Thursday, May 3, 2007

What is Council's Communication Plan?

To The Mayor and Council
c/o: Oshawa City Clerk

cc: Hon. J. Gerretson
Ontario Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing

Regional Media

Re: Council adoption of following motion:

“That Report ABCS-07-95, ‘Request for Partnership Grant—VOTES’ dated March 30, 2007 from the Director of Finance be received for information given that the public meeting to receive input into the draft by-law to provide for the election of City Council members by general vote has been held.”

This is a ludicrous response to a request that had nothing to do with whether a public input meeting has been held or not…The Partnership Grants Request is recognition that information has to be disseminated to the public in regard to this major electoral change even though the bylaw has already been passed. The public cannot be kept in the dark about this important issue and how they should now deal with the changes and with their municipal council. Packaged with this is why the changes were necessary and what benefits are to accrue.

Information would have been provided by any responsible administration before a plebiscite question was asked of the public. By the mayor’s own admission in the recorded April 30, 2007 council meeting, city council felt that they had no responsibility to communicate any details of the plebiscite question. He said it was not their job. It was the job of private citizens to use their own funds to finance the dissemination of this required information. So now he suggests taxpayers should take this additional financial burden on themselves to do the job that council should be doing…Amazing!

The provincial government is studying electoral changes re the composition of the provincial assembly and is going to ask the people their opinion on the provincial ballot. Perhaps the Premier should take a page out of Oshawa’s strategy book and Mayor Gray’s comments re whose responsibility it is to inform the public on plebiscite questions and leave it up to interested and concerned individual of the Ontario public to pick up the tab….certainly that would save the Provincial Treasury a few million dollars.

Most responsible people would want to know why the plebiscite was being asked, what were the shortcomings of ward elections since none had ever been publicly expressed, and what benefits are expected to accrue to Oshawa from a change to the general vote in this city of 165,000 to provide us with local and regional councillors whose constituency is almost twice the size of our provincial and federal members of parliament.

While the information should have been provided and public debate encouraged prior to the vote, the need for information does not end now that city council has passed the bylaw to implement the general vote…but at the same time keep the wards. This sounds unusual to keep wards and not use them, so perhaps this is also a detail the public has the right to know.

The information the public requires now is not to prepare them for a plebiscite question but in fact to prepare them with how to work within a new administrative structure, how political responsibility has changed, and how elections have changed and what will be the impact of the changes into the future. A basic question is whom they should call if they have a problem in their community. Which politician is responsible for representing their community on council?

Because of the need for the public to know this information even after the bylaw has passed, I am requesting city council to prepare a highly professional brochure up to Oshawa’s normal standard with high quality paper, colour photographs and professional design for distribution to all residents in Oshawa. The typewritten letter printed black and white on letter head paper that you distributed to inform of the time and place of the public meeting on this issue held at Sikorski Hall is not good enough. That poor quality of communication does not get any attention from the public.

I am therefore requesting that city council adopt a professional and polished communication strategy regarding the public of this major change in Oshawa politics and provide me a copy of that plan.

If any of my assistance is needed either in preparing the plan or helping design the message to be circulated, I will gladly volunteer my time and talents.

If you refuse to provide the details of a communication plan and continue to stifle the dissemination of public information about this issue, I will again be applying for a city partnership grant to do the job that you must do.

As you know democracy requires an informed public…and democracy requires politicians that respect the public ENOUGH to provide necessary information to them.

I await your response to this request.

Bill Longworth,

May 3, 2007

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