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West St. Paul hosts Council Boot Camp 2018

Posted: November 19, 2018


West St. Paul hosts Council Boot Camp 2018

West St. Paul Council and Administration with speaker George Cuff, centre with Mayor Christian, at the Nov. 15 and 16 Boot Camp.

The RM of West St. Paul council hosted more than 60 council members and administrators from 11 municipalities and one planning district for a two-day session designed to define the role of elected officials and educate them on everything from what’s expected of council to the foundations of good governance.


The RM of West St. Paul Council Boot Camp 2018 was held at Larters Golf and Country Club on Nov. 15 and 16, and featured sessions by renowned author and advisor to councils, George Cuff, as well as a session on code of conduct by lawyer and City of Winnipeg Integrity Commissioner Sherri Walsh.


Cheryl Christian, Mayor of West St. Paul, said it’s important for elected officials, as well as administrators, to be educated in what their roles are.


"Continually educating ourselves about how to govern well, what our roles are and how to work respectfully as a team for our community is extremely valuable,” Christian said.


"Working together with our neighbours is important. We work closely with all the municipalities that are here today and it’s a pleasure for West St. Paul to host this event and provide this learning opportunity.”


Cuff said if there was one main lesson he hoped mayors and councillors would take away from the Boot Camp it’s that they are elected to lead and managers are hired to manage.


"The world works a lot better if both do their own roles and try not to overlap extensively into the other person’s role,” Cuff said.


"What goes wrong is when council members think they got elected to manage – they didn’t. They got elected to provide oversight, to provide leadership, to provide direction, and to set policy, those are all governance functions.”


He said council’s role is not to get involved in the day-to-day operations of departments, like public works or the fire department. They need to establish a vision for their municipality and set budget and policies and avoid drifting into management’s lane.


"Smaller municipalities sometimes struggle with that because they think that’s what governance is all about, so I’m trying to dissuade them, that’s not the issue at all. If you want to be successful, lead. Lead the community,” he said.


Though the Boot Camp took place less than one month after the municipal election, Cuff said it benefits all councillors, not just those that were elected for the first time on Oct. 24.


"My argument is that they’re all brand new. My argument is that nobody has served on the 2018-22 council before so you’ve got to consider yourself to be a brand new member and you ought to come at it with that perspective,” he said.


"You’re not entitled to take six months to get up to speed, you’re expected to be up to speed at your first meeting.”


Walsh gave a lunchtime session on how to build an ethics and accountability framework in your municipality. She said it’s important for that to include a well-developed code of conduct and an integrity commissioner or an ethics advisor who can give advice on how council can meet its ethical obligations.


"It’s absolutely important. Everybody needs somebody to go to for advice. Ethical issues are not so obvious in terms of how to address them, so to have somebody who can give you consistent advice on a proactive basis is invaluable,” Walsh said.


The goal of a code of conduct, she said, is to avoid ethical breaches, not to catch someone breaking it.


"That’s the key to a code, it’s not there to be ultimately punitive. Yes you want to be accountable by having a mechanism to accept complaints and investigate them, but the main thrust is to have something that will guide you and educate council members so that they don’t fall offside their ethical obligations,” she said.


"I think that’s what everybody wants.”