The City of Penticton engagement officer has developed an engagement policy that it has distributed to the public, and will be presenting to city council for approval.
This policy states “The city will conduct its community engagement activities in accordance with the international standards for effective community engagement as developed by the International Association for Public Participation.”
The goal of the plan is to provide better decision making through increased public involvement and input. Basically, and I quote from the plan, “to place the decision making in the hands of the public.”
The plan contains a promise to the public and I quote; “We will implement what you decide.”
This modus operandi is so far from the way decisions have been made by the city in the past, that it will require a strong buy-in from senior staff and council to have any chance of success. Barring that, it will be nice to say that the city has a great policy on this matter, but nothing changes. It will be a policy in name only.
As an example, two decisions have been made by the council recently, and I do not recall any engagement with the public having occurred prior to the matters being presented to the council and a decision made. No public engagement, and no public input. These were the granting of an extension to the Wildstone Group (a business enterprise) for a tax exemption and the continuation of the policy of full exemptions of municipal taxes on charitable organizations (non-profit groups that meet many needs for disadvantaged individuals and struggle financially to remain operating). The cost to the city was 10 times larger for the Wildstone extension and it was approved while the full exemption for the charities was not.
This indicates where the council’s priorities lie, but does it reflect the wishes of the general public at large?