At the request of council, the district will be spending time and money to move question period back to where it’s supposed to be.
On more than one occasion, the question of question period, and why it currently sits where it does on meeting agendas, has been raised in council. The public’s official opportunity to ask questions of mayor and council is currently scheduled before ‘new business’ and reports from mayor and council. In the past it was at the end of the public portion of council meetings. At council’s Sept. 25 meeting, Coun. Fred Busch moved that council instruct staff to amend the council procedures bylaw to move question period back to where it was.
District administrator Heidi Frank explained this could be done, but warned it wouldn’t be immediate as there’s “quite a process” involved.
“It will be quite a bit of staff time. I don’t anticipate it being able to come back to the table for about two months,” Frank explained. “We have to put it through hearings, public notice, we have to advertise it in the newspaper, we have to get ministry approval.”
The last time question period was at the end of a council meeting was June 13, 2012. At the same meeting council gave second and third reading to the council procedure bylaw, Bylaw No. 842, which has question period scheduled for the end of council meetings.
The next council meeting wasn’t until July 27, 2012. The delay between the normally bi-monthly meetings was on account of the debris flow of June 23, and subsequent flooding that put the district into a state of emergency.
At the July 27 meeting, Bylaw No. 842 received final reading. Yet question period had moved to its current position.
Sicamous resident Janna Simons, who frequently attends council meetings and was in the council chamber gallery on Sept. 25, argued the importance of putting question period back, because it would open up the entire meeting to questioning. Debate then ensued between members of the gallery and council over why such a process was needed to move question period when no one could remember one occurring before.
“When you guys changed it, it just got changed in the agenda, it never went to any of this public meetings before, so why does it have to go back now?” asked Simons.
Mayor Darrell Trouton asked if council thought moving question period back was important enough to spend taxpayers’ money on. Busch said it was, and council concurred.
“I think that we want to be an open, responsible and transparent group – I think we have to do it…,” said Busch. “I don’t know how it ever got this way, but I trust Heidi that this is the way it has to be done so let’s do it.”
With there being no public record of process to move question period, Craig Mitchell, who was also in the gallery, asked why it couldn’t just be moved back? Frank explained this has to do with legal precedence.
“Even if it was done incorrectly, because this specific procedure guideline was followed for this amount of time, this would now be considered the bylaw,” said Frank. “If we were to take it into a court of law, they’d say you’ve raised a precedence by doing it this way for this amount of time.”