Getting Back to Basics – Part I

On December 1, 1856, Cobourg Mayor D. E. Boulton presided at the laying of the cornerstone for Victoria Hall. The Cobourg Star wrote that “great as our progress has been our past is but a trifle to the great future which lies yet unopened before us.” In the mid-nineteenth century Cobourg aspired to becoming “a major centre in Canada West,” and, according to many leaders, was destined to be a city. Well, that was then, and now is now.

This brief glimpse back is from the October 2018 issue of Historically Speaking, the newsletter of the Cobourg and District Historical Society. As always, history gives us many lessons and none is more important than a reminder that the future never turns out as planned. Cobourg never became a “major centre” and today it must heed its history and stop repeating the folly of 162 years ago – thinking that great progress “lies yet unopened before us.”

There are two guaranteed realities: the future will not turn out as planned and resources – money, time and staff – are always limited. This is not to say that anticipating and planning for the future is unimportant. Of course it is. But the balance of priorities between now and the future is skewed in Cobourg. If planning and investing in the future takes precedence over addressing what is wrong today this leads to a misallocation of resources.

In order to thrive, Cobourg Council must prioritize effectively. Two fundamental questions need to be asked about the focus, planning and decision-making of our municipal government:

  • Are we focusing too much on future plans and projects to the detriment of current projects and problems?
  • Are we allocating too many resources to tomorrow while under investing in today?

These questions are important to our municipal candidates as they head into the election. An overly optimistic view or fear of the future could lead to investing too much effort thinking about “someday”, “what ifs” and “maybes,” and too little consideration of our current basic needs. It is also a great time for senior staff and management to think about what Cobourg residents really want, e.g. a restored East Pier.

Our purpose is to start a conversation between our new Councillors and their citizens about setting true priorities.

Cobourg Community Centre or Cobourg Marina?
Which should be given priority?