Ashcroft council plans to develop a communications strategy to boost public transparency and opportunities for public engagement.
The move followed a request in March by Gloria Mertens, who asked that council consider an additional question period at the end of the meeting. Council currently allows public input at the start of the night, and maintains that village staff are available at the office to provide any further information relating to village activity.
“Dialogue is an opportunity to listen and change people’s minds,” Mertens told council during the April 12 meeting, in hopes of encouraging them to add the additional question period. “It’s for the public to consider the arguments put before them and make informed decisions. Allowing the public to speak is so important for accountability and transparency.”
A report by CAO Daniela Dyck acknowledged that Committee of the Whole meetings are no longer scheduled each month and are at the discretion of council, along with town hall and public forums.
However, she added transparency is a priority and other methods of communication have been implemented, such as a Village social media account. The development of a communication strategy may also address some of these concerns, she said.
“Staff are in the process of researching other communication platforms, changes to the Village website, and newsletter frevisions to encourage community engagement and provide information to the residents of Ashcroft,” Dyck added.
Mayor Barbara Roden said most residents know they can reach out to council or staff at any time, and said the strategy should focus on public engagement and getting information out about village activities. She agreed the village has made strides with its Facebook page and monthly newsletters.
“When I hear from people about communications it’s not so much the dialogue portion; most people realize they can contact staff or council,” Roden said. “It’s the communications about what council is doing and why that seems to be lacking.”
Coun. Deb Tuohey requested that the strategy update the social media policy to provide guidelines on what members of council can post on their Facebook pages. “I wouldn’t mind talking about different working groups I’m on,” she said.
CFO Yogi Bhalla said it important the strategy ensures that the village is speaking with one voice so that the public receives the same message.