THE DEMOCRATIC REPORTER
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Mississauga News - Dec. 5, 2008 - By Radhika Panjwani, email@example.com
Public question period is not rambling matter
City of Mississauga staff say that's the idea behind public question period, an allocated time during Council meetings when residents can ask councillors or City officials to clarify or look into matters.
Prompted by Ward 6 councillor Carolyn Parrish, who wants to limit the session to five minutes per individual and 15 minutes overall, staff looked into fine-tuning public question period procedure. Currently, there's no time limit on the session, but residents are restricted to speaking about items on Council's agenda for that day (although some don't follow that rule).
Staff presented a report at Wednesday's meeting of General Committee. Among other findings, it revealed that most municipalities/boards in Ontario, with exceptions that include Mississauga, the City of Brampton and the Peel District School Board, do not have public question periods.
Beyond time limits, Parrish says that if a resident wants to comment on a particular issue not on the agenda, they should ask the City's permission beforehand.
“We have in our city a shining example of the public question period,” Parrish said. “The difficulty I have with it, is sometimes it tends to be a rambling presentation. "You have to stop calling it question period if it's going to be questions and comments period. You have to make it clear; are you allowing comments or questions. The objective of the game is to make it as democratic as possible.”
Other councillors asked staff to tweak the report to include specific guidelines residents must follow with respect to the public question session.
Ward 7 councillor Nando Iannicca said councillors and staff often don't have the necessary information at their fingertips when questions not related to items on the day's agenda are posed during the public session.
Iannicca said it's also unfair to other members of the public to discuss an issue not on the agenda.
“When someone should come and speak about the business of the day, they should have every right to do so,” Iannicca said. “If, however, someone says, 'I wish to discuss the price of tea in China,' that's when we have to say, 'if that's your issue, when appropriate we'll see you at a General Committee meeting.' The whole idea is not to be surprised.”
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