Saanich council ponders 10 p.m. end to meetings; some stretch beyond 1 a.m.

Saanich councillors will discuss on Monday putting meetings to bed by 10 p.m. to avoid late-night nodding off and emergency pizza orders.

A controversial public hearing for a rezoning in Cadboro Bay on June 18 stretched over six hours until 1:40 a.m. on June 19. Acting Mayor Colin Plant ordered pizza at 11:15 p.m., paying about $100 out of his own pocket.

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Other council meetings have also gone beyond 1 a.m., said Saanich Coun. Judy Brownoff. “I’ve had lots of people complain to me about our late hours. It really isn’t fair for people wanting to speak to us. … When we take meetings this late into the evening it’s just not fair to the community. And I don’t think council can make a good decision that late.”

Brownoff will table a report and motion for debate on Monday to look at amending rules so all council meetings adjourn by 10 p.m. unless there’s a two-thirds vote in favour of extending the meeting to no later than 11 p.m.

At the 10 p.m. deadline, the chairperson must declare another date and time for remaining business unless there is a vote to extend by a maximum of one hour.

If there are still remaining items at 11 p.m., the chairperson would declare a date and time for those items to be addressed.

Brownoff said the same thing is done in other municipalities.

In Vancouver, for example, council must adjourn by 10 p.m. unless councillors unanimously pass a resolution to extend the meeting by one hour or less, said Brownoff.

In Esquimalt a similar bylaw for 10 p.m. is in place.

Plant said he’s not sure Brownoff’s motion is the right approach.

“I’m not sure it’s something we need regulation for at this time.”

He said any councillor at any time can suggest adjourning a meeting, while another possible solution would be breaks every two hours.

Saanich is a large municipality, but the councillor position is part time and some councillors have full-time jobs, so meetings must be held at night, he said.

“We are now seeing the friction with that.”

In Victoria, a bylaw says council meetings end at 11 p.m. and if councillors vote to extend it they must make a motion stating a particular end time “so it doesn’t go on and on,” said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps.

Public hearings on land-use matters can stretch long into the night but that’s a fact of public engagement, “and there’s nothing I would want to do to curb that,” said Helps. “If you ran a clock, it would probably be council taking up as much time as the public. So if there was anywhere to curb that it could be us, but it’s not anything that’s on our radar at this point.”

Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes said Brownoff’s motion is trying to address recent instances of meetings running past 1 a.m.

Haynes said the 10 p.m. deadline would act as a warning bell to wrap up items in an efficient way by 11 p.m. or reschedule them. It addresses the need to use councillor, staff and community time more efficiently, he said.

The mayor said it’s important that councillors “have the opportunity to express their values and speak to their values” with residents. “As mayor I fully support that.”

It’s also key, however, that councillors provide input in an efficient manner, he said.

“It’s not so much the types of comments, it’s how long they take to say it. Can the same thing be said in a shorter amount of time? Are we taking five minutes to say something that could be said in two minutes?”

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

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