THE DEMOCRATIC REPORTER
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The Westmount Examiner - April 23rd 2009 - Editorial
Questions still linger over Pointe Claire question-period bylaw
Pointe Claire made the right decision Monday night when it decided to pull the fines from its question-period bylaw, but questions remain over its existence.
Last week, amid an uproar from other media outlets picking up The Chronicle’s story, Pointe Claire moved to remove the fines from the bylaw, as well as the provision about addressing the mayor by his proper title.
A new version, passed Monday night, is a more permissive version of the previous bylaw, with no fines, adding that with a crowd of more than 90 people, some questioners will have to wait in the hall for their turn to speak. Not unreasonable, and infinitely more reasonable than fining people ad nauseam for expressing themselves.
But questions remain.
First and foremost, Mayor Bill McMurchie said Pointe Claire city council had no idea that fines were even contained in the bylaw when it voted on the original amendments April 6. No idea. None.
We call shenanigans on that one.
So, we're to believe that this bylaw amendment – an amendment McMurchie refused to comment on in the days leading up to April 6, even as The Chronicle tried desperately to find out what it entailed – passed unanimously without a single member of Pointe Claire city council objecting. Not only that, but two Pointe Claire residents spoke out against the amendments in the April 6 question period before the amendments were voted into law.
Yet, council went forward and voted unanimously to adopt the fines nonetheless, backtracking only when other media threatened to turn the issue into a firestorm of controversy.
It strikes us as odd that Pointe Claire, of all cities, would be the one to pass such a bylaw – considering their council meetings are among the quietest among West Island municipalities and their reputation as a council that asks questions first and acts later.
It's a big concern when municipalities start to mute their citizens, and any step in that direction is another step down a slippery slope, until one day someone, somewhere, decides that public should have no further interaction with their elected officials.
In fact, why even have elections at all? City councils could just anoint themselves councils-for-life and we wouldn't need to waste all that time, effort and money on the democratic process.
Maybe Pointe Claire will pass that law. Hopefully, though, they'll read it first
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