A recent editorial in the Collingwood Connection underscores the need to have writers who understand the actual process of government, and not simply comment on politics from an ideological perspective. It also underscores that some of our council still don’t understand why they are at the table.
The anonymous writer of that editorial has penned this bit of cunning misinformation:
Council was not being asked to decide if residents should be able to raise chickens in their backyard or pass judgment on the merits of the idea. They were being asked to start a process of public input.
Well, we know that’s not quite correct. Although the standing committee recommended one option, council really had a choice between the two options presented in the staff report. Here’s what the staff report actually recommended (emphasis added):
THAT Council receive Staff Report P2015-34 for information purposes. OR
THAT Council authorize the initiation of an application for Official Plan and Zoning By-law amendments and the required public consultation process and allow a moratorium of enforcement for existing properties with backyard chickens.
So council could choose between two actions (a standing committee can only recommend, not dictate to council).
First choice: receiving the report and, after considering the cautions, concerns and costs identified by staff in the report, then relegating it to the dustbin as an issue not to be brought forward.
Second choice: start an unbudgeted, expensive, time- and resource-consuming, legal process to change our Official Plan and bylaws to accommodate a small special interest group, while allowing those people who are currently breaking the law to continue doing so without penalty.
Council wasn’t being asked if residents could raise chickens because that is already illegal. Council could choose to do nothing, or to start the process of changing the laws.
But there was public input already: advocates made a presentation to the standing committee, several people spoke to the issue, and presented a petition. Anyone could attend, could stand up and speak to it. Why would you need more? Do you need more public meetings again and again on a single issue?
Public input is part of the latter choice because it is required by the Planning Act and Municipal Act when OPs and bylaws are changed. It wasn’t necessary in the first choice (you don’t say ‘No, we’re not going ahead. Now let’s hear from the public…”.
Frankly it’s a canard to make that the focus, because in the end the decision still remains with council regardless of the public input.