City Council set a precedent this week, voting down a public delegation request for non legal reasons. They’ve never denied a resident the right to address Council before.
They are either giving the middle finger to public engagement or deciding to focus on business solely within their jurisdiction, only time will tell.
What was the request? To suggest they consider term limits.
Delegations Almost As A Right
Delegations to Council have be a de facto right of citizens since amalgamation, and even before. No matter the topic, you could speak to Council and ask for something.
We don’t have to go back far to see Council hearing delegations on matters outside of their jurisdiction. U.S. Steel is an example, the cancellation of door-to-door Canada Post service is another.
Council heard numerous delegations on both during the fall Council session, and passed motions in both cases calling on the Federal government to change their policies to respond to concerns of Hamiltonians.
Is this a practice now ended?
How They Voted
It happened at Monday’s Audit, Finance, and Administration committee meeting.
The debate started with Councillor Brenda Johnson asking if the delegation request was better heard by the Governance Sub-Committee, or baring that, should be heard by all Councillors at General Issues Committee.
It would’ve been surprising for Council to downgrade the delegation to a sub-committee, especially one like Governance that has a reputation as a place where good ideas go to be stalled for a couple of years.
GIC would make sense.
It seemed like Councillors would send it to GIC when Councillor Ferguson had his opportunity at the microphone.
Ferguson asked if Council had an jurisdiction over term limits. The answer was it would require the Province to change the Municipal Act.
The former Chair of Council’s notorious “Accountability and Transparency” Committee – which was neither accountable nor transparent, rarely met, never published its agendas or minutes, and stalled the lobbyist registry for years – said Council had no business considering a matter which the province would decide.
With that Ferguson moved to deny the request. Councillor Pasuta seconded.
New Councillor Aidan Johnson looked a bit caught off guard, but he voted with the rest of committee to deny the delegation.
Unanimously voting down the delegation were: Collins, Ferguson, A. Johnson, B. Johnson, Pasuta, Pearson, and Vanderbeek.
Will They Stick to Jurisdiction or Just Hear What They Want
We’re Councillors looking to set a new focus for the coming Council term?
Are they looking to cut down the amount of time they waste on matters outside their control? Or is this a case that they didn’t like what the delegate had to say?
Only time will tell. We have to give Council the presumption of good intentions this early in the term.
We’ll see how they vote in the future, and find out.