Categories: Community engagement

A commitment to respectful dialogue: focus on issues, not people

This is a good time to republish the commenting guidelines for Ward 2 News, which were first created almost two years ago to foster vigorous and respectful debate in this online space. You know my commitment to community engagement – and to respectful dialogue. I’ve always believed that when the city, elected representatives and residents come together to share different ideas and perspectives, we make better decisions for our community. To invite the greatest participation from the most people, we need to focus on ideas, not personal attacks.

We have a lot of contentious issues in our city recently (and more to come) about which people have passionate views. Passion is good – it shows care and commitment for our community – so long as we commit to respectful dialogue – challenging ideas, rationale and opinion, but not each other.

That’s one reason we require full first and last name to Post here. It’s easier to make an inappropriate comment behind the cloak of anonymity. The guidelines also ask people to refrain from personal attacks, or assumptions of motives. Assume those who have a different perspective than you share the same commitment to our city, they just have different ideas about how to achieve that.

Let’s foster a space where diversity of opinion is welcome, and the focus is on supporting opinions with facts and evidence. That way everyone will feel welcomed to participate in the dialogue.

Below, are the full set of commenting guidelines.

Commenting Guidelines

The goal of the comment feature of is to encourage dialogue in the community on important issues, by allowing residents to share ideas with others, see how others think about an issue, express a range of perspectives, or even ask questions of me so answers can be shared with the community.

Diversity of perspective is welcome; we don’t all have to agree. We do need to be respectful of each other.

From time to time, comments on have veered into territory that tends to discourage rather than promote healthy dialogue and debate. The anonymity available via online communication has at times worked against respectful discourse.

Here are some guidelines before you comment, and our expectations before we will post:

  • Be civil. Would you speak this way to a good friend? If not, rewrite.
  • Focus on the issues. Build your argument and make your case in support of your opinion from facts, research or other sources. That way we can all learn. “I disagree with so-and-so because…” is fine; “So-and-so is naïve/stupid  for thinking the way he/she does and here’s why…” is not acceptable.
  • Don’t make personal attacks. Don’t assume motives of those you disagree with, make unfounded allegations, spread rumours, or engage in any other behaviours that would discourage you from participating if someone said this to, or about, you. The Golden Rule applies: Do unto others as you would have done to you. We will edit or not post comments with this type of content.
  • Say it once: When comments from the same individual or individuals become repetitive, going over ground already stated, we reserve the right to close commenting.
  • Use your full, and real, name. If wish to make a comment in public, we expect you will publicly stand behind it with your name. If you don’t want to publicly reveal your name, that’s fine; you are always welcome to share your thoughts with me privately via my email below. I welcome and consider all feedback in making decisions for the community.
  • Have fun, consider and learn. Share your views and read those of others. May we all benefit from a healthy exchange of ideas, and learn a little more about the people in our community, what you think, and what’s important to each of you. You may end up changing your mind about an issue; even if you don’t, we hope everyone will gain a greater understanding of why people have different perspectives.

These guidelines are effective Jan. 30, 2016 and are not retroactive. As new comments come in, they are expected to conform to the guidelines above to be posted.

Got questions or comments? Contact me directly at

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Marianne Meed Ward

A Better Burlington began in 2006 after my neighbours said they felt left out of city decisions, learning about them only after they’d been made. As journalist for 22 years, I thought “I can do something about that” and a website and newsletter were born. They’ve taken various forms and names over the years, but the intent remains: To let you know what’s happening at City Hall before decisions are made, so you can influence outcomes for A Better Burlington. The best decisions are made when elected representatives tap the wisdom of our community members, and welcome many different perspectives.This site allows residents to comment and debate with each other; our Commenting Guidelines established in 2016 aim to keep debate respectful. Got an idea or comment you want to share privately? Please, get in touch:

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