A real problem with no easy solution

October 8, 2014   ·   0 Comments

BOB BORDEN, who has represented Orangeville as its trustee on the Upper Grand District School Board for 13 years (many as its chairman) and would easily have been returned to the position had he not decided to retire, made some perfectly valid points last week in complaining at the fact two candidates to succeed him weren’t included in the town’s lone candidates’ meeting.

In an email Friday to the Greater Dufferin Area Chamber of Commerce (GDACC), copies of which were sent to the two local newspapers, Mr. Borden wrote:

“On behalf of the Upper Grand District School Board, I wish to lodge a complaint about the Orangeville candidates’ debate on October 1st. I have been informed by one of the trustee candidates, for the position of Trustee for the Town of Orangeville on the UGDSB, that they were not allowed on stage or in the Q & A session that followed. May I remind you that the UGDSB is the largest employer in Dufferin County (and Orangeville) and has an annual budget of almost $400 million. Given the importance of their role in our society, I find it absolutely abhorrent that the trustee candidates were excluded.

“And finally,  you’ll note that we are members of the GDACC, at present. That’s a nice way to treat a member!”

The email got a full response from GDACC President Pete Renshaw, who apologized but noted that the Chamber and its partners had scheduled candidates’ meetings in all eight Dufferin municipalities and suggested that some other body such as a school parents’ council might have one for trustee candidates.

Mr. Borden has since found that the same situation exists in other Upper Grand municipalities where trustees didn’t win by acclamation, adding that Orangeville trustee candidates Barbara White and Anita Wright did have a chance to speak at a recent Orangeville Optimists meeting.

In an emailed reply thanking Mr. Renshaw for his prompt response, Mr. Borden made some other valid points. “My biggest frustration over the past 13 years has been keeping Board issues in the public’s eye (except for bad news … that always gets picked up!). I have attempted over my 13 years in the role to submit a monthly column (except the summer and when I was running for office) which, as you can likely tell recently, has been published sporadically. Case in point, my last submission in late September about the upcoming election has yet to see the light of day.

“You are right; there should be a greater community demand for debates involving all who are running for public office. Holding only one for the Town of Orangeville is a travesty! … If the public really cares about their publicly funded education system, and they should, this needs to change … and soon!”

As for only sporadic publication of his excellent columns, we plead guilty, but with an explanation. As a general rule we don’t publish columns by local politicians, many of which are excellent. The reason is twofold: we see local MPs and MPPs as having other means of communicating with their constituents, and feel that our news and opinion columns should be filled by stories written by staff and freelance journalists, volunteers and local agencies.

However, during election campaigns we do try to give space to all candidates, including those for trustee, to tell readers why they should get their votes.

And important as it is to have candidates’ debates, they may not succeed in changing minds any more than the number of signs each has littering our streets. Far more important, in our view, is the incumbent’s established record in office and pamphlets candidates circulate outlining their platforms for the next four years.

As for trustee races where they exist, perhaps the school boards themselves could at least offer free space for debates hosted by local parents’ councils. It’s just a thought.

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