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LETTER: Consultants and city staff contradict public will

'Why are we shrinking Council when Guelph is growing fast?' asks reader Kevin Bowman

GuelphToday has received the following letter to the editor from Kevin Bowman concerned that staff is not taking the recommendation of Guelph citizens into account when they make recommendations.

The City of Guelph recently published the results of public consultations on questions of council composition. Of particular note are two questions:

  • How many councillors in total should Guelph have?
  • How many councillors should each ward have?

Other questions were asked but these two worth noting because the recommendations coming from the consultants and city staff who ran the public consultations are in direct contradiction to what the public said they wanted.

A large majority (66 per cent of people) said they wanted 12 (as we have now) or more councillors total but the recommendation is to shrink council to eight. Only 25 per cent of people want that. A clear majority (53 per cent of people) said they wanted two councillors per ward (as we have now) but the recommendation is to switch to one. Only 35 per cent of people want that.

Why are we shrinking council when Guelph is growing fast? Why would ward residents want fewer people representing and working for them at city hall? Why does city hall bother to pay tens of thousands of public dollars (if not more) to consult the public and then proceed to ignore the public’s will?

If you are a resident of Guelph and you have an opinion on this matter I encourage you to email your thoughts to [email protected] by the submission deadline of Friday, Oct 30 at 10 a.m.

This is not an isolated incident. There seems to be a growing trend of public consultations not happening when they should, being done poorly and being ignored. Some examples:

  • city staff suggested limiting public delegations to either Committee of the Whole or council but not both with no advance public consultations
  • a bylaw was passed to close Dublin St. with no consultation
  • the Metrolinx Power Station was planned for Margaret Greene Park in collaboration with city hall with no advance public input
  • the input of citizens being considered equivalent to the input of developers who stand to profit from the development and then don’t have to live there for the coming decades
  • residents being asked if they feel “confident” in internet voting with no attempt to educate them about the risks and benefits.
  • Council siding with staff and developers on the Parkland dedication issue when local residents were opposed
  • local residents clearly preferring a community park with a view of Hall’s pond and city staff making an alternate proposal

Luckily council overruled staff on the last example but the question remains, why is this happening in a city with an award-winning Community Engagement Framework?