Wednesday, October 18, 2017

?? Nanaimo City Council Question Period ??

Or Nanaimo politics as usual?

At the city council meeting of Oct. 16 a new format for handling Question Period was introduced raising eyebrows, which has been pretty much a hallmark of this council. Remember the early days when the gallery was lined with flip flops protesting that apparent disregard for campaign promises by the Mayor?

It is hard to believe that nearly three years have now passed since the 'three amigos' were campaigning for change with the overturn of the Colliery Dam drama as being a central campaign plank.

From the beginning it appeared that sitting in the 'big chair' was actually well beyond the new Mayor's skill set. It is not unfair to say that chaos and pandemonium were the order of the day during those early months. At the centre of the upheaval was the intent of this newly minted council to make good on their promises to not waste anymore tax dollars on the Colliery Dam debacle.

Having seen the light, the Mayor changed camps on the Colliery Dam issue and moved squarely into the city hall staff camp. The city hall staff camp in my opinion had so much capital invested in selling the Colliery Dam story to the public they simply could not admit it was a complete waste of tax dollars.

This was the genesis of the divide between the new captain of the ship and the crew. It was highlighted with the Mayor ignoring resolutions of council and at times making questionable calls from the chair which finally led to challenges from council. The height of which was 7 of 8 Councillors signing a letter asking for the Mayor to resign.

During this Council's term we have also seen the great divide which occurred when Mayor McKay and Councillor Brennan decided that the hiring of the new city manager was something they could not accept regardless of the consequence of their breaking rank from the majority of Council.

That rift and the ensuing animus has painted/tainted this council's public persona to this day.

To the question of Question Period  

It could be argued that there should be no reason to change the protocol for asking questions of council pertaining to agenda items providing the Chair is performing their duties. On this city council, therein lies the rub.

During the Oct. 16 council meeting, councillor Brennan, while arguing against the changes commented that the old system has worked well for years up until the last two. Seemingly while arguing against the change, she appeared to agree with the need for the change.

Counillor Kipp responding to a question from the podium explained that due to poor chairing question period was becoming a soapbox for future politicos looking for some television time. The inference was that if the podium were asking questions with political benefit to the Chair they were being allowed, even if the 'question' was turning into a political speech of sorts.

My two bits

For what it is worth, changes should not be needed in the format for handling questions from the public about agenda items. It is a very simple rule to interpret and one of the easier matters for a Chair to rule on and enforce. Because there are issues surrounding how the Chair has performed their duties this change made by staff seems supported by the majority of Council. That said, it does have the appearance that staff is trying to usurp the authority of the Chair.

Whatever happened to the idea of regular Town Halls?

Remember when this newly minted council was all green and bubbling over with optimism and promises to be open and transparent?

Back then there was this idea of making the entire council open to unrestricted questions from the public, in a public forum on a regular basis. Remember??

I would submit that if Council wants to avoid the appearance of trying to limit the public asking questions in public at Question Period, then open Town Hall meetings could address that concern.

An alternative to an official town hall meeting, which can be costly to organize and administer, would be to set aside one hour once a month at a regular meeting of Council during which the public could ask whatever questions they liked. A simple time limit on the question would control the desire to make political speeches.



  1. And don't forget the McKay e-mail to Integrity group..

  2. I like the idea of one hour of questions/comments from the floor ,once a month. This way you won't be shunted off to Commitee
    of the Whole .


Your comment will appear after moderation before publishing,

Thank you for your comments.Any comment that could be considered slanderous or includes unacceptable language will be removed.

Thank you for participating and making your opinions known.

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.