Public Engagement At Public Hearings

Public Engagement At Public Hearings
Posted on 07/27/2017

Some questions have been asked about the process followed at municipal public hearings. Some of the concerns include an apparent lack of discussion/debate with delegations who make submissions or appear at a public hearing. Additionally, concerns have been raised about the lack of opportunity to answer questions that are raised during the process.

Council is specifically prohibited, by law, from debating issues during public hearings or answering questions put to them by delegations. Public hearings are arranged for the purpose of gathering information from any and all parties who are affected by a proposed bylaw.

Section 230 of the MGA provides for the procedures necessary for public hearings which must occur during a regular or special council meeting before second reading of the proposed bylaw. In the Act, it is stipulated that council must:

(a) Hear any person, group of persons, or person representing them, who claims to be affected by the proposed bylaw or resolution and who has complied with the procedures outlined by the Council, and, (b) May hear any other person who wishes to make representations and whom the council agrees to hear.

Saddle Hills County’s Bylaw 269-2016 - the Council, Board and Committee Meeting Procedure Bylaw – following Robert’s Rules of Order, provides that Council or Board or Committee members shall NOT enter into debate with delegations. Nor may Council or individual Councillors answer questions put to them by a delegation or member of the public at a public hearing.

The rules are established in order to ensure that all councillors receive the same information, at the same time and are not unduly or unfairly influenced by any party or parties who claim to be affected by the proposed bylaw or resolution.

There are a number of ways County residents and interested parties are encouraged to get involved and ensure their concerns are heard by Council.

1) Writing a letter to Council is one way to ensure that all councillors are made aware of your concerns. Letters to Council become a part of the public record and are included in the agenda packages which are part of the public record.

2) Letters to the editor in a local newspaper can raise concerns publicly and generate public discussion.

3) Expressing comments or concerns via social media (e.g. Facebook) not only raise concerns publicly, but can become part of the public record as well. Concerns raised on social media are included in the public hearing process (with the permission of the posters) and read into the record.

*Note: In the case of road closure bylaws, once the public hearing is held, Council may either:

(a) Not proceed any further with consideration with the proposed bylaw, or,

(b) Forward the proposed bylaw to the Minister of Transportation for its consideration prior to second reading.