(Pixabay.com)

(Pixabay.com)

COLUMN: Coping with 1,116 pages of the democratic process

Lengthy agenda packages are a sign of government transparency

Some of the most important statements and documents are remarkably short.

The world’s most famous scientific equation, Albert Einstein’s mass-energy equivalency, can be stated in just five characters: E=mc². The Ten Commandments in the Bible are a little more than 300 words. The Magna Carta, an important British legal document signed in 1215, comes in at around 12 typewritten pages in length.

By comparison, the agenda package for the March 18 meeting of the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen was considerably longer, at 1,116 pages.

READ ALSO: Democracy takes work, Trudeau says in condemning ‘violent rioters’ incited by Trump

READ ALSO: Summerland to examine municipal council transparency

The agenda package included information for two public hearings, numerous information items, land use documentations, financial data, an official community plan bylaw for one of the electoral areas, and much, much more. All of the information affects part or all of the regional district. It makes a difference to the present and future of the communities and the people within the regional district.

The average reading speed for adults is around 250 to 300 words per minute, or roughly one typewritten page per minute. With that metric, it would take almost 19 hours to read the entire council agenda. While many people are able to read faster than the average speed, reading speed tends to slow down when there is a lot of mathematical or technical information.

Once the directors had read the regional district agenda, there was time spent discussing the issues at board meetings. The meetings on March 18 took five hours.

This is the longest agenda package I have witnessed during my time covering government meetings. Much more common are packages of 200 to 400 pages for a municipal council meeting, and a little longer for regional district meetings. Still lengthy, but they are much more manageable than the March 18 Okanagan-Similkameen agenda.

Long documents and lengthy agenda packages are part of life for elected officials and for those who follow the political process. Anyone thinking about running for an elected position should be prepared to do a lot of reading.

However, there is a positive side to these lengthy agenda packages. They show a level of transparency surrounding the decision-making process.

The idea of nefarious schemers, working in secret as they plan legislation to destroy our way of life, is a fictional trope. It’s hard for someone in government to make secret plans when so much information is public.

In Canada, the public can see what is happening at the various decision-making bodies. Most meetings are open to the public and documentation is readily available. (The few closed meetings deal with internal personnel matters, legal issues and discussions related to contracts and land dealings.)

Accountability and transparency are essential to our democratic process. Anyone who wishes can see how government decisions are made, as well as all the information used in making these decisions. In addition, minutes are taken and the meetings are recorded.

Of course, this does not mean the public will like every decision made at the governing table. It only means the process is visible.

If a transparent and open government means wading through page after page of information, that’s a small price to pay. Democracy is worth every word in the myriad of reports and documents.

John Arendt is the editor of the Summerland Review.

To report a typo, email:
news@summerlandreview.com
.



news@summerlandreview.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Columnist

Just Posted

Fraser Health registered nurse Kai Kayibadi draws a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at a walk-up vaccination clinic at Bear Creek Park, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, May 17, 2021. To reduce long lines and wait times the first 1,000 Surrey residents to arrive at the neighbourhood clinic on both Monday and Tuesday will receive wristbands and a same-day appointment. The effort is in addition to the provincial vaccination plan which is now open for bookings to anyone who is 18 years and older. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
69 new cases of COVID-19 reported in Interior Health

The province, in total, recorded 411 new cases showing a downtrend of new infections

Council has allocated funding in the 2021 budget to upgrade and restore this part of the Gartrell Trail named after Summerland pioneers Fred and Mary Gartrell. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
COLUMN: Providing answers about Summerland’s Gartrell Trail

This 225-square-metre strip of land lies between the existing Gartrell Trail and the high water mark

WorkSafe BC is out in the Interior making sure wineries, cideries and breweries are adhering to COVID-19 safety protocols. (File photo)
WorkSafe visiting Interior wineries, cideries and breweries ahead of tourist tasting season

40 field inspections and 35 consultations are expected over next few weeks

B.C. RCMP released these two photos of Erick Fryer (left) and Carlo Fryer (right). The two brothers from Kamloops were found dead near a remote road in Naramata May 10, 2021. (RCMP photo)
Slain Kamloops brothers found near Penticton not likely connected to recent B.C. gang wars: RCMP

Police confirm the bodies found near Naramata as Erick Fryer, 29, and Carlo Fryer, 31

Send your letter to the editor via email to news@summerlandreview.com. Please included your first and last name, address, and phone number.
LETTER: Summerland’s lakeshore land should be protected

There is an opportunity to restore this important lakeshore habitat for fish and wildlife

A prowling coyote proved no match for a stray black cat who chased it out of a Port Moody parking lot Friday, May 14. (Twitter/Screen grab)
VIDEO: Little but fierce: Cat spotted chasing off coyote by Port Moody police

The black cat is seen jumping out from under a parked car and running the wild animal out of a vacant lot

A forest of dance-protesters outside the BC Legislature on April 11. These participants were doing the Dance for the Ancient Forest in support of the Fairy Creek blockade and against old-growth logging. (Zoë Ducklow/News Staff)
Arrests begin at Fairy Creek blockade on Vancouver Island

Five protesters arrested as RCMP begin to enforce injunction

A thunderstorm pictured in Fraser Valley in 2021. (Black Press Media/Jaimie Grafstrom)
Wildfire concerns sparked after 320+ lightning strikes blasted B.C. yesterday

Approximately one-quarter of the province is currently listed as being at moderate risk of fire

Coldstream Fire Department was quick to arrive and knock down a fire Sunday, May 16, in a Matner Lane orchard just up the hill from the firehall on Aberdeen Road. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Coldstream fire crews quick to knock down blaze

Fire broke out just before 2:30 p.m. on Matner Lane, which is just up the hill from the firehall on Aberdeen Road

Several RCMP cruisers stationed out front of Kelowna’s Global Fitness following a shooting on the morning of Monday, March 29. The shooting was later revealed to be gang-related. (Michael Rodriguez/Capital News)
B.C.’s top gangs are operating in Kelowna: RCMP

‘We have all of the major gangs in Kelowna,’ said Supt. Kara Triance

Crews battled a grass fire behind the Tolko mill along the railway tracks off Otter Lake Cross Road in Spallumcheen Monday, April 26. (Caitlin Clow - Morning Star file)
Reports of man lighting Vernon fires with blowtorch

Grassfires sparked near train tracks, behind bottle depot

Kelowna RCMP precinct. (Michael Rodriguez/Capital News file)
Kelowna RCMP promotion process tainted with bias: federal judge

An officer was passed over for a promotion in 2015

A restaurant server on White Rock’s Marine Drive serves customers on a roadside patio. Indoor dining and recreational travel bans have been in effect since late March in B.C. (Peace Arch News)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate falls to 411 cases Tuesday

360 people in hospital, up slightly, two more deaths

The Banff National Park entrance is shown in Banff, Alta., Tuesday, March 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Minister asks Canadians to camp carefully in national parks as season starts

Kitchen shelters in Banff National Park closed, trails on Vancouver Island will only be one-way

Most Read