Editorial: Public participation study to be applauded

Saanich council took the first step towards allowing public input at council meetings on Jan. 5

Saanich council approved the first step in allowing public participation at council meetings Monday night with a report initiated by Coun. Colin Plant.

Right now, Saanich doesn’t allow the public to address council unless that person is speaking to a specific item during what’s called “Committee of the Whole.” That agenda generally includes no more than one or two items, such as a development application or a zoning change request. Anything on the council agenda, however, is not open to public input. Further, anything not on the agenda can’t be mentioned at all.

Plant’s motion asks staff to find out, among other things, how other municipalities handle non-agenda-related input from the public at council meetings, and then to present those options with the necessary steps to achieve a greater level of public participation in Saanich.

It’s a quality first step for a new councillor, and one that shows Plant isn’t just waiting for others to take the lead (though if he’s committed to working collaboratively, chances are Plant ran this motion up the flag pole for his colleagues before they all sat down publicly).

An equally useful motion came forward from Coun. Judy Brownoff, who hopes to establish a transportation working group comprised of the province, regional and local government, community associations and others to finally start sorting out the mess at Admirals-McKenzie and the Trans-Canada Highway. It worked in 2010, Brownoff pointed out, when Saanich was grappled with the embarrassing title of the most crash-prone intersection on Vancouver Island at Sayward Road. It only took $3 million to solve that problem; a McKenzie-TCH overpass or other fix will require a much heftier price tag.

Regardless, these are two solid plans that all of council is getting behind as councillors attempt to build a collaborative relationship and move forward from early hiccups.


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