Saturday, September 03, 2011

The People Have Spoken ?

Alternate Approval Process
One More Nail In Democracy's Coffin
Recently the people of Nanaimo were asked to approve the borrowing of $22.5 million to fund the new water treatment plant. Originally council had voted to take the matter to a referendum in conjunction with the civic election this fall, they reversed that decision in favour of what could be called a phoney referendum.

At the end of the thirty day process only three Nanaimo residents had cast a 'ballot' expressing their disapproval of the borrowing question. Sounds like a resounding approval doesn't it? Well, that might be the case if Nanaimo residents were aware of the process. The attendance of less than 40 people at the open house speaks to the lack of knowledge or interest the general public had in the whole matter.

But that is exactly the result Councillors and city hall management wanted to achieve, which is why the phoney referendum was conducted at the height of the summer when people are actually paying less attention than usual.

The advertisement run in the local papers looked like the small print on the back of a sales agreement which most of us can't be bothered reading, so poor turn out is not surprising.

It is unclear why this process is considered to be equal to a proper referendum but the opportunity exists for elected and non elected officials to simply use the Alternate Approval Process to keep the public from participating in matters where their opinion is not wanted.

This seems like just another well crafted tool which can be employed to demonstrate the contempt elected and non elected officials hold for the voting public.

Another recent example of this contempt was the approval of a $16 million new office for city staff instead of spending $4 million to upgrade their existing offices. Not only didn't they ask the public if they thought it was a wise use of tax dollars, they decided the whole matter in secret and to this day won't say if all Councillors approved of the decision. The Mayor was quoted as saying if they had the luxury of time, they might have done it differently.

I wonder what would have happened if they had asked the public if it was OK to borrow the $16 million for the new office, and use the surplus to fund the water treatment plant instead?


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