Dubious distinction

After many years of hiding from its taxpayers, the municipality of the Town of Erin has been awarded the 2019 Code of Silence as “the most secretive municipal government” in Canada.

“The award is given annually by the Canadian Association of Journalists, Centre for Free Expression at Ryerson University, News Media Canada and Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, to call public attention to governments and government departments and agencies that put extra effort into denying public access to information to which the public has a right under access to information legislation,” stated the press release associated with the announcement.

Erin is blessed with some of the prettiest scenery in Ontario and a citizenry regarded as hard-working accomplished people. It’s local government, however, is lacking in its regard for citizens.

The insistence of Advertiser staff that the real story of the town’s finances be told, and that information be provided to taxpayers has not been an easy road to travel. Imagine the difficulty attending meetings as an unwelcome member of the press.

As readers may have noticed since this debacle unfolded, there has been a noticeable drop in advertising from the Town of Erin. The precipitous drop in revenue associated with town accounts has been hard on this newspaper’s resources. Keep in mind that many notices are cost-recovered from developers and applicants. But having revenue withheld was the price of speaking out.

As the Town of Erin heads into serious negotiations with developers and confronts the challenge of its water and sewer project, residents need better communication from their local government.

If any positive is to come from this dubious distinction, it is that council, more specifically Mayor Alan Alls, should re-commit to delivering true openness and transparency to citizens and the press.

A walk down the hall to CAO Nathan Hyde’s office is long past due.

Keep calm and carry on

Advising someone to “Keep calm and carry on” dates back to Britain in 1939 when the phrase was used as a source of motivational inspiration for big city residents facing the prospects of mass air attacks by Germany.

Since that time the expression has been wittily re-purposed and sometimes not so much, but the core of its meaning remains intact. When struggles come and the world seems to be raining down overhead … keep calm and carry on.

A meeting recently with representatives from the New to You shop in Fergus brought that turn of phrase to mind. A recent police report and accompanying photograph published in this newspaper about shoplifting at the store drew a negative response from a community member.

The writer suggested that a free pass or series of passes be given to shoplifters and that this newspaper had done a disservice to its readers by publishing such a story.

The Advertiser has published OPP reports since the force started in Wellington, as a way to share information and inform the public.

Over that time frame, closing in on 20 years, we have published their reports – adjusting only to accepted Canadian Press style and ensuring in the case of those charged with a crime that there is the presumption of innocence until a court determines guilt.

Although it’s possible to question the decision to highlight this particular case, the proviso for our staff is that each and every report submitted is published. It is the only way for this newspaper to meet the test of fairness for the public we serve.

The New to You shop is the storefront operation of the Groves Hospital Volunteer Association, which has existed since 1933, coinciding with the worst year associated with the Great Depression. Then as now, countless volunteers met the higher calling demanded of those times.

This organization helps people and for the sake of people within the catchment of Groves Memorial Hospital, they have worked tirelessly to contribute time and effort, ensuring this community has access to medical care and equipment befitting this community.

When someone speaks of shoplifting as a victimless crime and admonishes those who find it abhorrent, we suggest these are troubling times indeed. A dear Catholic senior warned some years back, that a time will come where right is wrong and what is wrong is right. Perhaps we have arrived at that fateful moment. The only thing of which we remain certain is that the truly needy – those people who through every twist and turn meet hardship with integrity – have too much pride to steal.

So, to the volunteers and those kind souls who spend their time making Groves better for the community, we say keep calm and carry on.

Your community is with you.