6/14/10

Governance: Fairness and Respect

I have attended many meetings of Mississippi Mills Council and its committees. While the Mayor and Councillors usually work well as a unit, an acrimonious rural/urban split manifests itself at times. This split leads to decisions that are unfair to some wards. The next Council needs to end that split. The solution: fairness and respect.

Speaking of Fairness

A blatant example of the rural/urban split in action is the debate about sharing hydro revenues. Three times this spring, Councillor John Edwards attempted to discuss sharing hydro revenues. Twice Council stonewalled him using procedural rules. Finally on June 24, a majority of Council voted to not change the by-law that gives all hydro money to Almonte. The four Almonte Councillors, with support from the Mayor and Pakenham Councillor Denzil Ferguson, shot down John Edward's motion.

(The rules state that a decision by the current Mississippi Mills Council cannot be reconsidered unless two-thirds of Council agree. In an eleven-person Council, it takes eight votes to allow the debate to proceed.)

Since amalgamation, our Council has directed all hydro revenue to cover Almonte Ward costs. A special committee of the Mayor and four Almonte Councillors decide how the money is spent—rural Councillors have no vote on that committee. This special status for Almonte must not continue. It is unfair and divisive.

Speaking of Respect

When an issue comes before Council that deals mostly with one ward, or the urban or rural area alone, Councillors should support the majority position of the applicable Councillors. This is best explained by example.

In June 2006, Council debated whether to allow hunting on Sundays in the rural wards. No hunting on Sunday was a rural tradition going back generations. Three Almonte Councillors voted in favour of Sunday hunting against the wishes of a majority of rural Councillors and tipped the balance. I believe the Almonte Councillors should have respected the position held by a majority of rural Councillors. (Note: I am not against hunting—I just use this vote as an example.)

The same goes if a matter affects just one rural ward or Almonte Ward: listen to the ward Councillors and give weight to their words.

In short, let's have respect for the people closest to ward residents.

My Position: First we need to remove any special status for Almonte as the main step in healing the rural/urban split. Then we can begin governing for the good of all in an environment that acknowledges each ward's differences and our common needs.

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