WHITE ROCK – Those hoping to ask their questions of White Rock council in a public forum are going to have to find a new way of doing so after the city’s question period was abolished Monday night.
To the dismay of those in attendance, White Rock council finalized a motion to put the practice out to pasture.
The vote passed with five council members in favour, and two against. Those in favour were Mayor Wayne Baldwin and councillors Megan Knight, Bill Lawrence, Grant Meyer and Lynne Sinclair. Those against were councillors Dave Chesney and Helen Fathers.
"There is plenty of ample opportunity for people to question council," said Baldwin prior to the vote, noting residents can appear as a delegation, or email, phone, writer letters or stop council members in the street or store.
"Not everyone is happy about walking up to a microphone and speaking in front of a bunch of people. This is a better situation than having a question period."
Previously, Baldwin told the Now that question period was not being used for its intended purpose, which was outline as having to pertain to something on
that meeting’s agenda.
"Most of the time I’d have to stop someone from making a speech or making a point and ask them to phrase it as a question," he said.
Residents had previously been allowed to ask council questions about any city business before the agendaspecific guideline was added years ago.
However, Fathers said question period "wasn’t a big deal" and that it was "only 15 minutes every two weeks.
"People ask questions and whether we like it or not is immaterial," she said. "(This is) a forum for people to express themselves and it’s hard to think that any municipality would get rid of that. We should be embracing it…and take it as a learning opportunity."
Chesney said he ran on a campaign of open dialogue and did not want to limit it.
Following the vote, former councillor Margaret Woods called council a bunch of "cowards," while former council candidate Dennis Lypka left the meeting calling it "unbelievable."
"I’m not just asking questions for me, I’m asking questions for the other people in the community," said Woods, who made use of the question period regularly.
"People want to hear what others are saying because they have questions. What’s the big deal?" On the same day as the vote, Chesney also announced he would be fulfilling one of his campaign promises by holding monthly community dialogue sessions starting in March.
"This had nothing to do with question period, I had been working since the election to find a suitable venue and finally worked something out with the library," he said.
The sessions, explained Chesney, are a chance for residents to come out and casually talk about White Rock, what works and what doesn’t and how things could be improved.
"There are so many people in the community that have so many great ideas on things they would like to see instituted to make White Rock a better place," he said. "I don’t want them to be strictly bitch sessions, though I know there are
frustrations out there and I’ll endeavor to do what I can to carry from that meaning the ideas put forth and try to advance them."
Chesney said he’s sent the invite out to his fellow council members and Fathers has so far been the only one to respond, stating that she’ll be attending.
The sessions will take place on the first Saturday of every month at the White Rock Library at 10 a.m. The inaugural meeting takes place March 2. "This is a good opportunity for people on the community to be heard," said Chesney.