Council was hit with the budget right after walking in the door, rapidly followed by news that Catalyst (a company that was paying 26% of our revenues) had defaulted on their loan payments -- resulting in stock delisting and creditor protection.
While there have been many, many positive things and people before Council -- highlighting what a great community we all call home -- almost every meeting includes the self appointed "tax watchdogs", among them 2 people who ran unsuccessfully in November. The "watchdogs" dominate public input and question period -- sneering, shaming, booing pontificating, yelling (sometimes contradicting themselves) and often seemingly trying to intimidate and insult Council and staff.
I have no problem with people's passion; it beats apathy every time. I am saddened though, by passion turned ugly -- by flippant attacks on character rather than well thought out, fact based criticisms of policy. Attacks on people rather than ideas. And utter disrespect for the protocol and decorum on which we build a civil society.
It astounds me that motive and malice are attributed to people merely because they share their thoughts in a democratic process -- something they were elected or hired to do. At times character attacks are more prevalent than substantive debate, constructive ideas and feedback. Our civil discourse seems in danger of falling by the wayside.
When people attack individuals rather than disagreeing with decisions -- or suggest they have bad characters rather than disagreeing with their ideas -- it hurts us all -- our whole society. It incites anger and ignites polarization in some people, and fuels apathy and cynicism in others.
The 'watchdogs' regularly throw around their version of "the facts" (heaven knows where they get them) and accuse Council of not knowing anything. They continually put down hard-working municipal staff, accusing them of self-interest rather than public service.
Frustratingly, the local press appears to be catering to these people, frequently printing their misinformed quotes. Sadly, trying to stop misleading information once it is out there is as futile as trying to pick up a hand-full of sand that has been tossed from a moving car.
I don't believe this is what we want as a community.
This kind of uncivil behaviour robs us all of what we really need -- an aware, involved, resilient and inclusive community, where people feel free to share ideas openly and work together to make their future strong. A community where expressing one's opinion in a respectful way is not only not maligned, but is valued.
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