A little more transparency at the Emergency Coordination Group please

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

March 31st, 2020



I was surprised to learn that there isn’t always someone from city council at the Emergency Coordinating Group (ECG).

I knew that the Mayor and the City Manager were never in the room at the same time. Tim Commisso told me in a telephone interview that he is putting in 15 hour days and stick handling 200 + emails.  He has deep experience at the municipal level and has seen a city through a disaster.  But he is not a young man and he doesn’t have as much as he needs in the way of bench strength.

A State of Emergency does change the ground rules – but it shouldn’t dilute the level of on-the-ground democracy.

Running a city under a State of Emergency is not business as usual.

The politicians have to let the experts do what they do.

However, there isn’t a reason in the world why at least one member of Council cannot be in the room. They are not in the room to participate – they are in the room to witness, record and to serve as a hobble on bureaucrats that could go too far astray.

They are not there to ask questions. A good committee chair would ask the Councillor if there were any questions or suggestions at the end of a meeting.

Right now we have a Mayor saying everything is going just fine. That may well be the case.

We are not suggesting there is anything amiss. It is when the proceedings are transparent that things don’t go amiss.

Our Mayor would be serving her constituents’ interests well if she advocated for having at least one member of Council at that table or on-line.

Sharman was right to bring this to the attention of a very concerned public.

Related news story:

Councillor Sharman finds being elected means squat during an emergency.

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4 comments to A little more transparency at the Emergency Coordination Group please

  • Nick Buczynsky

    The Emergency Control Group prepares and implements the Incident Action Plan and the Mayor is part of the ECG. The ECG is there to expedite and coordinate the response and recovery activities. Council is kept informed and can provide input through the Mayor as the ECG member. Where direction is required from Council, it can be brought to them.

  • Alfred

    Today I called Building@Burlington.ca at the phone# provided. Left a message to call me back at the their convenience. Had barely hung up when the phone rang. My screen indicated that it was the City of Burlingon. Spoke with a gentleman named Tyler. Within 1 minute we had made arrangements for me to deliver 2 building permit applications and attached info. to the City to be delivered. With a cheque of course. From my experience the Zoning, Engineering and Building Depts. are pushing ahead during these tough times. Big thanks to the City from my workers and I. Paperless apps . and banking might be an option down the road. One step at a time.

  • Alan Harrington

    Probably many tasks councillors can do if they put their creative minds to it.

    Review any nagging items from the past that were deferred until “there was more time”.

    Go over spending costs to find efficiencies.

    Communicate with idle leaders from other communities to share best practices.

    Take calls from all the people tomorrow unable to pay their rent who will be issued eviction notices.

    “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” ― Margaret Mead

  • Lynn Crosby

    There is a member of council on the ECG, the Mayor.

    As I mentioned in a comment on the other article (in moderation), the ECG was approved by council last summer when they passed their emergency response plan. It would all be posted on the city website. Since we now have two articles on this, I’ll post my prior comment here too. I’ll also add the comment that if Councillor Sharman believes that being a councillor “means squat during an emergency”, as the other headline says, then he is certainly mistaken. We assume he is working for his constituents from home. I realize, however, that he didn’t write the headline.

    I would say the ever-changing situation with respect to the COVID virus requires both pre-emptive and reactive response, actually. In any event, we in Burlington, and the World, have never seen anything like this and there is really nothing with which it is comparable. The Emergency Control Group was approved by council back in the summer with the emergency response plan.

    Today Toronto Mayor John Tory did the same thing and closed and cancelled all Toronto city events, permits, etc., also though June 30, and this was also done without going to council. This is the very definition of an emergency: you act fast, based on the advice of the relevant experts, using the tools that you have at your disposal and the processes for emergency planning that you have in place. We are in a state of emergency in our city, region and province, and have been for almost three weeks and likely will be for some time.

    Really strange article which reads to me like one councillor has his knickers in a knot because he didn’t receive a phone call despite having “worked through quite a number of significant organization design activities, some quite aggressive” at his other job. I’m pretty sure none of them involved a world-wide growing pandemic.