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

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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

df
Missionites protest logging of old-growth forests outside MLA Pam Alexis’ office

Protests in solidarity with logging blockaders on Vancouver Island; injunction heard in court today

Alan Pryor in 2015, during the Agassiz Fire Department’s 70th year. (Greg Laychak/The Observer)
Agassiz fireman celebrates 51 years at the hall

Al Pryor has been a key member in the Agassiz Fire Department since he was 16

Mike Bismeyer of Abbotsford is the recipient of the national Savita Shah Award for his work promoting kindness and anti-bullying initiatives.
Abbotsford man who was bullied as a teen receives national kindness award

Mike Bismeyer is one of two Canadians to earn Savita Shah Award

RCMP were on scene under the Menzies Street bridge in Chilliwack on Thursday, March 4, 2021 where a body was found. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
UPDATE: Body found under Menzies bridge in Chilliwack that of man in 20s

Death not considered suspicious, said Chilliwack RCMP

The public survey of the 76-acre area Parr Neighbourhood will help municipal staff make policy decisions on future development. District of Mission image.
The public survey of the 76-acre area Parr Neighbourhood will help municipal staff make policy decisions on future development. District of Mission image.
Parr locals want to keep neighbourhood green, avoid densification, survey says

Mission council presented with results of a public survey on future development of 76-acre area

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the B.C. legislature press theatre to give a daily update on the COVID-19 pandemic, April 6, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. nears 300,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, essential workers next

564 new cases, four deaths, no new outbreaks Thursday

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky, father of the Great One, dies at 82

Canada’s hockey dad had battled Parkinson’s disease and other health issues

Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne speaks in the B.C. legislature, March 4, 2021. (Hansard TV)
B.C. Liberals, NDP sing in harmony on local election reforms

Bill regulates paid canvassers, allows people in condo buildings

(National Emergency Management Agency)
No tsunami risk to B.C. from powerful New Zealand earthquake: officials

An 8.1 magnitude earthquake shook the north of New Zealand Thursday morning

(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)
Pandemic stress, isolation key factors as to why Canadians turned to cannabis, alcohol

Study found that isolation played key role in Canadians’ substance use

Burnaby Mounties responded to 56 complaints and issued 10 tickets to people flouting COVID-19 restrictions in February. (Patrick Davies/100 Mile Free Press)
COVID denier fined $2,300 for hosting gathering in her home: Burnaby RCMP

The woman told Mounties she does not believe the pandemic is real

Grand Forks’ Gary Smith stands in front of his Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster float. Photo: Submitted
Grand Forks’ Flying Spaghetti Monster leader still boiling over driver’s licence photo

Gary Smith, head of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster of B.C., said he has since spoken to lawyers

RCMP members responded to calls of a man-down at Landsdowne mall in Richmond Wednesday afternoon. The 40-year-old was suffering from stab wounds. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Man in critical condition following afternoon attack outside Richmond mall: RCMP

The Vancouver resident was found lying injured outside Richmond’s Lansdowne Centre

Most Read