Recently, Council approved a change to the registration deadline for oral and written delegations to Council from Monday at 12 noon to Friday at 9:00 am.
There has been some feedback from the community that this change might stifle public participation in matters of municipal government. Let me explain why this is simply not the case….
Historically, the Monday noon deadline to register to speak as a delegation has been for one very good reason — because reports for Council and committee meetings were released the week before on the Thursday afternoon. This often meant that, by the time a member of the public became aware of an issue, it was already the weekend and they had very little time to read the report and then to prepare to speak at Council. The Monday noon timeline recognized this tight turnaround. In fact, the lack of time between reports being released and a Council meeting has been highly criticized in the past as a barrier to public awareness and good governance.
I agree. Three days is not enough time for any member of the public to get up to speed and prepare to address Council. It is also not enough time for Councillors to read reports, ask questions of staff and receive meaningful feedback from their constituents.
We’ve changed all that. Reports and agendas are now available a minimum of 11 days prior to a meeting. The public can access reports a week earlier than ever before, leaving eight days to register as a delegation (four days longer than our previous practice). This new practice has another benefit; it means councillors now have time to receive public input, read letters and emails and receive phone calls from constituents who want to comment on a report. This enables us adequate time to more thoroughly consider input, clarify information, ask for additional details from staff — in other words, we come to meetings better informed prior to making decisions. A report is less likely to be deferred or referred back to staff for additional information, which speeds the pace of city hall business.
But that’s not all we have done to open up the public input process. Our new Community Engagement Framework (CEF) is a major step forward towards enabling greater community participation in decision making.
The CEF report states that the Framework “has been developed in response to both external and internal demands from community members and City of Guelph employees, for greater clarity, transparency and support for engaging community members in decisions made at the municipal level. The Community Engagement Framework …. helps all stakeholders to understand the full scope and implications of
municipal decisions. It builds trust with community members, partner organizations and
In other words, if we are successful with our CEF, any issue of relevance to the community will already have been fully vetted through the robust public process before it ever gets to Council. A meaningful dialogue with all stakeholders will be embedded into the final report. An oral delegation to Council would be the last step, and the public will know well in advance when it was coming to the horseshoe for a decision.
Given these two giant leaps forward in public engagement, a Monday noon deadline to register an oral delegation is unecessary and contrary to responsible decision making. I would even go so far as saying it is disrespectful to Council to allow last minute delegations or written submissions on the day of a meeting, because the input is heard minutes before we begin our deliberations and debate on a recommendation. This does not allow members of Council to carefully consider the arguments, for or against, in the larger context of the report at hand.
Note: Please keep in mind that the Friday 9 am deadline applies to register as an oral delegation or to submit a written submission through the Clerks office. The public can email or phone individual councillors after Friday 9 am and up to the start of the meeting. As well, the chair of any meeting (committee or Council) can add a delegation with consent of the majority, in cases where a member of the public was not able to register by the deadline.
Two big steps forward — let’s hope this new process helps to provide the community with the information needed to get more involved in local issues. Early and often. 🙂 LP