In a 4-2 vote at its June 20 meeting, Courtenay council defeated a David Frisch resolution to write a letter of regret for comments deemed inappropriate to members of a recent delegation about social procurement practices.
At a May 30 committee of the whole session, Sandra Hamilton, an authority on social enterprise leadership, discussed the concept of deriving social value by leveraging an organization’s purchasing power — “new solutions to complex challenges,” she said. For example, Bill 6 in Ontario includes a provision to include community benefits in infrastructure projects.
Mayor Larry Jangula, unsure of what Hamilton was requesting, suggested the idea is “not our business.” Hamilton disagreed, and grew increasingly frustrated with Jangula as she provided examples of social value throughout the presentation.
The mayor questioned council’s role and said the topic is a “grey issue.” Though he could see the potential of a social procurement policy, Jangula said it could be more harmful than good.
At Monday’s meeting, Frisch suggested that council’s response to the May 30 delegation appeared to lack courtesy and respect. Doug Hillian was the only councillor to support the motion.
“I think it is incumbent on us, even if we have hard questions to ask, to be respectful in terms of tone of voice. And I don’t think it’s appropriate to question people’s credentials in a public format,” Hillian said.
“We want to make sure the City of Courtenay is seen as a citizen-friendly and a business-friendly organization. It does make a difference how we respond to people making presentations. I feel this would help to assuage the feelings that people did not feel well regarded.”
Though Jangula’s questions pushed Hamilton’s buttons, Coun. Bob Wells feels the questions were professional and not out of context.
“There’s going to be friction in the way that we view things,” Wells said. “I’d be really nervous about encumbering our ability to ask questions of people who are making presentations.”
Erik Eriksson feels Hamilton, as an experienced business person, is capable of dealing with issues when they arise.
“There were pointed questions, and she gave pointed answers, and when the answers were given, the mayor thanked her for clarifying his concerns,” Eriksson said.
Eriksson is concerned the motive of the motion was not to assuage the feelings of the presenter but to discredit a fellow member of council. Frisch said this was not the case. However, he was uncomfortable with questions that came up about Hamilton’s professionalism.
“Questions were asked that sounded quite accusatory,” Frisch said. “I don’t believe this is the venue for that.”