City Communications department stifles the flow of information

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

November 10th, 2020



Earlier this month we published a story on how the version of the Official Plan that was debated at a Standing Committee meeting on September 30th and passed at a Special Meeting of Council on October 6th.

The document then had to be sent to the Regional government.

What the Gazette wondered was: How does the city get the document to the Regional government where it has to be approved?

OP cover NEWThe document fills a five inch binder. Do they drop it in the mail or get whoever is going to be driving to the Region next take it along with them and get a receipt.

We sent a note along to Heather MacDonald who is the Director of Planning, asking her the following:

It is a job well done – the operative word being done.
Congratulations to you and your team?
What now?
You send it to the Region – how do you do that?
Do you have someone deliver the document in a thick binder – and if so – could we get a photograph or a graphic of that binder.
How long do you expect the document to be in the hands of the Region?
Do they send it back to you and YOU take it to Council?
Am I correct in saying that when council passes the approved OP there is a period of time (20 day – 30 days ?) for people to appeal the decision of Council.

In the past Heather MacDonald has responded to our questions.

She didn’t answer us this time.

We instead got a note from Kwab Ako-Adjei, Director, Corporate Communications & Government Relations for the city who said: “Hi Pepper – We’ll get you some info on this shortly”, which he did.


Kwab Ako-Adjei, Director, Corporate Communications & Government Relations.

Other than a few casual words at city events I have never had a person to person conversation with Kwab. He runs a department that has 18 people including the Director.

There is a Director, a manager, 1 Supervisor of Creative Services, 7 other staff in this area responsible for web and graphic design and the digital copy centre (print shop). There is Corporate Public Involvement Consultant (engagement), 1 other staff in this area providing engagement and volunteer management support.

There is also 1 Government Relations Specialist leading advocacy to other levels of government and 1 Communications Manager, plus 5 other staff in this area responsible for communications and social media.

The department releases somewhere between 150 to 170 media releases each year.

Corporate Communications & Government Relations has a budget of $1.6 million.

The response from the Communications Director is part of a pattern the Gazette has experienced for some time. The grip the Director is placing on the flow of information was becoming a concern.

In the world of journalism reporters put calls out to people asking for a chance to talk to them. Sometime they ask what it is we want to talk about. There was a time when there was absolutely no difficulty getting an interview.

Now, the rule in place seems to be we ask a question of a senior staff person and get answers from the Director of Communications.

NNC landing

The Burlington Gazette is a member of the National Newsmedia Council. It was the first on-line newspaper to be accepted into membership.

That means there is no opportunity to ask follow up questions – and there are always follow up questions asking for clarifications.

The more responsible senior staff understand that the public wants to know what is being done and the better ones are quite good at being helpful.

There is more to this story. Stick around.

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3 comments to City Communications department stifles the flow of information

  • Albert

    You should always be starting out with the Communications Department.
    It’s their job to coordinate an interview or get the information to the reporter.
    You shouldn’t expect to have direct access to every senior leader.

    Editor’s note: Are you kidding Albert. You never did understand media.

  • Rob n

    Why the stonewalling?

    What is being hidden?

    Where’s the transparency?

    This is Canada where facts matter. Not some banana republic or the USA where fiction rules.

    Stay the course Pepper.

  • Marshall

    I have an impression that Staff want to be left alone to do whatever they do and don’t want “outsiders” (Burlington taxpayers) to question what, how, or why they are doing it. A big communications department becomes their buffer.