EDITORIAL: Rail process highlights flaws

Lake Country officials can’t simply blame a handful of residents for borrowing funds being stalled

Lake Country officials are obviously disappointed by the outcome of the alternate approval process.

When the final count was released Tuesday, 960 people had signed a petition in opposition to borrowing $2.6 million to purchase the section of the old Canadian National rail line in Lake Country. Under legislation, that was sufficient to scuttle borrowing.

“There was a lot of misinformation towards the end,” said Mayor James Baker of the residents who led the campaign against borrowing and pursued petition signatures.

And it’s very likely the case that those going door-to-door with petitions may not have fully understood the facts about what is a complex process involving multiple jurisdictions and a large national corporation.

However, Lake Country officials can’t simply blame a handful of residents for this situation.

Yes, the municipality held a couple of open houses and information about the borrowing bylaw was on the district website, but the fact that 960 people signed the petition means the district’s communications strategy wasn’t adequate.

And flaws were extremely evident as the deadline for the alternative approval process drew near and it was quite clear the number of petition signatures was climbing towards the 931-name threshold. At the 11th hour, the municipality fired off a letter to the editor to local media trying to set the record straight. It was almost too little too late.

It’s anticipated Lake Country council will now hold a referendum to solicit broader public support and keep the hopes of purchasing the rail line alive.

But before that happens, let’s hope the district is more proactive with communications.