EDITORIAL: We need to talk

The City of Parksville needs to do a better job communicating with residents about big projects that will affect their neighbourhoods

What are the issues candidates must grapple with as we get closer to the Oct. 22 city council byelection in Parksville?

Or more importantly, will more than a few people show up to cast a ballot?

Candidates have until 4 p.m. next Friday (Sept. 16) to file their papers at city hall. Advance voting at Parksville Community and Conference Centre is Oct. 12 and 19. Election day proper is Oct. 22, with voting at Parksville Fellowship Baptist Church on Pym Street.

Only 35 per cent of an estimated 9,600 eligible voters cast ballots in the 2014 municipal election. How many will vote in a byelection for a single council seat? Regardless, democracies are run by those who show up, so it doesn’t matter if only 10 per cent of the electorate votes in October, it’s a valid win for whichever candidate takes the day.

As for issues, what’s hot? From where we sit, communication is the single most important issue facing the current council and it should be a priority for any new member.

We’re not talking about the communications department at the city. Debbie Tardiff is a consummate professional who does a great job. We’re talking about this council’s propensity for secret meetings — in roughly 20 months, about 40 in camera sessions that we know about, likely many more we don’t. This rush to secrecy comes from senior staff, who are interpreting the Community Charter in the broadest way possible, defaulting to fears about possible litigation instead of defaulting to the taxpayers’ right to know. If this council had better leadership, the elected officials would put a stop to all this secrecy.

There are also communication concerns in relation to city projects. If you are going to run a water main adjacent to someone’s backyard, an open house or two and info on your website is not good enough. Each and every affected resident of Trill Drive — it’s not like there are dozens of them — should have had a personal visit and/or phone call from staff, for example.

Temple Street? Don’t even get us started. A bike lane on both sides, which has basically eliminated street parking? Residents expected a bike lane, sure, but not the disappearance of parking. Numerous other issues arose for residents on the multi-million-dollar Temple project. The attitude from city staff seemed to be along these lines: the plans were on the drawings, we had an open house, too bad you weren’t paying attention then.

That’s not good enough. Perhaps a fresh face can kick start this council toward a better understanding of who pays for these projects and who pays the salaries of staff.

— Editorial by John Harding

Parksville Qualicum Beach News