The difference four years make

“Mayor Brocanier and Town of Cobourg Council invite citizens to the podium during the first four meetings of Cobourg Town Council in 2015.”

This was the invitation given to Cobourgers in 2015 read it here. This is in strict contrast to the message sent by the new Cobourg Council in its first meeting of its term. In that meeting they propose to adopt – for information, a new procedural bylaw that will severely restrict access to Councils by the public. Read the new procedural bylaw here. Jump to section 15.0 to read the proposed rules for delegations, whereas Mayor Brocaniers uninhibited invitation stands in stark contrast.

The reason for this post and the comparison to last Council’s attitude to public engagement is simple; section 15 intends to restrict the number of delegations to a Council meeting to four.

This intention is vague: it does not state if four delegations are for the topic under discussion or four for the complete agenda. This also subject to questions of the integrity of the system.

For example if only four delegations are allowed how do we really know if they were the first four that asked, there is no procedure for recording delegation requests in this bylaw, or if the drafters of the agenda will pick the four they want to hear from? All we know if this proposal is adopted then some policy will have to be written to eliminate the charges of “delegate picking” to allay the fears of the suspicious.

Leaving those questions aside let’s look at the recent election campaign where all of the candidates pledged fealty and allegiance to the principles of ‘transparency’ and ‘public engagement’. This new bylaw certainly puts the boots to those pledges!

But knowing us as you do the real story here is the back story and we will raise it here. If the procedural bylaw needed to be amended who decided that it did? The only issue raised during the last election was the issue of a question period after or before Council meetings. Why do we have a wholesale massacre of the status quo in this revision and who ordered it to be written. The obvious culprit would be the new Deputy Mayor and yet in the last term of Council she was a huge supporter of ‘listening to the public’ so much that Ms Seguin was often chastised for dithering in her decisions until she had heard all she wanted to hear. So what changed her mind to produce a section of a bylaw that limits public participation. If it wasn’t her who was it? The Municipal Clerk? or anybody else. The public deserves to know who pushed for this proposal. Because if we don’t discover just who it was then all of Council are suspect. Including every one of the newcomers, as they all pledged to be more open than the previous Council.

All in all not a very good start to the Council cycle. All we, at the BR can hope is that enough other people are exorcised over this egregious powergrab that will emasculate local democracy. And if they are will speak out at the public meeting on the 28th of January, after all it may the last time that a full list of unedited delegates will be allowed to appear at a Council meeting!

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