City of Nanaimo reviews bylaw which governs meetings

NANAIMO – Public engagement anticipated this month for procedure bylaw review.

A top-to-bottom review is underway on the city’s rules for procedure, from debate decorum to how people arrange to speak before council.

The city is taking another look at its procedure bylaw, a document that lays out the details for how and when city council meetings are conducted to rules for delegations and the release of agendas.

Public engagement on the review is slotted for this month.

It’s not the first time the bylaw has been reviewed. In 2014, a city-hired consultant drafted a new procedure bylaw.

But while portions of the document have previously been amended by politicians as recently as last year, the bylaw has never been revised in its entirety, according to Sheila Gurrie, the city’s acting manager of legislative services.

Gurrie said this review is coming from operational glitches and involves a consultant. The budget is about $6,000.

“We’ve never quite got it right, like when deadlines should be for the public and/or for staff reporting for when agendas are published,” she said.  “Let’s look at the whole thing from top to bottom and have a go at redoing it.”

Coun. Diane Brennan believes the bylaw would work fine if there was a more disciplined approach to meetings.

“If we were more disciplined in our approach to agenda setting, agenda amendments and how we approach different motions during the course of the meeting, then we would be fine,” she said. “I just don’t see changing the procedure bylaw is going to change that, going to change our ability to manage our meetings in an orderly way.”

Nanaimo Mayor Bill McKay has concern about the number of times the procedure bylaw is disregarded and said there are too many late items. Among the changes he’d like to see is that council must be unanimous on varying the procedure bylaw, which he said would reduce late items and variables. The bylaw currently allows for rules and orders in the bylaw to be temporary suspended by an affirmative vote of the majority of all council members.

He said there needs to be more talk about public engagement. There are communities in B.C., he said, that have discontinued question periods, some have put it at a different part of the meeting and the City of North Vancouver had a session at the first part of the meeting where a person could have up to three minutes to talk about anything they wanted.

“Do you want to put time limits on those sorts of things?” He said. “I don’t know how often you watch our question period but some of them are just pontification.

“[Question periods] are supposed to be to ask questions. The purpose of them is not to go and beat up on council members, so that’s a prime example of something you may want to look at.”

No other city councillors responded to a request for an interview.