Qualicum Beach council engaged in spirited debate over a procedural bylaw that includes removing Robert’s Rules of Order as a guideline for meeting procedures not identified in a council bylaw.
The issue was discussed at length at a recent special council meeting but was not finalized.
The motion will come before council again at a future meeting
Councillors Robert Filmer and Adam Walker opposed a motion made by Coun. Teunis Westbrook that would remove Roberts Rules of Order.
Filmer indicated it is “ridiculous” to remove Robert’s Rules as he considers it to be a key element in certain segments of the town’s procedural bylaw. He acknowledges not everyone understands Robert’s Rules but he doesn’t consider it to be fair for council to be ruled and governed by a procedural bylaw without it.
Westbroek argued the amendment would streamline council meetings and make it more efficient when it comes to making decisions.
To discuss technicalities rather than the actual issue “is very frustrating for both council and for the public,” he said.
“The whole issue of code of ethics or Robert’s Rules of Order is to conduct business,” said Wesbroek. “And I believe the main premise for a productive meeting is respect for each other, for the public, for staff. You don’t need a code of ethics. That’s basically the golden rule.”
Westbroek said he has attended more than 1,000 meetings as former mayor, councillor, and director of the Regional District of Nanaimo and has never referred to the Robert’s Rules of Order.
“I have never come across that until this council,” he said.
Many municipalities in British Columbia apply Robert’s Rules of Order, including the City of Parksville.
Walker said Robert’s Rules make sure every member of council gets an equal opportunity to address and speak about issues that come up.
“If we remove it, we have to take out a whole bunch of the foundational elements of Robert’s Rules and put it in our procedural bylaw,” said Walker.
“And I can understand the goal is to have more streamlined meetings but all we’re going to do is dump a big job onto town staff, which I don’t think is effective. The issues that we have on this council are not whether we’re following the rules or not. It’s just a sense that we’re all feeling like we’re pulling in the same direction. I think we’re getting there. Pulling Robert’s Rules will not get us closer together.”
Filmer said that without Robert’s Rules they won’t be able to challenge the decision of the chair.
But Coun. Scott Harrison countered that the Community Charter includes an appeal mechanism for that.
Walker said amending the procedural bylaw is not that simple. He doesn’t want to spend hours debating this issue when they should be addressing important matters they promised constituents.
“We’re going to bring this Robert’s Rules, we’re going to make it concise and we’re going to put it in our procedural bylaw,” said Walker.
“Then we’re going to spend 12 hours debating it and that to me is just a waste of time.”
Westbroek doesn’t believe things will turn chaotic in council as the basic principles on the rules already exist and that there’s also the Community Charter they can be refer to on protocols. He said that if they don’t like the decision of the mayor, they can vote to challenge it.
Westbroek’s motion passed 3-2 with Mayor Brian Wiese, Harrison and Westbroek voting in favour.
Walker then made a motion that staff be directed to revise the bylaw to include all the relevant motions, descriptions, types of motions, and priority of motions that council may use when conducting a meeting.
Westbroek argued that there’s already rules in the procedural bylaw that clearly defines and explains certain protocol. He said they don’t need a cheat sheet.
He then moved to amend the motions defined in section 21(3) of the council procedure bylaw by adding descriptions for each motion using the Oxford Dictionary definitions. This was also carried.