Saugeen Shores procedural by-laws tested

The “Open Forum” before Saugeen Shores council meetings tends to not be open at all times.

A procedural by-law states a person cannot speak during open forum at council meetings about the same topic more than once within six months.

Resident John Mann wanted to speak before council Monday night in regards to the Port Elgin Waterfront Revitalization Project, Cedar Crescent Village. However, speaking previously about the topic in September, Mann was not permitted to speak again. However, he refused to leave the podium, and asked for the rule to be waived, as the lease agreement was slotted for later in the night’s agenda.

Mann said the six-month rule is “unconstitutional”.

“This procedural swamp that we’re in just needs to be repealed, and allow citizens to just speak their minds, whatever they want to talk about. Even if it’s breakfast, it doesn’t matter. We have a fundamental right to speak to them,” he said.

Mayor Luke Charbonneau called for a recess and council left their chambers for roughly 20 minutes. During that time, the audience spoke to Mann, saying him being refused the chance to speak was like “schoolyard bullying”, and wanted council to address why they wouldn’t hear his three-minute presentation.

Mayor Charbonneau said council reviews their procedural by-laws often and believes they are currently fine as is.

“I enforce it equally on everyone every time, whether I agree with them or not. Everyone will be treated fairly and accordingly to the rules every time they come into these chambers.”

When council returned, Councillor Dave Myette made a point of order to waive the by-law, which was passed in a 6-2 vote. Charbonneau and Vice Deputy Mayor Don Matheson voted against the motion. Deputy Mayor Mike Myatt was absent.

Mann was then able to address the council, and went over his concerns for the staff report, recommending amendments to the recently approved lease for Cedar Crescent Village.

CAO David Smith said the lease contained a number of clauses that will require town approvals that range in size and scope.

Council voted in favour to delegate lower tier approvals to town staff once the larger approvals are finished.

He said the concerns that have been raised regarding staff making all the decisions are misguided, and this is actually how they operate all other leases.

Smith added that staff will always use good judgement and seek Council’s advice when appropriate.