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Letters: De-democratizing council meetings

Gibsons municipal hall b
Town of Gibsons municipal hall


Quote - BC Ombudsperson: Open Meetings, Best Practices Guide for Local Governments. 

“One of the cornerstones of open and transparent government in British Columbia is the requirement for local governments to conduct meetings that are open and accessible to the public. Providing citizens with the opportunity to observe and engage their elected representatives fosters trust and confidence in decision-making processes and allows for meaningful participation and contribution from informed citizens. Open meetings act as venues for education and enable both elected officials and members of the public to make more fully informed decisions.” 

Sadly, on Thursday, Dec. 15, 2022, Gibsons’s Mayor and three of four councillors voted to snub our provincial government’s advice to “engage” or allow “meaningful participation” or receive “contribution from informed citizens” as is advised in the province’s guide for open meetings. 

The de-democratization of our regular council meetings happened when council voted to quash citizen participation by removing the inquiries section from council meetings from that time on. I write, “that time on” but given that the inquiries section wasn’t even included on the agenda of the council meeting that performed the evisceration, it obviously had already been decided to scrap the inquiries section well before the meeting and disregard any input from anyone at all - ever. 

Considering that so many important issues are facing our community: housing affordability, development pressures, aquifer capacity and droughts to name a few, I suggest that this is not the time to gag citizens’ inquiries or to muzzle the rich pool of talent freely available from Gibsons’s own citizens that could be utilized by our officials during regular council meetings. 

As Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children’s Defense Fund aptly put it, “Democracy is not a spectator sport.” Seems our new mayor and council think otherwise. So sad. 

Michael Storr, Gibsons