Making a Difference--Not!

Probably the greatest hope and ambition of a rookie councillor is to make a difference; that is, to somehow improve on what went before. The first four months on Council have been a lesson in frustration. I haven’t been able to budge a single issue a single millimeter. Compared to me, the Ottawa Senators have a stellar record.

I went into this job not expecting a great deal. I knew I’d be viewed as an outsider because of my local advocacy work with the Mississippi Mills Residents Association and the Alliance for Fair Taxation. I did hope that good ideas might succeed on their own merit. Wrong! Here is one example.

Councillor Val Wilkinson and I wrote a proposal to extend citizen participation in meetings of Council. Dubbed the “one-minute speakers corner,” the plan was to allow anyone to speak at a meeting for one minute without being on the delegate list. (Up to 10 minutes would be set aside at the start for this.) They could ask a question, make a suggestion, or complain about a decision. The only rule was we would not allow personal attacks. Val and I proposed a three-month trial period.

You’d think we asked to hold Council meetings in the nude! One councillor after another denounced it as a bad idea. Most complained that Council would have no control and that people might make embarrassing statements.

Only Councillor Minnille supported our idea. He remarked that he wasn’t worried about what people might say.

To me, it looked like most took the opposite view and didn’t trust the electorate to behave.

Update: I achieved a minor victory in April.