Residents show up in support of Russell question period

By Gabrielle Vinette
Residents show up in support of Russell question period
Russell Council has deferred the decision to remove the Question Period until a Public Engagement Policy can be implemented. (Photo : Gabrielle Vinette, EAP)

This past Monday, members of the Russell Township council addressed a large gathering of over 60 residents concerned about the possible cancellation of council meetings’ question period. 

During the Feb. 26 council meeting, the councillors and mayor deliberated on the proposed amendment of the procedural by-law 2021-127, specifically focusing on Item 10.3.11, regarding the removal of the Township’s 15-minute Question Period during council meetings. 

Councillors were considering eliminating the questions period, a unique feature of Russell Township’s council procedures, in the hopes of creating a more fruitful process for hearing residents’ concerns. 

The original concern surrounding the utility of question period was brought forward during the Feb. 12 council meeting by Councillor Mike Tarnowski. He explained that in his opinion, questions period has not served its intended purpose and instead allowed for residents to air grievances aimed at undermining staff than constructively contributing to the business within the council. 

“It does little to support principles of open and accessible government,” Tarnowski said. 

“I know it has become common in the last year that some people they will send a question on the agenda of the day to administration ahead of time to several different people and try to get some answers. They then come up to the table and ask the same question after the administration has provided answers,” said Mayor Pierre Leroux, underlining how question period could be used to confront city administration staff. “There are other ways (to do it), if people aren’t happy with the answer of the administration, they can contact members of the council and discuss the item.” 

Residents come out in numbers 

During Monday’s council meeting, which normally sees two or three residents in attendance, more than 60 people filled the seats and standing room at the back of the chambers to listen in on the council’s decision regarding its question period. 

Council ultimately chose to defer the decision until a Public Engagement Policy can be implemented. The deferral allows Council to better consider the consequences of removing the question period and provide alternative solutions for public engagement. 

The regular 15-minute question period will remain on the agenda until then. Council reminds residents that they will only address questions, not statements or comments, and they must pertain to an agenda item, and asked residents to maintain respect towards the Council and administration. 

Council and staff can be reached through the Russell Township’s website where email addresses and phone numbers are publicly available. 

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