(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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
110 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Provincial health officers announced 1,005 new cases throughout B.C.

Black Crow Cannabis is just one of Vernon's many pot shops now open in town. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Kelowna has highest cannabis fees in Okanagan

Vernon’s 14 stores pay second highest business licence fees

The Columbia Valley Wetlands are known for their extensive and fragile ecosystem. (File photo)
Wildsight speaks out against logging in Columbia Wetlands

Located 50 kms south of Golden, the proposed operation was justified as bark beetle management

Residents, especially those with yards with long grass and wooded areas, are encouraged to check themselves and their pets for ticks after being outside. Ticks have reportedly been found in Golden near the pump track. File photo
Ticks found in Golden as spring approaches

Between five and 10 people each year go to hospital in Golden for ticks

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

A North Okanagan man in his late 20s was flown to hospital by air ambulance Saturday, April 17, shortly after 6:30 p.m. after allegedly crashing on his longboard on a Spallumcheen roadway. (File photo)
Suspected longboard crash in Okanagan sends individual to hospital via air ambulance

Accident involved a North Okanagan man in his late 20s on Otter Lake Road in Spallumcheen

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday December 8, 2020 in Ottawa. The stage is set for arguably the most important federal budget in recent memory, as the Liberal government prepares to unveil its plan for Canada’s post-pandemic recovery even as a third wave of COVID-19 rages across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Election reticence expected to temper political battle over federal budget

Opposition parties have laid out their own demands in the weeks leading up to the budget

A Kelowna Pride Festival 2019 participant holds up a flag. (Kelowna Pride Society)
Kelowna Pride, RCMP continue to work on ‘Safe Place Program’

A new committee has been formed to refine the ‘Safe Place Program’ created by the Kelowna RCMP

Coldstream Fire Department crews stationed at Kal Lake Provincial Park parking lot on Cosens Bay Road on Sunday, April 18, after a car went over a cliff in the area. (Roger Knox - Morning Star)
Driver escapes after car goes over North Okanagan cliff

The driver has been transported to hospital with unspecified injuries

A strange odour at a West Kelowna apartment building prompted the evacuation of 150 residents on Sunday morning, April 18. (Aaron Hemens - Capital News)
Strange smell at West Kelowna apartment prompts evacuation of 150 residents, pets

150 residents ordered evacuated from a West Kelowna apartment building early Sunday morning

Vernon Vipers goalie Roan Clarke celebrates his team’s 3-2 B.C. Hockey League pod play shootout win over the Salmon Arm Silverbacks Saturday, April 17, at Kal Tire Place. (Lisa Mazurek - Vernon Vipers Photography)
Vernon Vipers use shootout to subdue Salmon Arm

Snakes score 3-2 B.C. Hockey League pod play win at Kal Tire Place

This is what’s left of a truck that caught fire at Pyramid Provincial Park off Highway 97 near Summerland Saturday night. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Photo Gallery: Truck gutted by fire at popular Okanagan park, trees saved

Just a metal shell of what once was a pick up truck is left at the scene

Most Read