Greater Sudbury city council’s ongoing inability to get through an agenda came up during Tuesday night’s city council meeting when Ward 8 Coun. Al Sizer called a point of order.
“I’m certainly not trying to muzzle any of my colleagues,” Sizer said after a few other councillors weighed in, clarifying that he wants consistency and time limits.
“There are varying beliefs that council has related to the amount of time and types of questions and the need to keep our meetings as efficient as possible,” Mayor Brian Bigger said, adding that 10-minute time limits on councillors’ comments should be sufficient time to make their point.
“It’s up to each individual councillor to really get to the point in their line of questioning and there will be less frustration.”
Like the previous three city council meetings, Tuesday’s meeting hit the three-hour mark that triggers Bigger to call a question as to whether the meeting should proceed.
Ward 5 Coun. Robert Kirwan, Ward 11 Coun. Bill Leduc, Ward 12 Coun. Joscelyn Landry-Altmann, Ward 1 Coun. Mark Signoretti and Ward 3 Coun. Gerry Montpellier voted against extending the meeting beyond three hours.
With a two-thirds majority required to continue, the meeting ended, punting the majority of the night’s agenda to a future meeting of council.
Bigger said he’ll look into calling an extra city council meeting so they can catch up with various outstanding agenda items that have yet to be dealt with. These items include Ward 4 Coun. Geoff McCausland’s motion seeking assurances from Kingsway Entertainment District partners, which timed out at the end of the Sept. 28 meeting. After that, city council didn’t have time for it during either the Oct. 12 meeting or Tuesday night’s meeting,
While discussing Sizer’s point of order on Tuesday, it was clarified that members are limited to 10 minutes of speaking time per topic, at which point a majority consent of council can be sought to allow them to speak longer.
Councillors cannot speak more than once on a matter without majority consent, except when members are responding to questions by another member or explaining comments the member believes have been misunderstood.
Although these rules are in place, they’re up to the chair’s discretion.
“I believe that the process we’ve been following and you have been guiding these debates over the last number of years has worked well,” Kirwan said.
“We have councillors who have an opportunity to speak during the first round and when you ask if anyone wants to speak in the second round and continue until we’re finished talking.”
Councillors’ ability to speak at length assists in transparency, Kirwan said, offering that although they can be criticized for speaking too much, “nobody can say that we don’t dig into every particular topic.”
“My concern is consistency with that,” Signoretti said of time allowances, adding that some councillors have the opportunity to speak at length, while “others are muzzled or told —”
With that, Bigger interrupted Signoretti.
“There are no councillors being muzzled,” Bigger said, talking over Signoretti, later adding that “no councillors have been restricted.”
Although no formal vote was held, the conclusion of their discussion appeared to point toward the idea a 10-minute limit should be more readily imposed.
On that front, McCausland noted that if every councillor took advantage of their full 10 minutes it would take them to hours to get through just one topic.
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.