Statutory Holidays and Nanaimo Council Meetings

Ron Bolin: Feb. 8, 2015

This week there will be no Council Meeting due to Family Day, a BC Statutory Holiday, falling on Feb. 9, a Monday. Of all the 10 Statutory Holidays in BC in 2015, half fall on a Monday, and only one, New Year’s Day, falls on a Thursday. Next year again, 5 will fall on a Monday and none on Thursday. Voting against Councillor Kipp’s well researched motion to move Council meetings to Thursdays and voting to keep Monday as the day for regular Council meetings was thus a vote for fewer meetings of Council for the same pay. (Please note, as did Councillor Bestwick at last Monday’s meeting, that this does not eliminate the work of Council, it merely crams it into fewer meetings with longer agendas and less time to consider the issues.)

The City of Nanaimo’s Council Key Date Calendar for 2015 shows that there are 17 Council Meetings, 18 COW meetings, and 12 Public Hearings among our 49 pre-scheduled meetings over the 52 week year. (Note that there may be other “special” Council meetings or “in-camera” meetings demanding Council’s attention and participation governed by the need for additional time, whether warranted by circumstance or neglect.) The following stat holidays fall on a Monday in 2015: Family Day (Feb. 9); Easter Monday (April 6); Victoria Day (May 18); BC Day (August 3). These four eliminations from the Council roster account for the meetings which will be missed this year which would not be missed if our scheduled week day for Council meetings were Thursday rather than Monday.

It would appear that either Council, or Staff on their behalf, have deliberately chosen to reduce Council’s schedule –albeit without reducing their work- by lobbying for Monday meetings. In my mind this is a poor trade-off. Stacking the same work into fewer piles only makes the management of the piles more cumbersome and open to problems of the type that we have seem all too often lately when decisions are made in haste.

And lest we forget, the statutory holidays are also impacted by the absence from Council of those choosing to attend the annual meetings of such organizations as the AVICC (Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities) in Courtenay, April 10-12 (neither Monday or Thursday are impacted); the FCM (Federation of Canadian Municipalities) Convention in Edmonton, June 4-8 (Monday June 4 and Thursday June 8 may be impacted); and the UBCM (Union of British Columbia Municipalities) Conference, Sept 21-24 (both Monday and Thursday may be impacted).

And against this situation was the apparently untested assertion that Shaw Cable was unwilling to move their live programming of Monday Council Meetings to Thursday, thus depriving Shaw customers who watched Council live from their living rooms and relegating them to the status of the customers of other cable providers who are currently deprived of this luxury and must be satisfied with personal attendance at Council meetings, live viewing on the internet or to next day internet viewing.

While I do not believe that Monday’s 5-3 winning vote to keep to Monday Council meetings was motivated either by a desire on the part of those five Councillors to keep the reduced number of meetings associated with Mondays or to favour Shaw Cable customers over those of Shaw’s competition, I do believe that the vote could permit that construal. I hope that this matter may be given swift reconsideration.

At the same time, I must congratulate Council on its firm stand against taking COW meetings back into the privacy of the SARC boardroom at inconvenient times and eliminating their video capture and broadcast. It is to be hoped that they will soon entertain the video capture of Special Council Meetings and Committee meetings for immediate release and even the capture and release of in-camera meetings at an appropriate time.