by George Le Masurier, Decafnation
The strong undercurrent of government mistrust that shades the American landscape is something relatively new to Canadians. But the recent Comox Valley Regional District open house on the HMCS Quadra sewer line replacement shows how and why that mood is changing.
The open house meeting should have been an opportunity for citizens, bureaucrats and elected officials to communicate in a collaborative manner that resulted in some positive meaningful action.
Instead, the HCMS Quadra meeting erupted into a vitriolic condemnation of the CVRD’s transparency on this project. You can read a report of the meeting here.
It’s a sad commentary on the openness of local government in general that this expression of anger and frustration surprised no one at the meeting, including the presenter, CVRD Senior Engineer Marc Rutten, who appeared to accept the citizens’ mistrust as routine.
Throughout the contentious meeting that at moments threatened to spin out of control, Rutten never once acknowledged the possible veracity of a citizen’s concern. But why would he? The project’s details were presented as a fait accompli which “are too far along in the process to change now.”
Rutten couldn’t have done a better job of fostering distrust in the regional district.
If government don’t genuinely want input from citizens, especially those directly affected by a specific project, then why invite them to a meeting on the pretence that their input might matter? It’s disingenuous and elevates people’s rage. And it creates mistrust of government. People start concocting conspiracy theories to explain what might seem like simple logistic solutions to CVRD staff.
Open house public meetings are usually held before finalizing a project’s details, when citizen input might actually mean something. The CVRD presented several options to Royston and Union Bay residents at an early open house on the South Sewer Project, and residents picked their preferred one. READ MORE