THERE is something bracing about decisiveness. A matter is considered, the pros and cons weighed, a conclusion is reached, and acted on. There’s no unnecessary hesitation, no delay beyond that which is prudent.

Politics can be like that. But more often than not politics is about government forming a concept, putting the idea out to test public reaction, then trying to figure out how to please everyone.

Thunder Bay’s current city council came to office with a so-called indoor turf facility already on its plate. It’s since become one of those hot potatoes that councillors toss around to keep from getting burned.

There were lots of concepts out there and councillors spent a lot of time trying to figure out which was most politically palatable.

In the end they decided this week to look past the babble and get going on a project that belongs in the public sphere.

Soccer is growing fast in this city and across the country. Canada has pro teams and its elite amateurs compete well globally. Like hockey before it there is a logical place for public facilities in which to play soccer.

Tennis is similarly surging in popularity as Canadian men and women attain world success. Now the local tennis club has convinced council to let it be part of this project from the outset, not as some later add-on that might well have been cancelled once the typical cost overruns that plague public construction projects emerge.

Council has authorized $4 million for design and engineering work on a $30-million-plus building at Chapples Park.

Mayor Bill Mauro, a big proponent, estimates there may be $15 million available from various senior government sources. The city has earmarked $4 million from the existing Renew Thunder Bay fund.

It’s taken a while to get this far and it’ll take until July 22 for council to ratify this decision. But at least it’s made a decision. Unfortunately, any hope of having shovels in the ground this summer seems remote.

By all means explore ways to have private investors pick up some of the costs and leverage every available provincial and federal dollar (hello Greg Rickford and Patty Hajdu), but keep this soccer and racquet club a public facility. It’s exactly the kind of thing that enhances a community, makes people want to come and stay here. Look at the popular waterfront park.

The former council tried — decisively — and failed to build an event and convention centre that would have put serious hockey talent and major concerts under one roof next to a convention hall in a city where tourism is growing.

In that case, senior government wouldn’t co-operate and the project was shelved. Maybe there’ll be a case for it sometime in the future. Meantime, the Community Auditorium — the product of public determination for an arts centre in the face of populist political opposition — was built and stands today as one of Canada’s finest concert halls.

Federally, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberal government walked an indecisive tightrope stretched between the environment and the economy as it considered the fate of the Trans Mountain pipeline.

Ultimately, Trudeau decided this was something that needed to be built to help sustain the economy until a sufficient alternative energy supply is in place. And so rather than dither any longer, Ottawa bought the pipeline from the company that didn’t want to wait around any longer.

Some opposition remains but by and large Canadians understand that, together with a carbon tax to invest in green energy research, a pipeline to get oil to buyers willing to pay much more than the discounted price we give to our sole existing customer, the United States, makes sense.

And then there’s Doug Ford, a man who wants desperately to be decisive, and be seen to be, but doesn’t always know which battles to pick. He flip-flops on things like autism funding and safe injection sites but chooses to defend the hill of more beer.

Like the $10 million it cost taxpayers to let Ford get rid of Hydro One’s rich CEO, Ford’s insistence on putting beer into corner store will cost us hundreds of millions to settle with the Beer Store which now controls beer sales contractually.

Think about it. Do we really need beer at the Circle K where young clerks may face midnight visits from armed thieves? We can buy beer at the neighbourhood Beer Store, the nearest LCBO, the closest supermarket and of course, the local pub. There are agency outlets in rural areas with more on the way including at Rosslyn, Hymers, Nolalu, Cloud Bay and Red Rock in our neck of the woods.

Ford wants to be seen as decisive on beer. Let him decide that beer in corner stores is a horrible idea in an era of violent crime, usually fuelled by alcohol, and a province where excessive alcohol consumption is the leading risk factor for disease, disability and premature death.

Ford’s other misplaced decisiveness is with appointing friends to high places.

The man who campaigned to be the premier who’d “end the gravy train” tried to hire his family pal cop to head the OPP. On June 20 — two weeks after the legislature was closed for an extended summer break — the Ford government quietly appointed four Conservative insiders to six-figure jobs in exotic foreign locales. Agents-general positions were re-created for a relative of Ford staff chief Dean French’s wife, French’s son’s friend, Rob Ford’s former chief of staff, and the president of the Ontario PC Party.

The two French-connection appointments were quickly cancelled after a social media storm that preceded French’s hasty departure from Ford’s team.

Then Ford shuffled his cabinet as his poll numbers plummeted. As the NDP was happy to point out, in one of his first acts as Finance Minister, Rod Phillips appointed one of his major donors and long-time business partners to the Investment Management Corporation of Ontario.

This week the NDP discovered that Ford quietly appointed French’s niece to the Public Accountants Council where Ford and French’s personal attorney was appointed by Ford last fall.

Like U.S. President Donald Trump, Ford wants to be liked. Desperately. Liable to be roundly booed in public the premier apparently likes to keep his friends close. Decisively so.


Ian Pattison is retired as editorial page editor of The Chronicle-Journal, but still shares his thoughts on current affairs.

(Originally published June 29, 2019)

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