Ste. Anne’s Mayor Hawa enforces 30 minute question period time limit
PHOTO BY JOHN JANTAK
Ste. Anne de Bellevue mayor enforced a protocol limiting residents to one question each
within a 30-minute timeframe at the Monday evening council meeting on March 9.
Saint Anne de Bellevue Mayor Paola Hawa firmly cut off question period at the end of the 30 minute limit even though several residents were still in line waiting to ask additional questions during the Monday evening council meeting, March 9. “We adopted a new regulation last month and part of it was putting in a time limit,” Hawa told Your Local Journal after the meeting.
“As you’ve noticed, it’s the same people who come back to ask repeated questions. They’re not even questions at this point. They’re statements and accusations and we thought it was important to put a stop to it.” The cut-off was met with derision by most of the 20 residents who attended the meeting by jeering Hawa’s decision. District 6 Councillor Michel Boudreault sided with the citizens who complained and told council it was inappropriate for the mayor to stop question period after the 30 minute period elapsed.
Boudreault’s comment was applauded by supporters of an unlimited question period forum, including former Mayor Francis Deroo. The questions asked related specifically to the temporary layoff of three blue collar workers and what plans the city had to revitalize Ste. Anne’s downtown core and help the merchant’s association.
“From my point of view, citizens have direct access to council and the mayor once a month for what is now 30 minutes,” said Boudreault. “If there are still people who want to ask questions and if it’s done respectfully, I don’t see why we should cut them off especially when there were citizens waiting to ask their questions.
“There’s a difference between people who are being disrespectful and those who are asking tough questions,” added Boudreault. “I didn’t see anyone being disrespectful among the citizens who were asking questions.”
Most councillors didn’t see it that way. District 1 Councillor Dana Chevalier was visibly frustrated and chided several people for being impolite, rude and antagonistic.
District 4 Councillor Daniel Boyer shared Chevalier’s sentiments. “I don’t believe everyone was asking questions in a polite manner,” said Boyer. “They have to be respectful and ask questions that are succinct and to the point. They can also raise issues with their district councillor or go to city hall and ask their questions directly to an administrator. It doesn’t always have to be in a public forum.”
There was disagreement even amongst the citizens. Michel Belleau called the time limit “crazy” and was frustrated because he couldn’t follow up on his earlier questions because he was asked him to cede the floor to allow other citizens in line the opportunity to ask their questions.
Even though Hawa reassured Belleau he could return to the podium afterwards, he was disallowed because the time limit expired. Stephane Wintemute agreed with Hawa’s decision. “It was due. The questions that were being asked by citizens were unfounded and wasting everyone’s time,” he said. Hawa summarized the new question period protocol as follows:
“It’s one question per person each time within a 30 minute time limit. People who haven’t asked a question get to jump the line. It’s time a small group stops monopolizing council’s time. Obviously, they want a reaction from us. What is going on is not constructive.”