Every second Monday, the City of Surrey stages a public hearing on development applications during its open council meeting.
The process, as intended, provides Surrey residents an opportunity to voice their support for, or opposition to, a proposed project. Once these voices are heard, council members are then supposed to weigh what what was said at the hearing before casting their votes.
It is one of the few avenues available to the public to engage with politicians elected to make proper decisions on their behalf. Indeed, it is a vital element of a healthy democracy.
Unfortunately, Surrey’s public hearing process is not healthy. In truth, it’s barely on life support.
As it stands, albeit it on wobbly legs, Surrey’s public hearings are more akin to theatre. We’re not talking Shakespeare, either. More like Vaudeville.
Mayor Doug McCallum had 22 resident speakers disconnected during Monday night’s council public hearing, 12 of whom called for his resignation.
Some of them deserved it. The idea behind a public hearing is to speak to the topic at hand, not to harass the mayor. On the flip side, this mayor is too quick to activate the trap door. Monday’s show was simply juvenile, all the way around. Do better, everyone.
Moreover, it is abundantly clear that the Safe Surrey Coalition majority on council has typically already decided which applications will receive third-reading approval regardless of what speakers have to say at public hearings. Once in a while, a dissident councillor will express opposition to a project, after ‘having heard’ the people, before the councillor casts what will ultimately be an inconsequential vote.
They are called public hearings for a reason. Not public spectacles.
So honour the process, like a real democracy must do.