Saanich councillor questions time management of colleagues

Coun. Dean Murdock openly questioned council’s use of its time Monday towards the end of a debate about whether Saanich should pay into an optional fund that subsidizes the participation of elected officials from small communities on the board of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM).

“I just want to suggest, that with respect, council could have saved itself half an hour of conversation, if somebody, who had been concerned with this issue had indicated to the staff or the mayor before the meeting they had additional questions, and could they be resolved and that the item be referred to a future agenda item,” said Murdock. “So going forward, that will be my practice, and I am hopeful that other councillors can follow.”

After the initial debate between supporters and opponents of the $1,198 fee, Coun. Colin Plant proposed council send the subject to staff, just as they had done with the question of whether Saanich should pay $2,757 towards an optional legal defense fund that defends the interests of municipalities on issues under federal jurisdictions.

But before council voted on the deferral, chief administrative officer Paul Thorkelsson alerted councillors to “quite a detailed [Web] page” that outlines the administration of the fund by way of the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM). “If council is interested, you can find on the UBCM Web site, rather than a detailed report back,” he said.

Council then voted 5-4 against deferring the question to the staff, thereby implicitly endorsing payment.

This prompted Plant to ask whether UBCM’s site also addresses Saanich’s questions about the legal defense fund. Thorkelsson responded in the negative, adding the FCM administers the fund directly.

“So we still need that information,” said Plant. “Perhaps, the other one, we could in theory have found somehow on the UBCM’s site. I understand.”

Murdock then entered the discussion with his critique of council’s time management. It drew audible support from the audience, but also a rejoinder from Plant.

“Without the opportunity to read that UBCM document, I’ll stand by my comment that it is an optional fee, and I won’t be voting for it,” he said. “I’m not sure how to respond to Coun. Murdock’s comments. It is in my brain right now, so I can’t cogently put my thoughts together.”

Council then formalized its support for the fee, with Mayor Richard Atwell and Couns. Karen Harper and Fred Haynes joining Plant in opposition.

Council, for the record, unanimously approved the basic FCM membership fee of $17,778.

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