Speaking on (only) my behalf - Denny Scott Editorial
When writing my column, I try to stay away from identifying individuals (except for politicians and celebrities) but when someone starts making claims on my behalf, I change the rules.
It’s happened. Once or twice someone has said that I’ve felt one way or another when they don’t know the truth of the matter. It’s not usually something I let get under my skin because I have this space on a weekly basis to tell everyone what is on my mind.
Recently, however, I found myself being falsely represented as a Blyth ratepayer, not by a politician, not by a municipal staff member, but by an East Wawanosh ratepayer.
John Brown of Belgrave holds a belief that the Wingham Police Service should not cover the rest of the municipality due to the increased cost.
“As far as East Wawanosh and Blyth, we’re going to keep the OPP,” he said in a meeting regarding Wingham policing last month.
While he is entitled to his opinion, Mr. Brown took things a step too far, claiming he was speaking on behalf of Blyth and East Wawanosh when he couldn’t possibly know the will of the individuals within those wards.
I’m not saying I’m running out to sign on for yet another tax increase. I’m also not knocking the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) at all, but, after hearing how great the Wingham department is from multiple ratepayers at that same meeting, I started wondering about the benefits of an officer dedicated to Blyth and East Wawanosh.
I come from Goderich and, in 1998, the town switched from its own police service to the Ontario Provincial Police. The decision wasn’t exactly universally applauded.
I wasn’t around to see any of the changes as my family moved away soon after, but it wasn’t long until I began hearing complaints. Complaints included, but weren’t limited to, response times, community visibility and community services. It’s possible these concerns were from a few squeaky wheels (I’m not going to assume anyone spoke for all of Goderich) but the complaints were there.
It was pretty clear at the meeting I attended that North Huron Council was receiving a strong message of support for the Wingham Police Service from many of those present. Those few who spoke their support were cheered by swaths of the audience. To demonstrate that kind of support while knowing the police could cost $200,000 more a year (eventually) than the OPP, shows that the ratepayers appreciate what they have.
Again, I’m not dismissing the efforts of the OPP. The Citizen’s editorial staff do significant amounts of work with the provincial force and, as members of the community, we also know several members of the OPP. This isn’t a judgement passed on them. This is simply me saying, what’s the harm in considering it?
Definitive answers, like Brown’s, are best left until the question is called. As it stood, Brown was answering a question that was secondary to the purpose of that meeting.
Above, I said his answer could be that of many East Wawanosh residents, but I didn’t say all, and there’s a reason for that. Sitting in council chambers and on the street I’ve heard of and from East Wawanosh ratepayers who have been burgled or, worse yet, robbed while at home and while I’m not going to speak on their behalf, if that were me, I’d be interested in investigating alternatives.
Whether that’s paying a premium for OPP to guarantee more presence in the area to dissuade drone surveillance property theft or whether that’s looking to the Wingham Police Service, I don’t know. I’m also not so presumptuous to answer for other people.
It’s easy to paint everyone with the same brush, I know I’ve been guilty of it before in passing conversation. However, to do so in a public forum in front of policy-makers is not just wrong, it’s doing wrong by your neighbours.
Remember, just because someone has expressed frustration with something, like municipal services, doesn’t mean they think life is better without it. Take, for example, computers.
Right now, my office computer is acting less than exemplary and, on deadline days, you might hear me cursing the program giving me trouble if you’re near my office. It doesn’t mean I want to go back to Gutenberg’s printing press, it just means, at that moment, I’m frustrated. Complaining about municipal services can be the same way.
Increasing taxes is something to be avoided, but as I’m sure readers have heard, you can’t cut your way to prosperity.
Maybe having better snow removal in Blyth would be a cause worth hiring (or re-hiring) some roads staff for and, in turn, cutting some equipment expenses.
Maybe having a police officer checking on Blyth’s main street at night like Wingham ratepayers spoke highly of or having a more consistent police presence in East Wawanosh to dissuade property thefts in rural wards could be worth the extra $1.10 a day ($400 a year) for some ratepayers. Unfortunately,
with attitudes like Brown’s, we might never know.