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Feeling hopeful about fresh-faced board

December 6th,2023 | Opinion

We’ve got to give them a chance.

Anyone attending the Centre Wakefield La Pêche (CWLP) bylaw meeting on Nov. 23 likely came away with the same feelings: positivity and hope. 

It felt like, for the first time in a long time, CWLP members and the centre’s board were on the same page when they reviewed policies, analyzed the centre’s financial outlook and ultimately voted unanimously to approve the centre’s updated bylaws. 

From the get-go, it seemed board president Julie Coté was on a mission to run a tight, well-organized, efficient and effective meeting – and she did just that. She noted that starting on time was important, which drew a roar from the crowd. The centre also delivered an Indigenous land acknowledgement in both official languages, something that has been missing at previous meetings. 

But what won the crowd over Nov. 23 was the new board’s dedication to listening. Coté told the public that the board was prepared to have the motion to approve bylaws fail – if that’s what the membership voted for. What transpired instead was a fulsome and transparent discussion about some of the specifics of the bylaws – namely, who is allowed to vote and if there is a 30-day waiting period for new members. Instead of pointing fingers and arguing over rushing a hasty decision, the centre’s board and CWLP members in attendance worked together to modify the resolution with a promise that the bylaws would be reviewed again in the spring. Members passed this motion unanimously – by working together. 

This was the sentiment that former board president Vicky Carlan put out when she delivered a heartfelt speech about how difficult it is to be a board member in Wakefield, where everyone wants a voice. Carlan told the crowd that she sat in her car for 10 minutes before entering the Nov. 23 meeting, “a bit afraid” to face the crowd after the centre’s fall AGM descended into chaos. It was at that meeting where former board members and past presidents were pointing fingers and suggesting that specific problems didn’t exist during their tenure. They did. The AGM degraded into a disorganized meeting where nothing productive got done: the bylaws were not voted on; the centre’s finances weren’t presented; and residents were left with more questions than answers regarding a possible building ownership transfer to the municipality. 

“I acknowledge the AGM and all the hard work that went into that year,” said Carlan at the Nov. 23 meeting. “And it’s unfortunate that at the AGM, that couldn’t be seen. And you should be very pleased and grateful that these people stepped forward.”

By “these people,” she’s referring to an entirely new slate of board members, which include: president, Jule Coté; vice-president, Myles Jones; Lynn Forrest, Gillian Kirkland, John Parker, Archie Smith, Vanessa Passmore; and municipal representative, Pam Ross. These volunteers have decided to give up their evenings to try to improve things at the centre. These new board members put in close to 40 hours of prep time to get the bylaws and financial review ready – far more than the four hours per month required.

We’ve seen this before. A new, fresh-faced board provides some promising hope for the community, only for all the old problems to return and haunt them for the rest of their mandate. But if this first public meeting indicates how things will go in the future, we should expect things to go smoother from here on out.

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