THUNDER BAY – EDITORIAL – With the latest murder charges laid in Thunder Bay over an incident that happened over the weekend, the city is heading toward another year either at the top, or near the top as Canada’s murder capital. Part of the reality is that it is a combination of small population and the number of homicides in the city that put Thunder Bay once again on the likely cusp of this dubious title. The homicide on the weekend is the fifth murder in Thunder Bay in 2012.
The crime rate in our city is one thing. The impact of crime on the victims, and on their families is huge.
Are the streets in our city safe? For the most part, the answer is yes.
The homicides in Thunder Bay are cases where for the most part the victim and accused are known to each other. In many cases there are issues of addiction or sustance abuse that are a part of the crime as well. However under the cold light of crime statistics, those factors won’t matter.
The reality is -cold comfort to a community that is trying hard to make its way forward and get the economy on track. In many cases it is a matter of perception rather than reality. The issue of crime in our community will also likely have political ramifications as well. The Mayor ran on a platform of getting the situation under control. Having the city hold the mantle of ‘Murder capital of Canada’ is generating the perception that little is being done to solve the problem.
There are solutions. One is getting our economy moving forward. Far too often Thunder Bay appears willing to embrace government funding for projects, and the expansion of government rather than private industry to make our economy grow. The idea that ‘a job is a job’ is all fine and dandy, but the reality is many of the government jobs being created in our region are not making the local economy a better and stronger one. It might be that in a city where just over 3200 or so fans are attending hockey games in a 4000 seat arena that building a 5700 seat arena might not be the item at the top of the priorities list.
Perhaps focusing on making the base of our community stronger, and dealing with the issues of addiction and poverty should be bumped up. While Council and Adminstration look toward a new event centre, no one is asking how many treatment beds are in the district for drug and alcohol addiction treatment. When the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre is in ‘gridlock’ meaning there are no beds for patients, the wisdom of seeking a new place to have fun should be questioned.
If one takes the time to look, many of the construction jobs are bringing people and companies from outside of the city into the region. That might help in the short run, but it is poor strategy as a long term economic plan. Eventually there will be a price to be paid. Likely it will come as a result of a combination of factors. In a community that sees crime as a problem, is watching taxes climb, and looking for solutions it is going to be up to City Council to start demonstrating results.
Much of the real work isn’t likely to come via government projects or the growth of government. That is the path that has lead Ontario into the fiscal hole that the province is now in. The real work is having government make the realization that getting out of the way and encouraging the private sector is a better path.
That task is one that will take a lot longer, but a stronger economy based on a strong business community will make more of a difference to our city. Until that happens, the economy will continue to lag, and we will continue to see the levels of crime continue to grow.