Mayor Wendal Milne

EDC abolished

Commission will be replaced by three advisory panels

Mayor Wendal Milne proposed to disband the Economic Development Commission in favour of three mayor advisory panels at the last EDC meeting on Sept. 19.

“It’s a matter of time to create an environment where people can think tank without bureaucratic restrictions on them,” Milne said.

He said over the summer, discussions with EDC members and councillors have found the current EDC model did not bring results.

“We’ve got two or three groups of people that have different interests in what they’re trying to accomplish and you put them all at the same table and potentially it allows the spinning of the wheels.

“By putting everybody together a lot of people felt it was too cumbersome, too unwieldy. A lot of their evenings were going over minutes, debating and discussing and they weren’t really able to brainstorm an issue.”

The three mayor advisory panels include: economic development issues, chaired by Royal Roads University vice-president, Stephen Grundy; arts and beautification, chaired by former councillor, Brenda Parkinson; and health and social initiatives, chaired by Sooke Family Resource Society executive director, Nicky Logins.

A council liaison has been assigned to each panel, including Milne for arts and beautification, Coun. Bev Berger for health and social issues, and Coun. Maja Tait for economic development.

The liaisons may or may not attend the meetings, and will act as a direct access to council.

“These three groups of people have direct access to council through me, and if it doesn’t get to council, I’ll bear the brunt of it,” Milne said.

The District of Sooke will be responsible for providing advertising and meeting space. Each meeting will be open to the public to gather like-minded people who have an expertise in the panel’s jurisdiction.

“Whoever wants to come should be able to come to this open meeting, and they should sit down in a room… and brainstorm,” Milne said.

Milne said once an idea comes into “fruition,” staff will be made available to develop a report to bring to council.

“My suggestion tonight is not to say that this commission has not done anything or is not doing what we think, but I’d like to look at a better way to do it,” Milne said, adding the panels will go through a one-year trial period.

Maja Tait, EDC Chair, thanked the commission’s members and addressed mounting criticism of the EDC.

“I feel that I have exceptional talent in this room with all of you sitting here, and I feel that I’m not able to fully access the talent that you bring to the table,” she said.

“Lately I feel that I’m spinning tires a bit and moving a bit sideways and putting out a lot of media related fires.”

In terms of the dissolution of the EDC, Tait said it is moving a step forward.

“By having these panels it doesn’t mean that we’re taking it out of the public eye. We’re just focusing on key ideas in those various panels and making stuff happen and really sort of grasping the talent,” she said, stating procedures like Schedule As and service agreements bogged down previous meetings.

It is expected the same amount of money budgeted for the EDC will be provided to the panels. This year, $32,500 was budgeted, with $11,000 pre-committed.

The proposal to disband the EDC will be brought to council on Oct. 8.