While Tuesday’s meeting was short and thin on content to write about in contrast to more recent sittings of Council, it almost finished without any of interruptions that have permeated the meetings of late. That was until the “New Business” section of the agenda…
As this author has studied parliamentary procedure extensively and is well-acquainted with the Town’s Procedural By-Law, the rules that govern how Council meetings are carried out, it can be painful to see rules misinterpreted or glossed over… hence what may become an ongoing series entitled “Point of Order”.
In last evening’s meeting, Councillor Freake during the “New Business” section of the agenda sought clarification regarding process of Council’s interaction with Town staff. As he was raising the issue, Councillor Sharpe raised a “Point of Order”, which can be raised when one believes stipulated meeting procedure has been deviated from.
Here is the exchange (please turn down your volume)…
Was the Councillor right in calling the Point of Order on the general inquiry? For that we turn to the Procedural By-Law which states:
While the New Business sections of Council meetings tend to be filled with “feel-good stories” and items of public interest as in (ii), which may be the point Councillor Sharpe was trying to make, this section of the agenda in parliamentary procedure is also the place for members to bring forth “new questions” or matters (in the form of motions or notice of motions) before the assembly. It is not reserved for announcements only.
It is clear that Councillor Freake’s inquiry certainly did not require referral to a Committee to answer, so the Mayor was appropriate in referring the question to the CAO for clarification on the matter, thus falling within a reasonable reading of (iii).
In totality, it was good that the question regarding the Council-Staff Relationship Policy was brought out for transparent and public clarification and not stifled or relegated to behind-the-scenes discourse. Limiting New Business to announcements or “shout-outs” would otherwise be counter-intuitive to the democratic process.