North Saanich councillors walk out of meeting

Calling a line of questioning "an inquisition", three councillors left a discussion on a new housing report, effectively ending the meeting.

Three District councillors in North Saanich got up and walked out of a meeting Aug. 19, citing the “inquisition-like” line of questioning of another councillor, effectively ending the session. It’s another strange turn for a council sharply divided over the future of housing growth in the community.

Councillors Craig Means, Conny McBride and Dunstan Browne left municipal hall after Coun. Elsie McMurphy began asking questions of the consultant who prepared a report on the state of housing and potential density growth in the District. McMurphy asked if the consultant, Ed Grifone of CTQ Consultants of Kelowa, had been contacted during the consultation process by any of the three councillors listed, as well as Coun. Ted Daly, who was not at Monday night’s meeting.

McMurphy, who later said she submitted a Freedom of Information request, said she did so to obtain details about councillor contact with Grifone. She added she wasn’t sure if the report had been compromised as a result of that contact but the sudden departure of the three councillors raised more questions.

“I didn’t really think (councillors contacting Grifone) was of any consequence – until now,” McMurphy said, adding the information she obtained shows councillors have had contact with the consultant at various times during the process.

For their part, the three councillors who left the meeting admitted they have had contact with Grifone — although they say it was innocent in nature, simply asking for a time to expect his report.

“I phoned him a couple of times,” said Mearns, adding it wasn’t anything important. “I’m not sure about anyone else.”

Mearns had asked staff approximately two months ago to collect all of the correspondence during the consultation process, between councillors and municipal staff and the consultant – and to have it made public. McMurphy said her FOI request was for information even before the start of the consultation process, but after CTQ had been hired. For her part, she said she never made contact with Grifone outside of the consultation process. She added she was even asked to leave a meeting with him to which she wasn’t expressly invited.

“I’m not aware of any influence in the process,” Mearns said, adding he thinks the whole line of questioning on Aug. 19 was a strategy between McMurphy and Mayor Alice Finall to discredit the consultant’s report.

Finall, McMurphy and Coun. Celia Stock have continually been at odds with the majority of council on the housing issue.

“We’ve never had this happen,” said Finall. “I have never seen this happen before. I’m disappointed because this issue is so important to the community.”

Finall said McMurphy had every right to ask her questions, which included asking if Grifone had ever met with a councillor in a private situation.

McMurphy, during the meeting, asked Grifone if he recalled a conference call with Daly. For his part, Grifone said he did not and would not comment further when approached by the Peninsula News Review. McBride later told the News Review that Daly did call Grifone, but it was done at municipal hall with a staff member attending. She said she also emailed him, asking only for a time to expect the report (McBride emailed her correspondence on this to the News Review after the meeting).

At one point of the meeting, Means warned “if this is going to be an inquisition, I’m leaving.” After Finall defended McMurphy’s line of questioning, the three walked out to mixed applause, cat-calls and even one call for the councillors to resign. Without enough councillors sitting at the table, Finall was forced to end the meeting.

“They were making a mockery of the whole situation,” said Browne. “We have a consultant and we got a comprehensive report and the purpose tonight was to ask questions about it — not for this to turn into a witch hunt.”

Browne admitted he too had called Grifone, again only to inquire about timelines. He indicated there seems to have be influence alleged from all sides. He called McMurphy’s questions inappropriate and one of his reasons for walking out.

“This is an intention to discredit Grifone’s report,” said McBride, “and to discredit Councillor Daly.”

She and the other two who left the meeting said they are willing to stand up to criticisms they left council without dealing with other District business – including accepting Grifone’s report which would have allowed his to be paid to balance of his contract. Browne added there’s plenty of time to deal with other municipal matters that were on the evening’s agenda.

Finall said no matter the positions taken, ending the meeting will significantly slow down the District’s planned changes to its housing policy.

Council will give the matter another try at a scheduled September 9 meeting, set up to specifically debate the housing report and to allow public input. All of council is expected to be at that meeting.

Just Posted

A screenshot of the First Peoples Cultural Councils First Peoples’ Map. (First Peoples Cultural Council)
Online resource blends B.C.’s Indigenous language, art and culture

North Saanich advisor says initiative supports urgent need to preserve Indigenous languages

General manager Lindsey Pomper says Sidney’s Star Cinema cannot wait welcome audiences when it reopens June 18, amid an easing of public health measures. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Sidney’s Star Cinema raises curtain for the first time after months in the darkness

Iconic theatre to reopen at half capacity for Friday night showing

A dogs in parks pilot study unanimously approved by Saanich council will evaluate how park space can best be shared between dog owners and non-owners alike. (Photo by Megan Atkins-Baker/News Staff)
Saanich to study park-sharing strategy between those with and without pets

District-wide People, Parks and Dogs study to produce recommendations by fall

Staff member Lena Laitinen gives the wall at BoulderHouse a workout during a media tour on June 16. (Rick Stiebel/News Staff)
BoulderHouse raring to rock Langford

Popularity of bouldering continues to climb across Greater Victoria

The Sooke Potholes is a jewel in the community's crown. Transition Sooke hosts a town hall meeting on community growth on June 26. (Courtesy: Sooke News Mirror)
Sooke forum tackles community growth

To Grow or Not to Grow online town hall meeting set for June 26

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: When was the last time you visited the mainland?

The films are again lighting the screens at local theatres, the wine… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of June 15

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Chief Rosanne Casimir stands outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School after speaking to reporters, in Kamloops, B.C., on Friday, June 4, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Kamloops chief says more unmarked graves will be found across Canada

Chief Rosanne Casimir told a virtual news conference the nation expects to release a report at the end of June

A woman wears a vaccinated sticker after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. ranks among highest in world in COVID-19 first-dose shots: health officials

More than 76% of eligible people have received their 1st shot

An artists conception of the new terminal building at the Pitt Meadows Regional Airport.
Air travel taking off in B.C., but lack of traffic controllers a sky-high concern

There will be demand for more air traffic controllers: Miller

Canadian Armed Forces experts are on their way to North Vancouver after a local homeowner expressed worry about a military artifact he recently purchased. (Twitter DNV Fire and Rescue)
Military called in to deal with antique ‘shell’ at North Vancouver home

‘The person somehow purchased a bombshell innocently believing it was an out-of-commission military artifact’

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz have set their wedding date for February, hoping that more COVID-19 restrictions will have lifted. (The Macleans)
B.C. couples ‘gambling’ on whether COVID rules will let them dance at their wedding

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz pushed back their wedding in hopes of being able to celebrate it without the constraints of COVID-19

A plane is silhouetted as it takes off from Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., May 13, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Report calls for airlines to refund passengers for flights halted due to COVID-19

Conclusion: federal help should be on the condition airlines immediately refund Canadian travellers

Most Read