A cursory look at the list of declared candidates for North Bay council offers hope for both fresh thinking and experience mixed in with a dud or three.
On the ballot for the October 24 election will be educated, energized and eager to serve (or continue serving). And with online voting allowed for the first time in this municipality, there could be higher turnout than the 45% (of 37,272 eligible) marking their ‘X’ in 2018.
Having another legitimate mayoral race will help, as will a host of pressing issues to debate in the midst of challenging times – economically and socially.
Growth, fiscal accountability and infrastructure priorities are always planks of campaign platforms.
Homelessness and affordable housing will also be among the key issues raised, along with addiction and mental health treatment services – the lack thereof often leads to more disparate impacts downstream. There’s not much municipal politicians can do in these provincial areas of responsibility, unfortunately, other than sweep the mess under another rug and hem the edges for temporary relief.
Much progress has been made in the form of low-barrier and transitional shelter and support strategies. And the agencies involved have been brought together with the goal to improve delivery, reduce gaps and boil down the fragmentation to a less onerous bureaucratic broth.
It takes time, though, and important elements of health care delivery are impeded by under-funding, ministerial silos and the ever-constant pendulum of competing political philosophies.
There will be more homeless and desperate people – not fewer – if we continue to only use figurative sugar, spice and pain killers to treat poverty. Councillors should lobby for a new district jail with a separate mental health wing that provides addiction treatment and life-training supports. I'm losing confidence that there will be any better direction to go in the short term while bigger minds figure out larger-scale solutions.
The current crisis within hospitals where some emergency departments and intensive care units are closed intermittently to deal with staffing issues is one example. It was political decisions regarding health care funding that led us to pay private agencies more than double the hourly rate for temporary nurses.
Compensation reflective of value, security in employment and work-life balance are the main motivators for most people. All three have been systematically eroded in the health care sector.
The bee that famously flew down Premier Doug Ford’s throat the other day was looking for his admittance that his actions and inaction have harmed the system and there’s no solid plan to fix it. To have people think their only recourse is medical assistance in dying (MAID for short, euthanasia to be more precise), is abhorrent, especially when we know there is a deliberate choice being made to not fund services or special accommodations. No wonder there is concern that people with mental health issues may be given the same ultimatum: suffer while denied treatment and support or assisted suicide.
Obviously this isn’t something municipal politicians can change. There are very little teeth in their mandates outside the business of running a city, although they can lead by supporting healthier options. One example would be the sponsorship of the Steve Omischl Sports Fields by a company that makes billions off sweetened drinks that cause negative health consequences. Maybe aim a little higher, morally, when it comes to financial cures?
Education in Ontario is also a curious shadow of its potential, which is also engineered for failure with too many boards, a stew of curriculum experiments starved of practicality. It turns out we can’t all be programmers and smart ones can be skilled trades people. And it’s sad we haven’t realized art and music are important for brain development and self-therapy.
Again, for the people in back, stop trying to pump out cookie-cutter kids to fix today’s societal problems. Better to give our children tools and learning techniques to figure out where they fit into this steaming pile of orbiting rock.
North Bay has a checkered record when it comes to supporting the arts community with a recent upswing of attempts. This is one area where city council members can improve the community and it should be a higher priority.
We don’t have to wait for the federal and provincial governments get their act together in these areas. Nurturing citizens with sustainable healthy cultural options can be a municipal goal.
There are exceptional options for North Bay council this year, judging by those who have declared so far, plus a decent race for mayor with many issues to debate … It will be interesting to see how the electorate responds and if online voting options will increase turnout at the polls – or if it leads to good choices.
Is there a new or former candidate from past councils you believe deserves extra consideration...and why? What about the so-called incumbents (even though Ontario officially doesn't use that term)?
P.S. John Wallace of Laurentian Heights doesn’t have to worry about taking me on. I had my say last week after his public presentation over shared costs conflict with the the city and he got his in a letter published soon after. That’s actually how this is supposed to work, no grudge from this end.
Dave Dale is a veteran journalist and columnist who has covered the North Bay area for more than 30 years. Reader responses meant as Letters to the Editor can be sent to [email protected]. To contact the writer directly, email: [email protected] or check out his website www.smalltowntimes.ca