Last September, Bill Thompson emailed Mayor Gil Brocanier and said that five out of the seven municipalities in Northumberland County have a Question period so why can’t Cobourg do the same? Gil’s response was that legal advice was that it would open up Council to litigation. Further he said that “Some municipalities have ignored their advice and allowed question periods that often turn into shouting matches and even Police enforcement. You need to look no further than Port Hope to see evidence of this.” (See links below for more on this). But given that other Councils allow Questions, you have to believe that there is a way to allow for an open Question period in addition to the current delegation process.
With Gil no longer Mayor in the new Council, and with John Henderson as the Mayor elect, there is room for a change. Perhaps a new arrangement can be made at Council meetings or possibly regular separate “Town Hall” meetings can be scheduled. All Candidates for Council were asked about the issue and most seemed open to upgrading communication between voters and the Council. John’s answer to the question was too long to include in the list of responses below but he made clear that he prefers the current system since it provides notice of the request/question. However, he is open to the idea of quarterly meetings for citizens to present their concerns to Council. Other Candidates have similar suggestions.
|John Henderson (acclaimed)||I would like to have discussions with the new Council and the Town Clerk on instituting Quarterly meetings that would begin at 6 p.m. (similar to our Public Meetings) where Council’s Strategic Plan, Budget updates and an opportunity for citizens to present their concerns to Council. This would result in an extended period of time to be decided to continue Council-community dialogue and allow us to keep our more, formal business-oriented Council sessions.
…. I am open to having an organization like Place Speak (Canadian company) to assist with critical question(s) that affect the community at large. Again, I would like to have the opportunity to discuss this with members of the new Council. This is another forum in which to gain community responses in real-time. [Abbreviated]
|Randy Curtis||If individuals wish to ask questions of a member of council they have the opportunity to do in person, over the telephone or electronically, that way it is possible to have effective two way communication. Consideration should be given to a quarterly Q&A, or as part of the Committee of the Whole dealing with agenda issues.|
I would suggest a 6-month trial period for Q & A at Committee of the Whole meetings, for agenda-related topics, and also hold two Cobourg Community Chats for any topic of interest to residents.
Open Q&A sessions is not an easy topic to broach; however, I believe that if implemented and facilitated effectively and efficiently it is a strong demonstration of civic engagement. As a Councillor, it would be my responsibility to interact with residents and answer questions on matters that are important to them. I would expect questions at Council meetings. [Abbreviated]
I am open to a Q & A session at council meetings. I do believe there needs to be a policy set in place as to how it operates, and that there is a mutual understanding that the answer might not always be directly in front of council and sometimes it might require more research and would be answered publicly at a future council meeting.
If our residents want or need clarification before or after council meetings, I would have no problem with that, after-all, the Town Council works for our tax payers and they deserve the opportunity to be heard.
Yes, this is essential for enhancing participatory democracy in Cobourg and for enabling residents to hold their elected representatives to account. Question periods should be introduced at Committee of the Whole meetings for items that appear on the agenda.
|Brian Darling||The feedback I get from other municipal council members in other areas, is that it is a very inefficient use of Council’s time. If they did not already have a Q & A period they would not implement one. That being said if the newly elected Council chose to suggest other options I would be willing to listen. I would be open to quarterly or semi-annual meetings. At this time it would allow Council to share any updates on our new strategic plan, a budget update and an opportunity to engage the public. Any new procedure developed will have to align with the Municipal Act.|
|Karl Vom Dorff||A Q & A period is sorely needed. It’s a way to keep councillors on their feet, an informal way for residents to voice their concerns and keep accountability and transparency front & centre. Other municipalities do it, why shouldn’t Cobourg?|
|Travis Hoover||In my previous work experience I had the opportunity to travel across the province and hear from large and small municipalities who allow Q&A’s and who don’t. Some that have it, regret the decision to implement citing that some organized groups tend to monopolize the time. Some have had success. Some have received legal opinions why it’s not a good idea. I would be open to discussion regarding Q&A in the future. I would also like to see public “town hall” style meet and greets being established throughout the community on a regular basis throughout the year to engage residents on issues important to them.|
Yes. Q&A is integral to improved communication between Council and Citizens. As part of a communication tool kit, Q&A can support timely dialogue which in turn can support better decisions by Council for the benefit of the community.
|Johnny Percolides||ABSOLUTELY…! I can’t believe that it has taken this long for Cobourg to finally ask, why isn’t this being done here? The public should be engaged and have a right to ask their elected Council a question at a Town meeting.|
Note: Candidates are listed in last name alphabetical order. Answers that were longer than about 40 words have been abbreviated (the limit was an average of 40 words per response). Some are still longer than that but are hard to shorten. The result is that this post is longer than I’d like. Be aware that most (but not all) candidates worked hard to keep their answers short.
The next and last question to be answered is: Are there any other issues you want to address?
- Municipal Election Page with comprehensive information about all the candidates in the upcoming election. Includes bios, campaign policies, web sites etc. Also includes how to vote and questions for candidates.
- Should Council have a Question Period – 7 September 2017