The question is, can Spallumcheen residents ask questions of council at a regular meeting?
Answer: Yes. Sort of.
The township has adopted a policy that cancels the question period part of the meeting – and this is the important part to understand – six months prior to a municipal election, starting this year.
Voters go to the polls Nov. 15. With terms being extended to four years after the November election, the new policy means question period will be in place for three-and-a-half years. Only in the six months prior to a municipal vote will the question period be quashed.
“The reason it came up is not to limit anybody from speaking at our meetings, and it’s not limited to people not asking questions,” said Coun. Joe Van Tienhoven.
“We are trying to get away from being drawn into debates that aren’t even on agenda… What a lot of other communities are finding close to an election are people trying to draw councillors into a debate.
“That was the reasoning for the policy. No citizen of Spall ever gets ignored or told they can’t ask a question.”
From now until November, or in the six months prior to the November 2019 vote, questions from residents attending council meeting can only be asked after the meeting is over, and before council convenes in an in-camera, or closed, session.
Councillors can receive questions at home from constituents. Their personal information is available on the township website.
Coun. Todd York, who missed the original meeting when the policy was discussed, voted in support of the policy but doesn’t want to see question period discontinued.
“I want to see question period be what it was designed to be, and that’s asking a question pertaining to agenda information, and like it to be a question,” said York.
“I’ve probably been the worst at entertaining people’s inability to form things into a question because I’m interested in what they have to say.”
Speaking against the policy was Coun. Christine Fraser, who believes council can control matters if question period gets off-topic.
“If somebody is not asking a question, we can shut it down,” said Fraser.
“If it’s not on the agenda or it’s not a legitimate question about the township, we can say we’ll defer it to staff or not answer in the moment.”