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Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Democracy Watch: Calgary

So, you're a city Councillor --- sorry, Alderman --- and three hundred-odd residents are sitting in the chamber, hoping for an opportunity to speak on a development plan. What do you do?

Well, if you're as dedicated as the fine men and women who sit on Calgary's city council, the first order of business is to put the item at the bottom of the agenda, essentially deferring the debate to the next day in order to thin out the crowd.

The debate centres around a development plan which would butt the city up against the gates of Spruce Meadows, the show-jumping facility south of Calgary. It has, in fairness, been talked about for some time.

I can understand council's desire not to hear three hundred submissions, some of which will go along the lines of "I like horsies. They jump high!" But that's the nature of participatory democracy. And along with the risk of hearing some repetitive silliness is the risk of hearing arguments that haven't had a reasonable public airing yet. Council is putting hobbles on that discussion. That's evidence of Aldermen who already feel they've learned everything they need to know, and have their minds made up. That's evidence of people who believe that public input is the symbolic representation of democracy, not the actual stuff. Time to fire the lot.

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