The NG Times spoke with Jim Bertram recently, as part of our Conversations with… series of podcasts. The topic was, naturally, the proposed prison, and the full podcast can be found on our website. Here are excerpts, in which Jim discusses the issue of public consultations:
I believe the government of the people owes it to the people to include them in decision making. To include people in decision making involves real, true consultation. It does not include, basically, an announcement that a decision has been made which will have an impact on the future of the people without their having any input whatsoever. And just to make it clear: input, call it consultation, if you will, has to happen before a decision is made. If that happens after, it is two things: mere information, and window dressing.
Because, once it’s built, once it’s here, it’s too late. Once that land has been used, it’s too late. Once the impact on the schools and on the college across the road has been made, it’s too late. Once all of this has happened, it’s too late for the town. And so that is why consultation ahead of time, real consultation is important. Pre-decision consultation is absolutely necessary.
Now, if a large number of people decided this wasn’t going to happen, we could organize. And I think there would be a very good chance that, given the amount of noise and the amount of discomfort we could apply to them to the political level, who knows? I think there would be a chance that this could be taken back. If we bring forward sufficient points and argue them, well, I would suspect that we could put up enough pressure on our council. Our council, I don’t think, is representing the town very well on this, but we could put enough pressure on our council to stand up for us, and we could put enough pressure on the province to give us some slack on some of these. For example, who’s going to pay for the waste water system that’s going to have to be built and maintained, not just one shot, but over the years? Is the province going to come with a yearly sum adjusted for inflation to help with that? Are they going to help with your drinking water? Are they going to make sure that that is guaranteed? Are they going to help with your additional costs in policing? And will they make sure that the police have instructions not to go off down to the 416 to do their patrols? Are they going to do all that?
Now what do we do? And the number of things you can do ranges from having a Facebook presence, a significant one that teaches opposition, and not just opposition, but thoughtful opposition. You can be writing to The Times, which is a local democratic point of focus. Lots of very interesting ideas go through there. You can produce materials summarizing your argument, have them photocopied and distribute them in your neighborhood. You can have neighborhood meetings, electronically. You can pay attention to any of the meetings that are coming up, the so-called consultations, which aren’t consultations. But the point is, if enough people are there, enough people who are as direct as I am. And I ask you to be at least that direct, and not let your natural good manners lead you to sit back and be quiet. You could be handing out fliers. You can be doing a petition of some kind, electronic or otherwise.
So this is something that requires your motivation, your authentic motivation, and your imagination and your energy. If you don’t have those things, you simply won’t be effective. And if we are not effective as a community, as a group, not just one person or two, as a community, if we’re not effective, if we can’t make Mr. Clark think twice about this and say “I better go and see the boss about reworking this thing”, well, enjoy your new prison, folks, because that’s what you’re going to get, and you’re going to get all of the stuff that comes with it.
We have to look at really legitimate information. And, you know, it would have been so good to have all of that information, including what I will call so-called information, coming from our government before a decision was made.
And one last thing would be: if you’re interested and motivated to oppose this and you want to get some ideas on what to do and work with others who are going to do something about it, I would ask you to contact me at my Website, or by email. And then you will become a member of the group called JOG, Jail Opposition Group. If you’re motivated to do that, I spoke earlier of getting up and doing something. We’re getting up and we’re doing something and we need recruits. So if you’re interested, I await your e-mails. Jim @ firstname.lastname@example.org.