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Mississauga News - Sept. 30, 2009 - By Radhika Panjwani, email@example.com
Question period lives
Andrew Hamilton-Smith, who was earlier chastised by Ward 7 councillor Nando Iannicca,
was back at council today where he was assured that he was still welcome
to question council on any subject but he would have to notify the clerk a week in advance. Staff photo by Fred Loek
In a rare reversal, Mississauga councillors who were poised to end public question period unanimously voted today to keep on with the 30-year tradition for six more months.
Councillors agreed to amend a staff report calling for the removal of question period from council meetings, instead redirecting public queries to subcommittees.
They did, however make some changes that were suggested in the staff report. Question period will now be governed by a set of protocols, limited the session to 15 minutes. Questions are okay but not rambling orations and only matters on that day's agenda can be discussed.
Ward 6 Councillor Carolyn Parrish said that, by enforcing strict guidelines, councillors won't have to listen to people intent on making lengthy speeches.
“My problem with it (public question period) is it goes on great length,” said Parrish. “And by the time you get to the real important matters we are pretty worn down. So, I would support that we apply the rules that we would have in the subcommittees and apply to council. I've no problem with that. We could actually do a test run.”
In July, after much public outcry, councillors put off voting on the issue and instead asked staff to fine-tune details on how the procedure would work at the subcommittee level.
Among those who opposed ending the tradition was Andrew Hamilton-Smith, a 28-year-old University of Toronto Mississauga student who also is secretary of the Mississauga South NDP association.
When Hamilton-Smith appeared at council in summer to talk about the issue, he was verbally berated by Ward 7 Councillor Nando Iannicca.
Undeterred, Hamilton-Smith made yet another impassioned plea to councillors today (Wednesday, Sept. 30).
“I am defending public question period today because I cannot accept that it needs to be eliminated from council meetings,” said Hamilton-Smith. “And nearly everyone I have spoken to in my community supports keeping it there in some form. I am speaking up for one of our most important democratic traditions and I only hope that I can persuade council to consider a compromise solution.”
In stark contrast to the reception Hamilton-Smith received last time around, this time councillors were receptive to Hamilton-Smith's comments and agreed to give the question period another chance.
Ward 9 Councillor Pat Saito said she would not have supported eliminating the public question period from council proceedings. She was pleased that her colleagues had a change-of-heart.
“I am glad you used the word ‘tradition,’” Saito told Hamilton-Smith. “I think we're one of the few councils left in the province, maybe even in the country, that has some ongoing tradition and I think it's sad that we've been eroding some of those traditions over the years.”
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