Trent Ernst, Editor
The ballots have been cast, the votes have been counted, and we have a full slate of seven sitting in council chambers. Or rather, they will be sitting there once they are sworn in on December 4.
This editorial is for them.
Okay, so even if you weren’t elected, you can read this, too. I can’t really stop you now, could I?
The first thing to do is familiarize yourself with what you can do and, more importantly, what you can’t. You are now legally bound by the Community Charter and Local Government Act.
Before you go any farther, you must know your legal limits before taking certain actions, for example, spending money on municipal services and other matters; enacting bylaws and passing resolutions to govern the conduct of the citizens of Tumbler Ridge; imposing taxes, fees and charges; disposing of its assets; and controlling property rights.
Don’t worry, you will learn this stuff, both as part of a course, and from staff and council members who’ve done this before.
Speaking of staff: listen to them, especially Barry. If they tell you something can’t be done, chances are it is because it is beyond the scope of what you are able to do, and if you tried to do it, you’d wind up in trouble. They know what they’re talking about, and they are there to protect you from yourself.
Generally, the flow of information is from Council to the Mayor and then to the CAO. The Handbook for Councillors says “If council members deal directly with other members of the Administration, they undermine the authority of the CAO and effectively cut the CAO ‘out of the loop’. This will eventually make the organization dysfunctional.” So respect that things are done for a reason, and don’t contribute to a dysfunctional council, even if it would be so much simpler to deal with staff without the extra steps.
The previous council had a reputation of not showing up to events unless they had to. Sure, it’s easy to show up someplace when you are expected to make a speech, but when you’re just one of the crowd? Why bother?
I’ll tell you why bother. Because people are paying attention. People notice. Yes, it’s okay that one person is off at meetings in Dawson Creek, and maybe another is off in Mazatlan for their annual vacation. But when only one person from Council shows up to the Volunteer appreciation BBQ? If you want people to care about what you’re doing, you need to care about what they’re doing. Yes, it means a lot of time at meetings and events and just being present, but that’s part of the gig.
Finally, just a note about conflict of interest. Conflict of interest generally deals with financial interest, generally. Yes, the Community Charter says that Conflict of Interest can take the form of “another interest in the matter that constitutes a conflict of interest,” but over the last few years, people have been tossing around this term with no understanding of its meaning. So make sure you know the difference between Conflict of Interest and Bias.
A councillor who votes, say, in favour of building the new Visitor Information Centre who owns a hotel? Could reasonably be considered of having a conflict of interest. A councillor that has argued for the last few years that the town needs to do something to develop a tourism industry? That’s not conflict of interest. Oh, there is certainly a bias, but he or she is not going to benefit, either directly or indirectly, from it, or at least not any more than any other average person.
Other than that, welcome to your new role as a member of Council. I hope your time there is a pleasant and productive one.