A long-awaited overhaul to allow public input at Saanich council meetings should be a reality by April 20.
A bylaw passed unanimously Monday will allow residents five minutes to speak on agenda items, as well as at monthly open forum sessions, where anyone can speak for up to three minutes on nearly any topic immediately following council meetings.
“There are a few things people can’t speak on, like if something is before the courts or has gone to public hearing,” said Coun. Colin Plant, who spearheaded the changes with a report in January. “If they want to come and talk to us about unicorns for three minutes, they’ll get those three minutes. I hope no one does that, but this is more of a gesture that shows we’re open to feedback.”
The changes will also allow up to two delegations, or scheduled presentations to council. Delegations are a key public input component of all local governments across the Capital Region with the exception of Oak Bay.
Plant said he doesn’t anticipate “line-ups out the door” during open forum sessions, but said council plans to revisit the bylaw in six months to a year to address any unanticipated issues. Council also plans to deal with most of its private business before council meetings begin, which will allow the public an opportunity to speak with councillors and the mayor immediately following meetings. Council meetings will also start at 7 p.m. beginning April 20 instead of 7:30 p.m.
Mayor Richard Atwell said he ran on a promise to create a more open government, and he’s pleased to see the measures were unanimously supported.
“It’s great to have this occur so early in this new term, we can now hear from the greatest number of residents about issues that matter to them,” Atwell said.