Transparency. Public access to information. Public participation.
These are hallmarks of good government and a healthy democratic process. But it is a struggle to make them part of the process at Metro Vancouver.
The part-time political directors do their best to provide direction but the workings of Metro Vancouver bureaucracy remain mysterious to most of us citizens. Decisions are made in the bowels of the bureaucracy that we find out later we might really have wanted to know about.
Like the purchase in 2000 of a cattle ranch in Ashcroft to build a 100-year landfill.
And the decision taken last year sometime and suddenly announced in a Communique on October 9 2007 to build several new waste incinerators in our region.
Sometimes, with Orwellian doublespeak, Metro Vancouver stages costly public events with cryptic titles and no clue to the content as a way of "stimulating fresh thought." Such seems to be the case with a series coming up this month of so-called Future of the Region Sustainability Dialogs. It was quietly posted on the Metro Vancouver website over the holiday period.
The website calls these a "series of high-profile debates and discussions is intended to help decision makers shape the future of the region by presenting a range of views which hopefully challenge and stimulate fresh thought on a range of regional issues."
Chair Lois Jackson is quoted as saying: “Expert panelists and highly–engaged participants have provided fresh and stimulating perspectives on regional issues.”
But less than 2 weeks before the first event on January 17 there are no speakers listed on the promotional material - or even any debate topics beyond the generic "waste management."
I try to keep up to date on Metro Vancouver events, but I sure never saw these coming. Nor, apparently, did the sponsors.
We are told that Metro Vancouver is partnering with Chambers of Commerce and Boards of Trade across Metro Vancouver to provide these dialogs. But a search of every one of the 13 Chambers of Commerce and Boards of Trade whose logos grace the announcement shows that not a single one has any of the 3 events posted on their websites. In fact, the Surrey and Delta chambers have actually scheduled conflicting events in the time slots for the "Sustainability Dialog" in their sector of the region.
Whose idea was it to hold these "dialogs" and why don't they want us to know what is going to be debated there? (image source: http://www.overtheline.4t.com/)