Why do people delegating at city hall feel they have to thank council members for listening to them?

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

July 25th, 2018



At the start of almost every delegation made to city council the words: “Thank you to Council and Staff for hearing my delegation.”

It is my view that the council and staff should be thanking the delegator for taking the time to prepare their remarks and speak publicly to those elected to office. Many members of Council do say – Thank you for coming – and then stop listening. Rarely do the members of council say – That’s a good idea – I will ask staff to make it happen.

Gary Scobie

Gary Scobie- a frequent delegator

Jim Young A

Jim Young, one of the best delegators city council gets to hear.

Language determines the direction a conversation takes. If a delegator appears as a supplicant members of Council will treat them as supplicants.

Burlington’s city council has treated the public as supplicants during the period of time Cam Jackson was Mayor and for the two terms Rick Goldring has been Mayor.

The public lets them do this and the civic leadership in the past has been content to let it continue.

It is going to take a Mayor that fully understands and commits to the belief that the voters are supreme on the day they cast their ballots and that they matter every day of a term of office.

The Gazette has listened to well over 100 delegations – some are exceptionally well prepared – others could have used more work but every delegation was an important part of the democratic process that has to be respected by the elected to office.

The current Procedural bylaw needs a revision; it limits how a delegator can address council and basically prevents a delegator from addressing staff in a formal setting unless the chair lets that kind of interaction take place.

Burlington has a city manager who believes his role is to protect his staff. He has been recorded as saying that he is passionate about protecting his staff.

On far too many occasions the Chair of a council meeting, the Mayor is the worst offender, insist that there be no clapping or applause when a delegator has finished their presentation. The Mayor however has no problem letting the public applaud when he is handing out certificates of merit.

The public process is a large part of the heart of a community. It needs to be allowed to swell and be proud and to express sadness and disappointment.

Wallace conceding

Candidate for Mayor – Mike Wallace

Goldring campaign picture

Seeking re-election to a third term Rick Goldring

Citizens of Burlington will decide between three candidates in October. The number of new people running for office makes it evident that people want to see changes.  Nominations close on Friday.

Use the summer to think about what you want and then determine who best meets your wishes.

Meed Ward winsome

Ward 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward running for Mayor

Greg Woodruff

Greg Woodruff wants to be Mayor

Municipal government in Canada is not political party based. Hopefully both the Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives will not hop on the wagon being pulled by a candidate for Mayor.

The New Democrats and the Greens have their followings as well.

Candidates have to be judged on their merits and being a Liberal or a Progressive Conservative is not necessarily meritorious.

Salt with Pepper is an opinion column reflecting the thoughts, opinions, observations and musing of the Gazette publisher.

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17 comments to Why do people delegating at city hall feel they have to thank council members for listening to them?

  • Lucy

    Comparing the Full Ranking which includes all sizes of towns and cities, this year’s ranking places Burlington at #31 from #9 last year. Since new measurement parameters have been put into place, it appears Burlington hasn’t done as well as in the past. Also good to note MoneySense has always given a different weight to the numerous factors in each category in their methodology. However, read this year’s methodology section where it states:
    “We made a number of tweaks and adjustments to this year’s ranking. That means this year’s results are not directly comparable to previous years.” So far I have not been able to find a link to the list for ranking best midsize city in 2018. In the past that is the list for which Burlington has ranked #1 five years in a row. Perhaps, the midsize city ranking list will appear later this week. With the new methodology, Burlington does not do as great as it did in the past in many areas because of the additional factors measured in 2018. I hope this helps end some of the confusion.

    Methodology 2018 link:

    Canada’s Best Places to Live 2018 Full Ranking link:

    Canada’s Best Places to Live 2017 Full Ranking link:

  • Josie

    With all due respect Alfred, Burlington did in fact slide down to #9. Maybe it’s the weather, or maybe it’s the direction our current mayor is taking, I am not sure. Nevertheless, we are no longer #1!


    (from one of the cheerleaders :))

  • Alfred

    Hi. Mr Walker Since we are in July 2018. I thought 2017 would suffice. Do you honestly believe things have changed in 7 months. Now you appear to be showing desperation and grasping at straws. Let me be the devil’s advocate and pose this question to you. Tell all the readers where you think there is a better medium size city in Canada than Burlington. Good luck.

  • Alfred

    I don’t think council is obligated to support every suggestion put to it. Only the ones they deem to have merit and make sense and have support. If I’m not mistaken, Burlington was once again voted Best Medium City to live in, in Canada. This ranking of number #1 has been going on year after year for some time now. I believe 5 or 6 years in a row. That’s tough to argue against, but some of you will try. When it was suggested, in error that Burlington had slipped to 9th place. All the Marianne Meed Ward supporters (cheerleaders) blindly attacked the other councilors and Mayor for having destroyed the City. Fraudulently claiming that if M.M.A had not voted against the other councilors and mayor (The team). The City would have been destroyed and fallen into last place. Since voting against The team on most major decisions. She accomplished nothing by skating in the opposite direction and appears to have contributed very little to the great decisions made by council. Burlington has been at the top # 1 of all Medium size City’s for some time now. Paradise on earth Oakville could only rise to 3rd place. Why are we in the eyes of most people #1? I’m feeling pretty lucky to live here. Hate to see the other cities. Congrats. to all the councilors and mayor for listening to the majority for making Burlington the Best. You deserve the credit. Somes folks will still complain. Just show them the number #1

    • D Walker

      Hi Alfred,
      Can you show me the #1 for Burlington as best mid-sized city 2018? Can’t find it anywhere. Not being facetious – did a google search and couldn’t find the ranking from MoneySense for 2018.

      Love her or hate her, MMW always listens and asks meaningful questions to anyone who delegates. That is more than can be said for the rest of the council. If that’s skating in the opposite direction, then I’m all for it.

    • Lucy

      Good Morning Alfred…Of course you are correct in stating that council is not obligated to support every suggestion put to it, only the ones they deem to have merit and have support. However, citizens have been discouraged and disheartened that no matter how large or strong their delegation, no matter how much their suggestions make sense to a huge number of people affected by whatever the city plans, council is deaf to these voices. It should surprise no one that Marianne Meed Ward is gaining great support as a candidate for mayor. She has “cheerleaders” because she has proven herself over and over again to be willing to truly listen and shows that through her votes in Council on many issues. For many in Burlington, opposing city hall has become hitting a brick wall, a sham, a waste of time, a useless exercise. That may not have been the case 4 years ago in the previous election, but it is most certainly very clear for this election and applies to other councillors, as well as the mayor’s position. Like you, I feel lucky to live here, but we want to keep it that way and this is why so many oppose the over-intensification that is reaching shocking proportions, and gives a free pass to the developers whose plans make a mockery of the Official Plan, both old and newly adopted.

    • Mike E.

      I think that you’ll want to check the 2018 rankings, just released. It would seem that your arguments are now historic as well as inaccurate. Oakville has pride of place – deservedly – and Burlington has fallen badly.
      Editor’s note: Alfred, Mike – is this infantile squabbling necessary? Get a grip – please.

  • Allen Jones

    Regarding ” Most employees get an annual performance review. Perhaps it’s time to consider some mechanism to grade municipal politicians between elections? Ahmen … Ideas on how to do that which will not limit / reduce the power and initiatives of the elected official?
    Is impeachment allowed at the local level?

  • Allen Jones

    Lucy I wish I had said ” Marianne Meed Ward stands out as a person who truly values citizens’ perspectives and a genuine eagerness to listen and act on their behalf. Her many years as a rep for Ward 2 has not tarnished that ability in her case.

    I would, however, add “Plus her common sense approach and thoughtful deliberation on issues is really unique in today’s world of politicians”

    Lets hope other Burlingtonians recognize those talents and vote her in as Mayor !

  • Tom Muir

    I never really thank them for honoring my legal and democratic rights. Why should I, when much of the time they didn’t want to hear what I had to say. At least they gave me that impression.

    Not long ago, Craven led a Council attack on the 10 minutes residents get to speak at Committee. It passed at Committee – 10 minutes reduced to 5 – but was thankfully turned back by citizens, led by Councilor Meed Ward. Craven still voted for his reduction to 5 minutes, but was the only one.

    Meed Ward has been a refreshing addition to Council. She was the most frequent questioner of delegates, and often of staff, when I was delegating. She made clear what she thought, wanted to know, where she wanted things to go, and what she would do.

    Commitments as I saw it.

    No other Councilor or the Mayor was ever as lucid and forthright in her manner and statements of what she would do or like to do.

    Craven sarcastically and inappropriately cut her down her several times in my presence and with others. This said more about him than about her.

    The problem has been for a long time that every 4 years (or 3) residents get to vote for another set of dictators.

    That really has to change, but people have to wake up and take action.

    This Council has incumbents with 8 to 12 to about 30 years on the job. Retiring Craven had 18, and John Taylor had 30.

    Lots of time to get entrenched in mindset, to think you know better than anyone, to acquire a personal agenda and ambitions, and so to learn to ignore citizens cause you can.

    Obviously, this needs to change or there will be no change.

    Stop stooping and bending.

  • Lucy

    Is there anyone out there able to put together a mayor and councillor voting report on the new building and redevelopment projects, as well as other major changes that have occurred since the last election? A comment section would also be useful if it provided the remarks or justification given by our elected officials that help explain their votes. It is quite common to see at all levels of government that many who hold positions for a long period of time think they are superior and don’t have to listen to the lowly citizens. I believe that the mayor and many councillors, not all, presently suffer from this effect. Marianne Meed Ward stands out as a person who truly values citizens’ perspectives and a genuine eagerness to listen and act on their behalf. Her many years as a rep for Ward 2 has not tarnished that ability in her case.

  • Hans

    Thank you for an excellent editorial.

    Like Mr. White, I had assumed that “the people delegating at City Hall typically had better manners, were more polite, and were more respectful than Council members”.
    And calling a municipal mayor “your worship” is ridiculous; a wise mayor would discourage it.

  • Roger

    Mr. White – you have some very interesting and comments that in most part I am agreeable to. However the city has spend countless thousands either internally hosting or sending staff to the McMaster location in Burlington on engagement and customer service – it is not about training or education – it comes to the political will that council blindly follows the advice of staff who in most part do not have a footing in Burlington – simply the non elected are leading the elected – staff have a customer engagement charter – they just refuse to follow it

  • Penny

    I understand where you are coming from. Why should I have to address the Mayor as Your Worship? He is an elected official and works for all the residents of Burlington who pay his salary. We are his employer. This is a title that I feel needs to be earned by actions.

    As for an employee review. The only review that really is of importance, in my perspective, is that of the residents. We have the ability to have our employee review on October 22nd.

  • Stephen White

    An interesting perspective Pepper.

    I’ve naturally assumed that the people delegating at City Hall typically had better manners, were more polite, and were more respectful than Council members. Is that deference? Perhaps. Is it typical Canadian politeness? Perhaps. Should they have been more demanding and strident in their tone and been less accommodating? Perhaps. If they had been more demanding would the response from the Mayor, Councillors and the City Manager been different? I seriously doubt it.

    The issue with this Council, the Mayor, the City Manager, and most public servants at City Hall, is that they haven’t had any substantive training in how to deal with members of the public, or how to communicate, facilitate and engage on a meaningful level. The only one with any training or skills in that regard is Marianne Meed Ward, and her previous experience in the media, coupled with her academic background, has provided her with an obvious advantage that she uses successfully.

    The same disdain towards the public was evident during public forums on the OP, the Mobility Hubs, and Town Hall meetings. Public feedback is treated in a perfunctory manner. No credence is given to citizens’ ideas, opinions or input. The only time politicians pretend to consider public opinion is at election time when they mysteriously come out of the woodwork.

    Most employees get an annual performance review. Perhaps it’s time to consider some mechanism to grade municipal politicians between elections? With technologies in place such as Survey Monkey maybe the public should leverage that tool to grade municipal employees on their interactions with the public? Perhaps if those results got tied to annual performance reviews, salary increases and bonuses then, maybe, we might actually see an improvement in the quality of public engagement.