A Letter from Margaret Woods Regarding the Loss of Question Period in White Rock

Looks like Democracy in White Rock went the way of the Dodo Bird on December 1st, the day the new council was sworn in.

First, let’s talk about question period. During the term of Hardy Staub as Mayor and Wayne Baldwin, City Manager, Question Period was cancelled. The next council, under Judy Forster, reinstituted it under a commitment to openness and transparency. It continued during Catherine Ferguson’s mayoralty and into Baldwin’s first term when things started changing.

There was a time when the 15 minute Question Period was held prior to the council meeting and anyone could ask a question about any topic. Many people attended and asked many important questions, important to them anyway.

Then along came Mayor Baldwin who decided for some reason to move it to the end of the meeting. The result of this decision? the number of questioners dwindled. People having to get up early the next day to go to work, couldn’t hang around all night waiting for a meeting that might never end.

But there were still some hardy folks who took the change in stride and continued to ask important questions. So Mayor Baldwin decided that only questions relating to items on the agenda would be allowed.

The same hardy folks persisted and continued to ask important questions. Somewhere along the way, Mayor Baldwin decided that the public, watching council meetings on Shaw Cable, should not be allowed to see or hear these important questions, so Shaw Cable was instructed to shut down the cameras before Question Period could proceed.

In the last few months, White Rock has moved into the 21st century and now our council meetings are streamed so that the public can see their Councillors live and in action at council meetings.

Now you have to ask yourself, why is the Mayor shutting down Question Period? Maybe it’s because he doesn’t want the public to see that there are people out there who are asking important questions.

Mayor Baldwin stated that “there are three people, no more than that, who have ever made use of it”. This is one of his favourite things – making statements that he well knows are not true; just like all the supposed complaints about the Farmer’s Market.

Are you surprised that Councillor Sinclair thinks “it serves no purpose” and the Mayor says, “this does not seem to be of any value.”

Well, Mr. Mayor, the value to the people of White Rock, was the opportunity to remind all council that they are accountable to the people who elected them. But then, do they care what the people think? I wonder as I learn that plans for our city for the next 4 years were made at a 2-day meeting disguised as an introductory session for new Councillors.

How sad, that this council, at this early date in their term, have no compunction in breaking the law and demonstrating their contempt for the people they swore to serve to the best of their ability.
margaret-woods
Margaret Woods
White Rock Resident and Former City Councillor

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