MNBP Council Oct 15 — A Rare Opportunity to Discuss Priorities

By John Francis

It has been an ongoing theme at Northern Bruce Peninsula Council Meetings that there are not enough opportunities to talk about priorities — just a relentless press of decisions that must be made in a timely fashion. On the morning of October 15, Council’s Special Meeting offered a rare opportunity to discuss those priorities. Cheryl Brine, from OMAFRA (Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs) acted as facilitator. She is a Senior Adviser in OMAFRA’s Agriculture and Rural Economic Development section.

The municipality’s Official Plan as revised in 2015 offers a set of six priorities: 

#1 — To maintain a well-managed and fiscally responsible municipal government.

#2 — To conserve and protect our unique natural environment while encouraging well-managed growth.

#3 — To enhance the health, safety and education of our community.

#4 — To develop and promote cultural and recreational opportunities.

#5 — To encourage citizen involvement.

#6 — Develop and implement economic development strategies for the Municipality.

Council had a three-hour window and a lot of material to cover.

On priority #1, Councillor Smokey Golden stated that she is happy with the municipality’s current staffing structure. Deputy Mayor Debbie Myles said that taxpayers are not necessarily happy with things as they are, but aren’t sure what they want. Cheryl Brine asked what MNBP would want to learn from performance indicators. Mayor Milt McIver suggested we need performance indicators and performance measures and not just from one year. Councillor Megan Myles took that a step further: We need data, performance indicators, better communications… perhaps more newsletters. People are not happy with the current level of communications. “Do you measure satisfaction or dissatisfaction?” Mayor McIver asked. There was a pause. “Good question,” said Cheryl Brine.

Councillor Smokey Golden brought the discussion back to staffing. “Everybody is having trouble finding employees. Our best way forward is to maintain the good employees we have. It’s so competitive out there.” Are some of our departments overloaded? she asked. Do we need to increase our staffing levels to prevent service delays and unhappy staff? “I’m not accusing,” she stressed, “just asking. Do we have what we will need? Do we have people in the wings” so that retirements will not cause a major shock? This kicked off a discussion of succession planning as several key staff members are within a few years of retirement. CAO Bill Jones pointed out that 5 of 6 recent vacancies were filled from within.

It was agreed around the table that an organizational review should be conducted and that it should be done by a consultant. Brine noted that a consultant brings specialized skills and also can ask questions that staff wouldn’t dare ask.

Much time was devoted to the need for affordable housing. The subject kept coming up, from different angles, under each of the priorities.

Under Economic Development, it was noted that several of the priorities from the 2015 Official Plan have been implemented.

The full minutes of this meeting will appear in the next issue of the Bruce Peninsula Press.