Council Matters for September 2, 2020

Council met for about 2 hours during our Regular Council meeting on September 2, 2020.

First, Council heard from a delegation. John Horn, of the Cowichan Housing Association (CHA), provided some insight into the work the Association does. This presentation was originally slated to be given in March, and was cancelled at the onset of COVID-19. 

The presentation was to include a discussion about how a Social Planner role at North Cowichan could complement and support the work of the CHA. Through his presentation, Horn proposed that a municipal social planner could support the CHA by collaboratively developing a municipal Policy for Affordable and Attainable Housing, supporting solutions for social issues that are out of the scope and mandate of the CHA, implementing Council’s Strategic Plan, and seeking out grant opportunities.  During preliminary budget 2020 discussions, Council already turned down the notion of hiring a Social Planner, although the issue could come up again in 2021. 

Additionally, Mr. Horn talked about how the CHA is responsible for supporting the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s Affordable and Attainable Housing Strategy. The CHA works with many community groups, service providers, and others in the region to develop affordable housing projects and carry out strategic planning and outreach with smaller organizations and non-profits to help ensure their affordable housing project applications can be approved by BC Housing.

In June Council provided preliminary direction to staff on how to proceed with the 2021 budget. Due to the financial implications to the organization, precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 budget will be a ‘recovery budget’.  This will likely mean less opportunity for public input on service delivery and Council priorities.  In addition, staff have observed a decline in attendance at in-person community budget conversations in recent years, which has led to a lack of statistically valid and verifiable community input into the budget process. As a result, in considering how best to engage the community on the 2021 budget, Council directed staff to: 

  • Carry out a digital communications campaign to inform the public about the 2021 budget; and
  • Promote the annual Committee of the Whole (COW) Budget Meetings to encourage participation and feedback during these meetings, instead of carrying out the typical in-person/online public engagement.

A Budget 2021 web page will be created, social and print advertisements will be used, and residents can expect information to be posted on North Cowichan’s social media channels as we get closer to the COW Budget Meetings. Later in 2021, staff will put forward a proposal to Council for their consideration on how best to engage the public on the 2022 budget. This will include a recommendation to engage earlier in the budget process and will propose engagement methods (such as in-person or online) that may be informed by the forthcoming Community Engagement Framework and Policy currently in development. More details and the full staff report can be found on pages 20-24 of the agenda.

Then, Council considered leadership development opportunities and discussed some areas of interest in which they could strengthen their functionality and decision-making abilities as a Council. After some discussion, Council directed staff to research various training opportunities and coordinate a workshop at a future Committee of the Whole meeting so Council can undertake a self-assessment. Staff were also directed to coordinate a Local Government and First Nations Relationships training session.

One additional note from the meeting. For the first time since the onset of COVID-19, our technology failed us. We were unable to live-stream the meeting. Since live-streaming is not a procedural requirement, we decided to go ahead with the bulk of the meeting. However, we postponed discussion agenda item 8.2, an update on the Community Safety Office, to the next meeting. We did this in recognition of the fact that this issue has generated a lot of community interest, and Council thought it best that we do our best to ensure the livestream is working for that discussion. 

Our IT staff are working diligently to ensure the technology will be back up and running by our next meeting, which will take place electronically, on Wednesday, September 16, at 1:30 pm.

Thank you for reading and staying informed!

Al Siebring, Mayor
Municipality of North Cowichan
T 250.746.3117