By Chad Ingram
Haliburton County Warden Liz Danielsenbegan last week's county council meeting by thanking her colleagues for theirefforts in dealing with the many unanticipated unexpected aspects of theCOVID-19 pandemic.
“And I just want to whether it's my placeor not commend you all for the hard work you've done” Danielsen said. “I knowwe've all gone through things that we never anticipated at all.”
I'd like to echo those sentiments here andsay thank you to all municipal councillors as well as staff in the county.
Rewind to the last municipal election inthe fall of 2018 and who could have possibly foreseen the circumstances wecurrently find ourselves in? When candidates were putting their names onballots in that election presumably they were thinking about ways in whichthey'd like to help shape their communities. Maybe they wanted to see betterroad maintenance or enhanced cultural resources stronger economic developmentor a new arena. What they presumably didn’t count on was having to try to guidetheir communities through a global pandemic that would push those communitiesto their financial and emotional brink.
The past two-and-a-half months have been atornado of information some of it unclear and confusing. There are constantlychanging directives from the provincial government and a never-ending streamof data and releases from various agencies and organizations. It all changesconstantly. It is chaotic and stressful.
For municipalities there have been regularmeetings of their emergency management groups since the crisis began. Forcouncillors while any decisions they make in general will of course neverplease everyone the heightened emotional climate of the COVID-19 crisis meansthose decisions are subject to stronger emotional response from residents.Think about the stress they must feel. They’ve had to make disappointingdecisions such as county council’s decision last week to cancel this year’sHike Haliburton Festival.
While council meetings have resumed in thepast month or so they have resumed online and are certainly different than thein-person variety. The transition to this forum – meetings are conductedwith councillors participating remotely via online conferencing platform Zoomand broadcast on YouTube – seems to be going fairly well all factorsconsidered. It’s put the county’s IT department to work in a new way and hasbeen a learning curve for everyone with staffers being patched in and out theodd disappearing councillor muted microphones the occasional appearance ofpets etc.
This space is occasionally filled withcriticism of local government which is part of the newspaper’s role. And whileI may not always agree with the decisions made by the councils of the countyin many cases I have watched councillors work for many years and cancertainly tell you their hearts are in the right place.
When we get through all of this there willbe post-pandemic analysis of the ways in which our local governments responded.It will be determined there are things that could have been done differentlyand there will likely be more conversations about the possibility ofsingle-tier governance which seems more relevant now than ever.
But those are conversations for anothertime. Those are columns for another time.
For now this is a thank you to ourmunicipal councillors and staffers for doing their best to get us through thisunprecedented difficult and troubling time.