of Change candidates and their plans here, by the way.

Johanna added that euthanasia is only appropriate if there is an untreatable medical condition and the animal is suffering, or if there is a behavioural issue that cannot be rehabilitated. She and Dr. Karen Nasir, another Faces of Change veterinarian in the running, concur on this, and their team members have voiced their agreement.

Michelle tried to interrupt again, but Stephen cut her off and opined that both Michelle and Johanna were saying the same thing about euthanasia, so why the opposition?

According to Michelle, it was because of “so much politics in the past” but stated that her slate has no ties to the past.

Stephen was incredulous: “No one?”

“Well, one board member, but that was in the 90s.”

There was a segue to street interviews so that Stephen didn’t have to ask some really tough questions, but you can check out the facts at the blog links below.

“We’d like the politics to be set aside and a focus put on the animals,” said the street interviewees.

Then some callers weighed in.

The first caller pointed out that Johanna had done some fascinating work during her career and asked why she was running for the board.

Johanna responded that she had been working with animal rescues and spay/neuter and decided to go ahead and get a veterinary degree. She went to work afterwards volunteering to spay/neuter street animals in Panama. She’d worked for eight months at THS and had tried to improve conditions for the animals there. She felt that she could bring the needed change as a board candidate.

Stephen turned to Michelle, pointing out that THS had worked with the Sussex Group, the firm which employs her. Michelle said that, yes, Sussex Group works with organizations in “crisis situations” and is recognized nationwide. That’s all she said, not actually getting to the question of her own motivation for running for the board.

Another caller questioned the tie between her Save The THS slate to the old board, since president Bob Hambley and THS lawyer Pell Capone had attended slate meetings.

Michelle hedged, and Stephen prompted her to “answer the question, Michelle.”

“They attended one information session”, she said, then veered off again about “other people associated with the OSPCA” before Stephen cut her off.

“There’s so much misinformation out there,” Michelle said. “We’re 100% separate from the old board. I’ve spoken to Hambley once.”  Hopefully, the members have already connected the dots.

Explain, Michelle, the letter from Bob Hambley to members, allying himself and old-timer Margaret Ann Johnson with your slate of 13.  13+2.  15 board positions. Does your slate now embrace them or are you still playing good cop/bad cop?

(Elsewhere, Michelle has commented that no reasonable person would expect current board president Bob [Hambley] to endorse a slate that has no room for him on it should they be elected.)

Johanna brought the discussion back by pointing out that the Faces of Change slate is backed by a large cadre of volunteers who have walked the walk, they know the staff, they have a plan, and they are on the ground and grassroots.

Stephen suggested that, from a member’s point of view, it’s nice to be able to choose 15 individual candidates rather than feel forced to vote for an entire slate.

Johanna agreed that if there hadn’t been a slate structure, “you wouldn’t have had the politics.”

Michelle chimed in:  “Then who would you can from your team? We have fundraising, legal, and so much governance…”

And here I was, thinking it was about the animals, Michelle.

For more on the THS election, visit One Bark at a Time, and read this story about the THS’ decision to close the kitten nursery right at the beginning of kitten season, a move by the current board and management that could cost many innocent lives. Update: Under some pressure, Hambley has backtracked and now states that the kitten program will be a decision for the new board.

The following analyses from the animal welfare blogosphere are also required reading for anyone with a vote in this important election, courtesy of Social Mange and Tailspin:

THS election


Ledrew, kittens and PIPEDA

Vote for compassion and honesty


13 responses to “Mudwrestling

  1. Brilliant summation, especially the last line and the “resort” line.

    Is it just me, or did Wasylyshen come across as obnoxious and bullying? The flip-flop about her relationship with Hambley is disgusting. This isn’t a trick question, the answer is Yes or No. And it obviously isn’t No. I’m very glad Stephen LeDrew controlled Michelle, I was impressed with him.

  2. Yeah, the format is a little different on CP24 than the earlier interview with Rob Godfrey and Ann Rohmer.

    Both journalists are really well informed on the issues and the obfuscation. He did control her very well.

  3. Unfortunately I missed this, so am thankful for the excellent summation. I was particularly glad to see that the journalists were on the ball; certainly, my opinion of the Fifth Estate took a HUGE dip to the basement at the completely unbalanced coverage during the past 6 months. It is nice to see a journalist who has ethics.

    This Wasylyshen certainly just gets more and more ridiculous – and her lack of substance clearly shows (from what I have read here and elsewhere) the sad paucity of any real PLAN from the STHS slate. I’m just sorry someone didn’t bring up the cancellation of the Kitten-feeding – after all, Jerome is a Hambley hand-picked choice so it is fairly safe to say this decision is good with the Board and with the man – and denying that the old Board is “not” affiliated with the new candidates borders on insult.

    What I would now like to see is FOC out THERE showing people their plans, aspirations and solid realities in terms of vision for the THS. As Fred said, it is NOT just about governance, but first and foremost it is about the ANIMALS – and the FOC has a good balance of both. BUT, they need to realize that the internet arena is only one SMALL part of getting the word out – there are many THS members (often elderly) that do NOT have access and would have no idea how to utliize the www.

  4. Stuart Emmerson

    Interesting, if not strongly one-sided, summation.

    But I wanted to ask a question about the CP24 segment from last night, which I was also able to catch. Dr. Booth said that her slate does not support a no-kill policy, but two of the FOC members, Marcie Laking and Peter Newell, do:

    Is Dr. Booth incorrect? How will a slate reconcile this substantial holdover from merging the two ART/RAIN slates?

    Dr. Booth might want to consult her own members before acting as a “spokesperson”.

  5. Stuart, I’ve met and quizzed the Faces candidates at some length, and wonder how you heard Dr. Booth state that her slate does not support no-kill. Both she and Dr. Nasir are strong no-kill proponents, and if you go back and read this blog you’ll see her statements. The Faces team support both of their veterinarian candidates and the animal welfare contingent.

    Michelle made a comment about no-kill being “non-sustainable” (sic).

  6. Congratulations on your fantastic editing skills! But wouldn’t it be more appropriate to add your “Editorial Note” tag to the very top of the page since that’s exactly what this is?

    I guess you need to editorialize here, since Dr. Hanna MacNaughton (aka Dr. Booth) didn’t really say anything.

    Also, how does Dr. MacNaughton explain her slate’s stand on euthanasia? She said that they do not support no-kill yet Marcie Laking and Peter Newell clearly do.

  7. Actually, Michelle tried to attack the FoC euthanasia policy by stating that the FoC group believes that euthanasia should be a first resort. Michelle then used the fact that the FoC group believes in no-kill as an example of wanting to use euthanasia as a first resort. Michelle repeated this argument twice during the interview and then added that no-kill was unattainable.

    Euthanasia as a first resort, and no-kill are on opposite sides of the spectrum. Michelle clearly lacks an understanding of animal welfare in relation to euthanasia.

    Dr. Hanna Booth never said that the FoC group is against no-kill. What she said was that Michelle’s statement about the FoC group wanting to euthanize animals as a first resort was absolutely untrue. I suggest that you watch the interview again.

  8. Thanks for that clarification, THSmember. That is downright scary.

  9. Very one-sided summation with some key ommissions. I saw and heard something quite different. Right off the bat, H Booth launched into a multi-sentence rambling about past problems at THS. The NEGATIVITY was incredible. But this is what FOC /ART has been doing all along, focusing on the negative and constantly criticizing everyone else, except of course the OSPCA (until it became politically necessary).

  10. Hey, look, the STTHS troll is out! You’re famous, Red!

  11. LOL, SocialMange!

    This is a blog for pete’s sake. If all y’all’s want responsible balanced journalism, go read the Sun.

    On another note, I just caught Steve Paikin’s “Agenda” just now on the subject of pet politics. Now that’s an episode I would cheerfully watch again. Dr. Hanna Booth, Brian Schiller from the OSPCA (sitting on the same side of the table, heh), Kate Hammer and Liz White from Animal Alliance of Canada were the panelists.

    If you missed it, catch it again this evening around 11 (check the TVO schedule).

    A principled and intelligent discussion, I thought, so unlike the non-debate with Michelle last evening. I’d way rather have live-blogged this.

  12. I’ve noticed that none of the STTHS slate answers questions. They spew some scripted message and then depart.

    Or there’s a resounding silence to simple questions such as whether anyone on the STTHS slate is a member of THS.

    Whether William Anderson on the slate is the same William Anderson who sat on the THS board with Tim Trow and Bob Hambley in the early 2000s (although Michelle’s answer above confirms that at least one member of the STTHS slate is connected to the current board).

    What an “approved veterinarian” might be.

    What happens when there isn’t an approved veterinarian (whatever that is) on when a suffering animal arrives.

    What their stance is on BSL.

    If any of the STTHS slate are members of THS, they would have received e-mails from Robert Hambley and Margaret Johnson. Do they agree with those e-mails?

    If not, why have they not publicly disassociated themselves from Hambley and Johnson?

  13. TOWNSEND, not Anderson. Brain cramp.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s