Doing a better job of engaging the public lets communities and agencies do their jobs better


The Sleeping GiantTHUNDER BAY – Tech Talk – The growing importance of the Internet can be seen as communties, groups and politicians are reaching out and engaging online. It is an area where Thunder Bay has made careful and cautious steps forward with adding a video feed of City Council Meetings. It is an area where some of our community leaders are doing much better than others. One of the effective means is communications by email. Some of our city leaders are fantastic at responding to citizens. Others seemingly simply don’t reply at all according to all reports.

The Internet is a key communications tool that all all elected leaders should be engaging with residents and sharing what is happening. Not doing so, in today’s ever increasingly engaged world is to miss opportunities.

The Internet represents an area where there is perhaps a great deal of opportunity for our community, and our elected representatives to expand their online presence. For smaller centres, and with a population of just over 115,000 in the city, Thunder Bay is one of the bigger small cities, or one of the smallest big cities. It is a place in our size that should dictate that our community, through social networking, and Web 2.0 that Thunder Bay can become a leader. Examples of leadership can be seen from some divisions of the City of Thunder Bay.

It is likely time for the City of Thunder Bay to revisit its Internet site. The current page is build on a landing page, and while it has a lot of information online, the page for many people is difficult to navigate. Often it takes four to five pages to finally find what the visitor is looking for. Calgary and St. John’s Newfoundland offer examples of how using the latest technology an easier and faster web experience can be realized.

Other examples can be witnessed in other communities. For the Thunder Bay Police Service, the Chatham-Kent Police Service and the Toronto Police Service offer excellent ‘role models’. The Chatham-Kent Police Service is one of the most forward thinking services in Canada for a community of its size. The City of Toronto Police Service are the acknowledged leaders in social networking in police services in Canada.

Last August, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police heard a presentation on the importance of Social Media and Policing. The path forward has been set.

Toronto Deputy Police Chief Peter Sloly states, “The biggest change for us (with the new technology) is our culture. We are not used to this type of decentralized, high-speed, highly interactive information-sharing environment. Traditionally, policing is a very hierarchal and para-military culture. We don’t give our frontline people a lot of opportunity to speak on behalf of our organization. This is changing all of that and because of that radical change, it made people like me very nervous. It took a lot of convincing and once the lights went on in my head, the lights went on right across the police service. ‘What I love about this approach is that it’s bottom up. It’s our frontline people — those responsible for public safety and interacting with the public – that are telling us that this is the way we need to go”.

Doing a better job of engaging the public lets communities and agencies do their jobs better.

Montreal is taking a leadership role in online engagement. In her efforts to reach as many citizens as possible, the Ombudsman de Montréal has entered the Web. 2.0 (social media) era by launching a new website, a blog, a Facebook page and a Twitter account. Ombudsman Johanne Savard is encouraging citizens to use these new tools to find out more about her organization and to communicate with her office.

“Ever since assuming my post, my greatest challenge has been to raise awareness of our office’s existence and effectiveness; the social media, therefore, have become essential tools for a more direct interaction,” Me. Savard writes in her first post on her blog called L’Ombudsman de Montréal sur les médias sociaux : pourquoi ? (Why is the Ombudsman de Montréal on social media?) Me. Savard is very eager to maintain a direct dialogue with citizens and she invites them to write to her to ask questions, send along their comments and share their thoughts.

As explained to the citizens in her blog, the goal of this new approach is to “help you learn more about our day-to-day operations, with tangible examples of situations we have handled. This should allow you to understand better the extent and limits of our jurisdiction and powers.”

To explore this new website and to read the Ombudsman’s blog:

The Ombudsman de Montréal’s Facebook page can be found at:

The link to the Twitter account is @Ombudsmanmtl.

The Ombudsman de Montréal intervenes as a last resort to ensure that the municipal rights of citizens are respected and that their cases are treated fairly and with respect by all municipal entities. This service is completely free of charge and contributes positively to participatory democracy, ethics, fairness and justice within the Ville de Montréal.

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