With everything that’s been going on around Covid-19 it’s a bit amazing to think about some of the things we were discussing before all this happened. While some of it was just so superficial, other issues were very important and getting the attention they deserved. Of course now as we fight a global pandemic, our focus is right where it should be. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t touch base on other issues, if only for a bit of closure.

One such story got a bit of that last night. It was two months ago now that disgraced Senator Lynn Beyak was suspended from the Senate for a second time because of her actions, a move that was welcomed by many, including in her home region of Northwestern Ontario. Her actions had pushed many leaders in the region to speak out, including locally elected municipal officials. That got to the point where even the council of Beyak’s hometown of Dryden had moved a motion to censure her. Well last night that motion was finally dealt with, and the result will disappoint many I’m sure:

Yep, that’s what happened. In a vote of 5-2 defeated the resolution. Councilors Shayne MacKinnon and Dave McKay did the honourable things in voting for this motion and good on them for doing it. Councilor Norm Bush spoke out against the motion, abstaining on the vote and saying that this was not council business at all, which is preposterous on its face. He went onto say that it fell to Senators to deal with her actions, and that councilors who represent the same communities that she claims to represent should have no say in it. That’s an amazing abdication of responsibility on his part and an amazing example of burying his head in the sand.

Councilor John Carlucci managed to take this to a new, lower level, pointing to Beyak’s deathbed apology as a reason for not voting for the resolution. He also said this was a matter for the Senate and that because he as a city councilor and has no direct ability to change this, that he should not express an opinion on it. He also said that the resolution itself was based on “assumptions”, which is striking given all of the crap that Beyak has said on the record. And on and on they went, refusing to touch this important matter with a ten-foot pole.

The idea that the good name and image of the City of Dryden isn’t “a council issue” is just willfully blind on it’s face. That image, the one that Senator Beyak has tarnished with her words and actions, is absolutely a matter that council should be concerned about. That image is one that can either attract or repel investments. That image is something that tells the entire country what kind of community it really is. You would think that this mayor and those councilors who tried to use this fig leaf of an excuse to shoot this down would care. Yet nope, that’s not what happened last night.

In the process of ducking their responsibility to speak out for the people of their community and against the ignorant words of Senator Beyak, those five who failed to vote for this motion just lowered the image of their city in the greater region that much more. What they failed to recognize or chose to ignore is that their silence and dodging speaks just as loudly as anything else. And to make it worse, with their actions last night those council members gave comfort and tacit support for Beyak and her views. In refusing to repudiate them, they are making those who hold the same opinions that Beyak was spewing feel safe to do so. To my mind, this was some of the worst politics that I’ve seen in a long time and a clear example of politicians unwilling to do what is right despite how hard it is.

The only saving grace of this sad story is that most people are rightly worried about Covid-19. While this matter is important, I’m not going to be mad at people for worrying more about public health and the safety of their families and loved ones. That being said, given everything that’s going on with Covid-19 and the suspension by the Senate, it could have been that much easier for these elected officials to support that motion and make a stand. It can cut both ways, that’s for sure. In the meantime though, I suspect that the day will come that people will remember the actions of those who decided to duck their responsibilities in what seems to be apparent political self-interest. I would say that they should be ashamed but when politicians use excuses like they did yesterday for their actions, shame is not something they typically feel. Last night was a low light for the City of Dryden and all of Northwestern Ontario and proves that while our region has made some progress, we still have a long way to go.

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