City Council rejected the proposed annexation protocol for negotiations with the county of Vermilion River. The motion aims to lay out a procedure for negotiations between the city and county about annexing county land. The city hopes to acquire more land to meet it’s growth needs for the future.
In a three to three vote the motion was not carried. Councillors Ken Baker and Stephanie Brown-Munro had concerns regarding who could be present to observe the negotiations. The protocol did not allow for observers, and Brown-Munro says she’s concerned it may impact how council can lead the city.
“I was fine with it coming into the meeting. Councillor Baker did bring up some good points as far as the remaining council to at least be in the room to observe the negotiations,” says Brown-Munro. She emphasized a great trust in her fellow councillors going into the negotiations but says having access to the information is important for each councillor to carry out their duties.
“If it’s going to be a decision that for the greater good of our community is going to have long-lasting effects outside of twenty years, it really should be something where all of council is privy to the same information,” she says. Brown-Munro adds that recorded meeting minutes are not always enough to gather nuance on the conversation.
“If you were to review the minutes from today, none of this would be in the minutes of the exact conversation. So just having that information and being able to access that information I think is important and something I hadn’t thought of before today’s meeting.”
Brown-Munro acknowledges that her fellow councillors come from diverse backgrounds. She comes from a background of healthcare, Councillor Diachuk has a background in education while Councillor Torresan has a background in finance. Brown-Munro stresses that they all have different perspectives and experience that they each bring to the table.
“It gives that opportunity for me to bring to the table my perspective even outside everything else. Because if they never discussed it at that table but are communicating it back to me, how am I ever going to get my opinion across? For me it just gives me that opportunity to have that accessible.”
Councillor Diachuk is acting as Deputy Mayor and says that options are open to re-work the document. He sees the vote as the practice of democracy in action, and that it’s important to see the process as just how council works.
“I think the important part to highlight is the very process council is asking for is actually asking for as well. We brought the information back and ultimately council has the right to say yay or nay and review the information. I think that’s sort of testimony to the process in action.”
Diachuk says that changes would request allowing observers like other council members to be present during the negotiations. He adds that it’s a bit more challenging than letting people sit and watch them discuss annexation.
“Typically when you’re part of that committee, it’s automatically assumed that you’re in closed session. So everything that’s discussed in it is confidential. When we look at this from the observer standpoint, we’ll have to make sure that language represents that same level of privacy and confidence as well.”
The proposed annexation protocol will be brought back to administration for review before being brought to council once more.