The Blue Mountains council is considering some significant changes to its procedural bylaw concerning public comments and virtual participation at meetings.
At its committee of the whole meeting on March 13, council received a report from the clerk, Corrina Giles, about updating the procedural bylaw that governs how council meetings are conducted.
The town reviews the procedural bylaw the first year of each new council term. Any changes to the bylaw require a public meeting before being implemented. Council was tasked with deciding what proposed/possible changes it would like to take to the public for consideration.
The lengthy discussion consumed a good portion of the morning part of the meeting.
After considerable debate about the bylaw, council decided to bring the following possible changes forward for the public to consider:
- No council meetings during the space between municipal election day and the swearing-in of new council members.
- Virtual or in-person attendance at meetings being recorded in the minutes. In addition, any council absences for official town business would also be noted in the minutes.
- Written public comments received during the meeting being limited to 400 words.
- Or, the practice of taking written public comments during a meeting be eliminated, with public members unable to attend a meeting in-person having the option of making their comments virtually.
- Requiring that the chair of the meeting attends in person.
- The end of the roll call (taking attendance) of council at the beginning of the meeting.
- A councillor may not virtually attend more than three consecutive council meetings. In addition, members of council could attend a maximum of 20 council, committee of the whole and council public meetings virtually per year.
Council made no decisions on the possible changes at the meeting, voting only to have them come forward as potential changes to the procedural bylaw to be considered at the upcoming public meeting.
The virtual participation rules generated significant debate during the discussion. The current bylaw requires four members of council (a quorum) to be in-person and sets the maximum number of virtual meetings per year at eight (four for each half of the year). However, those rules have been on hold during the first few months of the current council’s term to allow for the clerk’s full report about the procedural bylaw to come forward.
Coun. Paula Hope questioned why council is considering limitations on virtual participation when there didn’t appear to be a need for such measures.
“Let’s not be looking for issues that don’t exist yet,” said Hope.
Other members of council were satisfied the proposed relaxation of the virtual participation requirements was fair and should be presented to the public as a potential option.
“We do need to set parameters,” said Coun. Shawn McKinlay.
Coun. June Porter raised the issue of the outgoing council meeting post-election. Porter said she heard concerns from the public after last fall’s election about the outgoing council making decisions following the election.
“I don’t feel it’s fair to the residents if they have elected a new council and decisions are made by the outgoing council without a quorum of the new council,” said Porter.
Giles said she would investigate what other municipalities do following elections and include further information in her report at the public meeting.
The clerk said the plan is to hold the public meeting on the proposed revisions to the procedural bylaw on April 18.
By Chris Fell, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Mar 14, 2023