We all know the figure of the blindfolded lady in white, with a scale in her hand: She represents the concept of justice, she is blindfolded because she dispenses justice with her scale without seeing the objects, parties to the dispute. Her vision impairment is the key; because her disability to see allows her to decide only based on the facts and conscience, without seeing the color, creed, age or gender (and ability to influence others) of the said parties; in other words, she is blind to differences.
In theory, at least, public service should be same as justice: It should be provided to all who want it as long as they live by the book.
The context, as you might have guessed, is the continuing repercussions of the smart water meter debate. You might have read in last week’s edition of Ponoka News that the town council discussed in their committee of the whole meeting a letter from a resident in the community. We don’t know the identity of the resident, nor do we know the content of the letter. Therefore, it would be impossible for anyone without the knowledge of the content of the letter to assess whether it does include threats as claimed or if there is any suggestion of or any encouragement for unlawful activity.
But we do know how a town councillor reacted to this letter: Tim Falkiner is quoted in our story as saying: “You can’t pick and choose which part of the law you’re going to adhere to…If it was me, I’d cut off his water, I’d cut off his garbage, I’d cut off his sewer. To hell with him if he’s not going to contract with the town.”
As of the moment of these lines being written (Monday afternoon, Sept. 29), we haven’t heard any denial of those words being actually uttered by the councillor.
Politicians have an obligation to be of service to all the electorate regardless of whom they voted for. In the context of our little town, councillors volunteer to be of public service by managing the resources of the community for improving the quality of life for all residents. But their position of authority does not entitle them to expect that their decisions will be accepted without discussion, not be thoroughly scrutinized and even be rejected. In this very case, we don’t know the terms of rejection. If it constitutes a felony, the address to take the issue to is RCMP, and then the police can refer it to the public prosecutor if there is actually a violation of law. That a town councillor even mentioned the intention of sanctioning the author of the letter is discomforting; punishing an individual, if a case of breaking of the law is proven, is the prerogative of a court, and only through due process of law.
But the last sentence of the above quote is the most disturbing part of all: Wishing hell to a fellow resident of the community, regardless of how unorthodox his or her thoughts might be, is hardly good citizenship, let alone exemplary leadership.
It has been almost 250 years since the Enlightenment Age philosopher Voltaire was quoted as saying “I don’t agree with what you say, but I am ready to give my life to defend your right to say it.”
Over that period, one would think that reverberations of that historic stance respecting the differences among individuals should have reached small town Alberta, and they may well have. But the idea apparently hasn’t sunk in with everybody yet.