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LETTER TO THE EDITOR Council pushed democracy aside

Former Cambridge mayor Doug Craig writes that some council members acted deceitfully in voting to reconsider the Blair warehouse MZO this week
Cambridge Council
Cambridge City Council chambers. Photo by Maddie Demarte/KitchenerToday

CambridgeToday received the following from former Cambridge mayor Doug Craig.

Cambridge City Council operates under the time-tested guidelines know as Robert’s Rules of Order. It is a set of procedures that establishes the principles by which meaningful debate can take place in the council chamber and it is a guideline that insures and protects everyone’s right to participate in thoughtful discussions whether as a member of council or a member of the public.

If the rules are not followed or if they are intentionally suspended as they were in the case of the Blair MZO reconsideration, and as they were during the decision to establish a Safe Consumption Site at 150 Main Street, then that democratic underpinning of our local democracy becomes fragile and powerless.

When council suspended the procedural bylaw, there was obviously only one conclusion that could have been drawn from their actions.

Clearly, they were trying to circumvent what the established procedural bylaw would have demanded they do and that is to establish proper notification for the community that would allow for full public discussion in the ongoing debate.

In both cases, the Blair MZO and the Safe Consumption Site, both groups were deliberately blindsided through the suspension of the council bylaw which resulted in no proper notification for their continued public participation.

Yet, there was a much more deceitful tone to this whole discussion. Not only were community members in both controversies blindsided, but also were Councillors Liggett and Ermeta. Both of these councillors had previously dissented on these issues and with the suspension of the procedural bylaw they were kept totally in the dark about the undisclosed intentions of their fellow council members.

Robert’s Rules of Order are not only in place to facilitate the full participation of the public, but to protect the rights of both the minority and majority in the exercise of local democracy.

The suspension of those rules as we have witnessed in these two highly publicized controversies only undermines faith in our institutions and deepens public scepticism.

In conclusion, Cambridge City Council didn’t want to face the very electorate that they were sworn to represent and in the end they turned on them by dismissing them as, “a vocal minority that was getting in the way.” 

If the truth be known, it wasn’t the Blair residents who were getting in the way of Cambridge City Council, it was the well established pillars of local democracy.

- Doug Craig