The view from Coun. Colin Plant’s seat in the council chambers during the audience-free half of the Feb. 11 public hearing. (Colin Plant/Twitter)

Saanich council ponders meaning of a public hearing with no audience

‘Public engagement and consultation are really critical,’ noted one councillor

Saanich council addressed an empty gallery during the last half of the Feb. 11 public hearing.

There were four items on the agenda for the Tuesday night public hearing but the audience left halfway through. Council continued on as though there were still residents in attendance.

Once the first two items – a temporary use permit and a zoning bylaw amendment paired with a heritage designation – had been discussed and passed, the public filtered out leaving council to continue the hearing alone.

READ ALSO: Saanich council giggles through public-less public hearing

Council passed the final two proposed zoning bylaw amendments.

After the meeting, Coun. Colin Plant took to Twitter to remark that, as far as he could recall, this was only the second time Saanich has held a public hearing with no public.

In August, council had a public hearing with three items on the agenda. Audience members slowly trickled out and by the third item, there was no one left in the gallery. At the time, Plant noted that in more than four years of being involved in local politics, he’d never seen a public hearing with no audience.

Following the Feb. 11 hearing, Plant said he has mixed feelings about an empty chamber; on one hand, he values public input but on the other, he takes the lack of public commentary as a sign that residents approve of what has been proposed.

Coun. Ned Taylor pointed out that some public hearings draw large crowds but that the level of controversy surrounding the items influences attendance. He also acknowledged that public hearings take place in the evening making them inaccessible to many – such as those who work nights, have small children or need to study.

READ ALSO: Public hearing will focus on number of unrelated occupants allowed in Saanich

He emphasized that “public engagement and consultation are really critical” because it helps elected officials gauge what matters to the community, but that the hearings aren’t the only way to provide input. Taylor feels it’s important that councils be proactive and engage residents through online surveys, open houses or advisory positions.

Plant pointed out that public engagement seems to have increased during his time on council and he feels this is due to procedure changes as well as the public’s knowledge that the current council values and considers the public’s input.


@devonscarlett
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

devon.bidal@saanichnews.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

West Shore RCMP arrests five suspects in multi-jurisdictional drug trafficking investigation

Cocaine, prohibited loaded handgun, weapons, stolen vehicles seized

Saanich police identify suspect in Brydon Park assault

No charges sworn, no arrest made as of July 9

Bacteria levels lead to swimming advisory at Saanich park

Craigflower-Kosapsum Park among regional beaches with swim advisories

Woman who talked to unconscious husband, a Victoria police officer, for 30 years focus of study

Ian Jordan suffered a head injury when he and another officer were on their way to a call in Victoria in September 1987

Victoria’s Raging Grannies to demonstrate against public funding of for-profit senior homes

Group says COVID-19 has revealed ‘sad state of extended care’ in B.C.

Canadian policing organization calls for decriminalization of simple illicit drug possession

Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police want policing focus of opioid crisis to be replaced with a health one

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of July 7

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

POLL: Would you get a vaccine for COVID-19 when it is available?

With the number of positive COVID-19 tests skyrocketing across much of the… Continue reading

Hefty undeclared driver charges piling up, ICBC warns customers

Average extra penalty $2,971 after an at-fault accident

Survey, hotline launched amid probe into racist blood-alcohol guessing game at B.C. hospital

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond has been appointed to lead an investigation by Health Minister Adrian Dix

RCMP disarm man experiencing mental health crisis

The male pulled a knife on officers and then held it to his own throat expressing a desire to die

B.C. appeals judge’s decision to leave three clubhouses in Hells Angels hands

The province has filed two notices of appeal related to the B.C. Supreme Court decision

Conservation officers relocate Spirit bear known to roam northwestern B.C.

Bear roamed valley north of Terrace for many years

B.C. premier applauds call to decriminalize drug possession

Police shouldn’t struggle with health issues, Horgan says

Most Read