Limiting debate is undemocratic
Thursday, Mar 08, 2018 06:00 am
Coun. Susan Flowers came forward with an interesting notice of motion last week that, if approved by council, will limit the number of notice of motions councillors can bring forward to three.
A notice of motion is essentially a way for councillors to bring forward emergent issues, either at the behest of citizens or motivated by their own politics.
Flowers’ reasoning makes sense on the surface. The town has a lot of projects on the books it wants to work through and she doesn’t want councillors holding up the process with a constant stream of new business.
Unfortunately, while her motion might help ensure town administration runs more efficiently, it completely stifles citizen engagement and limits how responsive a councillor can respond to emergent community needs or new ideas.
It also limits council’s ability to provide leadership and good governance, effectively handing that role to the Town of Cochrane’s bureaucracy – a move that is extremely undemocratic.
What happens after the allotment of motions has been reached? What would be the point then of public delegations to council? Or, why would citizens bother emailing councillors with concerns, if this motion has tied their hands? Instead, members of the public would have to try and persuade administrators to bring their issues to council. What then is the point of having elected officials?
We trust councillors not to be frivolous with the motions they bring to council. We also rely on public opinion to enforce that belief. Proof to that statement can be seen in the amount of criticism Coun. Morgan Nagel – who has a leading five notices of motion so far this term – has received in recent weeks in letters to the editor and on social media.
It is also a matter of how needed Flowers’ motion actually is. In the previous term between January 2014 and October 2017, councillors tabled a total of 15 notices of motion or five per year, which is not unreasonable. While we can’t speculate on the unusually high number of notices of motions to kick off this term, especially with Nagel single-handedly matching previous totals, we can’t dismiss the possibility it is related to his United Conservative Party candidacy.
A town’s strategic plan should be a living document, subject to revision as needs change. Considering how fast Cochrane has been growing, the speed in which technology evolves and our diversifying demographics, it is absurd to think town planning will move in a straight line. In fact, voters should be worried if it did because good governance and leadership means changing course when required.
Those who don’t recognize that fact will find themselves without a job come the next election.