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Langford council votes to cancel meetings before fall election

All meetings after Sept. 6 — Sept. 19, Oct. 3 and Oct. 17, along with two planning, zoning and affordable housing committee meetings — have been cancelled.

Langford council has voted 5-2 in favour of cancelling three council and two committee meetings leading up to the Oct. 15 civic election.

Councillors Lillian Szpak and Denise Blackwell voted against the motion last week.

Szpak said she realizes city councils often cut back on meetings in the summer, but cancelling so many meetings “doesn’t raise confidence in the community … it raises eyebrows.”

Council meetings are still set to be held Aug. 15 and Sept. 6, but all meetings after that — Sept. 19, Oct. 3 and Oct. 17, along with two planning, zoning and affordable housing committee meetings — are now cancelled.

A staff report recommended cancelling the Aug. 15 and Sept. 6 meetings, but council decided to cancel meetings closer to the Oct. 15 vote, as well as a council meeting scheduled two days after the election.

“Every summer, you’re down to one meeting a month and then we’re going into an election,” said Mayor Stew Young. “I don’t think we’re going to have a meeting to make big decisions or any decisions in the last month before an election, and we’ve never done that.

“We’ve always stepped back from it and then let the decisions close to an election be made by the next council. It’s always been that way.

“I don’t think we should be approving anything two or three weeks before an election.”

Mayor and councillors will continue to be paid, despite the cancelled meetings.

Szpak said councillors are paid $28,400 annually. A CBC analysis of elected municipal officials earlier this month indicated Young is paid $78,615 a year.

Szpak said in an interview she voted against the decision to cancel the meetings because council should stay engaged with the community. If there is nothing of great significance to discuss or debate, she said, meetings could be cancelled closer to the meeting date.

“I don’t understand canceling the meetings outright … we don’t know if we will have an issue emerging or not,” said Szpak. “Our community is changing, the demographic is changing and there are raised expectations for council.”

She said Langford residents should know council is still working for them and listening to their concerns.

The July staff report indicated that special meetings of council can be convened to address any urgent issues.

The first scheduled meeting of Langford council after the election is Nov. 8.

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