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County clerk’s proposal engages public

Prince Edward County Clerk Victoria Leskie has come up with an “innovative” and “exciting” way to engage the public in the municipal governance process.
Leskie presented a report to the committee of the whole Thursday afternoon which proposes a way to involve the public in subcommittees of council.
Leskie developed the idea during the last term of council and it was reinforced when Mayor Peter Mertens suggested increased public involvement in his inaugural speech.
She noted the proposal is early in its development and will need to be fleshed out considerably if council sees merit.
She proposes that any and all members of the public wishing to assist council with expertise or advice on any of a number of issues would be encouraged to do so once they had made their intention of assistance known to council and a list established.
“Volunteers have given a great deal of time and effort in many municipal roles and functions and are one of the greatest strengths and assets of our municipality,” Leskie’s report stated.
She noted challenges to the process in the past, noting that skills and expertise of subcommittee members have not been fully recognized and utilized; terms of reference have been too general, resulting in subcommittees creating their own agendas – sometimes not in accordance with council priorities; council has made limited referrals and rarely asked advisory committees for advice, and as a result advisory committees rarely advise; the procedure bylaw requirements (such as quorum) are restricting; membership on committees is not necessarily broadly representative of the community; people want to participate but don’t like the formal meeting process.
Leskie also noted subcommittees can have significant impact on staff time and resources and may indeed have some budgetary impact.
“The role of the public in the governance process is critical and contributes to informed decision making on the part of council and an active, engaged and valued public and staff awareness and receptivity to public opinion,” Leskie noted.
In her report, she noted a new term of office would be a good time to initiate any proposed changes, adding her proposal is for ad hoc and advisory committees of council only, not statutory committees.
The proposal was well received by council, although more discussion is required on how to implement and incorporate the proposal into the current process.
Leskie had two proposals in her report and councillor Barb Proctor said she prefered a “hybrid” of the two proposals.
Councillor Keith MacDonald said this process would be ideal to establish a health care advisory ad hoc committee that understood the present health system and what was happening to the Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital.
Mayor Mertens made a referral motion.
“There are a number of things and issues we need to address and we need to look at the time involved with our committees. I feel we need a complete airing of the issues to decide if we want option one or option two or a combination of both.”
Councillor Bev Campbell recommended a more detailed report from the clerk, adding “this looks quite innovative and exciting to me.”
Mertens suggested councillors give their input to the clerk and suggested the report be moved forward into the next strategic planning session where the issue would get a thorough discussion and direction could be given to Leskie on how to proceed.

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  1. Doris Lane says:

    Victoria Leskie has a great idea. Take advantage of the many outstanding people that live in the County to volunteer to do some jobs for Council.
    Keith mentioned the hospital and we have 2 very special people who have spent many years working for the hospital, namely Don Stanton and Fran Renoy.

    In another vein I think that Victoria Leskie would make a good interm CAO. It is good practice to promote from within an organization and not bring in someone from outside. I have found Victoria competent, friendly and always willing to help. People who work in organizations need the incentive of possible promotion.

    I am sure she has been doing some of Shannon’s work anyway since he is only working part time.

  2. Gary Mooney says:

    Victoria Leskie’s report on public engagement / consultation is excellent, and the positive reaction of Council is encouraging.

    In particular, I like Option 1, the “Citizen Partnership Program” which would recruit a pool of up to 100 citizens who would be available to provide input on issues that arise, or on projects that are initiated.

    Depending on the circumstances, citizen participants would be chosen from this pool on either a targeted basis (to obtain particular expertise) or on a random basis (to obtain a cross-section of views).

    This is a truly innovative idea, and has the potential to establish a basis for continuing cooperation between Council and County citizens.

    This approach could go a long way to eliminating the “us” vs “them” attitude that has sometimes arisen, on both sides. We need a working environment between County government and its citizens that recognizes that it’s all “us”.

    Here is a link to Victoria’s report: and to a list of County subcommittees:

    I note that the Mayor asked Councillors to provide input prior to consideration at a strategic planning session. Given that the idea relates to public engagement and consultation, why not also invite input from citizens before deciding how to proceed?

  3. Lori Smith says:

    Where do I sign up for the committee to review and reduce council size as per the referendum question which received a hair less than 80% approval by voters?

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