Editorial - To proclaim or not to proclaim, that is the question

If you follow the workings of Yorkton Council in these pages on a regular basis you will be aware that groups and organizations regularly appear before Council seeking to have a day, a week, or a month proclaimed to highlight particular things.

The most recent meeting held Sept. 30, was rather typical in that regard. Three verbal requests were made.

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Parkland Right to Life made a proclamation request asking Council to proclaim Respect for Life Week, the Ministry of Agriculture made a request to have October declared as Agriculture Month in the City of Yorkton, and the City’s own Assistant Director of Environmental Services made a proclamation request – to have Waste Reduction Week in the city.

Two of the three requests would pass, the third was simply received and filed.

In the past when Council has chosen to make such declarations they have been by unanimous vote.

This time around Mayor Bob Maloney sat opposed to both the declaration of Agriculture Month and of Waste Reduction Week. In both instances Maloney was quick to tell the associated presenters he was not opposed to the actual efforts of either, but had come to the personal conclusion that Council should not be “in the business” of making proclamations.

It is a position that has some interesting ramifications.

To begin with, Maloney’s position is likely to bring about a review of the City’s role in terms of making proclamations on a regular basis. That process is a good one regardless of the ultimate decision. It is never a bad thing for Council to occasionally take a new look at how it carries out its business. Asking the question about whether they should be picking and choosing which groups or activities are worthy of a City proclamation, and which are things Council should not be weighing in on is a good process to undertake.

Certainly the City is not going to grind to a halt if Waste Reduction Week was not officially proclaimed by Council. The activities associated with the week would continue to go on, and Council could spend that time looking at other issues.
Ditto Agriculture Month. It is obvious agriculture is an important sector in terms of the city, and that will be the case with, or without future proclamations.

But politically, it gets a bit dicier for the members of Council when members of the Royal Canadian Legion come calling to have Veterans’ Week given the sacrifices our armed forces have made on our behalf.

Or when the Kinsmen Club asks that the City proclaim Kin Week in recognition of all the good work that service club has done locally through the years.

Maloney may well be right that Council shouldn’t be in the proclamation business, but they have been passing them for decades as a way to mark good efforts, hardworking clubs, important economic sectors, and more.

If Council moves away from proclamations, as they have previously done in ending flag raising to promote certain groups and events, they will need to backfill the gap they will leave in marking local good works with something.

What that is, and how it might work, would be part of the review process that seems timely.

It is also a process that should have public input. Voters elect Councils with certain expectations. Is making proclamations something the public sees as important? A question that deserves an answer in any process that is forthcoming.

You have to respect Maloney for taking a stand, but what happens as a result of that stance is far from clear at this time.

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