Tantramar Town Council won’t decide whether to hold public question periods at its regular monthly meetings for at least another six months and possibly longer.
Town Clerk Donna Beal says staff will not be bringing forward possible revisions to council’s procedural bylaw until well into next year.
Until then, town council will operate under its current, provincially imposed bylaw which allows one, 15-minute public question period at the end of its committee of the whole discussion meetings and none at regular meetings where council makes its decisions.
“We are looking at all of our bylaws for Sackville and the Village of Dorchester and they all have to be consolidated,” Beal told council at its discussion meeting on Tuesday.
She said the bylaws are brought forward according to their priority.
“We would hope to look at the procedure and organizational bylaw sometime in mid to middle of 2024,” she added.
For at least 30 years, the town council in Sackville allowed members of the public to ask questions at the beginning and at the end of its regular monthly meetings.
More recently, that council added public question periods at the end of its discussion meetings, but two of the three monthly question periods ended on January 1st when municipal amalgamation came into effect.
During Tantramar council’s first meeting in January, Councillors Michael Tower and Allison Butcher attempted to amend the agenda to allow a public question period, but failed to get the required unanimous consent.
“I think losing this question period takes away transparency,” Tower said after suggesting that during last fall’s election campaign, candidates had spoken in favour of openness.
Mount Allison Politics Professor Geoff Martin called the lack of public question periods a step backward.
Martin, who served on Sackville Town Council from 1998 to 2004, said the practice gives citizens a chance to question the people they elected.
“This is supposed to be a democratic government, not a soulless corporation,” he wrote in an e-mail.
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