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Editor,

I hope that Meaford can take a deep breath.

I understand that it's very easy to get emotional about an issue like the park bylaw. Personally, I don't know if there is a better approach than the existing bylaw, and I'd like to hear more about the thinking behind it. But I understand that the entire process arose in response to complaints from Meaford residents.

The path to this decision began in January 2018 and followed established procedures, including staff review of comparable bylaws in other municipalities and public consultation. As you noted in your article of October 3, the community had an opportunity to contribute to this discussion over the last couple of months.

I'm sure this (like many other bylaws) will be revisited and improved over time, but I understand that council felt the decision needed to be made before winter.

You say you doubt that anyone will be fined for sitting on a park bench an hour before the official opening time, building snowmen in McCarroll Park in January, or testing out their new snowshoes on Boxing Day. You are absolutely right. People contravene Meaford's bylaws every day. But because bylaw enforcement is primarily complaints-based, as it is in most municipalities, and because the enforcement process includes a rather civilized notification/warning to the offender before even approaching the stage of issuing a ticket, it's virtually unthinkable that those situations would trigger a fine.

(Beautiful Joe Park has long been closed from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. year-round. I'd love to hear from anyone who has been ticketed for similarly innocent past-times during those hours.)

Despite this, mayoral candidate Jim McPherson invokes these exact scenarios to stir up anger in his statements on Facebook:

  • "[I]t bans fishing!!!"

  • A "fascist" bylaw.

  • "Imagine fining people for using a public park...making snowmen... toboganning [sic]... snowshoeing... baseball... sitting... etc.. ludicrous!"

Ludicrous, indeed.

This same candidate said, at the October 3 debates, "I want a cooperative council, and I want us to disagree on things, too... that's okay. But when a vote is taken, I think it's important to accept the decision of whatever that vote is... even if I disagree with it." [His emphasis.]

I'm not sure where Mr. McPherson was when the report and draft bylaw was presented on July 23, 2018, or in the two-month period before the bylaw was passed, during which public input was invited.

But I do know that since the bylaw vote was taken, the only suggestion he has offered to the park situation is: "I will repeal this dumb decision." (His platform also includes rescinding Municipal Bylaw 22-2016 and revisiting decisions made – after long, involved processes – regarding the library.)

A platform based on destruction sounds like a blueprint for dysfunction. We've been there. Yes, words matter. We should listen very closely to the words of candidates. Seek thought and effort and reason. And recognize and reject demagoguery when we hear it.

Vic Michener, Meaford


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