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Addicted to secrecy

Dear Mr. Editor:

Town council is openly split, concerned individuals are voicing strong opposition, possible alternates are being rejected out-of-hand, and residents are confused.

Conversations over coffee are laced with questions about hidden agendas, conflicts of interest, and other nefarious allegations at a time when everyone needs to be working together to find great solutions to the most important crisis our community has faced in decades.

What on earth is the problem?

I have no doubt everyone involved believes they are trying to do what is best to ensure we have sufficient physicians to deliver the Canadian dream of universal health care, but it took me a lot of thought and time to arrive at this conclusion.

The thinking process required analyzing the motives of our mayor and councillors as more information slowly leaks out. The dictatorial behaviour of Coun. Hamilton—forcing the resolution to a vote last Monday night (Oct. 24)—is beginning to make sense.

Likewise, reservations expressed by Mayor Onichuk and Coun. Albanese were not obstructionist. The attempt by Coun. Wiedenhoeft to find a little additional time was prudent, until abandoned.

The real thoughts of Couns. Avis, Kabel, and Drysdale remain unknown.

I found the “secret” to what is going on hidden in comments made by Coun. Hamilton, as reported in the Fort Frances Times and Daily Bulletin, which are giving this debate the front-page coverage it deserves.

I believe the rush to action is really an expression of frustration, and shows a serious desire to finally start the ball rolling to begin solving the doctor shortage crisis.

And therein lies the real problem.

In two short years, this council had become addicted to secrecy. The habit of doing the public’s business behind closed doors (or as politicians and bureaucrats like to phrase it, in-camera) is the only possible explanation.

We witnessed an example of this when town council was grappling with fire department staffing. Opposition arose because those directly affected were not involved in the process.

The entire situation could have been avoided had council worked with those willing to go into harm’s way to protect us, rather than imposing a solution arrived at without advance consultation.

I believe we have the identical problem now with the doctor shortage.

We are beginning to learn that council and various groups have been working hard since last February. It is safe to conclude that everyone involved is truly doing their best, but like the fire department situation, their labours are shrouded in secrecy.

The way I see it now is that council has two issues to address: the past lack of public involvement and the doctor shortage.

I encourage mayor and council, if my analysis is correct, to recognize the seriousness of the now dual-headed crisis, abandon their “behind closed door mentality,” and open up the process.

This can be accomplished without jeopardizing the need for urgent action and, hopefully, will result in the best solution possible.

It will be difficult for council to regain public confidence because it has made this an issue of trust. It is time for all the cards to be flipped over and the logic behind each step questioned.

Such an exercise may produce a brief period of conflict and chaos, but the results beneficial.

The adage about the end justifying the means is once again being proved not only false, but also dangerous. The clock cannot be turned back but perceived errors can be corrected by collective openness.

To me, this is the only meaningful step that can be taken now to really deal with all of the aspects of this decisive situation that council, as a whole, has created.

If you choose to do so, thank you for sharing my thoughts with your readers.

Most sincerely,

Bud Edwards

Fort Frances, Ont.

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