In February 2018, many constituents in the County of Guysborough were surprised and alarmed by news that the Municipality of the District of Guysborough (MODG) had sent a letter to the premier, his cabinet, and other Strait area municipalities, asking the provincial government to lift the 2014 ban on fracking in Nova Scotia. The motion by the MODG came forward without any public discussion or due diligence in terms of environmental impact research by council.
A group of Guysborough constituents realizing the MODG Council’s action represented again, the lack of council’s contact with those citizens who voted them into office, formed the Guysborough Communities Coalition (GCC) in order to develop a dialogue between the council and Guysborough citizens. Cultivating and maintaining a positive, inclusive, and respectful community culture was imperative, the coalition felt, for the growth of the municipality.
The GCC via its steering committee made a petition to council on April 18th 2018 to develop a town hall-style meeting with full council, where all parties could share ideas and constituents could play a larger role in the affairs of the future of their municipality.
The GCC petition was not passed however, so on April 18th, three members of the Guysborough Communities Collation (GCC) met with Warden Pitts of the Municipality of the District of Guysborough (MODG) to discuss what the GCC saw as the continuing council issues including lack of transparency and community dialogue. Initially, the warden rejected the meeting, asserting he would only meet one-on-one. Later he agreed to meet with 3 members of the GCC’s steering committee, myself included. Unexpectedly, Deputy Warden Sheila Pelly and Councillor Blair George attended this meeting also.
The discussion began by the coalition reminding councillors we want to find more open dialogue between constituents and council. I explained that in one respect, we saw ourselves as facilitators through the process. Holly Nahrebecky of GCC added we also wanted to debunk the warden’s comments that the GCC was promoting negativity and trying to bully council. Saying “no” to a town hall-style meeting for us, represented negativity on council’s part.
The bullying was based on coalition member George Nahrebecky asking for a decision on our town hall meeting petition at the April 4th council meeting. Given it was an open council meeting; he felt that rather than defer a decision to staff, a vote should be taken. Warden Pitts rejected a town hall venue before calling for a motion, which the coalition saw as superseding the motion.
Numerous times at the April 18th meeting, Councillor George interrupted with offhanded, unrelated remarks, admitting he did not want a town hall meeting since if he could not answer a question he would feel embarrassed. Previously, at the April 4th council meeting, he indicated given he had been a council member for 30 years he felt he knew what his constituents wanted and there would be no town hall style meeting in his district.
GCC went on to ask the warden to consider a number of ways council could keep constituents better informed, similar to other municipalities across the province, including:
– streaming council meeting
– move the council meetings to evenings
– include Q&A period at the end of open council meetings
– post the council agenda online
– post the council minutes online including committee reports and discussion
– mail out flyers to residents updating council information
Pitts indicated he would take into consideration these requests and get back to the coalition. GCC will attend the next council meeting on May 9th to determine if any of these recommendations will be acted upon. If they are delayed or disregarded, the coalition will begin formally petitioning council to make these changes occur.
The coalition remains committed to engaging in dialogue with the MODG so citizens can openly contribute ideas and help build a strong, stable, and sustainable municipality.
If you would like to either join the coalition, or just be kept informed on the coalition’s work, email your name and email address to firstname.lastname@example.org
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