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“The rules are the rules”

Councillors reject residents request to extend time on incinerator delegation

Wendy Bracken, seen here at a November meeting of the region's Energy from Waste-Waste Management Advisory Committee, is a frequent delegate at regional committees and councils on the Durham York Energy Centre. At the final meeting of regional council before its summer recess, Bracken's request to extend her delegation was denied by councillors. Councillor Nancy Diamond says such a thing makes her angry, as it should be council's duty to listen to the public.

Wendy Bracken, seen here at a November meeting of the region’s Energy from Waste-Waste Management Advisory Committee, is a frequent delegate at regional committees and councils on the Durham York Energy Centre. At the final meeting of regional council before its summer recess, Bracken’s request to extend her delegation was denied by councillors. Councillor Nancy Diamond says such a thing makes her angry, as it should be council’s duty to listen to the public.

By Graeme McNaughton/The Oshawa Express

Council and committee meetings are no strangers to delegations from the public. While the set time is five minutes per delegation, councillors typically vote to extend the times of delegates if needed, as five minutes may not always be enough time to delve into complicated issues.

Things, however, were different at the final meeting of regional council before its summer recess.

The beginning of the day’s session was filled with delegations primarily associated with the incinerator, sparking off from several reports from the region’s works committee that dealt with recent stack tests and ambient air monitoring reports.

When the first delegate on the incinerator, Kerry Meydam, requested an additional two minutes to finish her delegation, Regional Chair Roger Anderson called for a recorded vote to extend the time, which was passed by a slim majority.

However, when the next delegate, Wendy Bracken, requested to extend her time, Anderson again called for a recorded vote, but said that the vote would require a two-thirds majority in order to pass, citing section 2.1 of council’s rules and procedures bylaw, which states suspending the rules of council requires a two-thirds majority.

Bracken’s request for an extension did receive a majority of councillors voting in favour but did not pass, as it did not receive support from two thirds of councillors.

Councillor Nancy Diamond, who slammed Anderson’s motion as a “convenient interpretation of the rules,” said she was angered by the decision by several of her colleagues to not hear the rest of the delegation.

“I believe that democracy should be open, and our job is to listen to people. And 99.99 per cent of the time, I vote to hear, to listen and to be respectful to people who have taken the time to come here and give us their opinion,” Diamond tells The Oshawa Express

“I actually get angry when people are denied that opportunity. And I know that we’ve heard from these individuals before, but it is an extraordinarily important topic.”

Diamond adds that she is not happy with the idea that going forward, delegations would require such a high threshold of approval among councillors should they wish to continue to speak.

“I don’t recall that ever having been required before,” Diamond says of the rule.

“I am not comfortable if the going forward interpretation is to be two thirds. I don’t think that’s a rule that should require two thirds. I think the rule should be that we should be listening.”

Anderson, however, disagrees with the notion that the rules were interpreted unfairly, adding that it is not often delegation’s requests for more time bring in such a close vote among councillors.

“There’s no convenient interpretation of the rules. The rules are the rules. Councillor Diamond knows the rules, she’s been here a long time. I’ve never had to call it before because usually it was just fait accompli,” he tells The Oshawa Express.

“But we just listened to all of those people seven days ago. They knew the rules seven days ago, they hadn’t changed seven days later, and they’ve known the rules for 10 years on this subject.”