The Saanich council meeting on Monday, Dec. 16, 2019. (Supplied/Teale Phelps Bondaroff)

Sparks fly at Saanich council meeting when chair threatens to throw fellow councillor out

Monday night’s discussion on local area plan updates became heated

A disruption in Monday’s Saanich council meeting resulted in the meeting’s chair, Coun. Zac de Vries, threatening to throw fellow Coun. Nathalie Chambers out of the meeting.

READ ALSO: Saanich councillor accuses colleagues of working outside the ‘public eye’

De Vries said “some councillors were emotionally charged” and “seemed to lack an understanding” of the Saanich council procedure bylaw. “As chair, I enforced the rules that council has adopted, and restored order,” de Vries said.

Chambers said the disruptions started after speakers from the heads of community associations voiced their support for continuing with the local area plan (LAP) updates. Updates to the LAPs were passed in the most recent Strategic Plan, but paused as of Monday night’s meeting.

“They were ignored – even accused [of being] a minority group when representing neighbourhoods,” Chambers said. “They were ignored and undermined. I felt it was a breach of public trust and good governance. It was embarrassing.”

De Vries said one member of council consistently didn’t follow council procedure bylaw and the Roberts Rules of Order. “There has therefore been a trend as of late to continue to correct that behaviour by more proactive enforcement of the rules — this is done by point of order and/or the ruling of the chair,” de Vries said.

“We are elected officials, as council we make group decisions by way of majority rule. The best way to facilitate group discussions is by following the rules to ensure that everyone has the chance to speak and that proceedings are both respectful and fair. I am committed to civil discourse and expect my colleagues to do the same.”

De Vries said disruption during council meetings is “not a problem” because it is being managed by the enforcement of the council procedure bylaw, which set out rules for our proceedings and debates.

Debates should be focused on the issues and matters at hand, de Vries said.

“Each meeting is getting worse for me standing for the principles and platforms I was elected on and I do not want to be associated with bad public optics. I will not stand for the public defending this home-sweet-home Saanich to be treated that way,” Chambers said. “Judging from the many conversations I have with Saanich residents, not feeling listened to may be a trend. Unruly council meetings seem to be the new norm. I hope it increases civic engagement and member participation.”

Saanich resident, researcher and council meeting frequenter Teale Phelps Bondaroff said he thinks a number of tense moments in council have been caused by misunderstandings of procedure.

“This is something that happens in meetings, and it’s important that people not take procedural rulings personally, but as part of the process,” Phelps Bondaroff said.

READ ALSO: Saanich council approves rural subdivision despite staff and public opposition

sophie.heizer@saanichnews.com


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