Council could use more Brainstorming

(Councillor David Beatty did not seek re-election.)

Apparently, Brainstorming was always a part of the agenda for city council's economic development and planning committee.

It's just that none of the committee members were ever inclined to top off a couple of hours of debating and voting with a few minutes of free-ranging discussion on economic development.

Until now. As in, until the last EDP committee meeting of the term.

Outgoing Councillor David Beatty took advantage of the Brainstorming part of Tuesday's agenda to lob a grenade he's probably been carrying around for a few years and won't be needing again.

On the matter of regional economic development, Beatty suggested the Brockville and Disctrict Chamber of Commerce, which has been pushing the idea, should put its money where its mouth is.

The chamber should take the regional initiative and start talks on amalgamating all Leeds and Grenville chambers into one, suggested Beatty.

That seemed to come out of nowhere, but others were quick to pick up on the topic.

Jeff Earle, in particular, professed himself a fan of the regional chamber idea, but said the hard part would come when this new entity had to decide which executive director and office staff to keep.

We're all for teamwork until someone has to write a cheque, said Earle, following it up with another of those classic quips we can look forward to for the next four years: ""Families are really close until they read the will."

Beatty, now on a roll, pulled out another grenade. He suggested the smaller towns and villages of our region hold a "Leeds and Grenville referendum" on regional amalgamation.

This prompted the ever-pragmatic Mike Kalivas, who is coming back and will have to deal with these municipalities for yet another term, to try putting the brakes on this talk by suggesting the city start with "baby steps."

"I think we just need to have a frank discussion with our immediate neighbours," said Kalivas.

Whether these grenades actually explode will depend on whether the majority of councillors who aren't leaving are willing to pick up the discussion.

And the potential amalgamation of chambers of commerce is not a public interest discussion. These are private-sector-supported organizations that do the will of their private-sector membership.

The issue will intersect with public discussion, however, if local councils take up Beatty's challenge and use chamber amalgamation as some sort of precondition to start talks on regional economic development.

By saying what he did, Beatty may just have given all regional politicians an easy out from ever holding those talks.

Again, we will have to see. For now, it's just a welcome change to see such free-ranging, risk-ignoring talk around the council table.

One hopes it won't be gone for another four years.