North Saanich councillors. They usually get along, but now they’re debating how long they talk at meetings and who talks the most. (File)

City council spends 36 minutes debating length of policy discussions

North Saanich councillors tinkered with how long they should debate an issue to limit meeting times

It’s an ongoing joke in many communities that council meetings can run a bit longer than expected – sometimes lasting hours into the evening.

Ironically, one B.C. municipality has taken the time to debate the matter.

North Saanich Coun. Celia Stock raised a motion recently, seeking to limit the amount of councilor discussion that takes place on any given issue — in an attempt to speed up their meetings.

She said she wanted meetings run in a more effective and efficient manner and pointed to neighbouring councils in Central Saanich and Sidney that put time limits on how long a politician can debate a point.

“All of us have had this … on the radar since last fall,” Stock said. “We do often tend to have meetings that last (up to) four-and-a-half hours.”

In Sidney’s example, she continued, there’s a procedural bylaw in place that keeps debate per councilor to five minutes on each subject.

“And then they are not allowed to keep on speaking,” she said.

Central Saanich’s limit, she continued, is 10 minutes and the limit among Capital Regional District directors is 15 minutes. Stock said having similar limits in North Saanich could prevent meetings from going beyond 10:30 p.m. and “not subjecting staff” to long sessions of council.

It was clear, however, that other councillors have been timing each other and, instead of imposing limits, a majority suggested other means of keeping the meetings more succinct.

Coun. Heather Gartshore said their meetings vary from two-and-a-half hours to those longer ones Stock mentioned. However, Gartshore said the longer ones are rare — despite the three long ones council had in January.

“I feel this notice is born of frustration,” she said. “I feel as if this is trying to kill a fly with a sledgehammer.”

Gartshore wondered how it would be enforced, such as having staff with stopwatches.

She added she feels meeting length is related to agenda size, saying if North Saanich council met more frequently and didn’t break in the summer, the meetings could be quicker.

Gartshore also said if councillors come prepared and ready to go, meetings may also pick up.

“My observation is that doesn’t always happen.”

Coun. Geoff Orr noted with humour that Gartshore herself spoke seven minutes on the issue, but basically agreed with her. Her said he doesn’t feel he has to apologize for asking questions to reach the decisions he needs to reach.

Coun. Jack Thornburgh added he saw Stock’s motion as ‘aspirational’, rather than prescriptive. If councillors exercise self-discipline, he continued, there wouldn’t be a need for time limits.

In the end, Stock’s motion was defeated in a 5-2 vote (Stock and Mayor Alice Finall voted for it).

The entire debate took approximately 36 minutes.



editor@peninsulanewsreview.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Snoozed through the news? We’ve got you covered

Every Saturday, the Capital News will feature popular stories from the week

Immigrant finds Kelowna job market challenging

Pearl has a Master’s Degree in Finance and was able to find work through KCR

Okanagan Eats back for another year

Okanagan Eats features vendors, chef demos, and so much more. This isn’t your average food show.

Kelowna landfill flooding

The ground is soggy at the Kelowna landfill

Open letter to Premier John Horgan

LETTER: Group called First Things First Okanagan promotes action on climate change

Lt.-Gov. Guichon believes she made the right decision in last B.C. election

Outgoing Lt.-Gov Judith Guichon said her most memorable moments weren’t surrounding the election

NAFTA: Talks continue through weekend in scramble to get a deal

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland called negotiations ‘perpetual’

Pulp mill fined $900,000 for leaking effluent into B.C. lake

Mackenzie Pulp Mill pleaded guilty to depositing deleterious substance into water frequented by fish

B.C.’s 2-year lobbying ban starts May 1

Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists can grant exemptions from the prohibition if public interest

Horgan speaks of government’s successes to ‘friends’ at CUPE BC convention

CUPE BC president Paul Faoro said was first time a B.C. premier addressed convention in some time

Speed Skating Canada fires coach Michael Crowe after investigation

Crowe was a coach on the American team from 1983 to 1991 and again from 1999 to 2006

5 things to know about the ongoing influx of asylum seekers in Canada

Number of illegal border crossings are up this year – as RCMP, military, politicians try to combat

Salmon Arm RCMP arrest one male on child pornography charges

Search of Canoe residence leads to seizure of computers

Letter: We need a parity electoral system

I suggest that it’s high time we consider a system based on a synthesis of available data

Most Read