Saanich public input recommendations slated for March 23

“Nothing happens fast, that’s what I’m learning really quickly:" Coun. Colin Plant

The nuts and bolts of how to foster more public input at Saanich council meetings will be revealed at its March 23 meeting.

On Feb. 2, council passed a motion asking staff to come up with bylaw changes that would allow scheduled presentations to council, provide comments after meetings and allow councillor reports to be forwarded more quickly for public input.

“Nothing happens fast, that’s what I’m learning really quickly,” said Coun. Colin Plant, who first put forward the motion. “It will take at least five weeks to rewrite the bylaw, and then it comes back to council.”

The staff report will include recommendations on how to allow delegations, or scheduled presentations to council. (A previous staff report noted Saanich and Oak Bay are the only two out of 31 surveyed municipalities that do not permit council delegations.)

The report will also recommend mechanisms to allow questions and comments following council meetings.

Coun. Judy Brownoff, who was first elected in 1994, said council used to allow delegations, but a decision was made years ago to move those delegations to the committee level.

“It hasn’t run well, I have to be honest,” Brownoff said.

Brownoff maintained Saanich has some of the highest public input opportunities of any municipality. The public can speak at committee of the whole, public hearings and at special committee of the whole meetings, she said.

“We hold public hearings on contentious issues, like the Cedar Hill clay courts last year,” where the public can speak without time restriction, she said.

Saanich’s strategic planning should get underway in the coming weeks with financial planning taking place in April.

Brownoff said she’d like to see Saanich adopt online public input opportunities similar to Nanaimo, where residents can tweet or text in queries to council.

“With younger families now, maybe there’s an opportunity to engage them electronically,” said Brownoff, admitting she doesn’t personally use Twitter.

Council is expecting a staff report, due sometime in March, that explores the first steps to engage the public in an internal governance and regional partnerships review.