Editorial – Actions speak louder than words

Chris Clegg

In the span of five months plus one day, Big Lakes County councillors have done a complete turnabout.

At its Jan. 10 meeting, council decided that only oral reports on what they are doing was adequate. Not written reports, like councils at Northern Sunrise County are required to do. A verbal report, which is nice considering no details are recorded in the minutes. The meetings are also not recorded electronically.

The decision is curious considering on Aug. 9, 2023 the same council (all nine members) voted unanimously to approve what they called a “draft council attendance report policy” to let everyone know what councillors were doing between meetings, including conference attendance.

Former CAO Jerry Gautreau wrote in his report, “The purpose of this policy is to provide a guideline to council members on reporting requirements to increase and improve public transparency, accountability, trust and access to information.”

No one disagreed.

“I think it’s good to have accountability to tell people what we’re doing,” said Kinuso Councillor Roberta Hunt.

“Reports would be meaningful for us as councillors,” added Joussard Councillor Richard Mifflin.

But five months later, what council has actually done is not working toward more transparency and accountability, but distancing themselves from it.

How did council go from agreeing to provide written reports to only a verbal report?

At council’s meeting Jan. 10, Reeve Tyler Airth reminded councilllors of the purpose of reports.

“It’s about public transparency,” he said.

“We would submit reports to the CAO and he would include the reports in the agenda package!”

Perfect! Transparency! As so many politicians love to preach but do not practice!

Councillors discussed a roundtable format but unless the meeting is recorded for the public to hear, it distances council from transparency. Not everyone can attend a 10 a.m. meeting. Council needs to recognize and respect that.

And by including written reports in the agenda package, anyone could access them. Keeping in mind written reports in the agenda package are recorded for posterity, whereas verbal reports are not.

Transparency and accountability are buzzwords during election time. They sound nice and fluffy, but a further examination of council’s behaviour afterwards tells a different story.

Actions speak far louder than words.

Big Lakes County council has dropped the ball. And so soon after attempting to get it right. What the heck happened in only five months?

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