by Jennifer Lavallee
Morinville News Correspondent
According to the Town’s 2017 Resident Survey, about 56% of people from Morinville believe their Council is doing an effective job.
The results were released last week in a survey summary report, presented during the June 13 Town Council Meeting. The survey asked residents if they believe Council is: effective at planning for the community’s future, acting in the best interest of the entire community, and whether Council was serving residents’ personal interests.
Compared to the Resident Survey from last year, approval ratings are up by approximately 7%. In 2016, residents gave council an average approval rating of 49.22%.
“The ratings are one way that Council can measure success each year, allowing us to set targets for improvement through the strategic and business plans,” said Morinville Mayor, Lisa Holmes.
“I find value in the ratings, but also in the feedback and comments [because] they offer specific suggestions and concerns that we can work on. I’m happy to see the number of survey responses increase this year, along with the ratings on Council performance. The more feedback that the public can offer their elected officials, the better,” she concluded.
Coun. Barry Turner, who has indicated he may run for Mayor in the next municipal election, said he also believes there is value in the approval ratings and that the way these ratings are calculated is a fair process. “It provides a barometer to gauge how residents feel about how Council is performing,” he said.
Turner suggested, in addition to the annual Resident Survey, circulating an more in-depth survey to each Morinville household (once per Council term) would be beneficial for further assessing the work done by the Town’s local elected officials.
Though he’s not thrilled with a 56.25% approval rating, Turner stated he is not surprised with that result based on last year’s approval ratings and anecdotal feedback from residents. “I feel that this rating has been impacted by Council’s failure to clearly outline its vision early and have most of Council on the same page. I also believe [however] that this Council has done a lot of work to rectify that issue for future Councils by re-establishing a basic governance structure that was not present at the beginning of our term,” he remarked. The Councillor said it will be his goal, if re-elected, to establish a strategic plan within the first six months of the Town’s new council being formed.
Despite having an approval rating just above the fifty percent mark, there are some positives. Local resident and business owner, Thomas Kirsop, said he believes the 56.25% figure is a good thing because it demonstrates that public confidence in council is on the rise. “While those numbers…may or may not reflect the mass opinion, we must move forward with what data we have. I’m glad to see the rise in both statistics (i.e. the number of residents completing the survey and Council’s approval rating), and look forward to future efforts to increase both values.”
Kirsop said Council needs to continue increasing public awareness on its activities to help improve their rating, and that new initiatives (such as live streaming Council meetings on Facebook) is a step in the right direction. Kirsop also made reference to individual councillors and the role they can play to keep resident informed on a consistent basis; he used Coun. Stephen Dafoe as one example of an elected official who provides regular updates online using social media.
“It’s easy to self-promote your activities in an election cycle, but some folks like myself have half an eye on activities throughout the term of a political office…I know of some small communities where councillors give an accounting of their activities at the beginning of every public council session; this may also help with public perception as to ‘What Council Does For You’.”
Other municipal services rated in the 2017 Resident Survey with comparable approval ratings include Bylaw Enforcement (at 58.47%), Summer Road Maintenance (at 58.96%), and the Family and Community Support Services (at 57.77%). Morinville’s Fire Services was rated the highest with a 79.17% approval rating.
The 2017 Resident Survey was circulated between March 27 and May 5 (via electronic forms and hard paper copies). In total, 688 surveys were completed (roughly representing 6.8% of the Town’s population); this compares to about 135 responses received during the 2016 Resident Survey. Felicity Bergman, Morinville’s Corporate Communications Coordinator, indicated she is pleased with the 409% increase in responses, which she said represents about 17% of all current Morinville households. “…Ideally, we would like to see the response rate increase every year,” noted Bergman.
The cost to conduct the 2017 Resident Survey was about $900.