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New Year's revelations and resolutions

This week's Market Squared looks back at the revelations of 2020, and makes some resolution suggestions for 2021.
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I learned how to cut my own hair this year.

It wasn’t hard, it hasn’t been pretty, but a couple of YouTube videos and a pair of clippers later, I’ve saved about $200 in haircuts this year. Granted, the loss for my barber has been a boon for the local used DVD emporium, but a penny saved is a penny earned and re-invested in the lost art of physical media.

Yes, we’ve learned a lot in 2020. The pandemic has been a harsh and brutal teacher at times this year, but learn we did. Or at least we hope we learned.

This year at city council I’ve seen the horseshoe make snap decisions they immediately regretted and wanted to take back (dog parks), and I’ve seen them treat ordinary machinations of governance like a motion sensitive bomb that they were trying to defuse by gently taking it apart (new council composition).

We need council to have more confidence in their decisions, and we need them to accept the idea that not everyone is going be pleased with a particular direction so we’re not rapidly undoing them after one or two delegations.

Speaking of decisions regarding the make up of our next city council, local electoral reform advocates need to circle the square when it comes to why government should listen to the people when it comes to how many councillors they want, and why government should ignore the people when it comes to their refusal to accept proportional representation as an option.

I won’t pick on electoral reform nerds too hard though because that’s punching down. It’s so much more satisfying to punch up, and I will take this opportunity to say again to the Guelph Police Service that they need to do better in 2021.

Before the holiday break, the Police Services Board met to discuss the use of the iPhone-cracking device GrayKey. Police to the Guelph Mercury-Tribune (a) the fact that the Guelph Police have a GrayKey, (b) that they have used the GrayKey several times, and (c) that they had no set use of standards to govern when, why and how the GrayKey was to be used.

The police board sounded more offended by the media’s desire to know than the fact that they were using new technology without policy even if they had the approval of the court while deploying the GrayKey. This is a tone that was repeated throughout the year, whether it was the police’s surprisingly frequent use of a database of COVID patients, or the affair with Marwan Tabbara.

If I can offer the Guelph Police a tip by ways of a New Year’s resolution, it would be to never again post the words, “The Guelph Police Service will issue no further statements with respect to this matter” in a media release. You have a right to say “no comment” but you don’t have the right to say to the media, as a public service, that we can’t ask you a question. On any topic.

Matters of trust were a big issue in 2020, whether it was people being sucked into a world of bizarre conspiracy theories or other misinformation, or people with genuine concerns about things happening in their neighbourhood and feeling left out of the process.

I’m specifically referring to the Metrolinx-owned train tracks, which blocked off one road in Guelph, and threatened a public park in the west end. And while people may understand that some decisions are out of the hands of our local leaders, those leaders have to do better than being the bad news middlemen between upper levels of government and the general public. People need to feel that their local government is in their corner, and people need to see their government reps doing it.

That brings me to another piece of advice for city council, because despite the fact that the vaccine is literally on its way, we’re still going to be living life pandemic-style until the last part of 2021.

Those of you on council that are not comfortable with the technological demands of the times, sorry, but you’re going to have to do better. The matter of the proposed traction power station behind Margaret Greene Park was not helped by the fact that both of Ward 4’s councillors have zero-to-little presence on social media where publicly responding to the numerous requests for insight and information would have been helpful.

I know social media gets a bad rap, but Mayor Guthrie’s near-omniscient social media presence was probably one of the most reassuring bits of local leadership displayed in the darkest days of this pandemic year. It should be the primary responsibility of all leaders in dark times to offer support and reassurance, especially when those things can’t be offered face-to-face.

Once we put all these controversies behind us, we can focus on the real questions we should be asking now in the year 2021, like where are the flying cars and jet packs? How are we 22 years into the 21st century and still no jet packs?!

To be continued…