Langford council votes to cancel meetings, council still to receive salary

Langford council votes to cancel meetings, council still to receive salary
Nicholas Pescod/CHEK News

Langford council has voted to cancel all but two of the remaining council and committee meetings in the lead up to the municipal elections, but council members will continue to receive their full salaries.

During the July 18 council meeting, council held a one-minute-and-29-second discussion before voting 5-2 in favour of cancelling the remaining council and committee meetings.

A motion notes there were council meetings scheduled for Aug. 15, Sept. 6, Sept. 19, Oct. 3 and Oct. 17, with Planning, Zoning and Affordable Housing Advisory Committee meetings scheduled the week before each of the council meetings. The municipal election is scheduled for Oct. 15.

The staff report recommended cancelling all but the Aug. 15 and Sept. 6 meetings, and the accompanying PZAHA committee meetings.

Councillors Denise Blackwell and Lillian Szpak were the two who voted against the cancellations.

Mayor Stew Young said scheduled meetings are already reduced due to the summer, and that in previous years Langford has cancelled meetings in the lead up to an election.

“Every summer you’re down to one meeting a month, and then we’re going right into an election,” Young said in an interview with CHEK News.

“You don’t want to be jamming stuff through at the last minute, let the new council or whoever, decide on the rezonings and things like that.”

Young says it is normal for council to not hold meetings in the lead up to an election.

Blackwell, who has been a Langford councillor since 1992, says she does not remember cancelling meetings in the lead-up to elections previously.

“Not to my memory,” Blackwell said in an interview with CHEK News. “And I know somebody sent me something that showed that last [time], we had meetings prior to the election.”

The 2018 local election was held on October 20, 2018, and Langford’s website shows in that year there were council meetings held through the summer on June 18, July 5, July 16, July 30, July 31, Aug. 20, Sept. 4, Sept. 17, Sept. 24, and Sept. 26. There were no council meetings held during October, then regular meetings resumed on Nov. 5 with the new council.

“We’re doing exactly what we do every year, even without an election, we only meet, July and August, once a month,” Young said.

Langford only makes agendas starting in 2016 available on its website.

Szpak also told CHEK News she had no recollection of meetings being cancelled in the lead up to elections in her 20 years on Langford council.

Blackwell confirmed to CHEK News that councillors will continue to receive their salary despite the cancelled meetings.

“We get paid for the whole time, so I don’t know why we’re not meeting,” Blackwell said. “I think we should have looked and seen what was possible to be on the agenda before we just did a blanket cancellation.”

“It just struck me as unusual and actually unnecessary so like let’s have the number of meetings that we normally have that’s all we need to do.”

A CBC analysis of council salaries in B.C. shows Langford’s mayor is paid $78,615, while councillors are paid $28,404 annually.

Szpak says she would have liked to see the council meetings stay scheduled, and if as the time approached there was nothing for council to discuss then they could be cancelled at that time.

“But why cancel it outright? Why plan on canceling it when you don’t know if you have something emerging or not?” Szpak asked.

“I’m the chair of the regional water supply commission, and we don’t cancel a meeting until we know that we don’t have something that is rising that needs to come forward. I don’t plan on cancelling a meeting.”

Szpak says she has heard from residents following the meeting, thanking her for voting against cancelling the meetings.

“I think the community is wanting to ensure that we’re still on the job, we’re still working and thinking about the community’s needs and their concerns, and that they are able to speak,” Szpak said.

“Because they do count on coming forward on public participation, speaking to anything on the agenda, and the community would like to think that we are ready to work…To cancel those meetings in advance, I thought, on principle I didn’t agree.”

Editor’s note: After publishing the story CHEK News learned all but two of the council meetings had been cancelled instead of all as previously stated. CHEK News regrets the error.

Laura BroughamLaura Brougham

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