“You’d better love meetings — really love meetings,” consultant Fred Dean told an array of prospective council members, sitting councilors and municipal administrative staff Monday night at Oso Hall in Sharbot Lake.
Dean was in town to present Running For Council . . . Making an Informed Decision at the behest of Frontenac County and its member municipalities.
While the number of sitting politicians and municipal employees probably outnumbered the potential newcomers to the political arena, there were sufficient unfamiliar faces to suggest there could be some interesting races shaping up when the race begins in earnest after the July 27 deadline for filing papers in order to be on the ballot (papers became available May 1 and both Central Frontenac Mayor Frances Smith and South Frontenac Mayor Ron Vandewal have picked their up).
After Frontenac Islands Mayor Denis Doyle introduced Dean as a former Sudbury City solicitor, Amberley Gavel Ltd. closed meeting investigations, integrity commissioner, Association of Municipalities of Ontario Honor Roll, facilitator, etc, the later launched into an agenda featuring Municipal Government 101, Municipal Powers, Accountability and Transparency, Roles and Responsibilities, Coming Changes, Personal Considerations and Conflict of Interest.
“The biggest changes (to municipal governance) since I’ve been involved are coming in March 2019,” he said. “Accountability and transparency are going to go up considerably.”
Dean said Section 5 of the Municipal Act, which includes accountability and transparency, is the most important in his opinion.
“If a majority of councilors get together, it’s a meeting,” he said. “It may be an illegal meeting (for example at a coffee shop) but it’s a meeting.
“But if it’s an office Christmas party, it’s not a meeting.”
Dean went over the responsibilities of a municipal council and then implored his audience to become familiar with the municipality’s procedure bylaw.
“Oh, and another thing, you have to love reading because you’ll have a lot to read before every meeting,” he said.
He then covered a series of ways a new councilor’s life will change and how people will treat you differently, as well as the responsibilities of being a councilor 24/7, impact on the family and total commitment.
He summed up his presentation by saying that municipal government is multi-faceted, complex and highly regulated, urging prospective politicians to understand the role they are elected to fulfill, their personal obligations and to talk with their family.