Council caved.

Oh, they will argue otherwise, saying that they’ve decided to go to the people in November so the “silent majority” can put the bus issue behind us once and for all.
But the bottom line is they caved. Blinked. Folded. Wilted under pressure. All because councillors were fed up with being “nagged” for the past 18 months over their decision to axe the municipal bus.
In the process, they’ve shown that hijacking a democratic decision is a tactic that works–and called into question every decision council has made over the past term. In fact, one is left wondering why bother to have a council and mayor at all?
Plebiscites can serve a useful purpose, in very specific circumstances, where gauging public opinion can help make a decision. They shouldn’t be used to justify a past decision, whether it’s the bus issue or video lottery terminals (council also is allowing that question on the ballot in November even though it defeated a resolution back in February to allow VLTs in licensed premises here).
Nor should they be used by a council as a thinly-veiled public relations coup leading up to an election, or as a blatant exercise in hand-washing that would have made Pontius Pilate proud.
“Quit nagging us,” councillors can smugly say if the “no” vote prevails in November as they hope. “We just did what the people of Fort Frances wanted done.”
Talk about an outright abdication of leadership responsibility. We demand–and deserve–better.
After all, wasn’t this council was given a mandate by the people three years ago to make informed decisions on issues in the best interests of the town and its residents based on all the facts, public input, feedback, and compromise? It is what was expected of them, and, frankly, that’s what they’re being paid to do.
And if we don’t like what they’ve done, or feel this councillor or that hasn’t been up to snuff for the task, we can always boot them out after three years and elect someone who promises to do a better job.
Well, council made one of those decisions 18 months ago about the bus, taking into account such factors as decreased ridership and the looming prospect of declining provincial grants. And in the outcry that followed, it did relent somewhat by offering a “ride-share” program with North Air Services, subsidized 50 percent by the town, that now seems to be working better than the bus service ever did.
Now, council is ready to toss it back into the public’s lap rather than stick to its guns in the face of a little “nagging.”
Council should stand firm and refuse to allow this question, and the one on VLTs for that matter, on the ballot by in November by defeating the bylaw at its next regular meeting Sept. 22.
Barring that, council should at least re-word the busing question so that it reads something like this, “Given that the province is cutting all grants for municipal transit services come Jan. 1, and given the town would have to purchase and maintain buses, not to mention pay drivers, do you favour resurrecting a municipally-run and funded bus service that isn’t as cost-effective and efficient as the ride-share program now in operation here?”
Yes or no.
After all, if you’re willing to roll the dice, the least you should do is ensure people really know what the stakes are. Putting a vague, tepid question on the ballot only opens the door to having the whole matter blow up in your face.
But then, that’s really what the “NAG-gers” have been hoping for all along, and you took the bait–hook, line and sinker.

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