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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered



  1. In retirement I’ve been involved with two downtown neighbourhood associations. Neither is (or was) representative of all the people in their neighbourhoods. A large open meeting might draw 1% or less of the neighbourhood. In my experience, it’s often difficult to fill Boards with individuals willing to work on neighbourhood issues. I see it as practically impossible for (most) neighbourhood associations to only present positions that have won majority support from those in the neighbourhood. Beyond being practically impossible, I believe it would be unwise to hold neighbourhood associations to such a representative standard. New ideas need to be championed well before they can win majority support. The issue in my mind is whether the association is open to new ideas and new views and new people.

  2. Thanks John. Good piece.

    Related to this is the question of how the City itself organizes consultations, atomizing individuals who may or may not represent anyone or anything, who may or may not have background knowledge, into random groups for a 1 hour discussion of pre-set questions with charming facilitators who have no responsibility for the overall project. When I attend I find that I am expected to find areas of agreement with a small group random group of strangers that staff can then feed back to the city. I have no interest in or reason to reach any agreement with them unless we represent something more than our individual obsessions.

    The City also needs to find a way to include and consider advice from groups who do represent the INTERESTS of various populations – actual advocacy groups.


  3. Mr. Lorinc thank you for this timely article. I think it’s important to question how did the need to have neighbourhood associations emerge. My personal recollection is that years back I reached out to my councillor regarding an issue and was directed to contact my local neighbourhood association. This is a common practice which doesn’t always resolve a problem. So, what do people do? They reach out to the media or to anyone who can bring attention to whatever problem is causing them anxiety. Shifting the onus onto a neighbourhood association is not right, as most have their priorities and are unprepared to deal with what essentially is better handled by city staff. Faced with possible liability makes some boards powerless in handling certain issues. Boards need to define their purpose and stick to it. The outcome is that stakeholders become disconnected with associations and by right proclaim to represent themselves thus, openly informing city councillors that their local association “does not” speak for them. If ‘elected’ ward representatives choose to shepherd constituents to local associations, or suggest that one should be started, they should at the very least see to it that proper governance is in place. ###

  4. The most common reasons organizations use public participation are to:
    • raise awareness of an issue or pending decision;
    • provide information on complex issues before a decision or to correct misconceptions;
    • demonstrate that the organisation is taking action on a particular issue;
    • collect information that is held by those to whom the public participation is directed;
    • develop a series of options and determine the preference of various public parties;
    • facilitate dialogue between, and amongst, stakeholder groups and members so that each might better understand and respect each other’s position and interests;
    • partner for the purpose of collaborative decision-making and implementation;
    • empower members to be involved in the decision-making process.

    This approach needs a dedicated staff with a budget and to be able to report to the leaders direct then feedback. There is a whole industry out there waiting to do this work because local authorities will not have the staff or knowledge to undertake a citywide assessment.

    The strategy needed takes a lot of planning before any suggestion is made of any kind of consultation. Consultation is not negotiation.