White Rock council abolishes question period

WHITE ROCK — Those hoping to ask questions before White Rock council are going to have to find a new way of doing so after question period was abolished Monday night.

To the dismay of some in attendance, council finalized a motion to put the practice out to pasture.

The vote passed with five council members in favour, while councillors Dave Chesney and Helen Fathers were opposed.

“There is plenty of ample opportunity for people to question council,” said Mayor Wayne Baldwin prior to the vote, noting residents can appear as a delegation, or email, phone, write 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 outlined 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 agenda-specific 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 regular use of question period. “People want to hear what others are saying because they have questions. What’s the big deal?”

Chesney to begin community conversation sessions

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 endeavour 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 in the community to be heard,” said Chesney.


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