Warren Goulding column: Letter to the editor was unfair

I’m always impressed with the volume of letters to the editor that we receive here at the Cowichan Citizen.

It’s encouraging that we have a community that cares enough to offer opinions, praise, criticism and corrections in such a public forum. And it’s flattering to know they believe the Citizen is a good place to express themselves.

We get far more letters than we can print and not many papers can make that claim. Thankfully, we also have our website available to publish letters.

Of course, there are rules for publishing letters to the editor. Not everyone realizes that newspapers are legally responsible for the content of the letters. If they’re libelous, for example, we’re on the hook for any legal costs that may ensue. Despite what a few people believe, the paper — editor, publisher — does not endorse the opinions expressed in those letters.

Many times we are radically opposed to the opinion being presented in the letters. But unless we feel it’s libelous or goes beyond the limits of good taste or fairness, we publish the letter unedited.

It’s a judgment call. It’s not easy and sometimes we don’t get it right. But free speech is vital to our democracy and we’ll defend that concept strenuously.

Wednesday’s paper contained a letter that challenges the limits of what is acceptable but we chose to publish it.

Ron Stasynec, a North Cowichan resident, was very critical of the way North Cowichan responded to the recent snowstorm. As a former resident of the Prairies, Stasynec claimed to have some expertise in the area of snow removal.

Unfortunately, in my humble opinion, his wording was unfair and way over the top. His criticism of the snow removal equipment operators was potent and, again, unfair.

Stasynec’s tirade was nothing new. Criticism of municipalities’ snow removal efforts are common whether it’s a small town or a larger city. Seems people are rarely happy and that’s just a fact of life, one that experienced bureaucrats and municipal employees understand goes with the territory.

As for the letter, in my still humble opinion, I don’t agree with Stasynec’s position. This taxpayer and others, need to learn more about the challenges of clearing snow in a region that is not prepared for a dump of the type we experienced in mid-February. Nor should it be.

Imagine the costs of purchasing equipment that sat idle for most of the year. Does Stasynec have any idea of how many kilometres of road North Cowichan is responsible for?

The snow removal wasn’t perfect. But our municipal workers did a good job under the circumstances.

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