Highlands East considers public engagement at council
By Sue Tiffin
Published Nov. 13, 2018
Highlands East Deputy Mayor Suzanne Partridge has been involved in municipal politics for almost 20 years, and at the Nov. 7 council meeting, she sparked a conversation when she spoke up during a discussion about procedural bylaws.
“There is something that has been bothering me the whole time I’ve been involved in municipal politics,” she said. “[O]ur agendas come out several days before the meeting. People of the public have no idea what’s going to be on that until it comes out. There might be something that they’re particularly interested in but they don’t have time to apply to be a delegation.”
Partridge told council she’d spoken to numerous people on municipal councils who allow 10 minutes before meetings start for the public to address items on the agenda.
“So it wouldn’t mean each person gets 10 minutes,” said Partridge. “There’d be 10 minutes total allotted. And that way we get some really good input from the public. We’d have more public engagement and interest.”
Partridge said it wasn’t something that had to be addressed that day, but could perhaps be discussed by the new council, which comes into effect in December.
“I just think it would be a great benefit to our residents,” she said.
Mayor Dave Burton said when he sat on council in a different municipality, a public floor was offered at the end of meetings.
“To me, it would make more sense to have it at the end, pertaining to the agenda,” he said.
“But at that point we’ve passed everything,” said Partridge.
Councillor Cec Ryall was in support of Partridge’s idea, and agreed that the decision should be one the new council make, once everyone has had the chance to get up to speed on the new term.
Currently there is not a non-delegation time included in the procedural bylaw for Highlands East, Dysart et al, or Algonquin Highlands.
In Minden Hills, members of the public can ask questions of council related to agenda items for that meeting before council moves into closed session.