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

Port Alberni man dies in single-vehicle collision

Pickup truck with three occupants went off the road on first day of May long weekend

Alberni hosts Island track and field championship

Secondary schools compete at Bob Dailey Stadium

Is Steve Nash Vancouver Island’s best athlete of all-time?

As Captain Canada gets ready to enter basketball’s Hall of Fame it’s time to debate his legacy

Who is Vancouver Island’s greatest athlete ever?

We want to know, you get to choose in a 64-athlete tournament bracket

200,000 salmon smolts released in netpens for Alberni salmon enhancement

West Coast Aquatic has released 205,000 chinook smolts into two net pens… Continue reading

VIDEO: Canadian Forces help flood-ravaged Grand Forks residents heal

Sgt. Bradley Lowes says the military is used to dealing with traumatic times

UPDATED: Almost 1,200 people allowed to return home in Kootenay-Boundary as floods dry up

Officials hope to have all 3,000 people back in their homes by Monday night

B.C. Lions bring back 6-time all-star offensive lineman Jovan Olafioye

He was acquired by the Montreal Alouettes last year.

Whitecaps rally for 2-2 draw with FC Dallas

Vancouver climbed out of a two-nil hole to tie FC Dallas 2-2

B.C. VIEWS: Making sense of climate policy

Flood and fire predictions have poor track record so far

Chilliwack Chiefs moving on to RBC Cup final after thrilling win over Ottawa

Kaden Pickering scored the winning goal in the 3rd period as Chilliwack won their semi-final 3-2.

VIDEO: As floodwaters recede, crews assess the damage to Grand Forks’ downtown

More than four dozen firefighters and building inspectors came out to help

Wellington Dukes pull off epic upset of Wenatchee at RBC Cup

The Dukes are off to the championship game after downing the Wild 2-1 Saturday at Prospera Centre.

Canada to face U.S. for bronze at world hockey championship

Canada was looking to play in the gold medal game for a fourth straight year, but saw 3-2 loss

Most Read