THE DEMOCRATIC REPORTER
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Opening comments: More at the end.
Mississauga News - Aug 28, 2009 - Letter of the Week by Andrew Hamilton-Smith, Mississauga South NDP
Letter of the week
This letter was sent to Mayor Hazel McCallion and councillors. A copy was filed with The News for publication.
When asked about the directive issued by Council July 8, deputy City clerk Grant Bivol cited the need for efficiency and the fact that certain individuals were “grandstanding” at televised meetings. While it’s understandable that Council needs to maintain decorum and stay on topic during sessions, the actions of one or two individuals cannot possibly justify the extreme measure of completely removing the tradition of Public Question Period (PQP) from council meetings.
The objective should be to refine the quality of questions asked at council, not eliminate them altogether. Rather than redirecting debate to another level (i.e. committees), these changes will actually serve to undermine it.
Citizens are already free to attend committee meetings under the current system. Meanwhile, little evidence exists that public questions are handled more effectively through committees. The ultimate effect is simply to herd more citizens into fewer avenues of recourse.
The 15-minute time limit for all public questions at the end of each committee meeting will hardly address this reduction of opportunities for public discussion. Worse still, this brief time includes the time required for responses. It’s conceivable that only one question could be asked and one answered within that period.
Do these changes represent a genuine attempt by Council to streamline public inquiry?
By referring all questions to City staff and committees, Council is restricting the ability of citizens to communicate with their elected representatives or hold them accountable.
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