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Citizen Involvement

November 18, 2022

Virgil Hammock
Candidate Ward 3 Councillor
Tantramar Township

A problem with local government is most people in a community like Sackville (soon to be Tantramar) are not very interested in what is happening at town hall until an issue comes up that personally affects them. Then they jump up and down and demand action and satisfaction. The fault is both with the citizens and council. In the Sackville area this has not been helped by the lack of a local newspaper. The Sackville Tribune Post served us very well for over a hundred years. The Wark Times and CHMA have stepped up to try and fill the gap, but many people in Tantramar were still in the dark in what was happening at Town Hall and relied on conversations at the post office or at a local grocery store for information on town politics. Fun, but it does have its problems.

Of course, there are the local political junkies who are well informed, but they are in the minority. The solution, or at least a partial solution, is to directly involve more people in the community in local government. Appoint interested citizens in committees of council—committees that report directly to council on subjects and issues that are important to our community. There is a history of standing committees of council that did just that. Renaissance Sackville comes to mind, but there were others. Renaissance actually had a budget which it gave out to community groups in the name of council. It was responsible to council, but the beauty was that council could not be seen as funding one favourite group over another. As a councillor deciding an ATV Club over Nature Club who get the most funding, I would not touch that with a ten foot pole.

I could see any number of standing committees involving citizen members. I suggested in an earlier post a standing committee on health and wellness. Others might include public, art and culture, heritage, housing, rural/urban relations. I am sure that there are others. Committees such as these would make recommendations to council. Naturally council would have oversight as council has the responsibly over the budget and how it is spent. In the past these committees would have a liaison councillor as a member who would service as a bridge between the committee and council. Often the councillor on the committee would not sit as the chair and the committee would elect its own chair.

Citizen committees would not replace council’s responsibly to formulate and execute policies that properly belong to council. However, there are good reasons for council to listen to their citizen committees recommendations. There is a lot of expertise in Tantramar and council can always benefit from expert advice.

2 comments

  1. Hi Virgil,

    This is such a no-brainer, is such a good idea, makes so much sense, that It reminds me how seriously flawed our municipal government structure and “workings” have been and still are. And how crappy beyond belief is the way citizens are informed about things. You are so right.

    Information — oodles of “information” — is available but in multiple silos. People are dependent for its access on many things such as familiarity with various online media, and word of mouth. And of course, this is age-related, since it is the aged, traditionally less likely to feel comfortable with rapidly changing technologies, who are seriously sidelined in just about everything since covid raised its head.

    We are not alone inSackville. This same thing is happening in Canada on all 3 levels of government.

    I feel less well-informed than ever before in my life, and I regularly access all possible media. But that is driving all of us more deeply into our silos of like-thinking persons. Where is care of community? I think we have seen in covid how little people care about “community” these days. People have been conditioned to think as individuals. You and me, too! At least we are aware of this, and we need to convince others of the importance of thinking about others as a way of helping our community to survive. Living in community! And we do!

    I wonder how your suggestion will strike those who are already on Council. They may feel it will add another onerous level of work to their already formidable work load. Don’t know.

    How exciting Paivi is coming!!!! What do you and Demian think of the idea of 5 or 6 of us getting together for a “family” dinner? Marilyn and I would love that. A potluck at your house, perhaps? We would all make something gourmet, delicious, bring wines and have ourselves a real party! I am serious!

    JH

    Dr. Janet Hammock
    Professor Emeritus of Music at Mount Allison University
    14 Devon Avenue
    Sackville, NB, E4L3W2
    Jhammock@mta.ca
    Pronouns: she, her, hers


  2. “Fair winds and followings seas” to you Gandalf! Seriously, I hope you’re elected and serve as the senior advisor to council – that sage voice that knows from another time past. I’d post on your FB but we’re not “friends” so I’m limited that way. And I salute the 18 year old you who went off to serve in foreign lands and another time …,(I did as well,…)

    Mike Gallant
    Ward 3



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