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New councillors starting to demand full knowledge of procedures

by David Meyer

ELORA - Show us the policy.

That has become something of a mantra three councillors at Centre Wellington are using after hearing from others for a year how things run in the township.

The issue arose Sept. 12 as council was at its penultimate agenda item, known as the tracking sheet. It contains a list of issues that have yet to be decided and completed. That list was created to make sure issues do not get lost or forgotten, and it includes a department or person responsible for each issue, as well as a date when it arose, so councillors know how long it has been on the books.

It was councillor Fred Morris who wanted to discuss the issue of a plan to make Centre Wellington a Fair Trade community. He said it has been on the list since May of 2010, with nothing being done about it. His question was, “Should it remain?”

Councillor Walt Visser said he agrees with Morris “100 per cent.”

Visser explained council has had “a policy for many years” not to endorse any political cause or event.

But councillor Kelly Linton said he would at least like to discuss the issue, which arose well before the municipal election last fall, when three new councillors were elected.

“I want a discussion rather than dropping it off the list,” Linton said.

Mayor Joanne Ross-Zuj said council had some concerns about the proposal, so nothing had been done with it. She said council could keep it on the list for “one last review.”

A group of citizens had asked council to designate the township as a fair trade community and purchase only fair trade products, such as coffee from companies designated as paying a living wage to its employees.

But Morris said council had held a lengthy discussion about the issue in 2010, and all it managed to do was “bog down. If we open this door, any group has the right to approach council and ask for an endorsement of their issue. Council [then] didn’t want to go down that road.”

Council asked the Fair Trade group to bring back some information, and little has happened since then, so the issue stayed on the tracking sheet.

In the 1990s, many Ontario councils were faced with requests for recognition and declarations of a “day” from various groups. One group from a city that was refused recognition sued, so many councils, including Centre Wellington’s amalgamated council, simply declared they would support no specific political group, simply to avoid problems.

As for endorsing the Fair Trade proposal, Morris said, “If we open this door, we’ve blown our policy out of the water.”

Councillor Steve VanLeeuwen said councillors simply want to do their “due diligence” and can discuss the issue and decide. He also cited staff time on the issue. The proposal came from the economic development committee.

Ross-Zuj said the economic development committee can consider the issue and “bring it to an end. If there is no information at the next meeting, it comes off. They [fair trade proponents] are more than welcome to come back” to council.

Linton said, “If they’re interested, I’d like to see them here.”

Councillor Mary Lloyd said, “I want a look at the policy.”

Economic development manager Dave Rushton said he could invite the fair trade committee to a council or committee of the whole meeting.

Councillor Kirk MacElwain said it would be “interesting for new councillors.”

Ross-Zuj said councillors could also attend an economic development meeting when the issue is discussed.

Morris liked that approach better, noting the proponents have been to council “twice already.” He then said council needs to discuss its policies. “It doesn’t matter if it’s good, bad, or indifferent.”

Visser agreed, and said it seems council has “thousands of policies.”

In a discussion after the meeting, Lloyd and Linton said they constantly hear from veteran councillors about council policies, but have never seen them, and they want to have as much knowledge of council doings as possible. They, along with VanLeeuwen, will be celebrating their first full year on council next month.

 

September 30, 2011

 
 

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