Off the mark

Nothing says public sector management like replacing a nine-member board of directors with a 17-member advisory committee.

That's what the City of Prince George did Thursday when it named its economic development committee. Last year, it gassed Initiatives Prince George, its arms-length economic development agency, and the board that ran it. That board was made up of:

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  • Steve Nycholat, divisional manager for Allnorth Consultants, MBA graduate from UNBC.
  • Greg Stewart, president of Sinclar Group Forest Products.
  • Sean Kehler, vice-president, commercial financial services, Royal Bank of Canada.
  • Bob Redden, president of EDI Environmental Dynamics Inc.
  • Doug Bell, owner/operator Family Fast Foods group of companies, which includes the new Northern Lights Estate Winery, and president of the national marketing association for Wendy's Restaurants of Canada.
  • Alice Downing, management consultant, longtime UNBC benefactor and current board member with Canadian Blood Services.
  • Sonya Hunt, general manager, Pine Centre Mall, MBA graduate from UNBC.
  • Dr. Charles Jago, UNBC past president, Order of Canada recipient, Order of B.C. recipient, Northern Health board chair, Canfor Pulp board chair.
  • Colleen Sparrow, publisher, The Prince George Citizen.

Contrast those nine individuals with these folks on the new advisory committee:

  • Lyn Hall, mayor of Prince George
  • Henry Reiser, president of College of New Caledonia.
  • Susan Stearns, general manager of Community Futures of Fraser-Fort George.
  • Colleen van Mook, executive director of Downtown Business Improvement Association.
  • Zishan Shah, Community Economic Development manager, Lheidli T'enneh.
  • Don Iwaskow, vice president of North Labour Council.
  • John Gibson, president and CEO of Prince George Airport Authority.
  • Christie Ray, CEO Prince George Chamber of Commerce.
  • Scott Bone, CEO Prince George & BC North Construction Association.
  • Jim Martin, CAO Regional District of Fraser-Fort George.
  • Erica Hummel, CEO Tourism Prince George
  • Daniel Weeks, president, University of Northern B.C.
  • Mike Davis of the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association.
  • Sarbjit (Bobby) Deepak, labour lawyer
  • Rebecca Hasdell, new resident, formerly a policy development officer with the City of Toronto.
  • Todd Molland, owner, P.G. Rental.
  • Robert Schuetz, president, Industrial Forestry Service.

IPG certainly had its flaws and its board had its shortcomings at the time Hall pulled the plug. There was no labour representation, no public sector representation, no city council representation and no First Nations representation. In other words, there was no one on that board with a different perspective, someone to challenge the private sector dominance and the small-c conservative fiscal and political worldview that usually comes with it.

This new advisory committee, however, isn't much better. Including the mayor, there are eight committee members from the public sector. These are smart, engaged people but their understanding of economic development is from 30,000 feet, not from the entrepreneur's street-level reality.

Four members of the committee are the executive directors of business associations, which is somewhat positive, except that Bone isn't in the construction business, van Mook is not a downtown merchant, Ray is not the owner-operator of her own business and Davis is not a private contractor. They are administrators. Their spots on this committee should be filled by one of their members, preferably a member of their board, who can represent both the private sector and the association.

Just the last two names - Schuetz and Molland - have a full claim to being able to speak to private sector concerns.

If the goal with the makeup of this committee was diversity, mission accomplished. If the goal was to foster collaboration between the public and private sectors, it missed the target entirely.

And never mind that this 17-member committee has no power or authority. It will just talk. Mayor and council will decide major economic development initiatives.

So it turns out there's a nine-member board in charge after all.

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