Editorial – The Cone of Silence

Federal, provincial, and municipal government officials, public health officials, community groups, agencies, and businesses, have worked hard at communicating with media and the public during the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Communication is important. Keeping people informed is vital. Most communication has been open and forthcoming, keeping people up-to-date and in the loop so they can make informed choices.

For several weeks, The Leader has attempted to communicate with the St. Lawrence Parks Commission. Since the SLPC is a key employer in the area, controls much of this region’s waterfront, and is an arm of the government, this newspaper believes that what the SLPC is doing is important information for the community to have access to. The Leader asked the SLPC about the pandemic’s impact on hiring, how operations are continuing for the parts of Upper Canada Village that can’t be shut down at a moment’s notice like animal care. The response received was that the SLPC is not conducting interviews. Period.

On follow up, The Leader did receive a few details on animals and plants at the village, an invitation to follow the SLPC on its social media channels, and again state that the SLPC is not conducting interviews at this time. No information was provided about how employment is being handled – no word on whether or not there will be seasonal and student jobs this year. This important information has not yet been communicated publicly by the SLPC. Communications to date consist of nothing but social media posts which have all the substance of the feel-good click-bait that they are.

When it was formed 60-plus years ago, the SLPC was billed as a gift to the residents of this area whose land was taken and lives uprooted; a group of attractions for the area to bring in tourists and provide jobs. They were meant to be a renewed connection to the river, one that residents enjoyed along ‘the front’ for over a century until that was taken away in the name of progress. Sadly that gift has withered over time. The SLPC is now a disconnected part of the region, operating in a cone of silence. Once tourists leave for the season, the land is walled off from residents’ use. Access to land or information, is fleeting at best.

All levels of government have gotten communication right during this pandemic. Communicators are not expected to have all the answers, especially during these unprecedented times. That is a fact that we all accept. The SLPC’s unwillingness to communicate meaningfully with the community to which it owes its very existence is disappointing to say the least.

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