EDITORIAL: Why close the doors on Kings County citizens?

Editor Kings County Advertiser and Register
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Why close the door?

The decision by Kings county councillors to change the terms of reference of the Waterville airport relocation committee is puzzling.

Council seems afraid that citizen appointees would have outnumbered councillors. Why? After all, the new committee will be advisory in nature, not a decision-making body. If a majority of councillors don’t agree with the recommendations that result, the answer is simple: don’t vote for them. In bringing the motion to change the terms of reference forward, Coun. Mike Ennis pointed out the municipality owns the Waterville airport property and it would be “five to four off the start” if the terms of reference weren’t amended.

He proposed having one representative from the airport community and two citizen members at large. The draft terms of reference called for two members of the aviation community and three non-aviation community members, along with four councillors.

Ennis may be looking out for the municipality’s best interest, but it wouldn’t matter if there were three citizen reps on the committee or three dozen: they’ll be making recommendations to council only.

Speaking of fears, we don’t understand why a small airport workshop hosted by the municipality Jan. 17 wasn’t open to the public. Sure, there are a number of stakeholders the county wanted to invite and limited space, but why weren’t some spots made available to interested citizens, even if pre-registration was required?

The exclusion of the public included the media. Even if members of the public weren’t allowed in, if journalists could have reported on the workshop, it would help transparency and accountability.

According to chief administrative officer Tom MacEwan, the purpose was to have an expert in the aviation field provide information applicable to small airports to stakeholders. There was no charge to the municipality. Ted Lennox of LPS AVIA facilitated the workshop, held at the municipal complex in Kentville.

Apparently the material was general in nature and not specific to the county’s proposed airport relocation project. If this is the case, we fail to see the harm in having the public or media in attendance?

In a recent letter to the editor, lawyer David Daniels argued that the Municipal Government Act gives municipalities the power to hold council and committee meetings, both open and closed. The word “workshop” does not appear in the act and there is no mention of other sorts of gatherings. He asked if the county is holding a “workshop,” because it wishes to avoid the requirement that all of its meetings be public, with the listed exceptions. Daniels also asked where the county or chief administrator is given the power to decide who may or may not attend the scheduled workshop.

We agree that there is nothing for council to fear having more citizens serving on the advisory committee and there was no reason to fear having the workshop open to an audience.

Councillors should be more concerned with the optics of stacking an advisory committee with council members or closing the door on citizens. Those on the outside are left to wonder why all the secrecy. 

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