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OPINION: The importance of political courage

A time of crisis is a plumbline of political leadership.

It was a disaster waiting to happen and everyone knew it. The truck route was a 2.5km, brake-burning, steep slope ending at a stop sign on the main street of our small town in the municipality of Lincoln, Ontario.

On a day as routine as any other, a mom and her five-year-old daughter went out in the family car on errands. There was a quick stop at the hairdressers. Just a “pop in for a moment” kind of stop. Parking was directly in front of the building. The daughter stayed in the car, in view; the car separated from the roadway by the sidewalk and just a few meters from the stop sign at Main Street.

About that time, a couple of kilometers up the long hill, a young truck driver in a heavy dump truck began the descent down the Niagara Escarpment—the “mountain” as locals call it. Near constant braking was necessary to control the speed. The brakes heated and faded. A short distance from the stop sign, the panicked young driver jumped from the speeding truck. Now out-of-control, it overturned on top of the parked car.

The little girl died. The town’s residents were outraged. And that tragedy was the backdrop for the next town council meeting.

Town meeting 

On the evening of the council meeting, a large crowd of Lincoln residents showed up at the town's municipal building to demand answers and action. The crowd was many multiples more than the gallery could hold.

A spokesperson came out of the municipal building and told the crowd there was not room enough inside for everyone. It was obvious. However, the crowd did not disperse.

And then I saw the most politically courageous thing I’ve ever seen.

Some city staffers carried a metal office desk from inside the building and set it down. Shortly after, Mayor Konkle came out of the building. With some help, he climbed awkwardly onto the desk and stood up.

Konkle took questions and spoke to people’s concerns for a lengthy period. Sometimes, an angry resident would shout over him. He had no microphone, so he would wait it out and then continue again.

It took many years to resolve the truck route issue, but the solution began with courageous leadership at a crucial moment.

What about us?

Elliot Lakers, please be prepared to bring your respectful, constructive questions and comments to an ALL Infrastructure Town Hall.

Council, we have followed your process. You have received the petition. Please respect the citizens’ petition request.

Elliot Lake needs an ALL Infrastructure Town Hall.

And we need it now.


Whereas: The condition of the City of Elliot Lake infrastructure is of urgent concern to the residents.

We, the undersigned, petition the Council of the City of Elliot Lake as follows:

  1. We request the City host a Town Hall Meeting at Collins Hall about Elliot Lake public infrastructure.
  2. We ask that Council representatives and senior staff attend and give a short presentation on the state of our infrastructure followed by a 90-minute period of questions and comments from the public.
  3. We ask that the meeting be livestreamed and video archived.
  4. We ask that it take place before October 31, 2023, with a minimum of 10 day's notice to the public.


Stephen Calverley

About the Author: Stephen Calverley

Stephen loves the outdoors and municipal life. He writes to inform readers and encourage citizen participation.
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