Getting consultations right is tricky
Getting public consultation right continues to frustrate governing bodies in Ottawa no matter who it is that is conducting the public consultation. Whether it’s the city, province, federal government or school boards, there seems to be a misconception about what constitutes “good public consultation” and how it can be used to ensure the right decisions are made. Decisions that find a compromise between institutional bodies and competing interests, while taking into account the opinions of the public and of local affected communities.
Public consultation is a very important step to achieving legitimacy. Not consulting the public – as the article David Reevely referenced in his column Tuesday suggested was the better course of action for Liberals to take – creates decisions that lack legitimacy and ultimately will backfire on politicians for that reason.
The answer to getting public consultation right starts with approaching the task honestly and without desiring a pre-determined result. When public consultations are steered in a certain direction, limited in scope and do not engage the public in all aspects of the project, they fail. The public sees through it.
If elected and non-elected officials want to get public consultation right, they need to consult the public first before they do anything else. If the public had been consulted at the very beginning of the process to decide where to locate the new Civic hospital, instead of former Conservative MP John Baird doing no public consultation at all, it would have been clear that the hospital board’s first choice was not the right one. Avoiding all the negativity and ill will that has occurred since.
James O’Grady, Nepean