This week’s column is a dose of tough love.
Our web poll this past week seemed to show a rising amount of concern with crime in Flin Flon. We received more responses to this question than we normally do, but it’s hardly a representative sample. Out of that cohort, about two-thirds of voters said they were concerned about crime in Flin Flon.
That’s not a scientific poll by any means, but it does show there’s at least some concern about crime here.
Okay. That’s fair. What next?
Are we going to see anyone out at a Flin Flon city council meeting talking about crime? What about people contacting RCMP saying they have concerns? Letters or emails to elected officials?
I’d bet very little, if any, tangible response comes from people worried about this.
Let’s look at another example of Flin Flon civic engagement. Last week, Manitoba finance minister Scott Fielding showed up for a consultation session for the upcoming provincial budget.
There’s a lot riding on this next budget for Flin Flon. Our major employer is slated to shut down in barely two years. Some health care services have been reduced in the past few years. Our infrastructure needs work.
Out of a town of 5,000-ish people, guess how many people showed up?
Go on. Take a shot.
At most, there were a few dozen people, most of whom were either local elected officials, business leaders or other people in powerful positions. In other words, almost everyone at those meetings were the same people who show up for every meeting anyway.
There are qualifiers, granted. The session was held on a Tuesday morning, right when most of the town was working. Not everybody in the house actually got to ask Fielding questions - most, in fact, didn't.
That said, in all likelihood, you didn't show up.
Remember the last local election? I can't count the number of times I heard people complaining about the current mayor and council, about what they thought they were up to, what they should do, yadda yadda yadda.
With all that bile in the air, I figured we might be in for some local political upheaval. It seemed almost destined to happen.
Then came the nominations. Only one person stepped up to be Flin Flon's mayor - incumbent Cal Huntley. When it came time to vote, voters chose five of six incumbents - the only thing stopping a clean sweep was Bill Hanson retiring.
Funny how all those people who were angry about how things were going just threw in the towel on actually doing anything that would lead to change. I won't give my opinion on any specific policies of city council - sometimes I agree with them, sometimes not - but all those people who had their own strong views shut up pretty fast.
This seems to be the logical extension of Flin Flon's truest town tradition - complaining. If they gave out black belts for complaining, Flin Flon would be one productive dojo.
I suspect that public discourse in Flin Flon on issues of crime, of health care, of education, of the future of mining and other issues will follow the exact same pattern.
We’ll whine, we’ll bitch, we’ll moan. Maybe we’ll circulate some online post about the issue at hand, thinking it will actually do something. The same comment section creatures will do their comment section creature thing.
Then, it all dies. Nobody bothers to show up to a city council meeting about it, nobody raises concerns with anyone in a position to help and the issue just kind of fades away.
Nothing is achieved. Nothing is accomplished. Nobody actually did anything. The issue dies on the vine.
We’ve seen it with concerns about hard drug abuse and crime that may come as a direct result from it. We’ve seen it with concerns about other forms of crime, including possible gang activity. We’ve seen it with mining, with recreation, with young people deemed suspicious by some, with break-and-enters, with literally everything.
Let me be the wet blanket. Nothing worthwhile is accomplished until you get off the couch.
Show up at a city council meeting. Send correspondence to an elected official. Writing an email is not that hard. I do it daily. It isn’t complicated. You type a thing and you hit the thing that sends the thing – hardly rocket science.
Depending on how the next three or so years go, Flin Flon could see extreme changes. Things we need may no longer become available. Facilities we’ve come to know and love may be shut down. Necessary construction projects or infrastructure spending could be aborted.
We can all have our say in what the future looks like. It’s more crucial now than it has been for years.
Do you want real change? You have to get off your ass first.