No call for blind-siding staff in public

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News Editor

Tuesday, May 21 2013

This past Thursday at the Gabriola Local Trust Committee the level of criticism aimed at staff and the consultants hired to conduct the climate change report appeared to be a complete blind-siding. It was unprofessional for an elected official to chew out staff in such a public manner. It showed a lack of respect for the professionals we the taxpayers are hiring. 

It isn’t that the Trustees didn’t have a chance to give feedback on the report ahead of time. This wasn’t a late add-on to the agenda. Trustee Rudischer had time to write down all her objections and concerns with the report ahead of time.

While rules of governance require the Trustees to avoid speaking to each other about Trust issues outside of the meetings, the agenda for the meeting (including a full copy of the report) is available for public perusal a full week ahead of the meeting. One might even assume the Trustees have a copy before it hits the public web site.

There was nothing preventing the Trustees from contacting the Regional Planning Manager and expressing some of their concerns to her. This would have been the polite thing to do. Staff and the consultants could then prepare something more along the lines of what the Trustees had requested. 

A lot of the concerns voiced by Trustee Rudischer (and Trustee Malcolmson afterwards) are completely valid. But the staff and consultants were lectured to in public with criticisms they clearly had no idea were coming their way.

Staff does not exist to score political points off. They are there to move forward whatever policies the Trustees set in motion. Trustee Rudischer says she is concerned with the lack of movement on the Official Community Plan review (as she repeatedly reiterated throughout the meeting). That’s on her and the rest of the Trust Committee to set the timeline for.

For the past five or six Trust Committee meetings it has been celebrated how short the meetings were. 

As nice as it has been for everyone to pack up and head home by lunch time, perhaps a bit more time could have been spent on discussing the direction of projects and asking what was going on in the background. 

It is not up to staff to dictate the direction of the discussions. It is up to the elected officials to ask questions and find out what is happening with the various projects.

Trustee Rudischer is right (in a lot of ways). All islanders want to see movement on the OCP review. We want to see the results which were promised in the last election, sometime before we go to the local voting ballots again next year. And there were ways the report did not fit within what Trustees had asked for. But it is up to her and Trustee Malcolmson to make the OCP review happen, as it is the Trustees who are ultimately responsible to the taxpayers for what does and does not get done in a term. 

We don’t vote for staff, we vote for the Trustees.

Full story on the climate change report here.