Courtenay Mayor Larry Jangula is disappointed about a failed motion he had forwarded at the regional district board, where he requested directors’ votes be recorded and made public.
“I feel strongly that when people get elected, the public should have an idea of how they voted on an issue,” Jangula said. “The difference I see at the CVRD board, most meetings are like in-camera meetings anyway. Very seldom does the public come there.”
He notes that those who cannot attend Courtenay council meetings can later watch the proceedings, which are pre-recorded.
“We should be elected to be accountable, and held accountable for how we vote,” Jangula said.
Comox Coun. Ken Grant concurs. He believes that some of the most significant and expensive decisions in the Valley are made at the CVRD, and that the public should know how their directors are voting. At last month’s meeting, he said the CVRD should air meetings online or on Shaw TV so the public could see the rationale for a vote.
“We in Comox have been recording votes for years and any fears that the public may get the wrong impression has not happened,” Grant said.
“It is important for the public to know where we stand on issues,” fellow Comox director Barbara Price said. “It is all part of being accountable.”
Courtenay director Manno Theos also favoured the motion. Opposed were Area A director/board chair Bruce Jolliffe, Area B director Rod Nichol, Area C director Edwin Grieve, Courtenay director Bob Wells and Cumberland director Gwyn Sproule. Courtenay director Erik Eriksson was absent for the vote.
Wells went into the meeting thinking the motion would pass unanimously. However, he had a change of heart when Jolliffe noted that once a vote is completed, a council or regional district board owns the decision and should work professionally to the will of the council or board.
“In the end I think the question of whether a vote is made for what the person thinks is best based on the information presented versus re-election is important,” Wells said. “My view is re-election is not as important as making the best decision possible. And elected officials may change their minds based on new information and public pressure, making past decisions less important.”
Nichol had also intended to vote in favour but changed his mind after hearing Jolliffe’s presentation.
“We all can have our vote recorded at any time yay or nay,” Nichol said. “When debate is listened to and a board vote is taken, the end result belongs to the board as a whole. I have in past asked for my vote to be recorded in protest to the vote that passed. It is a statement that you disagree with the board as a whole on a certain subject. It is important that the board appears to be operating as a group that can debate and then accept the final outcome as a whole.”
On occasion, he notes, director(s) might make a statement by insisting their vote be recorded.
“It is important that all directors do not feel pressured to vote the same as their fellow members from the organizations that sit at the board table,” Nichol said.
Grieve says the CVRD board is not a legislature or a parliament in that there is no Hansard, or transcript of debate. The Local Government Act, he notes, dictates that discussion occurs at the board table and that directors must, by law, have an open mind.
“In fact, this is one of the few circumstances where decisions of the board can be challenged in a court of law,” Grieve said. “The board, by its very definition, ‘owns’ and supports decisions of the board regardless of how an individual director voted on that particular issue.
“Yes/no, two dimensional, black and white recordings of the vote do nobody any service as they capture none of the debate,” Grieve added. “I applaud anyone at the table who, upon hearing discussion and new information, has changed their mind.
“It is a sign of strength, not weakness. What we don’t need is directors blindly reciting their notes from their advisory supporters and then recording their vote to appease their group, regardless of the outcome of discussion from those around the table.”
Sproule generally asks to have her vote recorded when voting in opposition. She is not sure why it means so much to Jangula to have votes automatically recorded.
“I have not seen a problem with it either way over the years,” she said.