At the first council meeting in the New Year on January 7, revised procedures for Council meetings will be introduced that are intended to improve efficiency and transparency. A Q & A session at each meeting is not proposed; instead a quarterly meeting is planned which will follow a Committee of the Whole (C.O.W.) meeting. This will last an hour with up to 10 minutes available for each speaker with no advance notice being required although participants would have to sign-in. Other changes are proposed that limit delegations to a maximum of 4 at C.O.W. and regular Council meetings. Overall, the intent seems to be to add more organization and discipline to meetings. However, before the changes are implemented there will be a public meeting on January 28 to get feedback.
The procedure was issued by Town Clerk Brent Larmer (photo at right from inaugural meeting) but is subject to approval by Council.
One new provision is that it specifies that all Committees set up by Council are subject to the same rules. This should help future misunderstandings such as when the public was denied access to the waterfront steering committee.
Four different meetings are covered by the procedure:
- Committee of the Whole – all members of Council debate issues brought before it. Governing decisions and approval of by-laws are deferred to the regular Council meeting a week later.
- Regular Council Meetings – Council meeting where decisions are made and by-laws passed.
- Planning Meetings – public meetings intended to collect input from residents/taxpayers.
- Quarterly Open Forum – public meetings where citizens can ask councillors (but not staff) any question
Citizens can make a presentation on any subject – within limits. All presentation materials must be provided to the Clerk no later than 1:00 p.m. on the Friday preceding the Council or Committee meeting. The Clerk will reject anything which is:
- Not considered to fall within the jurisdiction of the Municipal Council;
- Considered operational or administrative in nature;
- Considered as previously dealt with or closed by Council; or
- Considered vexatious, spurious, or frivolous.
Further, there will be a limit of 4 delegations per meeting – the clerk may advise the requester of the earliest possible date when his/her Delegation may be accommodated. Also, delegates may not make essentially the same presentation at both a C.O.W. and regular council meeting (that is “with no new substantial information”).
Presumably, it would be best if presentations relate to an item on the agenda; the agenda for the C.O.W. must now be published 7 days in advance whereas it was previously 10 days in advance. This provides less notice so everyone needs to be alert in case they want to make a presentation to council.
Q and A session
Once every three months, an hour will be allocated following a C.O.W. where anyone can ask a question or make a comment with no advance notification. Although Councillors will be there, staff are not required to be there. Up to 10 minutes per person is allowed. There are no procedures specified on what Councillors should do in response. Presumably one or more will either give a satisfactory answer or will indicate that an answer will be provided in the future. It’s not indicated why this is provided only once per 3 months instead of after every C.O.W. meeting.
Although this revised procedure is intended to improve efficiency, the “moment of reflection” is still included for no apparent benefit.