Economic Development Programming Review

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Back on April 12, Director of Planning and Development for the Municipality of North Grenville, Phil Gerrard, announced that, effective immediately, the Economic Development Department [Eco Dev] was commencing a full program review of all activities and programs. The projected date for the completion of the review was August 18. Finally, this past Monday night (two months after it was to be completed), a quick summary of the findings of the review’s final report was made at the Committee of the Whole meeting. However, the full report wasn’t released to the public until two days later, even though members of Council were allowed access to the full report beforehand.

One aspect of this internal review process has been the absence of communication with the Economic Development Advisory Committee [EDAC]. During the review process, all meetings of the EDAC were cancelled. Logically, you would think that an Advisory Committee would be asked to review and advise on the contents of the review,. The EDAC was shut out during the whole process, including not having access to the final report until it became publicly accessible.

Interestingly, the EDAC itself was being evaluated as part of the review. Rather than advising all members that EDAC meetings were being suspended until the review was completed, members were left to wonder what was happening. Despite requests from Committee members for information, nothing was shared about either the timeline, the review itself, or the future of the EDAC, which now seems to be in limbo.

Some of the observations made in the final report about the EDAC were: “The current structure of the Committee limits the ability of the members to add best value to staff and Council.” However, the report failed to state how it reached that conclusion.

“The Committee’s Terms of Reference do not align well with municipal master plans” (Official Plan – which is currently under review, 2013 Strategic Plan, 2017 Marketing Plan). Once again, this may be true, but it was not explained how this conclusion was reached. The EDAC has just recently gone through a review of its Terms of Reference under the Committee Chair, Councillor Arnaud, who replaced Tim Sutton when he quit Council.

Some of the recommendations about the Committee were: “Consider a ‘Working Committee’ model”. This makes perfect sense, as some of the criticisms of the Committee in the past have been how it seems to bring forward very little of its own contributions and does very little actual work beyond giving its own opinions.

“Cap the number of Committee members at a more manageable number (5)”. This will probably not fix attendance problems. Two people missing from a group of ten is not as problematic as two missing from a group of five. Perhaps the key lies in the commitment level and availability of the individual members chosen to be on the Committee.

Additionally, the recommendation does not suggest how to reduce the Committee down to five. Should the current Committee be dissolved and a new one formed? How will the new Committee be chosen?

“In the absence of a Committee, Council will oversee the direction of the Economic Development Department”. This would be ill-advised. Not one member of our current Council is from the private sector and, therefore, would have limited knowledge of the current business climate in North Grenville, compared to Committee members, who are part of, or who represent, the North Grenville business community.

Recommendations have been made, but will EDAC have a chance to review them before Council has a chance to vote on them? Or will Council decide to send the report back to EDAC for review and their recommendations? It would be unfortunate if EDAC was denied the opportunity to do what it was created to do in the first place. North Grenville has a wealth of human assets, denying them the opportunity to contribute to the community could be a mistake.

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