The Town of Qualicum Beach council has given second reading to a bylaw proposing to increase the size of council from five members to seven.
The vote was taken during the council’s regular meeting on Feb. 23. It was 3-2 in favour, with Mayor Brian Wiese and Coun. Scott Harrison voting against. Both feel residents should be given the chance to vote on it by including the issue in the coming municipal elections.
However, voting on giving the bylaw third reading was held off until the next board meeting.
Harrison favours increasing the size of council to seven but indicated the need for the public to have the opportunity to vote on it, similar to the the past when residents rejected it twice.
“We’re essentially changing how our democracy functions to some extent and so you should ask the public ‘do you want us to change how our democracy functions?” said Harrison. “I do share the concern that five is maybe not the ideal number but I have a hard time justifying doing it without going to the public and having a reasonable debate during the election and getting the public’s input on what they want to see.”
Coun. Anne Skipsey said the messages they received during a committee of the whole meeting on Feb. 9 in support of adding two more councillors totalled approximately 120. Most of the 41 who were against it did so on basis of cost and also concerned whether the town had to become a city in order to make it happen, which Skipsey said they now know is not the case.
Wiese finds it strange this issue was important enough to go to referendum twice and suddenly now it isn’t.
Coun. Teunis Westbroek said the input on this issue was more than what they receive on most zoning amendments and developments, which he pointed out are a big deal to residents in Qualicum Beach.
“I think it has merit to proceed at this point and be ready for the next election,” said Westbroek.
Coun. Robert Filmer feels opening chambers to two more councillors will allow more diversity in council.
“At this point I am favouring moving forward with us making this decision,” said Filmer. “We get elected to make tough decisions for the people of Qualicum Beach. If we put every tough decision to referendum nothing would happen here.”
Harrison pointed out during their term, all the hard decisions that council reached were made without going through a referendum.
“I don’t think asking people how you want our democracy to function as a cop-out,” said Harrison. “It’s their democracy not ours. And so if they want us to change it, we can change it. And if they don’t, they don’t. But I do think that we should have faith in the electorate.”
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