An annual Council review?

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Added: Wed, 11/21/2018 - 10:48pm
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Carl Hager
Éditorialiste Invitée
Guest Editorialist

One year into the mandate of those we elected in 2017 is an appropriate time to review their effectiveness. In a democratic society, where transparency, availability, and fiscal prudence are and should be our constant concerns, it's mandatory that
citizens themselves remain active in evaluating their council’s performance. Are election promises seeing the light of day? Are special interests over-riding public good?
In 2017, several councils elected new mayors. In the Municipality of Pontiac, for instance, not only was the mayor new, but so were four councillors; all said they were keen to learn, and promised transparency and economic improvement.
Municipal politics are detail-ridden: road work considerations, budget allocations,
operations like housing codes and permits, and by-law management. Knowing
municipal bylaws is an important function of councillors; they must bring a tremendous amount of information, knowledge and good judgment to their decisions. On the other hand, we want to avoid just letting an entrenched Old Boys’ Club lead us along, as in the old days.
MRC Pontiac is one of Québec’s poorest regions, yet it supports a huge number of
mayors. The province keeps off-loading responsibilities to the municipalities. But can multiple small municipal councils, no matter how close to their populations, handle these increasingly complex responsibilities and regulations, and with little funding help?
Again, the Municipality of Pontiac is an example of these challenges: door-to door
compost pickup’s viability and citizen-support; road-repair delays and cost
escalation (Alary and Mountain Roads); the Quyon Community Centre, still inexplicably closed.
Most councils face unfulfilled promises and proposals: amalgamation between Fort Coulonge and Mansfield, Campbell’s Bay and Litchfield, Shawville and Clarendon? Or taxes rising— but for which new services? Where
are the seniors’ projects, public transit, or cooperation with our MNA and MP on
environmental threats like a Chalk River radioactive dump?
Novice and uninformed councillors often discharge their functions by voting as the mayor sees things. This may not be good for the constituency, which is why citizens
must monitor council performance so elected members uphold their sworn and diligent duty.
How to do this effectively is the question. Can local media keep us informed, or isn't it best to actually attend a council meeting? And where are those promises? – how many of us kept a list from the election! Can we recall some of them and ask for an accounting?  Again, we need strong real media – so, we must support our local news sources and not rely on gossip (especially from social media!). We need the historical record that local media creates; we need current reports and interviews; we need to insist our media asks important questions. We need our own
personal engagement and participation.
Nobody said democracy was easy and comes naturally. Vigilance is the price we each must pay as citizens to have good, effective municipal councils.