To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln’s legendary exhortation, ‘Government of the people, for the people …’ a contemporary and local flavour comes to mind. Cobourg’s Council for the people, by the people which, at times, seems to be an oxymoron – at odds with reality. I’m thinking of the endless conflict over the years between the citizens of our town and various councils, our present council now on life-support as its mandate creaks to an end, its inability to hear the voters who put it there becoming legendary. I am thinking of what has been an on-going battle over the future of the town’s western harbour, the citizens’ harbour. Isn’t it time, once and for all, to pass a bylaw ensuring that the western harbour is left untouched for all time? And while they’re at it, include Victoria Park.
Our harbour is conveniently divided into two parts, thanks to the western pier. Over the years the eastern section has disproportionately been taken over by the boat club and marina, piece by piece, now jammed full of boats – some, seemingly, never appearing to leave their slips. It also begs the question; how many of those slips are rented to out-of-towners? And, of course, there have been never-ending rumblings for more boat slips in the western harbour. But – our waterfront, including the harbour, belongs to all the citizens of Cobourg – all 19,440 of them. The western harbour especially; for dragon boaters, kayakers, canoeists, wild life enthusiasts, walkers, all making do with what is left. Oh, and the geese, swans, ducks and gulls whose ancestors were there long before Eliud Nickerson, recognized as Cobourg’ first citizen, built a log hut in 1798 close to where King and Division is today.
Before this present Council’s term of office expires later this year, perhaps it will introduce and pass legislation declaring the western harbour, except for routine maintenance, untouchable – for all time – designating it as The Citizen’s Harbour. Looking back to previous councils, there haven’t been too many that have left a lasting legacy; well, one that quickly leaps to mind, Victoria Hall’s creation – and the Council that prevented its demolition – and Victoria Park of course. The Citizen’s Harbour. Has a nice ring to it.
What is interesting about the democratic process as practised in Cobourg, is that, having trolled for our votes at election time, councils gradually adopt an us-against-them siege mentality, as witnessed over the never-ending harbour debate; the hostility against delegations appearing before council and the constant need to hire consultants for this and consultants for that – begging the question, what was council elected for in the first place? Do we really need expensive consultants parachuted in to advise council what to do with Victoria Park or the waterfront? But things will change as election day approaches and potential candidates switch on the charm. And, if history is repeated, we can count on Cobourg voters’ propensity to elect male mayors – elderly male mayors – and protect the Old Boy’s Club tradition. It’s shameful that in the history of our town only one female mayor has been elected.
It’s 2018, for heaven’s sake!!