Is civility the new buzzword at council meetings?

Beaconsfield, Kirkland and SADB meetings avoid usual fracas

By Kevin Woodhouse

A recurring anecdote among reporters who cover the West Island is “if you’re short on stories this week, go to Beaconsfield council. Something nutty always happens there.”

Beaconsfield council meetings became renowned for fractious and noisy question periods that would stretch out interminably, often accompanied by catcalls from the seated assembly. Early this year, two-time fringe mayoral candidate and frequent council attendee Hela Labene put Beaconsfield on the Montreal media’s radar when her outbursts and refusal to leave the microphone prompted the city to invite members of Police Station 1 to restore order. As one TV report noted: “There are police wearing bullet proof vests present at the council meeting.” All Montreal police officers wear protective vests while they’re on duty, of course, even if they’re sitting at a desk in a police station but it added to the amusement.

Mayor George Bourelle this week initiated a code of conduct for citizens and council and placing a 30-minute limit on question period. Citizens are also encouraged to actually pose a question instead of delivering a meandering monologue. The only liability to the policy will materialize when it comes time to tell a citizen in line at the microphone that although he or she has waited patiently for their turn, time is up.

Nonetheless, if council obliges attendees to get to the point without speechifying, the half-hour ought to be more than enough to voice citizens’ concerns.

Ever since the cross-connected pipe debacle began in neighbouring Kirkland, question period swerved away from the usual lonely suspects who would line up to ask council members to yet-again outline a policy that had already been explained reviewed earlier during the meeting to a packed and upset citizenry who became increasingly determined as some of the comments coming from the mayor and council tended to err on the glib side. Unwise when you are going after more of your taxpayers’ dollars without proper and clear directives which, to the city’s credit, came later along with financial grants to ease the affected citizens’ burdens.

But at last week’s Kirkland council meeting, Mayor Michel Gibson publicly apologized for some of the comments he made during the election campaign. He stated that he was humbled to be serving the residents. That brief candour set a different tone that transformed the packed council chamber into a civil and polite affair during question period. That civility hadn’t been seen since the cross-connected pipes came to public attention more than a year ago.

As another means to promoting healthy public discourse, Gibson has also initiated Saturday-morning open house meetings with the citizens. The first is slated for early in the new year.

During the last year of outgoing Mayor Francis Deroo’s tenure in Sainte Anne de Bellevue, a small but steady group of citizens showed up at every meeting armed with hostile questions. As time went on by and the answers became more mechanical, council attendees took mayor and council to task. They brow-beat the elected officials for inefficient action, creating a circus-like atmosphere, mayor and citizens alike ranting simultaneously, trying to shout down each another.

Mayor Paola Hawa has promised to implement measures to citizens better informed about sensitive municipal issues like the closure of Exit 41, the Veterans’ Hospital transfer and a spike in taxes as well as the eventual development of the northern sector of the city. The council’s agenda at last available online with more notice and detail. Plans are also in the works to broadcast the meetings via the internet.

(i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o),

ga(‘create’, ‘UA-45892555-1’, ‘’);
ga(‘send’, ‘pageview’);

Wordpress Social Share Plugin powered by Ultimatelysocial