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Opinion: When coffee shop talk does more damage than good

Ponoka’s rumour mill is becoming a scourge of the community

Coffee shop talk in Ponoka is doing more damage than good to our town.

It’s a little too early to tell what Mayor Rick Bonnett’s legacy will be in this community, but I’m sure there will be a chapter somewhere related to all the rumours he’s had to deal with.

The things I have heard, followed up on, and subsequently found to be, well, unfounded, have shocked me, particularly starting in this last election.

Someone either has it in for the mayor, or they just like to talk smack with friends in the coffee shop, watching the rumours ripple out into the community. Like or dislike the man, one thing is for certain, he’s active and trying to do things for this little town, albeit with a bit more verve and less planning than some would like; but it’s something.

Maybe that’s what people are freaked out about. The man’s trying to do something and that’s hit a nerve.

The mayor’s actions — on almost every single step of his terms in the top seat — have been dogged by individuals looking at every minute detail that rivals U.S. President Donald Trump’s first term of office. Couple that with rumours that appear to be stated as outright truth, it’s been an interesting couple years.

Negotiation troubles with the AUPE, the town’s union representative, is a prime example of the damage a rumour can create. In talking with some union folks after the vote, it was mentioned to me that the mayor did the flooring for the new learning centre. It was stated as outright fact. Ponoka News subsequently followed up with a story and the mayor responded, denying the allegations. We’ll never know for sure but that rumour may have had an affect on negotiations.

Coffee shop rumours are juicy pieces of information and talking with a person who appears to be “in the know” is definitely tantalizing but it’s worth mentioning that unless that information can be confirmed, it’s still just a rumour.

The mayor has been forthright with the press on all the questions we have asked of him. If the mayor has something to hide, he’ll get caught. Lies always get found out, but so far the mayor has been on the up-and-up.

Residents have a right to ask questions. It’s part of the democratic process and should be respected. Indeed, a recent letter to the town questioning council’s decision to sell the Kinsmen Community Centre without a public hearing was a helpful reminder to the mayor and council that, regardless of the outcome, the proper steps need to be followed.

Believing in rumours without facts, however, is just plain lazy and irresponsible.

These rumours have a way of becoming truth without any real information to back it up and it’s unnerving. That people would go out of their way to create doubt is a hindrance to the democratic process and speaks of people who want control without being held accountable.

That demand to be heard (as is their right) but without a chance of response (how can you respond when you don’t know who’s starting the discussion) is more akin to the authoritarian regimes of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Trump.

At what point does a person take their dissatisfaction and do something by actually getting involved? Get on a committee, join a club, run for council, run for mayor or help out at the schools, volunteer at day in the park, family day, etc. The list goes on.

There are lots of things that a person can do to bring about change. Sitting in a coffee shop whispering sweet cancerous secrets to others is not how it gets done.

That type of discussion is worth about the same as the disposable coffee cup you just bought, nothing. Let’s change the conversation and consider what we can do to help this community.