Original Published on Aug 30, 2022 at 09:45

By Chris Fell, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The new council for the Town of The Blue Mountains to be elected in October will receive enhanced training and orientation from town staff.

Council at its meeting on Aug. 29, voted 6-0 (Coun. Jim Uram was absent) in favour of a resolution from Mayor Alar Soever that requested staff provide the incoming councillors with briefing binders on the state of the town.

Soever envisions the new members of council receiving a state-of-the-town briefing binder similar to what a new provincial cabinet minister receives upon taking office.

Soever said four years ago members of council received extensive training on process, procedures, the code of conduct, the Municipal Act and their duties and responsibilities. However, he said they didn’t receive a lot of training about where the town stood on a number of issues.

“There is a huge amount to be apprised of in this municipality,” said Soever, pointing out issues like infrastructure, roads, finances and water and sewage services. “It will be useful for the new council to learn about where we are with these issues.”

The mayor’s suggestion found complete support around the council table.

“I think it’s an excellent idea,” said Coun. Andrea Matrosovs, who said a more educated council at the start of the term would save staff and the town time down the road. “I would hope this investment in staff time would come back to staff.”

Coun. Paula Hope supported the idea and urged town staff to get creative and innovative in their plans for council training after the election. Hope recommended the briefing books be in digital format, making them more accessible and searchable. She also suggested different techniques for how the information is presented to the new council.

“I think we need to raise the bar considerably higher from what I have seen,” said Hope. “It’s not just in the volume and quantity of the information. It’s how that information is shared. We need to make the information much more digestible.”

She suggested staff presentations to new councillors include: images, humour, real-life examples, questions to discuss, case studies and media coverage.

“We want to ensure our future councillors have a full learning experience,” she said.

CAO Shawn Everitt said town staff are already formulating a council orientation strategy and plan.

“We’re learning as we are understanding the needs better. We want to make sure people are grasping and really understanding the information,” said Everitt. “We do not want to overwhelm.”

Everitt said staff are considering organizing bus tours for incoming councillors to visit town infrastructure and facilities for a first-hand look at various operations.

Coun. Rob Sampson fully supported the idea of new councillors touring town facilities. He said as provincial corrections minister in the early 1990s, his best learning experiences about his department came when he visited the facilities across the province.

“You learn the most when you go and do a physical tour,” he said.

This item reprinted with permission from CollingwoodToday.ca, Collingwood, Ontario