Residents of Wallaceburg and area have been struggling to bring their message to LIHN and other elected officials in an attempt to prevent the reduction of services at the Sydenham Hospital.
Throughout most of this process, Mayor Hope has resided in an unhurried surreal state in which the Wallaceburg hospital, along with the rest of Chatham-Kent's turbulent economy, is under the false reassurance of autopilot.
However, during Friday's SOS rally, Mayor Hope finally acknowledged that he thinks the issue is simply in need of some "consultation."
The problem is that the fine folks of Wallaceburg have been trying this for weeks now to no avail. Hope just noticed, but now thinks more of the same thing will produce a different result.
The province seems bent on delegating unpopular decisions to the LIHN, and the LIHN has responded by being evasive and completely unresponsive.
Now Mayor Hope has never been known for having a Plan "A", but his platitudes about consultation are likely mere lip service because people were watching him. When the dialogue he proposes doesn't work, and all evidence suggests it hasn't, there is a need for alternative options that he as mayor has failed to initiate or champion.
In Chatham-Kent nomenclature, "consult" means spend a bunch of money to buy enough time for people to forget, and then ignore the result.
"I really firmly believe...shutting doors and drawing lines in the sand is not the solution. We need to make sure we continue to have the dialogue," Hope suggested.
This is unhelpful, coming from a mayor known for shut doors himself - although we're never sure if he's behind them meeting secret advisors, or out playing in the sandbox for the cameras instead.
The most useful advice he can presently muster is to urge citizens to attend a meeting with the LIHN on March 27. Of course, he won't be attending himself, since it would involve visiting north of Wal-Mart.
Hope didn't indicate what kind of "previous commitment" might be so important as to keep the elected mayor away from the critical issues facing Wallaceburg, but Hope's absence at events that aren't staged for photo impact is becoming legendary.
Mayor Hope seems to think this meeting is the public's chance to be heard. Well, Hope is wrong again. This mayor was elected to be responsive as the voice of all citizens of Chatham-Kent - not just Mary Lee and her enigmatic acquaintances, (although you'd think she might at least have some beneficial insight into the inner workings of LIHN).
We saw the potentially job-creating Rec Centre die because Hope refused to support and spearhead the initiative after council's approval, so we know what can happen when the mayor takes a lackadaisical attitude towards the responsibility of leadership.
Thank goodness the people of Wallaceburg have Jeff Wesley to fill the leadership vacuum that Hope has allowed to exist. If there were ever a time for Hope to step up to the plate and start representing this community, it's now.
Telling the public to go out themselves to be heard is akin to "let them eat cake." When elected, Hope claimed to understand how the levers work in Queen's Park, but he hasn't even noticed that the strings attached to his own levers are all tangled up from being yanked by his handlers.
Anything short of high-level pressure with the McGuinty government is simply too little too late. More consultation attempts with a disconnected government entity won't solve things. Hope's efforts on this file to date hardly qualifies as the "political support" spun in the Chatham Daily News headlines.
We're still waiting for Hope's promised report to council following his junket to Korea to bring back a curiously absent $70 million investment. At this pace, he'll be able to avoid the Sydenham issue for the remaining 21 months of his term. In the meantime, we can't let him abdicate his responsibility to our community.
The news is out. Mayor Hope cannot attend the important meeting to discuss the future of Sydenham District Hospital because...
...it's really good, one of his best excuses so far for missing a conflicting event...
The Ontario Cup Provincial Novice Basketball Championship needs somebody tall to bounce the ball during the ceremonial tipoff at Ursuline College in Chatham at 4:30PM.
It is important to support our youth as they participate in sporting events, but there should have been plenty of time for Hope to make the evening meeting in Wallaceburg. Now we certainly wish the teams well in the championships, but it is just a game. The visitors would enjoy their stay in Chatham even if the mayor had more important business to attend elsewhere. And he does. There's another team in Wallaceburg that needs championing at the moment, and they consist of the residents he is supposed to represent.
The people he just told to go do it themselves.
Mayor Hope can't seem to take a straight aim at leading our community. This is yet another instance where Hope is playing games with our future, but that's all being Mayor/CEO of Chatham-Kent is to him - a game.