Here is a piece on public input, or the lack of it rather, submitted by David Daniels and published also in the MCN [Mud Creek News]
David A. Daniels
At the April 5th Committee of Council meeting, Councillor Carl Oldham raised questions concerning the abrupt end of the public’s right to ask questions during the “Question Period”. “Transparency” he said, was important and his decision about ending Question Period should be made by Council, and not the Mayor.
Councillors Irving and Laceby fully supported Oldham’s request.
CAO Roy Brideau commented that the Working Group on Public Participation and Communication would soon be providing a policy which would include some suggestions about the “Question Period”.
In defending the Mayor’s unilateral action, Councillor Zimmerman stated, in part: “One of the problems we got into is that in my experience – now almost six years on Council – Question Period was an integral part, but what had happened, it had become an unmanageable part of council meetings as far as I was concerned, other Councillors may not agree, but we were wasting time with questions from one or two at most people, and had gotten to the point of being annoying.”
Since I suspect that I was one of those “one or two” individuals Councillor Zimmerman was referring to, let me briefly respond.
“Unmanageable”? I have always tried to limit my questions to a maximum of two. And I have always tried to be civil. Once, I recall, several years ago when I may have been slightly sharp in a response, I sent the Mayor a written apology. I have never objected to being told in response to a question: “We’ll have to get back to you.”
“Wasting time”? I doubt very much that any single public question period lasted more than a few minutes during meetings which are often over two hours in length.
“Annoying”? To this charge, at least to some members of Council, I must plead guilty. But I’m not aware that “annoying” has ever been used to justify ending or placing limits on the right to Freedom of Expression, especially in the context of a public government meeting.
The Mayor said nothing to Zimmerman’s comments.
Like Council members, I am looking forward to the proposed Policy on Public Participation and Communication. (A policy which was, at least in part, spurred on by my persistent public questioning.)
(At the April 20th council meeting there was no “Question Period” listed on the Agenda, and audience members were chided by Mr. Brideau for “smirking” – hence the end of the freedom of expressions.)
Smirking? Smirking? You can’t even smile scornfully now? Goodness Gracious.