Marc Biss Ward 5 questionnaire: AWARE Simcoe protest
Councillor Marc Biss
The following is a letter from AWARE Simcoe chair Don Morgan to Mayor Rick Milne and members of New Tecumseth Council
The procedure adopted by council on October 30, 2017 and set out by your clerk in notices posted on the township website quite properly provides for openness and transparency with regard to council’s selection of a new Ward 5 representative this evening.
It falls short of allowing Ward 5 voters to make their own choice through the time-honoured method of an election, a course of action AWARE Simcoe would have preferred.
But it provides for a special PUBLIC meeting at which each of the candidates is given the opportunity to address council, and through council, the Ward 5 electorate. Originally each councillor was to be allowed to ask two questions of each candidate, following which council would vote. But given the number (14) of people who have stepped forward, your clerk is recommending an amendment that would eliminate any opportunity for questions.
This amendment has yet to be approved by council.
It is unfortunate that Ward 1 Councillor Marc Biss has stepped outside the public procedure outlined above and devised his own private process to help him arrive at a decision, sending each candidate an 8-question questionnaire (attached). He does suggest that “in order for the process to be fair, transparent and accountable,” candidates should share their answers with other members of council.
While we have no doubt that Councillor Biss acted with the best of intentions, attempting to equip himself with information he feels he needs to reach a decision, we do not believe his suggestion addresses issues of transparency raised by his action. It would be possible for candidates to provide additional communication on municipal or other matters to Councillor Biss and for Councillor Biss to withhold, inadvertently or otherwise, such information from council.
AWARE Simcoe submits that Councillor Biss’s action is completely inappropriate because every stage of the selection process – including whether there should be a questionnaire, and the contents of the questionnaire – should be overseen by council.
We are surprised by some of the questions because they do not seem relevant, and by others that assume a knowledge of council business that many citizens who would serve New Tecumseth well may not have. We would point out that Councillor Biss appears to have an imperfect understanding of the principle that the public’s business be conducted in public.
AWARE Simcoe submits that Councillor Biss’s distribution of the questionnaire is a very serious breach of procedure and trusts that New Tecumseth Council will address this issue. We are also concerned that Councillor Biss refers to the decision to amend the procedure to eliminate any time for questions as if the decision had been made. If it has been made, that would have been by an illegal meeting of council, or of a majority of councillors, again a very serious breach of procedure. We trust this has not happened.
AWARE Simcoe chair
Marc Biss questionnaire Sunday, November 19, 2017
Council will appoint a new Ward 5 Councillor tomorrow evening. Thank you for submitting your names and participating in the process. Fourteen residents have applied for the position and each candidate will have the opportunity to give a 10 minute speech. Unfortunately, time will not allow for Councillors to ask you any questions. However, I have questions that I would like to have answered by each of you.
For the process to be fair, transparent and accountable, I believe that your answers should be shared with the other members of Council and the public. Please feel free to provide your responses to the Mayor, Deputy Mayor, Councillors, and the other candidates. I may share your answers with members of the public or the media if I am asked.
Please respond to the following questions before 0900, Monday, 20 November. It shouldn’t take you more than 15 minutes to complete.
1. What are the three (3) major concerns for the residents of Ward 5?
2. Do you believe that the Ward 5 Councillor should live in their ward?
3. Please describe one (1) positive policy, motion and/or by-law each member of Council has been responsible for bringing before Council:
Deputy Mayor Jebb
Ward 1 Councillor Biss
Ward 2 Councillor Beattie
Ward 3 Councillor Whiteside
Ward 4 Councillor Sainsbury
Ward 6 Councillor Norcross
Ward 7 Councillor Harrison-McIntyre
Ward 8 Councillor Ross
4. Please provide three (3) policies, motions and/or by-laws that you believe could be improved.
5. Have you ever served as a First Responder or as a member of the Armed Forces?
6. Where else have you lived, or travelled, for school or work?
7. How many hours a week are you prepared to dedicate to your responsibilities as a Councillor?
8. When confronted with a difficult decision to make, who do you consult to help you?
Answering these questions will help me determine who is the best candidate and how I will vote tomorrow night.
Councillor, Ward 1