Community Consultation Hijacked?

Over the last couple of years a buzz word that I hear a lot (too much of) is “community consultation”. Any change that a business or community wants to make has to go through a “consultation process” to help the impacted community members come to terms with what is about to happen to their community.

When Vancouver mayoral candidate Kirk Lapointe was talking about where he would put emergency homeless shelters all he would commit to was having more consultation with communities.

Mayor Gregor Robertson
Mayor Gregor Robertson

I heard Mayor Gregor Robertson on the radio and when he was asked about community opposition to turning an empty hotel in downtown Vancouver into an emergency shelter for homeless people he admitted that perhaps they should’ve done more community consultation.

When they want to talk about putting a new pipeline through Burnaby to pipe bitumen from the Alberta tarsands to the BC coast, either via the northern route or the route through southern BC and Burnaby, people say they need more “community consultation”.

Anytime there is a project that somebody is trying to push forward that another community group is opposed to, any project, whether it is a homeless shelter or a pipeline to pump bitumen into tankers to go to China, or building higher density housing along Cambie Street or adding carriage homes to a municipality, any of these projects will require “community consultation”.

Really what I wonder is what is the point of the community consultation process? Is the consultation process supposed to help people understand the pros and cons of the project or is it just a way for some community groups to organize and block a project from moving forward? Do you really think that there will ever come a time there will ever be enough consultation to bring everybody on board?

So really, what is the current community consultation process really about? My concern is that it is being used as an opportunity for people to vent and oppose projects. And that to me is a travesty.