A humorous, frustrating process

November 24, 2017   ·   0 Comments

By Todd Taylor

Politics is a blood sport in Dufferin County. It is a tough business and certainly not for the faint of heart. The complaint meter increases its decibel level to a feverish pitch during budget time. The problem is that many of us simply do not know what we want from the process. The cost of services and the need to keep control of our taxes has created upheaval and discontent. The people of Orangeville are tired of high taxes, yet we are not willing to cut services.

I have shared in this column in the past that I believe council should be investing in our fire department. The fire hall is an antiquated building that resides on a flood plain. In addition, we know that the fire master plan has specifically noted that the response time in evenings does not meet provincial standards.

As a result of the poor response times, Chief Ron Morden has been actively seeking approval to hire eight additional fire fighters. The Chief is clearly doing his job, effectively lobbying council to understand that our town simply must offer its residents a safe place to live.

We can all only imagine the overwhelming grief and outrage if one of our neighbours or family members perished in a fire due to poor response times. The indignation aimed at our elected officials would be deafening.

Many in our town have shared with me that our council should treat issues as a business proposition. If an item is unprofitable, then we as taxpayers should simply disregard the proposal. There must be a return on investment, otherwise we should not participate. The problem with this reasoning is that a town is not just a business. I do agree that money is incredibly important and we should live within our means. The truth is that any great community is about people, not money. We have an obligation to look after one another. The idea of investing in our fire department is something that simply must be done.

The curious part of the budget is how the fire department issue managed to become a wedge issue. You see, in late October, our council voted down the idea of spending this money. Yet, a few weeks later it was back as a discussion topic and surprisingly passed. If our town was a business the investment would sink like a stone. The stock market hates inconsistency and ambiguity.

In politics there are rules set in place to ensure that a council is able to set their agenda and not get side-tracked by continuous disagreement. The Rules of Procedure do not allow for motions that have already been defeated to be reintroduced unless those who were on the winning side brought it forward. So what happened? Mayor Jeremy Williams allowed council to have additional freedom regarding the rules. This enabled the motion regarding additional firefighters to be tabled again. Council was at a standstill. Deadlocked. Deputy Mayor Warren Maycock re-evaluated the facts and made the important decision to support the fire department, which enabled the budget to pass.

I find our political process humorous and frustrating. A month earlier, the media and local bloggers aggressively criticized council for not accepting the recommendations of the of the Fire Chief and consultants. There was an underlying understanding that our area was now unsafe. Citizens were aggressive on social media sharing how outraged they were with the current situation. People wanted the additional fire fighters hired. The temperature in the town was undeniably hot.

One month later Deputy Mayor Maycock, who had spent further time cotemplating the issue, changed his mind and sided with the fire department. Guess what? Social media went wild with negative comments about council, Mr. Maycock, and the Fire Department. Rumours were abound that volunteer fire-fighters were going to form a union and potentially work to rule, while homeowners ruefully tried to understand how much taxes were to increase in 2018.

So what is the truth?

The talk of issues within the fire department is greatly exaggerated.

Chief Morden remains highly respected by the fire department volunteers, his team, town hall, and the residents of our community.

Deputy Mayor Warren Maycock was unjustly criticized for his decision-making.

There are a few certainties in Orangeville. We all hate how much taxes we pay. We all want increased services; yet do not want to pay for them. Most importantly, for some reason, we spend an inordinate amount of time complaining about our local politicians – no matter what point of view they support.

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