by Tristan Turner
Council will now be starting three-and-a-half hours earlier than usual, at 4 p.m. instead of their long-held 7:30 p.m. start time. This significant change comes with a new council procedure bylaw that makes several changes that are intended to make meetings more efficient, as well as increase public participation.
The public will now have a dedicated time to make representations to council at each council meeting. These open mikes will be replacing a previous practice of having councillors share residents concerns that they have heard at each meeting.
Along with the much earlier start time, council will now examine in camera (non-public) items at the end of their meeting, instead of having a dedicated one hour to discuss them before their meeting start times, as was previously council’s practice. In the past, council meeting public start times could be delayed occasionally by up to half an hour due to these in camera items extending past the one hour allocated time.
One of the other changes include scrapping information requests at council meetings. Information requests have been used as an opportunity for council to approve of formal requests for administration to report on budget items, town programming, operational matters, and any number of things. These have instead been moved over to a new process where councillor can request information requests at any time in writing, and receive a publicly available collection of these reports at Committee of the Whole meetings monthly.
Committee of the Whole is also being revised to include a monthly active tracking item, which will include a listing of the status of ongoing projects with estimated timelines.
There were a number of smaller procedural changes as well, including enabling the ability for the Mayor to unilaterally approve certain procedural items without taking the vote to council, including declaring routine declarations to celebrate days or events.
Council was generally supportive of all these changes, with several members noting their support of the motion. Mayor Barry Turner said of the motion that: “This is an opportunity to really streamline council’s operation, and gets us a step forward to where we want to be.”
All three readings required to approve the procedural bylaw passed unanimously with Councillor Stephen Dafoe, Sarah Hall and Nicole Boutestein all being absent due to holidays. All present members of council noted that in discussions they had with the absent members, they all seemed generally in agreement with the changes.