Burnaby Council returns in 10 days

The first general council meeting of 2024 comes after a six-week break

After a six-week break, Burnaby City Council will return on Jan. 15 with its first meeting of 2024. Council approved the year’s meeting schedules two months ago during its Nov. 6, 2023 meeting. While the schedule was approved, it was not without discussion, disagreement, and controversy among councillors, who clashed over opinions.

Burnaby mayor and council. Photo: City of Burnaby

It started when, during the Nov. 6, 2023 meeting, Coun. Pietro Calendino made a motion to cancel the meeting on Aug. 26 and the public hearing on Aug. 27. 

“I usually make some comments whenever we get the schedule for council meetings and public hearings, and this time, I’d like to make a motion to that effect,” Calendino began. “From a report we had a few years ago, Burnaby was among one, two, or three communities in Metro Vancouver that actually met in August. All the others have a minimum of a six-week break,” Calendino said. He added that a more extended break would benefit both councillors and staff, allowing staff members to spread out their vacation time over the year. As a result, more city employees would be present during the summer. 

“I think it’s a better way of allowing staff to enjoy the summer and work when they have to. And it would allow many of our overworked staff people to be able to prepare reports that have to come to council within more time and to do a bit more research. Those are my comments and I hope the rest of council sees it my way,” Calendino said. 

The first councillor to respond to Calendino’s request was Coun. Sav Dhaliwal. “I imagine that some cities don’t do it; that doesn’t make a whole lot of a difference to me in terms of what other cities do. I come from a different perspective when it comes to meetings; I believe that we are here to support the community in terms of their needs. Every month at least a meeting should be held,” Dhaliwal said. “If you look at the calendar, if we remove that meeting, we’ll probably be without meetings for eight weeks.” 

Dhaliwal added that while the council can call a special meeting as required, the public needs to see that elected officials are not away for seven weeks. He also said that it is crucial internally since there could always be a policy that needs addressing or approval during that time. 

“Seven weeks without meetings is just not acceptable to me. I think we’re paid to be here to attend to business, and if we look at it now the way it’s presented, from Jul. 22 to Aug. 26 is five weeks. We have five weeks off in between. And that’s clearly a long enough time for councillors to take a vacation, but if you want to extend it to seven or eight, I think now you really begin to affect the service that the people expect,” Dhaliwal said.  

Public hearings and new legislation

The schedule council approved in November 2023 provided for a public hearing once a month. However, it is still unclear how the new provincial zoning legislation will affect the schedule. The new legislation, announced in November 2023, prohibits most public hearings, which staff and council members said would hurt transparency and public engagement in the city.

In November, the Beacon interviewed Mayor Mike Hurley about the new legislation. Hurley told the Beacon he is concerned about the effect the new legislation will have on the infrastructure, and he reiterated his concerns at the council meeting on Dec. 11

Acting Mayor schedule

This month, Coun. Joe Keithley will be acting mayor, per the schedule approved during the council’s last meeting of 2023 on Dec. 11. The acting mayor’s role is to represent the mayor at official events or meetings whenever the mayor is unable to attend for any reason.

The schedule, available online here, had one minor change: that Coun. Santiago and Coun. Gu swapped months so that Santiago would be acting mayor in February while Gu would be acting mayor in July. Santiago will get a second turn as acting mayor in October, too. 

This piece was made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.

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