Council defers procedural bylaw until February so public can have say

ELORA – Centre Wellington council debated long and hard at its Oct. 26 meeting on when to invite public comment on a proposed procedural bylaw, and when to vote on it.

In the end, it was decided council will strike an ad hoc committee comprised of Mayor Kelly Linton and councillors  Neil Dunsmore and Kirk McElwain.

The township will receive public comments on Centre Wellington Connect until Nov. 9.

The committee will take those comments into consideration and will report back to council.

The public can also delegate at the Dec. 14 council meeting on the proposed bylaw.

Then the matter will be put off for budget deliberations and return to council for a decision in February, keeping all the public comments and committee recommendations in mind.

The report from clerk Kerri O’Kane was first presented to council at the committee of the whole meeting on Oct. 19.

At that meeting it was decided to defer a decision so council could have an in-depth discussion.

The existing procedural bylaw came into effect in 2002 with an amendment to it this year to allow for electronic meetings.

Council has been meeting via Zoom since the spring.

In her report, O’Kane states the bylaw needs to be updated to bring it in line with changes to the municipal act, the committee of the whole system, and feedback from staff, the public and the integrity commissioner.

Highlights from the draft bylaw include:

  • a table of contents for easier navigation and a user-friendly document;
  • added definitions for greater clarity;
  • clarifying and expanding duties and conduct of the chair, members and attendees;
  • provisions for selecting a deputy and acting mayor;
  • amending the order of business to reflect the committee of the whole system and improve meeting flow;
  • simplifying/clarifying  rules of debate, voting and points of order and privilege;
  • provisions for council to reconsider a decision, whether it be at the same meeting or a subsequent meeting;
  • an added section on advisory and ad hoc committees;
  • explaining motions (to defer, to refer, to amend, to call the question, and to permit friendly amendments to motions); and
  • clarifying the process for notices of motion.

It’s a nuts-and-bolts kind of document, but of interest to the public is information on how to speak to council or a committee as a delegation, when agendas and meeting minutes are available to the public, and definitions of some of the language used in council meetings.

Councillors felt that since the procedural bylaw is at the core of local government, it’s important to give it lots of consideration before reaching a decision.

“There needs to be a time between the delegations and the decision making,” said McElwain.

“I believe the ad hoc committee can make its decision by Dec. 14, but I’m not sure council can.”

As council is making budget decisions in January, Linton said he didn’t want this matter to get in the way of that.

And he didn’t want staff to have to divide itself between preparing the budget and preparing for the procedural bylaw.

Council unanimously agreed to delay the final vote until February, after the budget is decided.