Informed decision-making based on public input?

George Yaremchuk

I read with interest the Council agenda for the upcoming meeting on Tuesday Feb 5, especially in regard to the public meeting pertaining to the sale of a portion of Don Maynard Park. The public meeting is in regards to the repeal of Zoning Bylaw 17-81 (September 19, 2017) and Official Plan Amendment Bylaw 17-45 (May 16, 2017). This has been a contentious issue over the past years, and I offer no opinion on the pros and cons of the possible repeals.

The item that struck me is that there is a recommended motion of Council as part of the Public Meeting agenda item. I am wondering why there would be a recommended motion put forward before all of the public input is collected at the actual public meeting? Public comments are being taken by Niki Dwyer the Town Planner up to and including the day of the meeting (presumably until Midnight Feb 5th).

In all previous Council meetings that I have witnessed, the process for public consultation was:

  • Put out a notice of public meeting, with background information
  • Hold the public meeting – the Council listens to the public and does not discuss
  • Following all of the public consultation, staff prepares a report with a recommended motion, which then comes to Council at the next meeting
  • Council then deliberates the report, public input, proposed motion, etc. and votes on the motion (often revised at the meeting) , or asks for more information

It seems this process is not being followed at the upcoming Feb 5 meeting. The implication is that this Council is considering a recommended motion before receiving meaningful public feedback and will be discussing during the public meeting process. Such a scenario goes against the fact that all current Councilors ran on a platform of openness and transparency of local government, and placed a very high value on public input and communication. This is especially exemplified in the platforms of the new Councilors – examples taken from campaign brochures:

  • John Dalgity Almonte): “Council must listen to residents and act upon their concerns”
  • Jan Maydan (Almonte): “I propose to… Research and consult with you before making decision”
  • Bev Holmes (Ramsay): “I will advocate with other council members for a more open council and administration”
  • Cynthia Gerard (Ramsay): “There has been a lack of transparency for the last few years”

How does one reconcile the above positions, held during the election, with allowing a recommended motion to be included in a public meeting before public feedback is collected and reported on?

The Don Maynard Park issue has been very contentious in our municipality for years. Making a decision on this issue and on the financial ramifications of any decision without extensive efforts to gather informed public feedback across the municipality is not good governance – nor the type of governance that residents of Mississippi Mills were promised by its new Councilors.