Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Same Old County Approach

I attended the Waste Advisory Committee meeting in Midhurst on Monday.
It now appears that the motion by the former Warden to form the committee was more about positioning and control rather than really finding new leading edge solutions for waste.
It appears that Stantec have been given a mandate to keep going in the same direction with some lip service that the County is a leader in waste management. Now that is a joke.
In business, we would at times establish a steering committee and they would discuss where we wanted to go in general terms and decide on a general vision. If the vision required outside expertise such as a company or consultant like Stantec, then so be it.
In the case of the County they engaged a consultant, directed them to come up with the vision and then established the Waste Advisory Committee. That is backwards and fundamentally flawed. That doesn't make sense as the vision, by all the documentation, has been established by the consultant Stantec prior to the first meeting which I believe are simply marionettes of the County's bureaucrats. In summary they propose to do the same as they have over the past number of years but try to divert a little more waste. It was stated by councillor Little that Site 41 might even become a transfer station. Did any of these guys at Stantec or at the County Administration work for GM?
The committee have excellent lay people with expertise and passion to really make the County a leader in Waste Management. It is unfortunate that their thoughts and ideas are somewhat dismissed in the dialogue.
I am also surprised that the County did not learn from its attempted control of the information session prior to the Site 41 County Moratorium back in the Spring of 2009. Within ten minutes the moderator (a high paid Lawyer) lost control and the meeting turned into what it should have been, an open dialogue and question period of the panel. The motion passed at the committee on Monday is suggesting an open house with displays and an opportunity to write out your questions or discuss your concerns one on one with the representatives from the consultant. Instead of expressing the flaw with this approach in my words, Kate Harries has said it well. Here is what she said about the proposed open house information sessions.

" Those of us who have experience of other public processes know that the open house format is designed by consultants to benefit consultants.
They control the framing of the discussion.
They can discard any awkward questions as being outside their view of what the discussion is about.
They can keep quiet about any inconvenient information that a member of the public may elicit
They control the record keeping.
They control the selection of comments to be reported from the open house... and
They control the manner of the reporting.
The process is fundamentally undemocratic. We call on the Warden and Council to intervene and ensure that proper public MEETINGS be held, so that people can come together as a community and hear what the County is proposing and what their neighbours have to say. The process needs to be transparent, fair and objective. The Steering Committee needs to be at the centre of the process. The consultants should be there for technical support. Members of the Steering Committee should attend the public meetings so they can hear from the public and answer questions. At each public open house there needs to be an opportunity for questions to be asked and answered in a recorded public forum. The minutes would then become part of the public record for the benefit of the Waste Strategy Steering Committee and the public at large."

This says it all.

If the County is serious about regaining any level of credibility before the next election they must be more transparent. The information sessions for their Waste Management Strategy is a good place to start.