Monday, October 12, 2009

Surprise! It's Our Last Meeting!

Yes, despite there being one more regular council meeting scheduled (for October 19), as well as an executive meeting for October 13, almost at the end of Monday's meeting, council decided that these scheduled meetings should be cancelled. The reason put forward was that there wouldn't be much to put on the agenda. And the reason given as to why there isn't much to put forward is the idea that we shouldn't do anything that will bind the next council.

This is a first for me. Never before has the excuse of "we don't want to bind the next council" been used so often to prevent information being made available to the public; I've heard it over and over since mid-September. Since this council has made it a common practice to ignore previous council's practices and policies, including recommendations for action (here I'm thinking specifically of the previous council's recommendation that we develop a registry to licence landlords, to ensure that all rental accommodations meet basic standards - current council has not moved on this policy recommendation at all), I'm not sure why they are now professing that anything that this current council does can't be ignored or revised once the new council is sworn in.

And if we were being open and accountable, we would acknowledge that many of the things that this council has done do bind the next council, and councils beyond that, since we set tax payment schedules for the soccer centre that extend beyond our term, and the term of the next council.

There's lots of information that I'm sure the public would love to see - how about the costs for running the soccer centre? I've been asking repeatedly for that for the last several months, at least, because that's probably the question that I get most frequently from the public. After being continually promised, they're now being withheld until after the election. Or how about sharing that study on possible locations for the new bridge - some members of council have been privy to that since last November, but haven't shared it with the rest of us.

It's almost as though some members of council don't want this information public before the election because it might influence voters. I find that odd - the least they could do is put as much information on the table as possible, so that voters can make decisions based on everything that we know, not just on the pieces that are deemed least troubling.

I voted against this motion, as did Councillor Ring. When I asked what about business that might arise between now and early November, when the new council will take office, I was told that we could always have a special meeting. I've mentioned my concerns with special meetings before - they're not well-advertised, so the public doesn't have much opportunity to attend, and they're not televised, so people can't even watch the decisions being made.

And it is somewhat ironic that, less than twenty-four hours after cancelling the regular meeting, a special meeting was set for this Thursday, October 15, to deal with some zoning appeal. I won't be there; I'll be on my way to Winnipeg for a Citizens' Advisory Committee Regional Meeting for Corrections Services Canada (I'm chair of that committee). Had we kept to our original meeting schedule, this matter would have been handled next Monday, when I'll be back.

But that would have required more trust of the system, and less manipulation.

"Ignorance is an evil weed, which dictators may cultivate among their dupes, but which no democracy can afford among its citizens." - William Beveridge

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