Citizens of Wallaceburg and area met Friday evening at the Wallaceburg District Secondary School in support of their ER.
Initially, Mayor Hope announced he would not attend due to a previous commitment he didn't disclose. An investigation into what could possibly be more important revealed that Hope would be tipping off the Ontario Cup Provincial Novice Basketball Championship at Ursuline College in Chatham.
This mayor is becoming famous for choosing attendance exclusively at events staged for his own photogenic participation.
The only problem with Hope's alibi was that the basketball event took place at 4:30 PM, but the Wallaceburg meeting wasn't scheduled until 7:00 PM. Fortunately, mayor Hope must have realized that they are still in the same time zone north of Home Depot, and felt some pressure to try doing the right thing.
Upon Hope's unexpected arrival at the meeting, he took the opportunity to speak with some of the concerned residents in the crowd. He boasted very proudly of his efforts to set the entire meeting up himself. I'm sure Jeff Wesley will appreciate the mayor's hard work once his toes stop throbbing.
However, Hope was not there to support the residents who were gathered. Hope stated that he had heard some strong language out of Wallaceburg that gave him the impression the audience might be irritated, so he felt his presence would have a calming effect.
Mayor Hope declined to take sides in the matter, which is effectively telling the 11,000 people who recently signed the SOS petition that he is not going to represent them. North Kent residents have a better advocate in Chief Joseph Gilbert than our own dubiously-elected leader, and Bev Shipley has no need of a fence either.
The Chatham Daily News described Hope as a "visiting dignitary," along with MP Bev Shipley. This is an interesting combination of which there is no comparison.
Mr. Shipley spent hours getting involved and doing research, resulting in a scathing report detailing the flawed assumptions of LIHN - for which he has earned the respect of many.
Mr. Hope just noticed the issue and needs to wait for some grass to grow so he'll have enough blades to tell him which way the wind is blowing. Apparently, the thousands of supporters rallying around the cause are insufficient to convince Hope to abandon his neutrality and take up the charge.
There's at least some truth in the label chosen by the media to describe Hope - "visiting dignitary" is not apt to be misinterpreted as "I belong to this community and have been working diligently on your behalf."
We'll likely never see Hope champion the cause as eloquently as the other politicians involved with this file, but we can at least count on his presence and crocodile tears of sympathy when the cameras and reporters are present.
His priorities are misplaced by the celebrity of being the Mayor/CEO. He'll address the crowds when people are watching him, then go back to the calming effect of photo op dreams and other unhurried mayoral business.
When Hope campaigned for mayor, he bragged that his experience as MPP gave him inside knowledge of the levers at Queen's Park. We weren't expecting neutral to be the only position he remembered, now that we need him up there pulling strings.
I'm sure mayor Hope is a very nice person who means well. However, Chatham-Kent does not need a charming figurehead - we need a leader who will put the interests of our community first, and work tirelessly on residents' behalf.
SOS is but one critical issue facing Chatham-Kent. As fear of another Wallaceburg plant closure catches officials off guard yet again, we are reminded that nothing has been done since Hope took office to reform our economic development department and get somebody permanently in charge. He looks dapper in a suit, but seems unable to multitask.
If Mayor Hope can't properly represent Chatham-Kent and defend our interests, then perhaps he should share his empathy in our swelling unemployment line.
Mayor Hope was contacted with the contents of this report and asked if he wished to refute the incident in Wallaceburg or any other facts, but he refused to comment.