White Rock’s question period faces last days

WHITE ROCK — Question period could be a thing of the past if council moves to finalize a motion ending the practice.

On Monday night, White Rock council gave first, second and third readings to a motion that would see question period come to an end.

The session had been used as a time for residents to ask council questions pertaining to agenda items following council meetings.

Previously, question period had been at the beginning of council and residents were allowed to ask council about any subject, regardless of if it were on the agenda. The practice was changed in early 2013, when the council of the day voted to move it to the end of meetings as well as limiting it to items on the agenda.

White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin said in the time since, question period was not being used in the way that it had originally been intended, if at all.

"Over the past three years it’s not really been used much," he said, noting those who did stand up in question period seemed to use it as a platform.

"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," explained Baldwin.

Former councillor Ken Jones said he was disappointed by the move and wondered how residents are supposed to ask questions in a public setting.

"This is really leaving no alternative for the public to publicly ask council about what’s going on," said Jones, who has made use of question period over the years. "There should be an openness from council to have the public, whoever they are, ask questions."

For Jones, question period is a chance for residents to offer other points of views that council may not even be aware of.

"We can’t get enough points of view. We need to have that choice of input, not just staff or just some consultant," he said.

However, Baldwin said the public has plenty of opportunities to get in touch with council.

"Because there are so many opportunities for people to talk to council either before or after the meeting or by email or by phone or by stopping them on the street," he said. "If people want to make a speech they’re certainly able to come forward as a delegation. We have delegations every week and they just simply have to make an application and provide us with notice on what they want to talk about and they can do that."

Coun. Dave Chesney said as a new council member, he recently went through a local government learning academy, and question period was one of the many topics brought up.

"This has basically gone the way of the Dodo bird," he explained. "I’ve watched question period devolve over the years into what’s become an exercise in dismissing members of the community, but their questions are never really answered."

Surrey and Langley do not have question periods during their council meetings, while Delta council still does.

cpoon@thenownewspaper.com

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