By Chad Ingram
The County of Haliburton will continue to go without any form of public transit because there is not the political will at the council table to create one. That’s it. That’s the reason, and that’s the only reason. Period. Full stop.
I’ve covered Haliburton County council for more than a decade. This is the fourth county council I have watched discuss, and do nothing about, the lack of public transportation in the community. It’s always the same rhetoric – too complicated, too expensive – and the same sort of helpless lamentation, that if only something could be done, as if the power to get something done is not present in the people sitting around the table. It is only present in them.
Last week, county councillors decided they would do nothing about transportation in 2019. Wait, sorry, they decided they would “continue to monitor trends in rural transit,” leave $50,000 they budgeted for transportation work in 2019 sitting in an account, and revisit the issue during 2020 budget discussions. Which is the same as doing nothing, all the while vowing to themselves they would not let the issue die.
There was indication they would “wait and hope” that, apparently through magic, a solution would eventually present itself. Waiting and hoping is not a strategy. Waiting and hoping is not leadership. Waiting and hoping is another way to continue to kick this particular proverbial can down the road.
That’s what the previous county council did last year, when it spent $50,000 on a transportation implementation plan from a Toronto consulting firm. That plan suggested the creation of a booked, shared ride service, laid out a potential framework and estimated costs. That plan will not be implemented, at least not this year. What it did was buy county councillors nearly 12 months of time in an election year. Waiting for the implementation plan to be presented to council made it seem like the county was actually going to be doing something about transportation.
Now, council is going to revisit the issue during 2020 budget discussions, meaning more than two years will have passed since the commissioning of the plan.
In the meantime, the educated volunteers who comprised the Rural Transportation Options committee have had enough, and are basically calling it quits after a decade of trying to get county council to do something about transit. And it’s very difficult to blame them.
Developing a transit system of some kind is key to the community’s ability to retain its youth, which is key to its future. Yes, it’s a complicated and expensive problem. Solving it will require creative thinking and, yes, taking financial, and therefore political, risk. County councillors need to be willing to take that risk. In the meantime, we continue to get nowhere fast on the transit issue.