Maple Ridge’s newly elected leaders got down to business at its first meeting Tuesday, tweaking, then approving its new Council Code of Conduct, drawn up by Mayor Michael Morden.
Last week he announced a set of practices that councillors will try to follow over the next four years.
The code spells out the expectations of councillors and asks for councillors to conduct “oneself with honesty, integrity and in a way that furthers the city’s ability to provide good governance to the community.”
The code says that councillors will demonstrate respect for each other by “fostering a safe and welcoming space for debate and decision-making.”
But Coun. Judy Dueck suggested adding another point by asking councillors to inform the mayor or chairperson in advance if they can’t make a meeting.
She said that in previous guidelines from years ago, councillors were asked to do that.
“So if two or three of us are going to be away … it’s important that the chair, or in this case the mayor, knows that is indeed the case.”
Quorum, or having enough people to conduct a meeting, is important, she added.
Council also decided to change a requirement asking people who wish to address council to sign their names in advance. But staff told council there’s no requirement for people to give their name or addresses.
Instead, people will just be asked to give their names and what city they’re from.
Coun. Kiersten Duncan was absent from the first meeting of council because of an ongoing chronic pain condition.
“It’s why I walk with a cane, quite often. It’s a chronic pain condition, so I can’t judge how it’s going to be. Sometimes I can manage and sometimes it gets quite painful,” Duncan said.
“I rarely miss meetings, and when I do, that’s generally the reason,” she added.
She plans on attending the next meeting and said she e-mailed the mayor, staff and councillors that she couldn’t make the Nov. 16 meeting.
Duncan said the new code of conduct is well-intentioned and she likes the idea, but “I’m not sure if it will help in the long run.”
Technically, there’s no legal obligation for councillors to follow those standards, she added.
“There’s really nothing to hold politicians accountable.
“You can create a policy like this and I greatly appreciate that council has done that and I hope that we can live up to that collectively.”
Council also approved the list of committees and agencies that each will sit on, but Morden pointed out that it was only interim and could change.
A new schedule was also approved which brings back committee of the whole meetings, where council convenes to discuss but doesn’t vote on items.
The previous council cancelled committee of the whole meetings and scheduled its workshops and regular meetings in late afternoons and evenings.
Coun. Gordy Robson though asked if changing the schedule requires changing the procedures bylaw. But the bylaw already allows such changes to be made, staff told council.
Council’s schedule for 2019, calls for committee of the whole meetings to start at 1:30 p.m on two Tuesdays of each month followed by a council workshop at 3 p.m., on the same day, followed by a public hearing at 7 p.m. on the latter Tuesday.
Council workshops are also scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on the other two Tuesdays of each month, followed by council at 7 p.m.
Robson said that the new schedule adds two to three hours to each meeting and that the committee of the whole meetings will allow new councillors to learn about issues. He added he was optimistic about the next four years.
“This council is really going to work together. I’m really happy.”
Duncan noted that the previous council changed to evening meetings in order to encourage the public to attend.