Kingston City Council approves 2023-26 strategic planning process

Meadowbrook-Strathcona District Councillor Jeff McLaren voices his concerns regarding the proposed 2023-26 strategic planning process at a Kingston City Council meeting on Dec. 20, 2022. Screen captured image.

At a meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2022, Kingston City Council voted to approve the proposed process and timeline for setting the 2023-2026 Strategic Plan. A report presented to councillors in advance of Tuesday’s meeting outlined the steps involved in developing the upcoming official plan, which will serve as the main guiding document for the newly elected Council throughout its four-year term.

The approval process will include a number of different steps and will be overseen by a facilitator, who will be appointed following an upcoming Request for Proposal (RFP). The costs associated with hiring a facilitator will be covered by the operating budget of the City’s Chief Administrative Officer (CAO). Starting in January 2023, City staff will carry out a public engagement process, giving citizens the chance to have a say on the issues and priorities that should be addressed within the strategic plan.

Once a facilitator has been approved and public engagement has taken place, Kingston City Council should be able to conduct the official planning sessions in March 2023. According to the staff report, three planning sessions will take place, using a “Committee of the Whole” format to give all councillors an equal opportunity to shape the final document. The report also recommended that important members of the City’s Corporate Management team be present during the sessions, to provide important clarification and support.

“The upcoming strategic planning session will provide members of Council, as a group, the opportunity to engage in meaningful discussion on a full scope of topics over the course of three days. The primary objective is to enable all Council members to engage with their colleagues on a host of ideas and thoughts to form a consensus on priorities for the Council term,” the report said.

Once councillors have officially established their strategic priorities following the three planning sessions in March, staff will then prepare an implementation plan sometime in April or May. By the end of May, Council is expected to approve the implementation plan and strategic priorities, including guiding principles and tax rate targets.

In terms of what sorts of priorities the 2023-26 Strategic Plan will include, the report indicated that both “tactical” and “strategic” goals have been included in previous plans: “There may be some priorities set by Council that are more tactical than strategic in nature, as past strategic plans have included both and have served well in guiding the work of staff over the term.”

Since November 2022, City staff have provided orientation sessions to councillors, bringing them up to speed on matters relevant to the strategic planning process, such as growth and planning, as well as City services. Staff will provide additional sessions in the months ahead, covering topics like finance, budgeting, and human resources.

On Tuesday night, councillors had the opportunity to speak to the report and ask questions about staff’s proposal. Meadowbrook-Strathcona Councillor Jeff McLaren noted some issues he had with the previous strategic planning process, saying, “One of the concerns I had last time was… a lot of the concerns I had heard at the door were not able to be put into the strategic plan… We were only allowed three top issues, then we had a dotmocracy (a vote with multiple options where participants indicate their choices using stickers or dots), and we also had breakout groups in which we shrunk that pool of items that were brought up. I’m wondering if we can have a guarantee that those kinds of techniques will not be used in the new strategic planning process this time around.”

City of Kingston CAO Lanie Hurdle responds to questions about the 2023-26 strategic planning process. Screen captured image.

CAO Lanie Hurdle responded to McLaren’s concerns, noting that the process was different four years ago because it came from a proposal the City had received from an existing facilitator. “That proposal included all those different steps. [This time] we haven’t yet [gone] out to retain a facilitator, and that’s something we would do following the Council direction… We can make sure that we ask for different approaches.”

Hurdle added, “The other piece too that we’ve included in this process is the public engagement component, [which] I think wasn’t part of the initial proposal you had four years ago. So that’s something we’ve included this time… One of the things that I can definitely do is bring back the proposals to Council… so you actually see the facilitators’ proposals, and you can select from those facilitators.”

McLaren also asked about the metrics that will be used to determine the success of the upcoming Strategic Plan. “I’m hoping this time, as a point of continuous improvement, that a few more numbers can be added on compared to last time… in particular, that the councillor wish list be considered the metrics of success of a strategic plan… Is that also a possibility?”

Hurdle replied, “There will be some possibility to better define what Council would like to see as far as metrics, and that’s going to be part of the process with the facilitator. There’s also going to be an implementation plan that will be brought back to City Council, because we understand that the priorities are probably going to be… at a higher level. To implement those priorities from a staff perspective, we will need to bring back a number of different actions or initiatives that can be implemented over the course of four years… and also include measurables and metrics.”

Sydenham District Councillor Conny Glenn stressed the need for understanding regarding the overall strategic planning process. “The success of a [Strategic] Plan really depends on understanding what the process is… I think a little preparatory education for both staff and councillors is necessary to ensure the success of it.”

The proposed 2023-2026 strategic planning process was ultimately approved by Council in a unanimous vote.

Leave a Reply

You cannot copy content from this page, please share the link instead!