Public advisory committees

Collingwood used to have many public advisory committees that provided our council and the town with ideas and input in various areas of expertise. These committees also gave members of the public opportunities to become involved in the town and contribute their knowledge and experience, without having to be elected to the political realm. For those who wished to get into politics, the many local boards and committees provided a venue to learn the business of meetings, to meet staff and council, and to help prepare for their move into politics.

Most of these committees (aside from those required by legislation) were arbitrarily and abruptly disbanded by a former council which didn’t want to be bothered with public engagement. The town’s current self-inflicted water “crisis” is a direct result of disbanding the town’s water utility board and letting an inexperienced council, uninterested in infrastructure or the minutiae of legal contracts, oversee our water systems and the pipeline contracts with our southern neighbours.

At the same time, that previous council implemented for its own meetings a byzantine committee system that helped further isolate the council from public engagement. These new five-person committees created a wall of bureaucracy and redundancy that made action slower and more difficult to get things done because committees could do little more than recommend an issue be forwarded to the full council. Plus, they allow three committee members (a majority of committee members) to decide whether a resident’s or business’ request or issue would be forwarded to the full council for an actual decision, giving unwarranted authority to a small minority of council.

But even if the committee recommended the issue be forwarded to council, the member(s) of the public who made the presentation then had to make it all over again to the full council. And the issue gets debated all over again by the full council.

Staff time, council time, and public time have been wasted for years with this inefficient and resident-hostile system. We need less red tape, not more.

I propose to restore the previous and some new public advisory committees so council can more fully engage the public and get the benefit of ideas, experience, and views from others. I also propose to revert back to the older, more efficient, more resident-friendly system of combining council and committee of the whole meetings. Doing so will reduce the time it takes to get anything done, will free up a considerable amount of staff time to do actual work instead of sitting in endless meetings, reduce red tape and expenses, and bring council closer to the residents who want to engage with it.
Collingwood deserves a council that engages more fully with the community and its residents, not one that sets itself apart and makes it more and more difficult for citizens to participate in their own local democracy.

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