Keep working at consultation

Although consultation processes were used, the level of anger and animosity generated suggests some tweaking might be in order.

Snuneymuxw First Nation is threatening legal action against Nanaimo school district for what it says is a failure to consult on school closures in the Cedar area.

The school district insists that the olive branch of consultation was extended, in the form of an e-mail and multiple phone calls.

Some disconnect is evident, and the fight between Snuneymuxw and the school district is just one more example of residents in Nanaimo feeling left out of the decision-making process.

What the City of Nanaimo thought would be a straightforward decision to eliminate the threat of dam failure from Colliery Dam Park turned into a year-long slugfest that saw the city seek an injunction against protesters before agreeing to a review of the dam removal plan.

The Nanaimo Port Authority’s deal with a private company to refurbish the downtown Boat Basin evaporated after residents who felt left out of the process voiced strong opposition to the plan.

And the school district faces more complaints over the consultation process used to consolidate schools in the Cedar area.

Although communication plans and consultation processes were used in these cases, the level of anger and animosity generated suggests some tweaking might be in order – at the very least a second look at how these processes are failing to prevent the sort of outrage so far incurred.

At the end of the day, however, even the best communication strategy and consultation process will still face detractors unhappy with the decisions made in the end. They will probably still fight those decisions on their own timelines, regardless of issues that need to move forward.

But in a democratic society, creating the most inclusive and exhaustive decision-making process is always a worthwhile exercise.