File photo A public question period – now dubbed the ‘question and answer period’ – will return to White Rock council meetings in the new year.

File photo A public question period – now dubbed the ‘question and answer period’ – will return to White Rock council meetings in the new year.

Public queries to return to White Rock council meetings

Question session, removed in 2015, to be reinstated in January

The public will have a chance again to speak out and pose questions at White Rock council meetings in the new year.

The city is amending its procedures bylaw to allow for a public “question and answer period” at each regular Monday night council meeting.

A question period had long been a feature of council meetings before the White Rock Coalition-dominated council decision to remove it in February 2015. Previously scheduled at the beginning of meetings, it had been moved to the end in January 2013, and limited to matters from that evening’s agenda.

At Monday’s meeting, council gave first, second and third readings to the amendment bylaw, which would provide a 15-minute window for the public to ask questions and make comments at the start of each meeting. If given final approval Jan. 14, it will be in effect for the Jan. 28 council meeting.

Under the terms of the amendment, questions and comments would be limited to two minutes per speaker, with opportunity for further questions if all members of the public have had a chance to speak. It could also be extended by a further 15 minutes at the end of the meeting if a majority of council vote for it.

Questions would be excluded if they are on a matter that will be the subject of a public meeting or public hearing, while questions falling under Freedom of Information and Privacy Act provisions would be forwarded as written FOI requests. The period would also be suspended during September and October of a civic election year.

The change was approved with an additional amendment, moved by Coun. Erika Johanson, that “if there are questions that may be directed to an individual member of council, these would be addressed through the chairperson for direction.”

Corporate administration director Tracey Arthur told council that since it’s a proposed procedural bylaw, it needs to be advertised to the public for two weeks prior to the final vote.