Well this is awk-ward

On September 10 the CBC ran a piece on the change in Aurora from an at large to ward system.

One candidate who registered to run as a ward 6 councillor is not only opposed to the ward system, when I confronted him he stated he is actively campaigning to reverse it:

The CBC piece outlines how Aurora was the largest municipality in Ontario still electing its representatives using the at-large system. Wards are about 3 election cycles overdue so I’m unsure what Mr. Smith is nostalgic for exactly, mediocrity?

An at large system allows is for elected representatives to avoid and hide those they disagree with. A practice that most current councillors engage with and that resolves itself when representatives are accountable for specific wards.

Not everyone in the town may be happy with wards, but just throwing words out like “it’s divisive” is not a valid argument to seek to reverse it. Does Smith have a laid out alternative policy document for this absurd stance or is this just puffing up his chest and pouting?

If this is how this candidate articulates positions he opposes then I suspect watching him at the council table would be eerily similar to this scene in Office Space:

The real issue I want to delve into here is with communication and community engagement.

The CBC piece also covers on another candidate; Steve Fleck. Unlike Mr Smith Mr. Fleck doesn’t seem concerned about the ward system, comes across as someone who chews with his mouth closed and is running in Ward 5. Mr. Fleck does however point out something alarming: “despite ward billboards letting residents know their ward and a portal on the town website, almost nobody knows what’s happening.”

A concern that the candidate repeated and expanded on it here:

Wow, so some mobile signs and a hastily cobbled together section on the town’s website is the full extent of the town’s engagement capabilities?

This is just sad.

Bilboards are bullshit, especially the way the Town of Aurora designs them as they cram too much crap into them from a readability standpoint.

Attempts to navigate the town’s pricey and deplorable Sharepoint excuse for a website are met with frustration. Honestly who designed this thing, and did they even stop to think how someone would use it?

One only has to look at what Toronto is doing at their “know your vote .to” site . It is laid out so that you are treated with a map to browse wards. In the primary navigation to the top right there is a call out for “find your ward”.

This isn’t even a project by the city, but by the Toronto Public Library.

Also of note is that this isn’t something rolled out for the 2022 election. Toronto had it back in 2018. So what is the town of Aurora’s excuse again for not building a similar tool?

It must be that communications and engagement have remained inexcusably amateur and ineffective during this term as it was the past 4 before it.

What is different this term is that council approved a communications and community engagement strategy for 2019-2021. This almighty strategy was supposed to fix everything, but then came the hard part. Execution.

In 2019 The Town of Aurora was mentioned on Twitter from Simcoe County’s largest business conference for communications practitioners. Something about “Local impacts matters” with a slide talking about “influencers”:

Thinking they must have misattributed the town I went and pulled the agenda for this conference and I see this was indeed led by the previous manager of communications responsible for said communication strategy:

Now read that list and tell me how the Town of Aurora executed on its communications strategy successfully and connected with ANY influencers on this list. If the town’s manager was capable of imparting best practices, leveraging influencers and any sense of what is to come in the digital world then why wasn’t this applied in Aurora?

A Kardashian would have done a better job.

The whole communications strategy appears to be another item that got checked off a list, but it’s evolution and sustainability appears to be amongst the things that didn’t “get done” this term. A quick glance over on the pending list and we see:

The first item of note is a Citizen Survey that was to be done in 2021 was postponed to “the first half of 2022”. WTF? It is now the last half of 2022 and where the findings of said survey could have been useful for citizen engagement leading into an election it was just shelved.


The second item is a huge red flag as it deals with aforementioned communications strategy expiring in 2021.

The action that was supposed to be taken was a presentation to council by end of 2021. It’s states is “work ongoing”.

Checks calendar.

Yup it’s the end of 2022.

Why has the town been operating without a revised communications strategy for all of 2022?

And why has not even a SINGLE member of council noticed and addressed this issue?

There’s little surprise that residents are unaware of changed to ward systems. They are likely unaware of many issues going on at town hall because that would require effective communications achieved by a living strategy document that is measured and reviewed.

But, yeah the real issue is that there’s a ward system and hurrr, durrr we need to go backwards. Oh, And Remember, Next Friday Is Hawaiian Shirt Day!

Watts on your mind?

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