Committee complications for Minden Hills
By Chad Ingram
Published June 16, 2016
Members of the Minden Hills advisory committee on planning and development are concerned about the process of getting committee recommendations to the council table, calling it inefficient.
Kate Hall and Fay Martin, respective chairwoman and secretary of the planning and development committee, made a presentation to Minden Hills council June 9.
“In particular, we’re looking for some clarification from council about protocols relating to formal written material, as well as oral communications, on the work of the advisory committee,” Hall said.
She added the advisory committee is also looking for policies around the creation of task forces and working groups, since the planning and development committee is having a difficult time establishing a housing task force.
“The request has come before council at least six times, not including today,” Hall said.
Martin pointed out that while council had supported the concept of a housing task force in principle in February, in March, it directed staff to compile a report investigating the creation of a task force and detailing its intent.
She said this seemed to contradict the direction from a month prior.
“We also have some concerns about written documents being modified or contradicted by subsequent oral communication, which may change the original intent,” Martin said.
After more back-and-forth between the committee and the township, another submission from the committee on the creation of a housing task force was included in the June 9 committee-of-the-whole agenda.
Martin also questioned the appropriateness of having councillors summarize advisory committee recommendations, some of which are very detailed, and whether recommendations from advisory committees should be presented verbatim to council.
“We also have concerns that the process is inefficient,” she said, stressing the advisory committee had made the same request for the creation of a housing task force three times in six months.
“When we struck the committees and some of these things a year ago, I remember specifically saying that it would be a work in progress and I think that you have identified a communications gap, not limited to your committee,” said Reeve Brent Devolin. “Certainly, I would say you’re probably the fourth committee since inceptions, that we’ve had some bumps in the road. I think we’ve come to the conclusion at council that, first of all, we looked at what we created . . . do we need to refine it and make it better? And not singularly for any committee. So I guess my thoughts are . . . and I’ve talked to other members of council that I think are supportive, is that we kind of have an annual mechanism.”
Devolin said an annualized review of the frameworks used by committees may be something the township should institute.
As for the concerns around the delay, “Any part that I play in that, I’ll take the blame, but I think we’d like to have a dialogue and find a path out of this.”
Councillor Pam Sayne said she empathized with the frustration of committee members and pointed a proverbial finger at the reeve.
“I’m also very frustrated with the process as a councillor and the chair of the renewable energy task force,” Sayne said. “We’ve been here a year and a half. Housing is an extremely important issue to this community. A year and half later, they’re still trying to put together a task force and have it approved by council. There is a point where you have to ask, is it being postponed because it’s not supported . . . or is it really just because Brent hasn’t attended a meeting? . . . Reeve Devolin, I’m very sorry . . . I know with the renewable energy task force, we are not able to move forward until you attend a meeting.”
At a May council meeting, Sayne registered concern with a motion that read, “that the reeve attend a renewable energy task force meeting to assist with amendments to the draft renewable energy policy to be presented back to council for further consideration.”
That policy had been presented to council by members of the task force in early May.
The motion was ultimately changed to read that “council supports in principle the draft renewable energy policy,” and “further, that the reeve attend a renewable energy task force meeting to assist with the draft renewable energy policy to be presented back to council for further consideration.”
Sayne is worried about volunteers becoming disenfranchised.
“We need to give our experts and our volunteers in this community more respect with what they bring to the table and what the recommendations are of this committee,” Sayne said. “I don’t want to see our volunteers not join committees because they feel like they’re spinning their wheels.This is a process issue that I think think we really have to pay some close attention to, and it shows that we’re not functioning properly.”
Sayne said she wanted a strategic plan for the municipality.
Devolin noted a strategic planning process was underway.
“As we evolve the strategic plan, the community involvement part will be part of that communication that we have,” he said, adding that terms of reference for tasks forces and work groups – which are temporary bodies as opposed to permanent committees – is something that could be looked at.
The reeve said he’d wear any mistakes he’d made.
“In terms of gaps, let’s identify them, have dialogue that’s constructive, move forward,” Devolin said.
A proposed mandate for a housing task force came up in a later section of the meeting.
“I’m very happy with the concept of it,” Devolin said, noting that it fits in with the poverty reduction strategy being implemented for Haliburton County and the City of Kawartha Lakes.
Items discussed during a committee-of-whole meeting are typically passed or defeated during the following full council meting.