The municipal election in Cobourg is a huge disappointment because if failed to address properly any of the controversial issues facing the town.
The debates, the candidate, the signs have mainly given neutral information. No one has provided a clear vision for the long-term future of the town; nor, have any of the candidates tacked the tough issues. Nobody has demonstrated the leadership the town deserves.
The Cobourg beach issue is one of these vital issues ignored by candidates. Rather dealing with it publicly, most have left it to the doorstep, where any promise can be made and there is no obligation to fulfill it. Certainly, it is explosive. The latent racism and the xenophobic nature of the debate would make it a difficult one. But, these are the qualities of leadership. Despite the cries to drive visitors away and to embrace the diversity of those who come to Cobourg, there needs to be a rational voice. But not one person has so much as tried to take this head on.
The future of health care in the region is also another issue lost in the boring landscape of this election. This past spring, citizens mounted a two-prong initiative to bring greater accountability and control to Northumberland Hills Hospital. Both were stymied. Cobourg candidates should be taking this one on full force. Despite the fact health care is a provincial jurisdiction, municipal politicians should be demanding representation on the board. This would mean greater transparency, since the town representative would keep council and the public more informed. And, it would ensure the town would have a voice in any changes.
We can have all the hard infrastructure in the world – roads, sewers, water and so forth – but without the amenities or social infrastructure, then new business will not come to the area; nor will families and others. The hospital is a cornerstone to Cobourg’s future, as it is for the region. All municipal candidates in Northumberland need to be on the board. But there is nothing but silence. It is shameful.
Finally, planning and development needs to be addressed. The consistent development of senior’s housing and the complete lack of affordable housing is a travesty. Again, the silence is deafening. While it may be prudent to do this kind of development in the short-term, bolstering the town’s tax coffers, this will be a legacy issue once these people have died or moved away. There is not a decent balance in the local population with far too much housing retirees and seniors. These are aimed at Toronto refugees, who moved here after selling their homes in Toronto. While their buldging bank accounts may help now, this housing does not address a 15 to 25-year horizon, when these units will be empty. And, those with lesser incomes are scrambling to find rental accommodation as more and more units are built or converted to condos. There needs to be a serious rethinking.
One more quick point: there needs to be a retail study. As the economy continues to stall, the future of retail is on shaky ground. A study of current retail mix, plus a serious public consultation with small and medium business owners is absolutely necessary if we hope to not have a vacant downtown. Also the franchise owners and big box stores are siphoning away millions of dollars every year that are not reinvested locally. Again, nothing has been said except a few vague words.
Cobourg deserves better. The lackluster campaigns, the vague communications and the avoidance of meaningful issues means the voter turnout will be low and the results will be a nightmare. No amount of online voting or new technology will save us. Instead, we are left with mediocrity that will limp through for another four years.