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Silence is not always satisfaction

Mayor John Henry said some pretty unsettling words recently.

In addressing complaints from an Oshawa resident regarding the lack of public engagement, Mayor Henry said people don’t come forward because they’re generally pleased with what’s happening in their city.

In some cases, that may be true, the silent majority does speak loudly at times.

However, in the City of Oshawa, silence does not always equate to satisfaction. In fact, that silence can be a sign of citizen apathy, something much more sinister.

Now, the blame for that can fall at the feet of the Oshawa residents themselves who choose not to get involved in their local community, for any number of reasons, whether it’s a busy life or other priorities. This has many of its own issues as it’s hard to comprehend why people spare such little thought towards how their tax dollars are being used.

The silent majority certainly does speak loudest at tax time, but rarely at any other time.

With that said, much of the blame also lies with the city and its closed-door policy on much of the goings-on at city hall, with continued stories surfacing of information being kept away from public view. A case in point being the recent investigation by this newspaper into the naming rights for the Tribute Communities Centre, a document that in any other municipality would have been a piece of public knowledge almost immediately after being approved. It took over a year for a reporter to get hands on it through the city’s snail-paced and sometimes costly Freedom of Information process.

Sure, the city holds open houses and public consultations on major issues to share information with residents, but in a city of nearly 170,000 people, one or two meetings simply isn’t enough. The city also advertises in local newspapers and places Public Service Announcements on its website and social media pages.

In reality, if they really wanted to reach a larger population they’d double, or perhaps even triple down on these efforts as more advertising leads to more eyes on the information, and while everyone who reads it may not act on it, there’s a better chance of reaching the ones who will.

At a recent meeting to vote on the city’s Trap Neuter Return Management Program, councillors had no issue with the campaign set to be initiated to educate the public on how the program will work. In fact, our elected officials were looking to expand the program in an effort to involve more people and perhaps solicit donations in order to provide further funding.

In the future, let’s hope our councillors can take the same approach to other public participation programs, even if it doesn’t involve asking us for money.