After hearing an escalating tone of discontent from residents of the Village of Elnora toward its present council and Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), it was of little surprise to read the content of your October 26, 2023 letter to the editor, pg. 6 titled Transparent governance too much to ask?.
Concerns about transparent and accountable governance are not new to municipal, provincial or federal ratepayers who, regardless of affiliations to elected officials, are democratically responsible to act as a counterbalance between governments and residents. Without any kind of public oversight the principles of a democratic society crumble.
Over a journalistic career spanning more than three decades, covering city, town, village and municipal councils, the one constant theme of resident discontent was manifested by concerns of transparent and accountable governance.
The root problem, especially in the lower levels of governance where the candidate pool was limited and, in some cases, entire councils consisted of first-time councillors, was a lack of understanding concerning the Municipal Government Act (MGA), code of conduct, or basic rules of order.
From buffoonery to a blatant disregard of the MGA, or the residents councils were sworn to serve, the obvious difficulty was a disregard to learn and understand the responsibilities of an elected official.
The result in some cases was an over balance between the role of a CAO and the councils they served. CAOs are the head of administration, responsible for implementing policies and advising, not governing elected councils.
As your Oct. 26 letter suggests, there appears to be an imbalance of power in the Village of Elnora, where elected officials and its CAO, have an obvious disregard for some residents’ concerns.
Some of these issues are evident after a perusal of the village’s website on Nov. 24, where October’s (10th) and November’s (14th) council meeting were still listed, with no indication of a December meeting.
A chance discovery to a link on the village’s website also led to a report of ‘Legislative Gaps’ revealed in the 2022 Municipal Accountability Program.
The report detailed no less than 21 of these ‘gaps’ where the village was not in compliance with legislative requirements. They include to name just four: requirement to close meetings in accordance with the MGA and Freedom of Information and Protection Privacy (FOIPP); requirement for council meeting minutes to be in accordance of the MGA; requirement for the code of conduct bylaw include all legislative requirements; and, perhaps most surprising, requirement to establish the chief administrative officer position by bylaw and to formally appoint a chief administrative officer by council resolution.
A somewhat alarming revelation considering the importance of the position.
It is clear at this point in time there is an ongoing battle being waged between a growing number of discontented residents and the current council and administration, including the yet to be revealed results of a Municipal Affairs Inspection.
The saddest part of the whole affair is this discord won’t be solved by butting heads, and has the distinct possibility of descending into a position where this quiet, still vibrant village loses its autonomy amid an atmosphere of disinterest in local politics, where a distant, detached form of governance at a county level leaves residents with undesired layers of bureaucracy.