In early August, Councillor Adam Walker canvassed a randomized cross-section of Qualicum Beach residents to gauge the extent, or lack, of public support for a proposed set of changes to the Town’s Official Community Plan. These changes to the OCP, currently in front of Council, would, if approved, specifically make legal the proposed subdivision of a parcel of land in the Estate Properties owned by Rick and Linda Todsen.
Judging from their behaviour and words at the Town Council meeting on August 19, 2020, the trio of Councillors who are championing the Todsens’ proposal appear to be badly rattled by Councillor Walker’s efforts to do his job and seek the opinions of his constituents.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the usual forms of person-to-person canvassing (at the door or on street corners) are a non-starter. Robocalls and telephone agent opinion polling are increasingly ineffective and can produce a skewed sample of respondents. Instead, Councillor Walker chose to mail a personally addressed postcard to a randomly selected 10% subset of Canada Post’s current Qualicum Beach mailing addresses. Recipients were invited to complete a short three question survey, preferably online using a unique “one-and-done” Access Code to prevent duplication, or by contacting Councillor Walker by phone or through his personal email address.
At the Regular Council Meeting on August 19, 2020, during his General Government report, Mayor Wiese took issue with what he deemed Councillor Walker’s “private survey” method of engagement with constituents. (video 6:15) Wiese stated that: “presuming this invitation was sent across Town … [it wasn’t, as explained above] … it was not clear from the wording that this was a private survey, and that it is not affiliated with the Town of Qualicum Beach. In fact, the survey specifically states that it is conducted by Adam Walker, Councillor with the Town of Qualicum Beach.”
Then Wiese, appearing to read a statement, said “While residents have the right to send mail and conduct private surveys, members of Council acting independently have a moral obligation to disclose when their actions are not affiliated with the Town in an official capacity.”
Facts: Councillor Adam Walker is affiliated with the Town. He has an official capacity called “Councillor.” Walker’s Survey Invitation postcard disclosed that he was acting in that capacity. Councillor Walker (and any other member of Council) is welcome to approach anyone, at any appropriate time, on the street, or on the phone, or by email, or by snail-mail, and say “Hi, my name is Adam Walker. I am a member of your Town’s elected Council, and I would like to hear your opinion about [pick a topic].” In fact, we should encourage all elected representatives to do more listening to their constituents, not less.
Here is a copy of the postcard mailer that Councillor Walker had Canada Post distribute to the random set of QB residents; readers can decide for themselves whether Mayor Wiese’s comments were accurate, necessary or appropriate.
But wait – there’s more to the episode at that Council meeting
Councillor Harrison chimed in alleging that Councillor Walker was “sending out an official survey, pretending it is a document coming from the Town.” No, the survey postcard clearly identified that Walker was conducting the survey in his capacity as an individual Councillor.
Councillor Westbroek then opined “I don’t think we should send letters out with our name on it. Even though we may say it is personal, people know we are on Council.” Huh?
Councillor Filmer finally brought some much-needed wisdom and perspective to the discussion.
“It’s 2020,” said Filmer. “There are other ways to engage with our community. It’s up to us as individuals to choose how to engage. I use social media. We’re not back in 1990 anymore where the only way to talk to somebody is on the street. There are multiple ways of engaging with our citizens and it is our choice how we engage with our citizens. It is not our job to dictate how other members of Council are going to engage with the people who chose them to sit in the chair.”
And sadly, still more…
Rather than agreeing to disagree and get on with the actual meeting agenda, the trio of Wiese, Westbroek, and Harrison pushed though a motion directing Town staff “to draft and issue a statement that the survey sent out by Councillor Walker was not a Town sanctioned survey; and further that the Town issued statement be published in the newspaper, on the Town’s website and on social media.” Councillors Filmer and Walker voted against the motion.
Six days later on August 25, 2020, Daniel Sailland, CAO for the Town issued a Media Release with the headline “Unauthorized Survey in Qualicum Beach”.
Apart from not explaining who exactly he thought needed to authorize or endorse a Councillor’s canvassing of constituent opinions, Sailland didn’t even get the name of the survey right. We’re not sure why he chose to construct a bogus title of “OCP Change: Official Survey Implementation.” Then, doing his best imitation of the CRA warning the community about a scam, Sailland concludes his media release with “If there is any doubt as to the authenticity of a piece of correspondence, please visit the Town’s official webpage or call the Town hall to verify.”
Sailland’s mis-naming of the Survey Invitation postcard was repeated in a same-day PQB News online article. As of August 28, 2020, PQB News had corrected their error. The Town, on the other hand, a week later, still displays their original media release on the Town of Qualicum Beach website.
Second Opinion QB invites you, our readers, to respond to this short two question private survey (expressly related to official Town business, but neither affiliated with, nor endorsed, sanctioned, authenticated, authorized, nor morally blessed by Mayor Wiese):
- Does this concerted effort by the Town CAO and our Council to suppress and discredit Councillor Walker’s community engagement efforts pass your smell test?
- Did Mayor Wiese, Councillors Westbroek and Harrison, and CAO Daniel Sailland handle their personal concerns appropriately?