A con­ver­sa­tion on so­cial me­dia sent The Vic­to­ria Stan­dard on a quest to find out more about the in­cor­po­rated Vil­lage of Bad­deck. Get­ting an­swers was a chal­lenge.

The Victoria Standard - - FRONT PAGE - CAR­OLYN BAR­BER by Car­olyn Bar­ber

Can you name a Bad­deck Vil­lage Com­mis­sioner? Judg­ing by a Fe­bru­ary 11 Face­book thread in­volv­ing lo­cal res­i­dents, many find it dif­fi­cult. One com­menter sum­moned The Vic­to­ria Stan­dard to shed light on the “who, what, where, when and why” of the Vil­lage of Bad­deck. In our at­tempts to oblige that re­quest, we en­coun­tered sig­nif­i­cant ob­sta­cles in car­ry­ing out our pro­fes­sional duty to in­form the pub­lic about their govern­ment and hold elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives ac­count­able. Here is what we were able to find out.

We do know that the Vil­lage of Bad­deck has had its hands full this win­ter. De­cem­ber brought the sud­den pass­ing of long-time pub­lic works op­er­a­tor Jackie Macrae. Jan­uary brought the planned re­tire­ment of Ron Mcin­tyre, Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Works. To fur­ther com­pli­cate things, Fe­bru­ary brought re­lent­less snow­fall call­ing for con­stant snow re­moval. News about these events im­pact­ing Vil­lage per­son­nel came mostly by word of mouth.

A ba­sic In­ter­net search for the Vil­lage of Bad­deck comes up empty. Their only web pres­ence is an un­of­fi­cial and un­pop­u­lated Face­book page. A tar­geted search for Vil­lage of Bad­deck con­tact in­for­ma­tion pro­duces two re­sults: a phone num­ber on the Bad­deck Wa­ter Util­ity “Change of Ad­dress” web page housed on the Vic­to­ria County web­site, and an email ad­dress on the Nova Sco­tia Util­ity Re­view Board here:­vas­co­

Com­mu­ni­ca­tion pro­to­col with the Vil­lage of Bad­deck was dis­cov­ered in a round-about way. On Fe­bru­ary 15, hours af­ter con­tact­ing the in­com­ing pub­lic works hire for an in­ter­view, we were in­formed by Vil­lage Clerk-trea­surer Erin Bradley that The Vil­lage would pro­vide its own news­pa­per an­nounce­ment about the new hire. We were fur­ther in­formed that “any fu­ture cor­re­spon­dence/re­quests need to be ad­dressed through an email to [The Vil­lage of Bad­deck], and not di­rectly to em­ploy­ees and/or Com­mis­sion­ers.”

Seek­ing clar­i­fi­ca­tion re­gard­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tion pro­to­cols with The Vil­lage, we left voice­mails with Bradley on Fe­bru­ary 15 and Fe­bru­ary 17.

While wait­ing for clar­i­fi­ca­tion, we de­cided to broaden our in­quiry about The Vil­lage. On Fe­bru­ary 17, we re­quested de­tails via email about the Vil­lage Com­mis­sion’s mis­sion, gov­er­nance struc­ture, past/ cur­rent ini­tia­tives, and re­quested copies of meet­ing min­utes for the past year. Four days went by with­out a re­sponse, so on Fe­bru­ary 21, we called Vil­lage Chair Richard Roberts di­rectly, leav­ing a mes­sage on his cell­phone re­quest­ing an in­ter­view with him and other Com­mis­sion­ers. The call was never re­turned by Roberts.

Fi­nally, re­sponses via email from Bradley ar­rived on Fe­bru­ary 22. Bradley stated that the Vil­lage Chair and Vice Chair have been very busy in their roles fol­low­ing the change in Com­mis­sion lead­er­ship in July 2016. She added that The Vil­lage would reach out to the Stan­dard when they were “ready to meet to dis­cuss mat­ters con­cern­ing the Vil­lage (pos­si­bly one month’s time).” Bradley went on to write that the Vil­lage is con­duct­ing a “full anal­y­sis of Vil­lage as­sets and op­er­a­tions” and looks for­ward to dis­cussing the “past, present and fu­ture di­rec­tion” of The Vil­lage.

We were then di­rected to Sec­tion XVIII of the Mu­nic­i­pal Govern­ment Act to learn about Vil­lage gov­er­nance (http://nsleg­is­la­ mu­nic­i­pal%20gov­ern­ment.pdf).

To date, our re­quest for meet­ing min­utes has not been ac­knowl­edged.

Ac­cord­ing to Bradley, the Vil­lage’s com­mu­ni­ca­tion pro­to­col en­sures that records of cor­re­spon­dence can be pre­sented at Vil­lage meet­ings. We gleaned fur­ther in­sight into this pro­to­col by speak­ing with an­other Vil­lage Clerk-trea­surer on main­land Nova Sco­tia.

“The way we run things here is ei­ther the Chair or the Clerk is the com­mu­ni­ca­tion agent with the press. That’s just the way we op­er­ate. So, if you were a mem­ber of the press and con­tacted one of the other Com­mis­sion­ers, they’re go­ing to talk to you, but it’s sup­posed to be ei­ther the Chair or my­self that com­mu­ni­cates. That way we can con­trol the mes­sage that’s be­ing put out.”

Con­trolled ac­cess in com­mu­ni­cat­ing with elected of­fi­cials out­side monthly meet­ings raises ques­tions about trans­parency. There are cur­rently no es­tab­lished stan­dards with re­gards to trans­parency for in­cor­po­rated Vil­lages across Nova Sco­tia. Ac­cord­ing to Lewis Bene­dict, Pres­i­dent of the As­so­ci­a­tion of Nova Sco­tia Vil­lages, trans­parency is some­thing Vil­lages should strive for.

“Ba­si­cally we work for the pub­lic. Ratepay­ers of the Vil­lage hire us, or rather, vote for us, and we work for them. […] We try to keep every­body in the loop,” says Bene­dict.

As the ac­com­pa­ny­ing ta­ble il­lus­trates, the ma­jor­ity of the re­main­ing twenty Vil­lages in Nova Sco­tia have a web pres­ence of­fer­ing vary­ing de­grees of con­tact in­for­ma­tion, and down­load­able doc­u­ments. Sixty per­cent of Vil­lages have ded­i­cated web­sites. Fifty per­cent of Vil­lage web­sites pro­vide Vil­lage Com­mis­sioner names and con­tact in­for­ma­tion. Some even pro­vide Com­mis­sioner pho­tos and bios. Forty per­cent of Vil­lage web­sites pro­vide down­load­able meet­ing min­utes and com­mu­nity notices. Very few pro­vide emer­gency plan in­for­ma­tion such as boil wa­ter notices.

Model web­sites in­clude The Vil­lage of Pug­wash, the Vil­lage of Bi­ble Hill and the Vil­lage of New Mi­nas. The Vil­lage of Pug­wash lists Vil­lage prop­er­ties and ser­vices, the Com­mis­sion’s mis­sion state­ment and an­nual bud­get state­ments. At the top of their web page list­ing cur­rent and past Com­mis­sion­ers, The Vil­lage of Lawrence­town boasts the motto, “Work­ing with you to keep our com­mu­nity strong.” Their con­tact page lists con­tacts for all Vil­lage Staff. The Vil­lage of Tata­m­agouche home page states, “Should you wish to speak with one of our Vil­lage Com­mis­sion­ers di­rectly, please do not hes­i­tate to con­tact them by phone.”

As for The Vil­lage of Bad­deck, we re­ported in Au­gust 2016 that Richard Roberts was elected as Vil­lage Chair in July 2016, tak­ing over from Ed­die Keel­ing. Robert’s elec­tion as Chair came as the re­sult of Com­mis­sion­ers feel­ing it was time to take things in a new di­rec­tion. Cur­rent Com­mis­sion­ers in­clude Brian Mor­ri­son, Philip Macrae, Mar­i­lyn Mor­ri­son, and Bill Marchant. It is not clear if Roberts is cur­rently fill­ing out Keel­ing’s term as Chair or whether he was elected for a full three-year term. It is also un­clear when the other Com­mis­sion­ers are up for re-elec­tion or what their spe­cific Com­mis­sion ti­tles are.

Vil­lage of Bad­deck monthly meet­ings oc­cur on the sec­ond Wed­nes­day of the month, 7pm, at the Pub­lic Works Build­ing lo­cated across from the Bad­deck RCMP De­tach­ment. When you en­ter the build­ing, you'll walk through the garage and into a back room where meet­ings are held. It is un­clear why meet­ings are held at this lo­ca­tion, given that The Vil­lage of Bad­deck main of­fice is lo­cated in the Mu­nic­i­pal build­ing in down­town Bad­deck. The An­nual Gen­eral Meet­ing (AGM) must be held be­tween now and July 1 as re­quired by the Mu­nic­i­pal Govern­ment Act. At the AGM, the Chair­man's re­port is read, the au­dited fi­nan­cial state­ment is pre­sented and elec­tions are held. It is un­clear if a date has been set for this year’s AGM.

This Septem­ber, the As­so­ci­a­tion for Nova Sco­tia Vil­lages will hold its AGM in Bad­deck. The Stan­dard looks for­ward to at­tend­ing and learn­ing more about what guides other Vil­lages in their in­ter­ac­tion with the pub­lic.

We will con­tinue to keep you in­formed about the Vil­lage of Bad­deck as de­tails be­come avail­able.

“Ba­si­cally we work for the pub­lic. Ratepay­ers of the Vil­lage hire us, or rather, vote for us, and we work for them. […] We try to keep every­body in the loop,” - Lewis Bene­dict, Pres­i­dent of the As­so­ci­a­tion of Nova Sco­tia Vil­lages

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