General Committee Update – April 20, 2021

This week General Committee was a long one!  Council had before it just 7 items and, despite running until midnight, completed only 6 of them.

Several residents who watched the meeting reached out asking what measures are in place to ensure the Town’s business is done in an informed but efficient manner. So, I thought it would be appropriate to share the pertinent items from the Procedural Bylaw, the governing document that sets the rules and guidelines for Council during meetings.

First is speaking limits – the length of time each member can speak to an item on the agenda.  As per our bylaw, “At Committee Meetings, Members are permitted to speak two times on a matter, the first time being for a maximum of ten minutes, and the second time being for a maximum of five (5) minutes and at Council Meetings, Members are permitted to speak two (2) times on a matter for a maximum of five (5) minutes each time.” It’s the Chair’s role to ensure all speakers adhere to their time limit; thus, when a member comes to their limit they are asked to wrap up as their time has expired. This ensures meetings don’t drag on unnecessarily, members share their views in a timely fashion and all members have equal time to speak.

The second pertinent section of the bylaw is the rules of debate.  “Members shall express themselves succinctly without repetition.” The phrase, “without repetition”, typically applies to debate and discussion at Council meetings arising from a member “pulling” an item that has already been discussed at a previous meeting.  The Purpose of General Committee is for members to have a fulsome discussion of matters before Council.  The purpose of Council meetings is to ratify decisions.  Council members can pull previously discussed and debated items again – but it should only be for the purposes of a Recorded Vote or to introduce new information which was not previously known to members and could change the debate; or a member wishes to make a statement of approval or disapproval. Simply repeating or rehashing what has already been said in a previous meeting is not permitted under the procedural bylaw.

Lastly, the question has been raised if members are provided enough time to prepare for meetings? Do they receive an agenda in advance?  The procedural bylaw does speak directly to when agendas shall be made available to members. As per the procedural bylaw “General Committee Meeting agendas are generally available to Members on the Monday that is eight (8) days preceding a General Committee Meeting”.  This procedure was changed last year- increasing the time between receiving agendas and the meeting.  By doing so, it gives Council members more time to read through the agenda and seek any additional information and clarifications from staff, so they are fully informed and prepared to do the Town’s business at the meetings.

These are just a few of the procedures outlined in our Procedural Bylaw; implemented to ensure that the Town’s business is dealt with in as efficient a manner possible. As our bylaw states, “Each Member has the right to an efficient meeting”; and with-all members working together we can achieve that. If you would like to read the entire procedural bylaw, it is available below..

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