COLUMN: Cornwall council finally shows leadership

What is leadership? More specifically, what is leadership when it comes to municipal politicians? Leadership means when elected officials have an issue, they get all sides of it, then make a decision and vote. After the vote, the issue is settled and other things can be dealt with. That is the goal and the reason municipal council is elected. We choose council and they lead on issues.

That is the theory. During this term of council in Cornwall it has not always been the case, especially on the matter of dealing with fluoride in the city’s drinking water. Council has dithered on the matter for over a year. They heard from all sides. Doctors for and against; citizens; experts; the whole gambit. Council did its due diligence and then some.  Given the amount of time it took for council to act, there was a clear sign that this council did not want to show leadership in dealing with it. Right up to the start of the council meeting Tuesday night, it looked like council would dither again. The motion before council was to look at three options. Fix the fluoride system, pull it out, or put it on the ballot for 2018 and let the people decide. Dithering, or putting the question to the voters to decide, was the safe option for councillors.

Then the clouds parted, the sun came out, and council showed leadership. Surprise! First Councillor Bernadette Clement’s motion to put the question to the people was voted down. Next, a new motion appeared by Councillor Andre Rivette to keep fluoridation in the water. That vote was tied, thanks to Councillor Justin “Captain Cornwall” Towndale’s leave of absence, which meant it was defeated. That meant Cornwall would not have fluoride in the water.  Later in the meeting council approved the tender to remove the broken fluoridation equipment. Done and done. Fluoridation is no more. Council has spoken and leadership was finally shown on this issue.

Mayor Leslie O’Shaughnessy shut down the idea of reopening the issue, leaving this to the next term of council to handle. “As far as I’m concerned it’s a done issue as far as this council goes.”

As it should be.

Was this the right decision to make? Time will only tell whether there will be health effects in the community due to this change. It was right to make a decision though. Dithering for too long is not leadership. This decision should have been made after it was known that there were issues at the water purification plant to begin with, three-plus years ago.

In the end, council made a decision. Despite the rumblings of Councillor Denis Carr about procedure, the matter has been settled.

The only vote required now will be in 2018 when the people get to vote on how their leaders performed during their term on council. Will one night of decision-making clarity counter the years of dithering by council? That is for the voters to decide. Some sitting councillors may want to look to Tuesday night as inspiration on how to show leadership. Make a decision and stick with it, dithering should not be an option.