Procedure bylaw unravelled

Lisa Goudy
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Executive committee members talk about the proposed changes to the procedure bylaw at the May 12, 2014 meeting.

Executive committee discusses proposed changes to the city’s “constitution”

A three-hour discussion ensued over proposed changes to the procedure bylaw at Monday’s executive committee meeting.

There were 21 proposed changes for council’s consideration brought forward at the meeting. Members of the bylaw review committee vetted all amendments that were discussed in order.

Approval required a 5-2 majority because it is the city’s “constitution” and is a “foundational document,” according to a city clerk/solicitor’s department report.

Councillors had mixed feelings about the proposed changes.

Mayor Deb Higgins stressed the importance of reviewing and updating bylaws.

After the bylaw review committee had long discussions, she said she feels they came to a “pretty good balance of what would be improvements and what would be changes that would just enhance the way council follows through on the business of the city.”

However, Coun. Brian Swanson said Monday’s meeting was a “misallocation of limited resources.”

“What we have here is a bylaw that’s only six and a half years old and if we’re going to have a bylaw review committee, there’s a lot of older bylaws,” he said. “There are higher priorities and two that come to mind are the local improvement report, which I believe is six weeks overdue now, and we have a report on the history of the cast iron (water lines).”

Coun. Dawn Luhning questioned why the procedure bylaw is a priority and what is wrong with it as it currently stands.

“It’s the only opportunity for elected officials to speak publicly on an issue and I guess I’m just confused as to why this committee took it upon themselves to decide that we need to cut back on ways that we speak publicly as elected officials,” she said. “I just completely 100 per cent do not understand why these changes are here.”

Myron Gulka-Tiechko, city clerk/solicitor, said nothing is wrong with the existing bylaw, but the amendments are ways to “enhance and improve process.”

“We’ve looked at the best practice of particularly the three other major cities in the province to see how they conduct their business. We looked at ways to be effective and efficient,” he said. “It’s certainly open to council to accept them or reject them.”

Coun. Don Mitchell added that the suggested procedure bylaw changes are a “whole mixed bag” of issues.

“There’s certainly some things that we could make improvements on,” he said. “I think there’s legitimate basis for some changes.”

Examples of a few of the approved suggestions included adding a public forum portion into the regular council agenda and changing the time to receive communications and presentations to council from Wednesday at noon to Monday at noon to give administration more time to prepare the packages for deliverance on Thursday at noon.

Some of the defeated suggestions included not allowing any councillors to speak in response to written answers to enquiries to avoid debate in that portion of meetings and reducing each councillor’s speaking time. Currently, each councillor can speak up to three minutes for a total of 22 minutes on every item.

The change suggested allowing councillors to speak twice per item, seven minutes the first time and four minutes the second time, for a total of 11 minutes on every item.

All of the items, approved and defeated, will come before council at next week’s meeting.

Follow Lisa Goudy on Twitter @lisagoudy.

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