It’s being done in Burnaby, New Westminster, West Vancouver, Surrey and other places.
If you want to address city council in these municipalities, either through correspondence or in a public hearing, you are required to indicate whether or not you live the city.
Vancouver city councillor Colleen Hardwick points this out in her motion that is included in council agenda Tuesday (March 10).
According to Hardwick, the practice of verifying the residency of people who have something to tell council is not being done in Vancouver.
That has to change, Hardwick suggests.
Hardwick’s reasoning is straightforward.
“In order to ensure that constituent and community feedback is fully, fairly, and transparently articulated and considered, it is incumbent in a representative democracy to ensure that the will of the people, as expressed by its constituents through the various feedback mechanisms and processes in place, is accurately and fairly presented,” Hardwick wrote in her motion.
The Non-Partisan Association councillor breaks down what is involved in “representative democracy”.
“In a representative democracy, all eligible citizens have the right to participate, either directly or indirectly, in making the decisions that affect them, most commonly by voting in an election and/or by making their views known to their elected officials on issues of importance to them and their community, for example, at Public Hearings of Council,” Hardwick explains.
According to her, the “fundamental principles of representative democracy apply to the City of Vancouver”.
Hardwick noted that the “optional disclosure of residency seen in Vancouver’s practices and procedures is not consistent nor in alignment with the practices and procedures seen in neighbouring municipalities where residency information is considered to be relevant to a Council’s consideration of a matter”.
She also pointed out that a requirement to indicate where one lives in the city, or whether one resides in another municipality does not preclude a person’s right to express an opinion to council.
“Simply, a transparent sense of a person’s interest in a matter or how it affects them personally and specifically is an important factor among many that elected officials must consider in course of a fully informed, transparent, and democratic decision making process,” Hardwick wrote.
According to Hardwick, the city already verifies the residency of those who submit petitions under the municipality’s Local Improvements Program or LIP, wherein property owners request improvements in their neighbourhood.
“The certification and authentication procedures and processes in place for the City’s LIP program offer a standard and provide a model for transparently enabling eligible citizens to participate directly in making decisions that affect them and/or their neighbourhood,” Hardwick said.
Hardwick went on to note that the LIP requirement of residency authentication “stands in contrast to the non-transparent, optional standard currently applied by the City for those wishing to address Council, either in written form, as a delegation to Council, or by speaking at a Public Hearing”.
Hardwick’s motion has the support of city hall watcher Jak King.
In a blog post, King said that the change being sought by Hardwick “will help invigorate our local democracy”.
“It is yet another attempt to re-balance power at City Hall: pushing more power toward voters and the elected Council and away from an entrenched Staff,” King wrote online.