ECoB’s executive and ward committees have been busy in recent months. We will be sending you the first of what will become a monthly newsletter in the next few days.

But first we wanted to update you on one of the most important things happening at City Hall right now. The Review of Burlington’s Official Plan, which is being reassessed by the City Planning Department following the Region of Halton’s request for certain changes, is now underway. The entire process of review has a very short timeline, and needs to be approved by Council by March 2020.

What is ‘Citizen Engagement’?

Citizen engagement is the term commonly used for public consultations which offer citizens the opportunity to participate in meaningful ways in the decisions, actions and processes which shape their community.

What is ‘Pre-Engagement’?

Pre-Engagement is the consultation undertaken by the Planning Department to seek input from various groups on the best form for Citizen Engagement on the Official Plan Review.

ECoB’s Role in ‘Pre-Engagement’

The Planning Department has been undertaking a ‘pre-engagement’ exercise in recent weeks in preparation for a new round of Citizen engagement on the Official Plan. This engagement will relate solely to downtown Burlington.

The intention of the pre-engagement was to consult with various groups to make sure that the citizen engagement that is carried out for the OP Review is done right.

Those consulted at this stage included Citizen Advisory Committees, the City ‘Charter Action Team’ (an advisory group tasked with overseeing implementation of the City’s Engagement Charter), ECoB and Hamilton-Halton Home Builders Assoc.

ECoB welcomed the opportunity to meet with the Planning Department and to provide our ideas regarding a good engagement process. It also welcomes the desire by the City to carry out more rigorous engagement processes than have been seen in the past.

ECoB’s Concerns About Weaknesses In Engagement Plan.

Nevertheless, there remain concerns about the Draft Engagement Plan and the results of the Pre-Engagement exercise. These are set out in detail in our response linked to above.

These weaknesses are caused by two constraints – time and money.

While ECoB acknowledges the urgent need to complete the review and for Burlington to have a new Official Plan, we also believe that it is essential that the most rigorous engagement process possible is undertaken. For the City to provide the Planning Department with a budget too limited to carry out adequate engagement is a fundamental mistake, and risks repeating the mistakes which have made the OP Review necessary. Likewise, if an additional month of engagement would guarantee substantially more rigorous results, that month would be a worthwhile delay. As it stands now the primary citizen engagement that will take place will be in a period of approximately 6 weeks: late August and October..

Above all, the engagement must reach out beyond traditional public meetings and website questionnaires, which are limited by the self-selecting nature of participation. Many groups – commuters, young families, teenagers, new immigrants – will seldom participate in traditional engagement exercises for the simple reasons of time, language and familiarity with city processes. The most important part of the process is to form a representative snapshot of public opinion which ensures the results reflect potential differences in age, gender, ethnic background and more. This requires attempts to reach citizens at home and in ways which don’t require them to ‘opt in’ to participation.

We are therefore urging the City Manager and Council to do all they can to provide more resources, and if possible more time, to the Planning Department to complete as rigorous and representative an engagement exercise as possible. From both a symbolic and practical perspective, it is essential the City demonstrates the extent of its commitment to rigorous engagement as part of the Official Plan Review.

Engaged Citizens of Burlington Executive