COLUMN: Hand holding accountability

Last week, Cornwall city councillor Justin Towndale tabled a motion, passed by council this week, to have recorded attendance for each council meeting. This roll-call will be posted on the city’s web site and likely reported in the media for all to know. What a great idea to hand-hold elected officials into being accountable. How else could citizens have known if their councillors attended that council meeting? What have residents possibly have done, before this earth-shattering concept was voted on, to check the attendance of their council?

They could read the news. Yes, the news. Online on sites such as this fine web site, or weekly or daily newspapers, or on Facebook, or Twitter, or even on a blog.

They could attend a meeting and see for themselves who showed up; participate in the process that is called representative democracy.

They could have asked a councillor or councillors if they attended. If not, why not.

Three very valid ways people could find out if their council attended a meeting, all that existed before Towndale’s motion. Nope, not good enough for Cornwall. Councillors will take attendance similar to a child in Grade Three. What a good use of time and resources. Take a simple task and hand-hold councillors through it.

Of course this is all tongue-in-cheek. This is a horrible idea. There are many credible media sources in the area which report on council. Those media sources already report when there is an absence around the council table.

This is a method of getting faux-accountability from elected officials and this writer suspects that the majority on council voted for this motion due to optics. If the motion was voted down it would look like they had something to hide. A lose-lose situation for council.

Council is now stuck with legislative hand-holding which will cost the taxpayers. Someone has to record the attendance, and update the city’s web site. It may be a small amount of resources, but it is still resources from city staff that could be used on other areas.

The best form accountability comes in two parts. First, at the ballot box. Something those in office have to worry about every four years. It is the ultimate equalizer, and ultimate method in which to make someone accountable. Second, an informed voter. Those voters learn really quickly on their own whom has attended meetings and who have not. Just as they find out where councillors stand on issues, how much they have claimed for meetings and expenses, and any absences.

Government does not need to hand-hold elected officials into attendance roll calls. It is simply not needed. Yet this is another shining example of the lack of focus around the council table this term. Why focus on economic development and diversification, the crumbling infrastructure, and other issues? Focus on attendance, and all other issues solve themselves. That must be similar to how that whole budgets balance themselves thing works, right?


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